Richard E. Simonson

1935 ~2021

Obit Photo Richard Simonson

  Captain Richard ‘Dick’ Simonson, age 86 of Burnsville, MN, passed away peacefully on June 6, 2021. Dick was born in Menominee, Wisconsin on May 03, 1935 to parents Pearle and Evelyn Simonson.

   Dick grew up near Madison, WI and attended Madison East High School. In addition to being a good student, Dick quarterbacked the school football team. After high school he entered the University of Wisconsin where he earned a BA degree and completed the Air Force ROTC program. In addition to the academics and military, Dick played quarterback on the UW football team.

   Upon earning an undergraduate degree, Dick was commissioned in the Air Force Reserve. A short time after commissioning he entered active duty assigned to USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training. Earning his silver wings, Dick was assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Minot AFB, ND. After more extensive training, Dick flew the B-52 often flying airborne alert tours over the Arctic circle.

   After separation from active duty, Dick was employed by Northwest Airlines; his date of hire was September 12, 1964. He started his career as a Boeing 727 Second Officer, doing his Captain upgrade on the 727 based in MSP. When seniority permitted, he upgraded to the DC-10 which he flew until his retirement. Dick especially enjoyed flights to Boston, San Francisco, Hawaii and Miami.

   Dick Simonson broke the ice for NWA crews by handling the first NWA flight hijacking. July 1, 1968 began with an equipment substitution flight from MSP to Miami with an intermediate stop at Chicago Ohare. The crew consisted of: Captain Richard Simonson; First Officer Richard Conrad; Second Officer Kenneth Warras; Stewardesses Margaret Burt; Margarete Schmidt; Barbara Schlosser and Nancy Lee Stevenson. The crew did not become aware of the hijacking intent of hijacker Mario Velasquez until initial descent into Miami. From that time forward all new turf for this NWA crew. Dick Simonson and his crew handled this dangerous situation with good judgement and expertise.

   The NWA History Centre offers an excellent description of the entire hijacking incident online at:

   Dick retired from Northwest Airlines in 1993 after 29 years as a captain. He enjoyed skiing and golf, but most of all he enjoyed spending time with his family. Dick had a great sense of humor and was well liked and respected by his friends, family and peers.

   Richard Simonson is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Irma; children, Kaari Allen, Sonya McMichael and Rolf Simonson; grandchildren, Andrew, Michael, Jett, Preston and Ben. He was preceded in death by his parents Pearle and Evelyn and his son Eric.

   Richard Simonson was an excellent aviator and a fine gentlemen.

(-Bill Day)