When Northwest Airlines ushered in a new era in treating alcoholics

Northwest Airlines has been relegated to the ash heap of history, but it made a bit of a proud return to the nation’s consciousness on Sunday when Norman Lyle Prouse told his story to CBS’ Sunday Morning.

Prouse was one of three pilots who flew a DC-9 from Fargo to Minneapolis while drunk; the three had spent the previous evening in a Moorhead bar in 1990.

Two other pilots — Robert Kirchner and Joseph Balzer (whom I interviewed in this space in 2009) — went to prison for a year.

Prouse got clean. Then began serving his 16-month sentence.

He eventually went back to Northwest, retiring as a captain of a 747 in 1998.

There’s a lot of love in the CBS Sunday Morning for Northwest, which ushered in the era of treating alcoholics in the workplace as ill; not a mention of the union that had to fight the company on the issue.

“No Northwest pilot ever survived anything like this and their situation wasn’t 10 percent as bad as mine was – I knew it was over,” Prouse told a meeting of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in September.

  • AL287

    With the country’s morals and ethics falling by the wayside at a rapid pace, we need unions today more than ever.

    A friend of mine who belonged to the nurses’ union said the companies who get them usually deserve them.

    It is because of unions that my healthcare clinic still has all nurses working in its clinics and not just a token nurse and the rest medical assistants.

    I have nothing against medical assistants but when push comes to shove and something goes radically wrong during an outpatient procedure, it’s not the MA that is going to save your life—it’s the nurse.

    My biggest pet peeve is doctors who refer to their MA’s as their “nurse.” It’s an insult to LPN’s, RN’s and NP’s everywhere.

    Unions aren’t perfect but at least they give their members a say in the hours they work, their pay and what benefits they get.

  • Gary F

    Still makes me wonder back then how many pilots were flying under the influence.