Kenneth E. Bryant

1934 ~ 2022

Obit Photo Kenneth Bryant

   Captain Kenneth E. Bryant, age 88, died June 03, 2022, the end of a five-year health struggle after a major stroke and multiple heart attacks. At the time of his death Ken and his wife resided in an Adult Retirement/Hospice facility in Kent, Washington.

   Ken was born in Oklahoma. He was raised by his mother as an only child. Ken once lamented that he attended twenty-two schools in eleven states. After high school Ken enlisted in the U.S. Navy and during the standard battery of tests his scores highlighted him as a potential candidate for the USN Aviation Cadet (NAVCAD) Pilot program.

   After some enlisted duty Ken entered flight training at NAS Pensacola. Apparently, he met the challenges and earned his Naval Commission and ‘Wings of Gold.’ During flight training Ken flew the T-28 and toward the end of training the F4U Corsair for initial carrier qualification. The Corsair was an infamous challenge for young inexperienced pilots doing their Carrier Quals.

   During his active-duty time with the fleet Ken flew the Grumman F9F Cougar fighter. In addition, there was a military marriage that produced a son, this marriage eventually dissolved.

   After fulfilling his active-duty obligation, Ken applied for and secured employment with Northwest Airlines – date of hire April 25, 1959. Shortly after being hired by NWA, Ken was laid off due to a labor contract dispute. During this lay off Ken time flew for Air America in Southeast Asia. Recalled by NWA, he flew as first officer on the DC-6, DC-7, Lockheed Electra, and the Boeing 720/320 series from the MSP base. By luck or fate, in 1966 Ken was deadheaded to Miami, sitting by chance sat next the lovely Canadian born NWA flight attendant Fran Clempson. Dinner that night launched a marriage that lasted 56 years. Ken and Fran adopted two daughters Jennifer (who as an adult died of cancer) and Lynaya who today remains a faithful companion to her mother.

   The family lived in Bloomington, MN while NWA was booming as a major airline. Ken responded to a captain bid and did his initial ‘left seat’ checkout was on the Boeing 727. Later captain qualifications were on the Boeing 720/320, Douglas DC-10, and Boeing 747 Classic. Ken would retire as a 747 Classic captain based in Seattle and living in Kent, WA.

   Ken had an often-stated intention of retiring once he acquired 25 years of airlines service and five years wide body flying – that he did. At the time of retirement Ken was dealing with a medical problem with a bad shoulder.  

   Prior to retirement Ken had a tradition of joining NWA pilot Jim Lindley and others on periodic Elk hunting trips to Wyoming. These were horse back forays into back country and polished his skills at horsemanship as well as a marksman. The obituary photo was taken at a visit to Cheyenne Wyoming ‘Frontier Days’ and addendum to a hunting trip.

   During a lengthy NWA strike in 1979, Ken and some of his NWA pilot hunting pals organized Teton Aircraft Leasing Inc, an non-sked operation intending to fly war refugees from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Travis AFB, CA. They purchased a Boeing 707-321 powered by JT-4A (straight pipe) was purchased for this purpose. While the upstart airline never carried a contract passenger, it was organized, equipped, trained, and ready for the initial flight. This endeavor included obtaining a FAA Operating Certificate.

   In retirement Ken kept his hand in aviation by flying a Beechcraft Bonanza A model which he hangered at Crest Air Park near Kent, WA.

   Ken is survived by his wife Fran, who resides in the same care facility as her husband, and a daughter Lynaya.

(~ Bill Day)