Duane Edelman was born in Sugar Bush, WI and grew up near Clintonville, WI. As a young boy living on a dairy farm, one day he watched a North Central Airlines DC-3 fly overhead and he announced to his brother and Dad “That’s what I’m going to do when I grow up.” After graduating High School in 1959 he enlisted in the Air Force. His first airplane ride was to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He trained to become an aircraft Crew Chief, maintaining the North American F-100 Super Sabre. He eventually became a team member on the Air Force’s coveted flight demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, as a maintainer.
After transitioning out of the Air Force, Edelman moved to Sioux City, Iowa where he learned to fly. He started flying in January of 1964, earning his Commercial rating within the year. He flew skydivers, mortuary flights and power line inspection flights to accumulate flight hours, earning his Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certification in 1966. He was then hired by North Central Air Lines to fly the Douglas DC-3, the very aircraft and airline that inspired him to become a pilot. He moved to Minnesota and flew with North Central/Republic/Northwest for 38 years through their mergers, holding type ratings in the Convair 440 and 580, McDonnell Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, 757, and 747.
Some of the non-flying positions he held at Northwest Airlines, while continuing to fly the line, were Director of Flight Operations. He was also assigned the Director of Flight Technical, where he was a principal in the development of the Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards (ETOPS) and lead of the Electronic Flight Bag project. He was also the manager of the Digital Delivery of Taxi Clearance (DDTC) program at the Detroit Airport while flying as test pilot on a Northwest aircraft ferrying project. Edelman was given the title of Vice-President to supervise a project called SAE57, which included airline representatives from all over the world, developing standards for operating in foreign airspace. For his work on this committee, he was awarded the President's Award. He was also involved with a few NASA projects in which the airline participated in.
After retiring from the airline, he started his own company, Aircraft Data Fusion. The company developed electronic technical publications and cockpit software that enabled the use of handheld devices for load planning, weight and balance, takeoff, and landing performance. The company also worked on recoverable space vehicles for the X-prize competition. He worked on the concept of Free Flight, which makes possible for aircraft to automatically separate themselves from other traffic. He also advocated for the integration of supersonic aircraft into airline operations.
Throughout his aviation career Duan Edelman has made an immense impact on technological research and advances in aviation. He has also been a mentor to young people interested in aviation as well as up-and-coming pilots.