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David Haapala, 84

Funeral for David Haapala scheduled for Dassel Covenant Church, on Friday May 20. Visitation 1 p.m. service 2 p.m. Memorials are preferred to St. Croix Hospice- www.stcroixhospice.com/hospice-minnesota/ 7200 Hudson Blvd N. St. 100, Oakdale, MN 55128


Captain David R. Haapala died peacefully in his home in Eden Prairie on Friday morning, Dec. 10, 2021, under the care of his devoted wife, Gloria, and the wonderful angels from St. Croix Hospice.

David was born to Bernie and Wincie Haapala on Nov. 24, 1937, in Litchfield, Minnesota. Growing up in Dassel produced in David a strong work ethic, a love of God and country, and a strong devotion to family. He was baptized and confirmed at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel. In 1954, at the age of seventeen, he graduated from Dassel High School and began his freshman year at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.

By his junior year at Gustavus, David, feeling the strong pull of the skies, left school and joined the US Air Force as a cadet and began his pilot career. Earning his wings, he ultimately served as a bomber pilot under SAC (Strategic Air Command), which was responsible for the control and delivery of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. During this time, David began dating and married Gloria Bengtson of Dassel, MN June 30, 1961. Their first years of marriage were spent in Little Rock, AK where they were stationed, and Gloria began her teaching career. One of their most interesting stories was of David sitting at the airfield, waiting for orders, during the Cuban missile crisis.

After David’s active service was over in 1963, the couple returned to Minnesota, where David continued his education and earned a BA from the University of Minnesota in Economics. He then entered law school while Gloria continued her career as an elementary school teacher at Cedar Manor in St. Louis Park. In February 1972, the couple’s only child, Erik, was born.

David continued his military service in the Minnesota Air National Guard. By the mid-1960s many of David’s pilot friends were joining the major airlines and he decided to leave law school and make flying his full-time career. Accepting a pilot position with Northwest Orient Airlines in 1966, David began a 28-year career as a pilot, a flight trainer, and ultimately as Director of Flight Standards. One of his greatest accomplishments during his career began in the early 1980s when he purchased an IBM PC and used it to write the operations manual for the new Boeing 757 aircraft.

During the 1970s and 80s David was a Dale Carnegie instructor, a Toastmaster, and a National Speaker. He also created a three-day course on effective public speaking for Control Data, in which he and Gloria spent several years traveling the US and Canada teaching together.

During his years at Northwest, David was passionate about new technology and its role in aviation. Due in no small part to his influence, Northwest became the first North American carrier to purchase the Airbus A320 aircraft that featured fly-by-wire and other technological firsts. David was also a proponent of HUDs (head-up displays), EVS (enhances vision systems), ACARS (aircraft communications addressing and reporting system), TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system), GPS (global position system) navigation, and many others. He had a strong vision of the role technology could play in making air travel safer and more efficient. Many of the technologies David championed are in the modern cockpit today.

After his retirement from Northwest in 1994, David formed Air Economics Group and continued to support and advocate for new technology in the cockpit and beyond. Joined by his son, Erik, in 1996, David spent the next fifteen years developing tools, data, and analysis to understand the operational value and potential of new technology for companies such as Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and many others. As an outgrowth of this work, David also wrote and published a weekly newsletter for nearly eight years called Flt Tech Online.

In 2014, after 35 years, David and Gloria moved from their home in Wayzata to a new home in Eden Prairie. Shortly after their move, David was diagnosed with dementia. Over the next seven years, as the disease took hold, Gloria was responsible for his full-time care. While the husband and father we loved slowly slipped away from us, he never lost his good nature and quiet ways. He was often thanking mom for her gentle care and frequently entertained us with the Air Force fight song. Through his terrible disease, at his core, he remained David until the end.

David was preceded in death by his parents, Bernie and Wince Haapala, brother Tom Haapala and sister-in-law Pat Haapala. He is survived by his wife Gloria, son Erik (Kathy) Haapala, grandson Levi, great-granddaughter Viviana, brothers James “Tex” (who since passed away in early January 2022) and Nathan (Sharon) Haapala, sister-in-law Susan Haapala, brother-in-law John (Clarice) Bengtson and sister-in-law Mary (David) Kjell, as well as many other friends and family.

David was an honorable, good-natured man who loved his family, supported, encouraged, brought out the best in those around him, and sought to live his life with integrity and purpose. He was a wonderful husband, father, and friend. He will be missed by all who know him.

Memorials are preferred to St. Croix Hospice — www.stcroixhospice.com/hospice-minnesota/

7200 Hudson Blvd N Ste 100, Oakdale, MN 55128

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