By Jerry Cosley

Editor’s Note: As we all struggle to heal the gaping wounds of the loss of our airline, I’ve found that only the remarkable healing power of humor keeps me from giving up and just flopping face down in the snow. But do not despair, as retired Capt. Dave Gwinn has come to the rescue.

His newly published book, Airways and Airwaves – Stories I Tell to Friends, is chock-full of some of the best, most interesting, rib-cracking airline stories you’ll ever find in a lifetime. Unfortunately, it’s not available in time for this year’s Christmas shopping, as Dave sold the entire inventory in only 3 weeks after it recently was reviewed in AOPA PILOT magazine. The reprint presses are rolling and fresh quantities are due about Dec. 22-23, and copies can be ordered at, for a well-worth-it $23.00 (US). 

This excerpt from the following yarn is but one great example, and Dave’s entire collection will stir many positive memories from your own TWA experiences. Dave is a delightful man, and the insights he shares from his remarkable career will get your face up and out of the snow …at least it sure worked for me!
The Mad Hatter
By Dave Gwinn

Captain Ed was a splendid pilot, splendid company and had only one glaring idiosyncrasy: He went orbital if he saw a pilot in uniform and without a hat. Ed could be in the midst of a cockpit joke at the ramp and interrupt himself to slam his hand on the glare shield: “LOOK at that! No hat!” Pointing to someone walking on the ramp: “That makes me so damned mad. No pride. No respect for his appearance. NO hat!!” Ed would turn as red as the TWA logo.

We flew the same trip for the month. With three hours of time to waste in Chicago, we normally went to the crew restaurant and then loafed in the crew lounge before continuing to Albuquerque.

It was time to leave and Ed could not find his hat! He collected every Captain’s hat that he could find in the ramp office, called out names from the business card within them, distributed the hats, and finally had the hat with no Captain present. He was livid.

Ed charged up to the Flight Information Counter, slammed the hat down and bellowed, “You send this inconsiderate, irresponsible &^$#!^ a long-line message and tell him to get my *&^%$@# hat back here immediately. I ought to throw his hat away!”

Ed picked up his flight bag, nodded sternly to me to follow and headed for the gate. He had no hat, of course.

Walking down Concourse G, I lagged back from Ed. Gaining distance, soon I was at least fifteen feet behind him.

Ed turned and snapped, “Are you coming or not?”

“Gee, I dunno, Ed. I hate to be seen with you not wearing a hat!”

There was a trickle of a grin. He turned, continued down the Concourse, and stopped at Gate 12 to visit with the gate agent. I hurried on board the airplane.

Obviously, I got to the cockpit and therein, the microphone and radio before Ed. He boarded, hung up his coat, placed his flight bag beside his seat, took his place, grabbed the microphone and said: “Clearance Delivery, TWA 414, IFR to Albuquerque.”

Response: “I don’t know, Captain Ed. We’re not supposed to give you a clearance without a hat!”

Finally I’d gotten the good old boy laughing.

The next week, leaving Kansas City, I ran into Captain Al. “Give me one of your business cards, Al.”

Back to Chicago and down to the crew restaurant. Ed tossed his hat up on the rack. I drifted back again. I took down Ed’s hat, removed his business card, inserted Al’s and joined Ed for breakfast.

When I arrived on the airplane, Ed was trying on that hat, removing and examining it, placing it back on, shaking his hat (to test the fit) and removing it again for inspection.

“What are you doing, Ed?”
“I’ve got Al’s damned hat!”

“Isn’t that the same act last week for which you called another captain an irresponsible, inconsiderate %$#@*&??”

Ed nearly shouted, “I haven’t even seen Al today!”

“Well, hell, you must have, Ed. You stole his hat.”
At altitude Ed often examined the hat. “It’s got a break in the bill just like mine.”

I replied, “They all break there, Ed. Lots of captains complain about it.”

The hat wasn’t much more conversation for the rest of the day. We did notice Ed inspecting it occasionally.

The next morning I arrived for the crew van, transportation to the airport from the hotel. Ed was seated in the front passenger’s seat. His hat was on. He was staring forward. He did not acknowledge my arrival.

“Good morning, Ed. Did you ever figure out how you got Al’s hat?”
Ed spun around, locked those icy blue eyes with mine, began the transition that indicated his anger, and stated, “What I have, young man, is Al’s business card. Thanks for asking.”

I conclude that gentleman Ed, while on the layover, called Captain Al to apologize for taking his hat. As the years went by, Ed enjoyed the story as much as anyone.

Ed is retired now. His son was the youngest Captain on the airline for many years and never owned a hat.