The Delta pilot group has a very special tradition that began in a small crew base for Northwest Airlines in Anchorage, Alaska. This tradition has a remarkable history.
A Tradition is Born
Northwest Airlines opened a freighter base in Anchorage Alaska in 1991. It was a small base with only around 75 crew members, many of whom left their old base and moved to Alaska. A few years after the base was established, a secretary in the Chief Pilot’s Office thought it would be a great idea to bring the NWA pilots and their families together for a potluck picnic.
The first picnic attracted around 50 guests. A few years later, as the picnic grew in popularity, ALPA Council 55 got involved and a group of pilots donated fresh-caught salmon and halibut. One pilot converted his beer brewing mash tun into a fish fryer and served up beer-battered halibut. The picnic began to be referred to as the Anchorage Fish Fry and attracted pilots system-wide.
Strike Begets Unity
In 1998, Northwest pilots went on strike. The strike increased the sense of unity among the pilots and their families and was especially felt at the Fish Fry that year. Local Council Reps from other bases and committee members from the MEC joined the ANC crews. The Northwest MEC began to help support the growing Fish Fry by augmenting the potluck with fish and other potluck items.
As the years went by, the Fish Fry became so popular that NWA pilots from the Midwest would bring gunnysacks full of fresh corn on the cob (on freighters from Minneapolis) to add to the potluck. The ANC Fish Fry became a strong tradition among NWA pilots from around the system that built pilot unity and camaraderie.
On April 14, 2008, Northwest Airlines announced the merger with Delta Air Lines. Shortly thereafter, Delta announced that the Anchorage cargo hub will be shut down by the end of 2009. The last ANC base Fish Fry attracted around 250 pilots.
Starting in 2010, base conversions and training ramped up for ANC-based pilots. It was a hectic time with people packing up and moving out of Alaska. The pilots held one last fish fry before leaving Alaska for good, but it was much smaller and more subdued than what the previous years’ Fish Fry had become.
The sign that hung over the ANC operations center was taken down and auctioned off for charity. One of the pilots won the sign for the price of $501.91 – a symbolic amount, since the Anchorage base opened May 1, 1991. The sign was taken to the final Fish Fry and was signed by the remaining pilots. It now hangs in the garage of the winning pilot.
New Home, Same Tradition
Not only were pilots changing planes and bases, so too was the Anchorage Fish Fry. The Fish Fry was moved to the Salt Lake City crew base where many of the ANC based pilots moved. The first SLC Fish Fry was held in Park City and was combined with a retirement party for a NWA/DL pilot who, fittingly, hosted the last Fish Fry in ANC.
With the help of the SLC pilots and Council 81 Reps, the Fish Fry tradition built a strong foundation among the SLC crews and attendance began to grow. The second year in SLC, the Fish Fry attendance doubled, and Delta donated two tickets to be raffled off to support the Delta Pilots Charitable Fund.
The Fish Fry tradition continues to this day, although it is now referred to as the SLC BBQ to be more apropos to the location and cuisine offered. Pilots and their families still come together each year for a potluck and to build camaraderie and unity.
For information about the 2018 SLC BBQ or other SLC events, please contact your Council 81 Reps.
The content of this article was given to the author by a former NWA/DL pilot. The author of this article is not responsible for inaccuracies.