The airline world along with those of us who worked for Hughes Airwest during the early and mid 70’s lost a true friend on November 21, 1991 when Irv Tague passed away at the young age of 63. Our special “thank you” to Russ Stephenson for writing the very poignant “Tribute to Irv” that follows.

Tribute to Irv

Irv Tague was born a Westerner, in Washington State. As he matured, his experience took him to the East via Alaska, where he was deeply involved in scheduling and economic analysis with Pan American World Airways.

Irv was a quiet, intense, private man, who was not given to chatter about himself, or much else. When Tom Bailey asked me to help him put together a memorial to Irv, I had to talk to someone who had been personally involved with events that brought Irv to Hughes Airwest.

Fortunately, I was able to reach John Eichner, a retired partner in a highly regarded DCA transportation consulting firm, Simat, Helliesen and Eichner (SH&E), who were responsible for pairing Irv and RW.

The story begins, for the purpose of this tribute to Irv, with Irv’s extensive work with Pan American World Airways, primarily on scheduling, where he came to the attention of the SH&E partners. John Eichner told me that Irv was one of the best airline schedulers he ever knew, a talent Irv would use to great advantage with Northeast Airlines and Hughes Airwest as well as Pan Am.

SH&E had the Hughes organization as clients, so when Northeast Airlines was purchased by Howard Hughes, and there was a need for a variety of management improvements, Jim Austin – the new Hughes’ selected president working with SH& E, had Irv brought in as consultant to improve scheduling in particular.

Subsequently, Irv’s excellent work at NEA led SH&E to ask Irv to set up a West Coast office in San Mateo, a geographic decision not then related to Hughes Airwest. However, while that was being developed, the Hughes organization had its problems with the three-airline merger it had purchased.

All of the CAB and SEC work had not been finalized in Washington, among other things. Almost all of you will have memory of some of the problems to be faced closer home.

Chester Davis, Hughes top attorney, asked SH&E for help to get things in order. As a result of this request, Irv was shifted to San Mateo, but for the RW assignment rather than to set up an independent SH&E office.

Irv’s excellent grasp of the problems that needed attention led to his selection as General Manager by the Hughes directors.

One of the descriptions I first encountered when we got to San Mateo was of Irv….”a skinny, quiet little guy who had an office down the hall. We sure didn’t think he was going to be the Boss!” This was one person’s observation; mine was that Irv developed respect in a hurry.

Irv showed his savvy, continuing to work with Nat Simat and John Eichner as consultants in the development of RW through critical management, equipment and route changes. Simat, a former CAB staff member, knew the Washington ropes, as did Eichner. The two of them, Irv and SH&E were a good team. Irv had the vision of what he wanted and needed, and SH&E knew how to help with the Washington, DC regulatory problems.

Irv was an interesting man for whom to work. He was a very private individual, had out-of-the-norm working habits, and gave considerable authority to his staff to work for the objectives he had in mind. He was not a personnel man, but received substantial support from his assistant, Dave Hinson, a top pilot and excellent manager and advisor.

In my opinion, Irv – working with Nat Simat, deserves the credit for the development of Hughes Airwest to be a major, successful regional airline. He had a good staff to assist him. In addition, seeing the beginning of a turnaround, which continued, brought new hope to employees who began to improve the operation and service quality with new pride and energy.

When Irv left RW, he had in mind launching Midway Airlines, a major change on the Chicago aviation skyline, which had been ruled primarily by United Air Lines with a vested interest in only one major Chicago airport. Dave Hinson, later to be FAA Administrator, joined Irv and Nat Simat, and Midway Airlines became a successful and respected airline under Irv.

What a shame Irv’s drive and competence was cut short. How fortunate we at RW were to have been associated with him in the excellent airline he developed, with the help of all of us and the support of the Hughes name.

Russell V. Stephenson


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