This Flashback Fridays post is guest-authored by Dottie Morris, the widow of retired Southwest Captain, Don Morris. Dottie, whose son, Michael Morris, is a First Officer for Southwest, reached out to me after she read the “Best of Flashback Fridays” post that ran this year on August 9. That post featured information and photos of our first four aircraft and had a particular focus on N23SW. Once you read her story, you’ll see immediately why Dottie was drawn to the post. So now, as Paul Harvey used to say, is “the rest of the story…”.
I saw an article regarding the last N23SW several weeks ago. I thought you might be interested in the continued evolution of that number.
That aircraft and especially the number N23SW is quite special and dear to me. My deceased husband Captain Don Morris joined Southwest in June of 1977. When Don completed Southwest training, his first revenue flight with SWA as a brand new F/O was also the first revenue flight of the just-delivered aircraft N23SW. Don kept his own handwritten log book for many years and documented each flight with the aircraft number, etc. After reading the article, I checked Don's log book and there was the N23SW entry. Don and N23SW flew DAL-HOU.
Don quite reluctantly retired February 27, 2003 because the “age-60 rule" was still in effect. Although he was PHX-based at the time of his retirement flight, the DAL base was kind enough to accommodate his sentimental wish to fly HOU-DAL. That day N23SW, now long gone from the SWA fleet was much on his mind as he too was leaving the Company that had been such an integral part of his life for nearly 26 years. The old 737-200 bearing that number was retired January 29, 1998.
I knew Don was one of those Pilots for whom flying was not simply an occupation, but also a passion. We acquired and had refurbished—including a new paint scheme—a two-seater Lancair 360. Of course, the colors had to be as close to Southwest Red and Canyon Blue as possible.
There was one problem with the Lancair 360. The "N" or tail number included the initials of the previous owner. Don and our son Michael began looking for a new number. Don then wondered what became of N23SW. Michael researched the number through the FAA web site and discovered the number was registered with an Austin aircraft salvage company. Don called the company and asked about N23SW. He was told the number was inactive. The 737-200 had been scrapped for salvageable parts and left to deteriorate at El Mirage Field in California.
When Don told the title company of his desire to obtain the number and why, the response was an enthusiastic “yes.” With a simple transfer from a title company, our Lancair 360 became N23SW. Michael (r.) and Don (l.) flying together in N23SW in 2005. Capt. Don Morris taken shortly before his retirement. (taken 2003)
Michael (r.) and Don (l.) flying together in N23SW in 2005
Captain Don Morris taken shortly before his retirement in 2003
After Don passed away, I sold the Lancair 360, but I insisted on keeping the special registration number N23SW. You’ll be happy to know that the heritage of N23SW is still held within the Southwest Family. Since 2006, the number has been inactivated, but annually, it is registered with the FAA since my son, Southwest F/O Michael Morris maintains the number. Who knows? Someday, N23SW might fly again!