North Central Airlines was founded as Wisconsin
Central Airlines in 1944 in Clintonville,
Wisconsin. It was also headquartered in
Clintonville until 1947 when they moved
headquarters to Madison, Wisconsin.
This is also when "Herman the duck" was born on
Wisconsin Centrals' First Lockheed Electra 10A,
NC14262, in 1948.
In 1939 the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD),
a major manufacturer of four-wheel transmissions
and heavy-duty trucks based in Clintonville,
Wisconsin, opened a flight department and traded
a company truck for a Waco biplane for their
In 1944 company executives decided to start
an airline. In 1946 airline service was started
between six Wisconsin cities.
This led the company to purchase two Cessna
UC-78 Bobcats. Soon after this the airline
purchased three Lockheed Electra 10As. They
increased service to 19 cities, and (with
increasing revenues) purchased three more
Electra 10As, and then 6 DC-3s.
In 1952 the airline moved its headquarters from
Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with
the move the name was changed to North Central
Airlines. Soon after this the airline ran into
some financial troubles when their President,
Francis Higgins, left, making Hal Carr the
President. Carr quickly got the company out of
debt and made it more reliable. Over time, the
company expanded its fleet to 32 DC-3s.
In the late 1950s the airline began to outgrow
its fleet of DC-3s and bought five Convair 340s
from Continental Airlines, the first entering
service in 1959. In 1960 North Central hit the
one million passenger mark and had flights to 90
cities (and somewhat fewer airports). The
airline added routes to Canada. The airline even
worked with the United States Government to aid
troubled airlines in South America. As the
airline grew it needed larger planes; the first
of five Douglas DC-9-31s entered service in
The Convair 340s were converted from piston
power to turboprop Convair 580s. The airline
bought more DC-9s and numerous Convairs. In 1969
North Central Airlines moved its administrative
and operational headquarters to a building on
the south side of Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport; as of 2009 the building
was the Building C Maintenance and
Administrative Facility of Northwest Airlines.
The CAB classified North Central as a "local service
carrier," operating a combination of turboprop and jet
aircraft to serve cities within one region of the United
States and helping feed passengers to larger "trunk
airlines" that served cities nationwide. North Central
did eventually fly to more distant cities such as
Washington, D.C.-National, New York-LaGuardia, Boston,
Denver and Tucson.
Following North Central's success, it moved to
buy Atlanta-based Southern Airways. In 1979 a
merger of the two airlines formed Republic
Airlines. Republic later acquired San
Francisco-based Hughes Airwest. Republic kept
North Central's hubs at Minneapolis and Detroit,
and Southern's hub at Memphis, Tennessee.
But within a few years it closed down Hughes'
hub in Phoenix, Arizona; reduced North Central's
sizeable station at O'Hare International
Airport; and reduced Southern's sizeable station
at Atlanta. Republic also quickly downsized
North Central's operations to and among smaller
airports in the upper Midwest, concentrating its
fleet at the Minneapolis and Detroit hubs.
1986 Republic merged with Northwest Airlines,
which also operated a hub at Minneapolis and had
a large operation at Detroit, thus ending the
legacy of Wisconsin Central and North Central.
(For the latest news please
checkout our home page)