Peter W. Crane

1936 ~ 2023

Obit Photo Peter Crane 003

   Captain Peter Warner Crane, age 86, died March 28, 2023.  Pete passed away in his sleep after congestive heart failure attributed to Atrial fibrillation (A-fib).

   Pete was born in New Jersey on July 14, 1936, to Wilbur and Margaret (Van Nest) Crane. He was the oldest of three sons, Peter, Jay and Richard Crane. His father, Wilbur Crane, also served in the US Navy, died suddenly of a heart attack at the family dining table. Pete at fourteen years old assumed a leadership role in the family.

   All three of the Crane brothers attended high school at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, PA. It can be safely assumed that Pete and his brothers were good students. Throughout his life Pete was physically solid and known as a gifted athlete; early on at Shadyside he was captain of the football team, a member of the baseball team, and active with the wrestling team.

   After high school graduation Pete packed up and moved northeast to New Hampshire for four years of study at Dartmouth College. He opted to enroll in USN ROTC. Incidentally, all three Crane sons attended Dartmouth followed by duty with the Navy.

Obit Photo Pete Crane Ensign

Pete served nine years of active duty with the USN; his tenure began with flight training at NAS Pensacola. After primary Pete was sent to NAS Chase Field, Beeville, TX for advanced jet training. Now wearing USN gold pilot wings, Pete reported to VF-24 at NAS Miramar, CA. In 1960 VF-24 was flying the F-8E & F-8J Crusader. In time Pete would serve two Western Pacific deployments, one aboard the USS Midway with VF-24 and with VFP-63 in 1963 aboard the USS Coral Sea flying the (Photo Recon) RF-8A. The photo below was taken when the photo detachment received honors for performance.

Obit PHoto Pete Crane VFP 63


Following his duty with VFP-63, Pete transitioned to the F-4 Phantom at NAS Miramar, CA. At NAS Miramar he acquired valuable flight time in the F-4 foundational for reassignment to the USN Program Office at McDonnell Douglas (St Louis, MO) as a Navy test pilot.

Obit Photo Pete Crane F 4

   While still on active duty with the Navy, Pete married Shirley Merkel in Bourbon, MO, they were married for 66 years. Together Pete and Shirley raised two children, son Kenneth Crane, and daughter Debra Kapitan.

   During 1967 airline life beckoned to Pete and Shirley, he was hired by Northwest Airlines on October 02, 1967. His initial pilot checkout was as Boeing 727 Second Officer at Minneapolis (MSP). In time Pete upgraded to First Officer on the 727, followed by upgrades to DC-10 and Boeing 747 First Officer. His initial captain upgrade was to the Boeing 727, followed again by the DC-10 and Boeing 747 Classic ratings. These aircraft qualifications availed Pete of opportunities to fly from both the NWA Seattle and the Honolulu bases. During his mid and later career years Pete served the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) at the national level. His organizational skills were put to work at ALPA HQ dealing with proposed FAA regulations, labor legislation, and ALPA internal organization. Pete completed the full career path to the age 60 mandatory retirement. At that time Peter was serving as captain on the Boeing 747 Classic at Honolulu.     Photo below: Last Flight

Obit Photo Pete Crane last flight

   During the grim years of labor strife and layoffs Pete worked in the Twin City area in the landscaping business. Those who knew Pete often remarked about his tendency to be working and cleaning all the time. He was a man in motion, home projects, lawn maintenance, playing racquetball, soft ball, golf, or tennis.

   In retirement Pete and Shirley settled in Phoenix, Arizona. Pete became a prolific reader and stayed active as a golf ranger/starter at Club West. He enjoyed playing tennis, racquetball, golf, traveling and playing with his grandkids and great grandkids.

   Survived by wife Shirley Crane, son Kenneth Crane (JoAnn Crane), daughter Debbie Kapitan, grandchildren, Jourdan Kroll (Marrc), Kate Wermerskirchen (Kory), Kohl Kapitan, Dana Morel, Great Grandchildren, Michael Rodriquez, Richard Rodriquez, Charlotte Kroll, Skylar Kroll, Wesley Kroll, Jensen Kroll, Bennett Wermerskirchen and Brooks Wermerskirchen. Brothers Jay Crane and Dick Crane (Marianne).

   One of Northwest’s finest aviators has left our midst.    

   (-JoAnn Crane and Bill Day)