One of the best ways to learn about our history is from People who were directly involved. Each day, Employees from every department are hard at work creating tomorrow's "history." But how many people can actually say they were there on day one in 1971? This week we celebrate Original Employee Dan Johnson who—after a career spanning five decades—starts the next chapter of his life with his retirement.
Prior to our first flight on June 18, 1971, Dan was hired to help start service at the Houston Intercontinental Station before Hobby reopened later that year. Traditional airport roles as we know them today did not exist at the time. The same Employee who checked you in at the ticket counter may have been the one who helped you board your flight (and then headed down to load your bags before the door closed)! Since there were no Saturday flights when all three planes were in Dallas for scheduled maintenance, that Employee may also have answered the phone to take reservations calls. Dan helped with security screening at Southwest-exclusive Hobby—which didn’t have the same services in place as Dallas or San Antonio—after DB Cooper made the need for airport security obvious.
In 1977, Dan moved to Dallas to start as one of our first three Assistant Dispatchers when our fleet size was anticipated to triple (to ten planes by the end of the year) and several new Stations opened. He was already accustomed to transcribing dispatch releases while working in the capacity of what we now consider an Operations Agent and was promoted to a full time Dispatcher about a year later.
With Southwest expansion rapidly picking up pace, the new role of Air Traffic Control Specialist was introduced in 2000. As a result of an increase in complicated airspace traffic around the Northeast, Dan transitioned into this new role to help Dispatchers maintain awareness of what was going on around the National Airspace System. Like several other roles in his career, there was a lack of established procedures and a steep learning curve. In Dan's words, it was more like a cliff!
Dan has enjoyed quite an eventful career, going from the early days in Houston with a handful of flights to the 3,700+ daily departures his Team at the NOC handles each day. He plans to return to his hometown of Salt Lake City, but we hope our new nonstop service starting later this summer will send him back from time to time to the place he has called home for the past 38 years.