ESCANABA - Aviation pioneer, Walter "Wally" Arntzen was one of the first airplane pilots in Escanaba. He learned to fly in 1926 at Brooksfield, Texas.
Details about Arntzen and his airplane were detailed by his brother, Arne Arntzen, in "The Century Book - 1863 to 1963." His account reads as follows:
"Wally Arntzen of Escanaba, in 1925, began looking about for a plane of his own after returning from Brooks Field, U.S. Army Art Cadet Flying School in Texas. He picked up an OX5 Jenny at Menominee and at Escanaba hopped passengers on weekends, holidays and at Fairtime.
Photo courtesy of Mary (Noyes) Pearson
Well-known local pilot, Wally Arntzen, is pictured third from right in this photograph furnished for publication by former Escanaba resident, Mary (Noyes) Pearson of Texas. Her late father, Paul Noyes, far left, who died in 1968, is also pictured in the photo dated February 1939. Pearson said she remembers her father showing her the picture many times. He was a friend of Arntzen and flew with him a lot. “In fact, I flew along once when I was only about 3 years old,” she said. “He was probably the only person who owned an airplane at that time, and was very well-known. Often on a Sunday afternoon we could spot him in the air, doing loop-the-loops and tailspins.”
"Wally's father, the late Gothard Arntzen, was the first architect in the state to utilize an airplane on field supervision trips to building jobs, flying there with Wally at the controls.
"Flying over Octonto with Roland Hale of Escanaba as a passenter, Wally wrecked his plane on a flight to Minneapolis. The plane crashed between a house and garage. Wally and Hale were unhurt.
Buying a World War I Thomas Morse in 1926, Wally began giving flying instrucitons. Two years later, C. Harold Wescott of Escanaba organized the Upper Peninsula Airways and established a field at Wells. Wally was pilot, Fred Sensiba and Myron Good mechanics. Good later crashed near the ore docks and was drowned. His passenger, Jimmy Hansen, was rescued.
"U.P. Airways operated a good school. Pilots trained by Wally included Joe Bonen, Harold Skelly, Mario Fontana, Mags Ranguette, Harold Anderson, Dr. C.B. Kitchen, Harold Gessner, Arthur Jacobsen, Julian Schuster, William Karas, Erling Arntzen, Edgar Arntzen, Ralph Olsen, Pete Wydra, Fred Marenger. There were others, of course. The Depression of the 1930s curtailed flying considerably. With federal aid, the Escanaba Municipal Airport was begun on its present site and Wally was hired as manager.
"Wally Arntzen came home after World War II with memories of thousands of hours and countless miles in the air. He and Freddie Sensiba organized Pioneer Aviation Associates. They taught flying to GI's through their U.S. sponsored school. Sensiba took over the operation and Wally joined G. Arntzen Architect and Co. Later the school was disbanded, Sensiba became airport manager, and years later, he was succeeded by Jon Thorin."