Archive for Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lawrence resident piloted Pope John Paul II’s plane

April 16, 2008


Nelson Krueger piloted "Shepherd One," a Boeing 727, during Pope John Paul II&squot;s 1979 U.S. visit. The Shepherd One insignia is on the sleeve of his jacket.

Nelson Krueger piloted "Shepherd One," a Boeing 727, during Pope John Paul II's 1979 U.S. visit. The Shepherd One insignia is on the sleeve of his jacket.

As Pope Benedict XVI commences his first official visit in the U.S., Lawrence resident Nelson Krueger recalls his own close-up view of a similar trip from the late Pope John Paul II.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," Krueger said. "The whole trip was an odyssey that was surrounded by an abundance of good news."

Krueger, a longtime pilot for TWA, in 1979 co-piloted Shepherd One as it escorted Pope John Paul II in his first official visit to the United States.

The trip included stops in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Des Moines and Chicago. Krueger, whose passengers have included Sen. Bob Dole, thousands of U.S. troops and members of Saudi Arabian royal family, said his experience flying the pontiff still brings him shivers.

At stops in various cities, Pope John Paul II was met with masses of people straining for a glimpse, Krueger recalled. And up close, Krueger found the religious leader both robust and personable.

"When he'd look at you, a million bits of information changed between you and him in one second," Krueger said. "You could tell he was a real genuine fella."

It wasn't like other flights. Shepherd One, a Boeing 727, was reconfigured for its special passengers.

"You had the one big chair for the Pope, and then you had a couple of chairs that were almost as big for the cardinals," he said. There were "a couple of bishops and archbishops, and they had to have their own chairs of a given size to fit the protocol of their office."

A table covered in white lambskin was set up for Pope John Paul II to read the Bible and take notes.

Reporters and others filled the back of Shepherd One as well as Shepherd Two and Shepherd Three, both Boeing 727s.

Maynard Oliverius, a pilot and longtime friend who is chief executive at Stormont-Vail HealthCare, said it wasn't chance that put Krueger on Shepherd One.

"That was not something that just any crew would get to do," Oliverius said. "They were handpicked to represent TWA and to fly the Pope when he was in the United States. ... You've got a real star right there in Lawrence."

Krueger said during the pontiff's stops in various locations, the reaction from the public could be overwhelming.

"He carries an aura of good news," Krueger said. "Everybody feels so positive and good. The cheers - you can feel them bounce off of your skin, not just bounce off of your ears because they were so loud."

Krueger, a Methodist, still has mementos from the trip - a family rosary blessed by the Pope and a crystal obelisk the pontiff gave to him.

He said he believes Pope Benedict's visit will be similarly memorable for those close to it.

"They won't know for 20 years how special it is or was," he said. "It'll be an emotion-packed, life-changing experience for certainly the flight crews and anyone who's involved in that trip in any way."


Thats_messed_up 10 years, 2 months ago

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BigPrune 10 years, 2 months ago

By the end of the day, this human interest article will be lambasted by every freethinker bigot that writes on here and this pilot will be chastised for being the Pope's pilot.

BigPrune 10 years, 2 months ago

By the end of the day, this human interest article will be lambasted by every freethinker and this pilot will be chastised for piloting Pope JPII.

geniusmannumber1 10 years, 2 months ago

Was his co-pilot named ... Jesus?I kill me.

jayhawkzrule 10 years, 2 months ago

This LJW article is inspiring, howver, the comments afterward show what a bunch of bigots reside in Lawrence. Why is it that the only religion that can be opened ridiculed is Catholism? If the LJW ran an article on any other religion, no one would dare to speak an ill word. Can you even imagine someone making a public joke about a rabbi, guru, or another other "spiritual" leader - it would be censored immediately and put down by all as "bigoted and intolerant". This is text book hypocrisy.I just love how liberals shout with their mouths to be senstive and to tolerate all people's veiwpoints and beliefs, but that only extends to their own viewpoints - not to those who viewpoints are different than their own. It is very ironic that the so-called "free speakers" and "free thinkers" are the first to try and stop or put-down anything related to Catholism and Christianity in general. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.Crossfire above is a great example. Keep going anti-Catholics... you have tried persecution (many countries in history), outlawing it (China and most middle eastern countries), wholesale slaughtering of catholic communities (Rome, etc.), but it continues to grow and grow as it has for over two millenia.

supercowbellninja 10 years, 2 months ago

I think this is really cool that he had this kind of opportunity as a pilot. He's in rare company!

staff04 10 years, 2 months ago

Why do they call stuff associated with the Pope "Papal," and not "Popal?"

Confrontation 10 years, 2 months ago

I don't think anyone is bashing "Catholism."

vegetablegirl 10 years, 2 months ago

Nelson is a great man. I have had the pleasure of knowing him for over 30 years. He should be an inspiration to many!

Hoots 10 years, 2 months ago

I can member several cases of children being molested in area churches and other organizations and they weren't Catholic. This is a problem in society period but the Catholic church got to be the one that got hung by the media. It's a sad note no matter what. I liked the article on Nelson. I met him when I was a kid and he's a very interesting person.

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