Aviation Pioneer Founder Of Midstate Airlines Roy Shwery Dies At 87

 

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Aviation Pioneer Founder Of Midstate Airlines Roy Shwery Dies At 87

By Jim Douglas
 

October 29, 2010 - Roy P. Shwery aviation pioneer, founder of Midstate Airlines and inductee Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame, passed away peacefully on Tuesday at the age of 87. Shwery had been involved in aviation since his first solo flight at the age of 16 in 1939 in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Shwery obtained a commercial and instructors pilots license and in 1942 upon graduating high school began giving flight instruction to other pilots. Shwery soon joined the army and began flying medium and heavy bombers in World War II. He obtained his instrument flight check in a B-17.

After the war in 1945 Shwery returned to Wisconsin where he continued his flight training and as well giving flight instruction. Shwery purchased a Navion aircraft and began providing charter services. In 1948 Shwery purchased an FBO in Marshfield, Wisconsin where he provided aircraft maintenance, aircraft charter service and flight instruction.

Left - Roy P. Shwery founder of Midstate Airlines and inductee Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame

 

At that time Shwery also obtained his A & P mechanic's certificate. In 1950 Shwery obtained his Airline Transport Rating (ATP) and in 1953 Shwery gained employment with American Airlines as a pilot.   In 1964 Shwery began one of the country's first commuter airlines called Midstate Airlines out of Marshfield, Wisconsin. The airline originally operated a fleet of Beechcraft Model 18 aircraft, and later, four Beech 99's.

The airline originally flew from Marshfield, to Wisconsin Rapids, to Milwaukee, and onto Chicago. (Central Wisconsin Airport serves the communities of Stevens Point, Wausau, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and the smaller suburbs—Mosinee, Plover, and Rosholt—with long runways that accommodated large jet aircraft.) 

By the early 1970's Midstate also was serving Hayward and Ashland, Wisconsin from the Central Wisconsin Airport and Ashland from the Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport. One of its most fondly remembered features was the 6:00 PM "Champagne Flight" out of O'Hare, destined for Ashland via Milwaukee, the CWA, and Hayward. Shortly after takeoff from Milwaukee, the passengers were invited to open a cooler put onboard in Milwaukee and prepared by Midstate's President's wife.  

Typically, in the cooler were a few soft drinks, beers, Wisconsin cheese, Pringle's Newfangled Potato Chips, plastic cups and one or two bottles of champagne. Somehow, this ice-breaker generated informality and good feeling for nearly everyone on board. In 1977 Midstate switched to 19-passenger Swearingen Metroliners.

 

In its heyday, Midstate operated a fleet of 19 Metroliners and added six Fokker F-27 50-passenger aircraft in 1984 (which required a flight attendant and a certificate modification under FAA part 121 rules), and flew to 15 cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Chicago O'Hare airport.

The airline was purchased from Shwery by Sentry Insurance of Stevens Point, and subsequently resold to CEO and investor Bryce Appleton in 1986. In a time of airline consolidation, code-sharing and identical livery agreements between commuter/regional aircraft and their major airline counterparts, Midstate remarkably remained independent, while its popularity and passenger load factors declined rapidly by 1987. 

In 1986, Midstate subleased the F-27 aircraft to Chicago Air, a start-up carrier that operated a regional service out of Chicago Midway International Airport. Midstate provided maintenance services to Chicago Air out of Central Wisconsin. However, Chicago Air went into bankruptcy the same year and Appleton purchased what remained of the Midstate's assets from Sentry Insurance. The Chicago O'Hare takeoff and landing slots were sold off and Appleton continued to operate the Swearingen Metroliners, establishing a hub in Milwaukee. However, the airline continued to cut back service and eventually ceased operations in 1989. 

In 1992, Shwery was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame and in 1997, Marshfield Airport was named Roy Shwery Field in honor of Shwery's contributions to aviation.

 

 
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