Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remembering Nicolette Larson Today

Rhino Records
Released in January 2006--eight years after her tragic death, this is a tribute to a great musical artist whose passing on this day in 1997 at the young age of age 45 led me to write this poignant post. Nicolette Larson's unmistakable voice can be heard on collaborations with fellow singer/songwriters including: Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Doobie Brothers, among many others. 
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Like many of you, my home is a menagerie of fun. Custom framing adorns the walls with memories of broadcasting, publishing, riding horses, playing guitar with friends and more. As my late Uncle Jimmy would say, "We all have our good memories". Last night, I had dinner with a sweet friend in town from New Jersey. I told her that I was re-reading Neil Young's second book, "Special Deluxe". I discovered she was not a fan. Undeterred, I showed her some of Neil's water color paintings of memorable vintage automobiles that were all a part of his youth, and serve as a metaphorical background to key life events. I'm enjoying the book, even if I'm reading his second book ahead of his Memoirs, "Waging Heavy Peace".
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Around early 2007, a very talented artist and picture framer who is also a friend of mine in Northern Kentucky, was looking over some interesting vintage magazine automobile ads and photos I brought into her shop. She is a great bud, and with an adventurous spirit, she asked me, "Can I play with a few ideas?". I said, "Sure". Unable to remain silent and smiling, she said, "I find it interesting how you associate loved ones who have passed on with the automobiles they owned". Fast forward almost 8 years now.
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Ironically, in the Jonathan Demme documentary on Neil Young, "Journeys" (which I reviewed on these pages in 2012) Neil is filmed driving along in his hometown in Canada. A fellow lover of vintage automobiles, he was behind the wheel of a 1956 Ford Victoria as he was reflecting on friend's whom he lost. "But they're never really lost", says Young. "Because they're in our minds and in our hearts forever", he added. Neil was wearing sunglasses on this particular summer day, he briefly looks away out the drivers door window, perhaps to contemplate his observation. I felt that this was an emotional moment--at least as I was watching and hearing it--and it carried the weight of hurt and loss. I'm a quarter of my way through his new book.
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Reprise Records
On my drive home last night, I had a CD playing in my car of Neil's "Harvest Moon". An excellent background singer caught my ear over and over again. My curiosity got the best of me, and I pulled my car off the boulevard into a parking lot, turned on the ceiling map lights and started paging through the CD liner notes only to discover that the voice belonged to Nicolette Larson! When I reached my home, I decided to conduct a Google search of the singer/songwriter, and was taken back to learn that on this day, December 16, 1997 Nicolette passed away. What a sad loss. Perhaps there is something to the adage that there are no coincidences, relative to my hearing the recording and following up who the artist was singing with Neil Young.
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 I always found Nicolette to be a fascinating artist with such a discernible voice. Is it really any wonder that she was in demand on such a wide variety of musical projects involving other artists? At the very least, I felt that she needed to be remembered today. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Comic Relief: Bob Newhart at Wildhorse Pass Casino in Chandler, Arizona

Photo--Jerry Digney
 
Regardless of what you do for a living--and I assume that it's honorable--we all need an escape valve, or at the very least, a reference point for reality. Comedian Bob Newhart is that reference point for me. In a world that has seemingly gone mad, Bob is a reminder of what was not long ago, a saner world where silly laughter hurt no one and having fun took less effort
 
Saturday night, I had my second opportunity within a year to see Bob playing a casino. The first time I saw Bob Newhart was in Palm Springs. It was at the Agua Caliente Casino and since I enjoy driving, I gassed up the car, packed a bag, made a hotel reservation and bought a ticket. I also packed a sandwich, brought along some Propel water in a cooler, and I was on my way. The cruise control was set and for four and a half hours, the desert mountains to either side of me passed by. 
 
Why Palm Springs? Well, for one thing, Bob plays a limited number of shows a year and I felt this was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. Secondly, Palm Springs isn't a bad drive, and the price of a last minute walk-up ticket on American Airlines is ludicrous for a one-hour flight. Third, I needed a break. The show was spectacular, and it was fun to see Shecky Greene and Kevin Spacey stand up and acknowledge Bob's spectacular place in the "American Experience"--by their attendance. Fast forward to Saturday night.
 
Bob was in Chandler, Arizona--a nice "bedroom community" that happens to have a casino called Wildhorse Pass. Initially, I thought singer Deana Martin might be opening the show--as she often does. A moment of amusement occurred when I asked the bartender who was singing with the big band onstage. Glancing at the wall-mounted monitor he said wryly, "A woman wearing a silver sequined dress". I smiled and walked off to my seat. By the way, the singer was a cute lady and terrific. I never caught her name. But after she left the stage, as Bob usually does, he wasted no time and walked on out to take the stage. The room was packed to the rafters. Even the security guards and janitors stopped what they were doing to watch the show. That's certainly a valid indication that a legend is performing!
 
Wearing a basic blue jacket, open collar shirt and pair of gray slacks, Bob is a guy you'd expect to run into at J.C. Penney's--which is to say he's as down to earth as anybody could imagine. He's in a great mood and with that trademark smile that says "I have something funny to share with you". The audience is at once at ease and already amazed that the comedian who has done stand up since 1960, and who has appeared in our living room on television sets for years still has the chops, and still loves to hear laughter.
 
The stories are hilarious--showing up for a Vancouver, Canada appearance and getting off the plane at the airport to put on his winter coat. He's from Chicago, yes, a fellow Midwesterner! So, he and I both know what cold weather is. At least I thought I did, and from the sound of it so did Bob, until he and his wife stepped outside the airport terminal in temperatures of 24 degrees below zero! On the cab ride to the hotel, his wife looked out the window and asked Bob, "Who is that statue?" Bob replied, "That's a crossing guard". Wall to wall laughter.
 
And suddenly everyone in the casino showroom felt as if they were in that same cab with The Newharts! There were video clips of Bob on an early "Ed Sullivan Show"appearance. "That's me with Ed Sullivan. Ed's no longer with us, of course. I'm not even sure Ed was with us back then". I was laughing so hard by that point in the show, I was wiping tears from my face.
 
We have a lot of tension in our communities--whether you live in Malibu, California or Clearwater, Florida. People are stressed and under pressure for a multitude of reasons. Life has never been more complicated, it seems. Each of us is navigating through some sort of personal or profession challenge in a far more technology-driven society.  Out of this madness, there's also the very funny world of Bob Newhart. So, if I can tell you one thing about seeing Newhart live in performance it would be the following.
 
For 90 minutes, the world is a lot saner, kinder, sillier, hysterically funny, warmer, safer, saner and things make sense again. That is also the highest compliment I can pay to my favorite comedian. The best tonic in the world to deal with stressors -- and God knows we all have them around us --  is the sanity of laughter as an alternative to what one friend of mine termed "fleeing into insanity". I smile even at that reference. But it's true.  
 
Newhart is genuinely shocked even after 50 years of entertaining us, that he became associated with anything remotely resembling celebrity. He is one gracious, generous, and grateful comedian who leaves you laughing after the show for days on end. Don't miss him if he is scheduled to perform in your city or town. Because there's only one Bob Newhart -- and our world needs him around!
 
          

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Remembering Pan American World Airways: A Tribute

Photo--Arthur Tress
The next time you see a Boeing 747, you'll remember the airline that brought it into existence.
October 19, 1927 - December 4, 1991
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Fathered by the legendary Juan Trippe, Pan Am was the leader in international aviation exploration and development. A relentless risk-taker, Trippe was an innovator and ultimate entrepreneur.
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman Virgin Group
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Pan American World Airways, or as most of us knew the company--"Pan Am"--personified "class" in every sense of the word. It was the biggest name in commercial aviation. Pan Am set the standards for modern day aviation, navigation, technical expertise and yes, glamor as we know it today. 
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Pan Am initiated so many "firsts" that go well beyond the scope of this blog post, however the following should provide you with a sense of scale and scope. Pan Am became the first U.S. airline to fly in Latin America, first to cross the Pacific Ocean, first to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the first U.S. airline to complete an around-the-world flight.
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The pilots of Pan Am were among the best-trained. The stewardesses (flight attendants) were not only the most beautiful and desirable women in the world. They were cultured, multi-lingual and adept at handling everything, from an in-flight emergency to unwanted advances with aplomb. Becoming an employee of Pan Am meant that you became part of an extended family, and the requirements were demanding of all positions.
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Make no doubt. It was Pan Am who subordinated her extensive communications system to the U.S. armed forces during World War II. And while 22 airlines flew emergency food, medicine and supplies during the war effort, Pan Am flew over 90 million aeronautical miles at the behest of the State Department.
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In times of war, Pan Am was called upon, time and again, to build airports and runways. And in times of peace, Pan Am became the first U.S. airline to fly a jet--the majestic Boeing 707 in October, 1958. Barely a decade later, Pan Am founder Juan Trippe and Boeing's president William Allen gambled the existence of their companies on what became (at the time) the world's largest, safest and most comfortable airplane ever built--the Boeing 747. After committing its capital and expertise to the development of the 747, Pan Am became the first airline to fly the plane.
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Photo Used Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airline Group
Visionary risk-takers: Boeing's William Allen with Pan Am Chief Juan Trippe, 1968
Pan Am employees at ticket offices around the globe often knew more about the region's history, geography and customs than local natives. A magnificent mosaic of a company, Pan Am consisted of several businesses. These included marketing and selling business jets, founding the highly regarded InterContinental Hotel chain, the Internal German Service, and operating Cape Canaveral through its technical arm, Pan Am Services. Many readers of my blog will recall the Pan Am Shuttle along the Boston-New York-Washington "power corridor". Pan Am was considered "the American Flag" to many foreign countries. Ultimately, it was politics that cost Pan Am its future.
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Following the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, two clauses were enacted. "Clause A" permitted U.S. domestic carriers to fly internationally. "Clause B" permitted Pan Am to fly domestic routes within the United States. However, the 17 remaining U.S. airlines banded against Pan Am, and convinced the Congress that Pan Am would monopolize the air routes. Consequently, up until 1978, Pan Am was an international carrier and was never allowed to fly within the United States! The January, 1980 purchase of National Airlines represented a desperate attempt to acquire a domestic hub and route system. It was a costly misfortune, and Pan Am never recovered from the decision. Today, we pause to remember an airline that literally taught the world to fly. We shall never see the likes of Pan Am again.
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Hard as it is to imagine, 23 years ago this morning, Captain Mark Pyle flew Pan Am's last scheduled revenue flight from New York's JFK International Airport to Barbados. The flight would make history later in the evening upon landing at Miami International Airport.

Photos--Michael Manning
I have a rare travel agency model of that plane here at home--a Boeing 727-200 dubbed "Clipper Goodwill", (tail number N368PA). 
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Captain Mark Pyle began his career with National Airlines. He was assisted on this morning's flight by First Officer Robert Knox, and Flight Engineer Chuck Foreman. The night before, CNN had reported that Delta Air Lines had withdrawn its support for a scaled down, reorganized Pan Am to be based in Miami, Florida and serving the Latin American market only. It was 6 a.m.
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After greeting the flight attendants, and all passengers had boarded, Flight 219 acknowledged push back clearance from the Delta uniform-attired ground crews. The sky was sky blue and cloudless. Final check lists were completed as the Pan Am plane took its place on the runway. Without anyone on board knowing it, Pan Am went out of business that morning at 9 a.m. after 64 years of history. Thousands of passengers were stranded. In a matter of minutes, over 9,000 employees lost their jobs--the Pan Am family had suffered a severe blow. Upon landing in Barbados, Captain Pyle observed the approaching Pan Am Station Manager who boarded the plane at the gate and stepped into the cockpit with a telegram. The crew was advised of the shut down. All employees were advised to take all actions to minimize passenger disruption, and to secure all company property. It was over. Provisions to buy fuel took over two hours as Pan Am personnel and the company's last passengers were advised of the days developments, and were summoned to board the plane's final emotional destination to Miami.   
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Following is a Captain Pyle's recollection to Miami Television Reporter Rob Fuller of that fateful day and the last flight :
 
Captain Mark Pyle: "When they said it's over, this was something that we had prepared for years at Pan Am. Anyway, in my case it had been eleven years that my family had wondered from month to month how long the airline would last. And even though I was mentally prepared, I found myself emotionally unprepared, as I'm sure everybody else did. But we were overwhelmed with the sense of loss, and the ladies on the flight--the Flight Attendants were overwhelmed with a sense of grief--almost immediately tearful. Everyone with their own thoughts--private thoughts. Mine of course, ran the full gamut from 'Wow! It really happened', even though we knew that it would--and finally did--to 'Where do you go?', 'What do you do?'---and all the way to the sense of enormous loss, and a historical airline like Pan American was allowed to fall into the abyss.
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And then as we approached Miami of course, we were told by the company radio frequency that we used ---"PAN OP"--we called it--our operations people--told us that we were the last ones. And at first I thought 'They must be joking'! Someone, one of my friends had landed before I did--just making some kind of a joke of the day. And then my (Flight) Engineer assured me, and with tears in his eyes, that we were the last flight. And the tower said 'Could you do a low pass?' Well, I haven't done that since the Navy, so to me this was fun if nothing else--one last fun with the airplane.
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So, having briefed the passengers so they would know what to expect we flew down Runway 12--Runway One-Two at about a hundred feet and with flaps at 15 (degrees) and about a hundred and eighty knots, nothing too spectacular. I would have liked to come in at two-hundred and fifty, and smoked the other side of the runway. But I didn't want any fear amongst the people--any more than they would have to have. So, we just did a very easy nonchalant low pass and over the field, pulled up and came back around for a landing. And I think that all of us in the cockpit were doing fairly well with our emotions until we saw the fire trucks lined up, and the emergency vehicles, and the Pan Am ground crew people, and the airport personnel, and policemen and everyone else lined up to greet the airplane.
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And in my own case, I had no tears, although certainly emotionally shell-shocked. No tears, until they fired the water canons over the airplane in a final salute to everyone that had ever flown in a Pan Am airplane as far as I was concerned. At that moment, our crew represented everybody who had ever flown in this uniform, and in these 'Clipper Ships'. And I don't mind telling you, at that moment it was difficult to get to the gate --and everybody in the cockpit had 'smoke in our eyes'--I guess that's a macho term for what happened. And I said 'Guys, just don't let me ding the wing tip, help me get this thing to the gate' because I couldn't see very well. Quite emotional. And probably will remain etched in my memory for a long time I would think". 
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Post Script: After Pan Am's shutdown, a non-profit organization was formed called The Pan Am Historical Foundation. It's mission is to preserve the history and legacy of Pan American World Airways. Membership is open to the public. For more details, along with the benefits of becoming a member, scroll down to the lower right hand column of this BLOG Page and click on the Pan Am logo.  The Foundation endeavors to build a museum in Miami, Florida to house Pan Am's artifacts, along with many other exciting features .
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When you visit Miami, the Pan Am AWARE Store is a must-see destination. It is a great source for Pan Am memorabilia, and is located on the second floor of The Pan Am International Flight Academy.
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If You Go:
Pan Am AWARE Store
Where: 5000 NW 36th Street, Miami, Florida 33122.
When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
Phone: (305) 871-1028

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The Staff of the Pan Am AWARE Store are all original Pan Am Employees and have a wealth of knowledge about the airline.  Whether looking for that unique Pan Am Gift or want to reminisce about the glory days of the Airline Industry, All are welcome.
 
 
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The author is grateful to Captain Mark Pyle and broadcast journalist Rob Fuller in Miami for this post.
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Dedicated to the employees of Pan Am  
 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Throwback Tuesday Photo and Brief Post!

Photos--Michael Manning
This photo was taken around 2000 at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. I was serving as master of ceremonies for a "Plane Pull" by 300 American Airlines employees. The 727-200 is one of my favorite commercial airliners, and this one has either been parked, sold, scrapped, flying in some foreign country,  or donated to an aviation school. It was an amazing commercial airline jet for its time.    
 
A mess that's more organized than it looks!
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I'm sure it was my freshman year in high school. What I'm less certain about is whether Journalism was a required course or an elective--my sensibilities tell me the latter was the case. In any event, one photo that stuck out to me in our class text book was that of a city editor's desk at a newspaper. The photo carried the following notation: "Although it looks messy and unorganized, the city editor knows precisely where everything is on his desk".
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What you are viewing above is my condominium coffee table with notations, recently reduced color copies, and October's Fortune Magazine--which I devoured. This issue, featuring the aforementioned "50 Most Powerful Women" from a previous post was a good read. The jars with colored sand that I created years ago as paper weights are actually markers for ideas I'm working on. There is a discernible romanticism with the notion of a writer making a initial editing decisions and accessing photos. It is often tedious, and requires great effort reaching out to companies with multiple locations and team members, but when the pieces finally do come together, it is a good feeling for all.
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I find it amusing that we each have morning routines to start the day. Mine begins with a flip of the coffee maker switch, and a turn with the electric razor while reviewing general news items that occurred overnight. A general rule that I've followed for 16 years is to never answer the phone before finishing my second cup of coffee, when I'm fully engaged. Incidentally, that's for my benefit and the caller. A review of the appointment calendar begins, followed by some body stretches, breakfast and a hot shower. Then it's out the door to appointments.
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For the third week in a row,  I'll be missing my cycling class, due to repairs on my Giant Sedona brand hybrid bike. The shop is waiting on a part for my front light, but offered to have me pick up the bike. Given that the shop is in Tempe, not to mention the fact that our group cycles at night on a paved course requiring a head light, I told them to keep the bike until it's completely finished. I've been meeting the group at a bar and grille after my own workouts, to remain in touch with everybody; I generally know when they finish the 18 mile ride. The personalities are amazing--two businessmen from India and Ireland, respectively, and at least two people who have lived in the Northeast, before relocating to Florida, California and then Arizona. Have a great Tuesday!
Michael

Monday, December 01, 2014

A Virtual Ancestry Dot Com of a Vastly Different US Airline Industry!

Images--Airliner World
 
"What's in it for an airline CEO to make an acquisition of another airline? He's not going to get a raise. He's going to get all this trouble, all this heartburn, all these integration problems. The guy who gets acquired---if he agrees to step aside---gets his severance, gets his options cashed out at the acquisition price, gets his shit load of money and goes home. The guy who's want to make the purchase would want to do it because it would be good for the company. But personally, he wouldn't want to do it, because he could be a failure. And why not play it safe and get a check and go give a speech in Hong Kong and ride in limos? There's only the fear of failure. Now if they're forced to do something---like the competitive landscape's changing and they're going to die---they will do the things they need to do because there's something in it for them. That's called security and tenure. They're not many guys that will do what's in the company's or the employee's best interest over their own."
--My interview in 2007 with Gordon Bethune, Continental Airlines CEO 1994-2004
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My final installment on the merger of Continental Airlines and United Airlines should be in Barnes & Noble Bookstores and at fine newsstands worldwide soon.
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Now, if you were among those who were standing in a line yesterday at Chicago Midway Airport (one reporter measured it to be 1.2 miles in length) waiting to board your plane, I rather doubt that airline mergers was on your mind. On the other hand, if you have an active imagination, as I do, you may have looked out the terminal window at the ground activity and wondered, 'How did we go from having around 10 airlines in recent years to just three legacy carriers--American, United and Delta?'  The answer, of course, is the consolidation we've witnessed over the past 34 years that Gordon Bethune referenced. Some of you were probably not even born when some of these airlines I'm about to mention were in existence. In some cases, I wasn't either! Just the same, here's a basic answer to my own hypothetical question.
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Allegheny absorbed Lake Central Airlines in 1968 and Mohawk Airlines in 1972. By 1979, the airline changed its name to US Air. In 1986, US Air acquired Pacific Southwest Airlines (better known as PSA) and in 1987, it snapped up Piedmont Airlines. In 1997, the company was re-named US Airways, and also absorbed the Trump Shuttle. By 2004, US Airways was into its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy and nearing liquidation, when smaller Tempe, Arizona-based America West engineered a "reverse merger" the following year.
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American Airlines acquired Trans Caribbean Airlines in 1973, Air California (better known as Air Cal) in 1987, Reno Air in 1993 and Trans World Airlines in 2001.
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US Airways and American Airlines merged in early 2013 with American as the surviving entity. A few years earlier two more airlines disappeared.
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Delta Air Lines (yes the company chooses this spelling) is an amalgamation of Chicago and Southern Airlines, purchased way back in 1953; Northeast Airlines was purchased in 1972 and Western Airlines in 1987. In 1991, Delta purchased select assets of Pan Am (namely the European route system and the Pan Am Shuttle). In late 2010, Delta merged with Northwest Airlines.
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Northwest Airlines was an amalgamation of Republic Airlines, purchased in 1986. Prior to this purchase, Republic went on a buying spree and purchased North Central Airlines and Southern Airlines in 1979. The following year, Republic bought Hughes Airwest (owned by billionaire Howard Hughes). Hughes Airwest was itself an amalgamation of Bonanza Airlines and Pacific Airlines, both purchased in 1968. This leads us to our third and final 'legacy carrier" merger (the focus of my article captioned above).
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Continental was an amalgamation of Texas International, New York Air, People Express, the original Frontier Airlines, and three commuter carriers: Provincetown-Boston Airways, Bar Harbor Airlines, and Britt Airways. Unlike Continental, Eastern Airlines was a unionized airline purchased by Texas Air Corporation (Continental's former holding company) as a subsidiary. Eastern was never merged into Continental, and was sadly liquidated in 1991.   
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United absorbed Capital Airlines back in 1960, and the entire Pacific route system of Pan Am in 1986. In 2010, United and Continental merged, with United as the surviving entity.  
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More business flyers are boarding "low cost carrier" (LCC), Southwest Airlines these days. Yes, that's a fact. Jet Blue and Virgin America are major competitors. The "ultra low cost carriers" (ULCC) include: Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier. 
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In summary, air travel is hardly the glamorous experience it once was up until the 1990s. Such terms as capturing "market share" and "passenger revenue per available seat mile" is enough to make one's eyes glaze over. Unless you're traveling First Class, with the exception of Virgin America, your on board experience is rather bland, and frankly a hassle. But in all fairness, I must say that there are still some terrific and dedicated professionals on the ground and in the air that help us all get from "Point A to Point B" safely and on time. Have a nice week, and I'll be changing up our subject focus in unexpected ways just ahead!
All Best!
Michael  
    
 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Closing Out a Car Themed Blog Week in Casual Style

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 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible
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As my car themed blog week comes to a close today,  allow me to opine that if ever there was a car that brings back the romance of youth to anyone with a soul, it is truly the 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. 
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Dubbed the 1964 1/2 upon its introduction, due to its release five months ahead of the 1965 production year, the 1966 model year was just one-year apart from the initial introduction model. As a result, it  retains so many of the original attractive features. 
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The Mustang in many respects gave rise to the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, American Motors Corporation's Javelin, the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge's Charger as competitors. Ford ingeniously kept development costs down by utilizing existing components of the Ford Falcon and Fairlane models. These components included the chassis, suspension, interior and drivetrain, and provided Ford with a rush to market with an ample parts inventory. While today's Mustang bears almost no resemblance to the original models, with alienating bulk, it would benefit a 20 year-old today to attend a car show featuring original and late model Mustangs to fully study and appreciate the roots of this youth-driven car.   
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My best friend in childhood, Alan and I, would "borrow" a car very similar to this one and cruise around town on summer nights. The 289 V-8 moved very fast and these cars were among the most beautiful styled Mustangs Ford ever produced--in my opinion. The important thing, of course, was to be seen in the car. Put another way, "association begets assimilation". To this day, I think about what it would be like to own a restored 1966 Mustang. As a weekend car, my obvious answer is: "Very nice." Yes, I have a Danbury Mint model sitting on my desk at work.
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Speaking of work, years ago, I had an incredible boss named Don Updyke. A former marketing executive with United Airlines, he enjoyed my writing and instructed me to take a 6th floor corner office in a building our employer leased in Las Colinas, Texas. Don commuted from Des Plaines, Illinois. My job involved travel. Among other things, I created the design and layouts for our elaborate and expensive sales product brochures. As Don put it, "I like how you write, and I want you to be able to look out the window to collect your thoughts on whatever project you happen to be working on". Today, most likely I'd be daydreaming about this automobile!
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Photo--Alvintrusty Wikipedia
The First 1964 Mustang to Roll Off Ford's Production Line
Have a nice Sunday. December is just ahead of us, with more things to talk about, and I'll be back. 
Michael      


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Changing a Corporate Culture from the Top Down!

Photo--Michael Manning
We begin to wind down "Car Theme Week" with a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado pictured above. A friend of mine who is a talented drummer, used to regale me with stories of Buddy Rich, whom I was fortunate to see in concert. In my estimation, there has never been a harder working drummer who drove himself to perfection to the extent that Buddy Rich did. My friend told me that Rich could carry his entire drum set in a car of this size, and if you've ever been to a vintage car show and seen the size of the trunk, you'll understand that this comment is quite plausible.
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As a romantic who is inspired by the spark of imagination from designers, here is an example of continuity from the front to the rear of the car with lines that befit the description of a good book as having a beginning, middle and end. Look closely at the lines, the design of the chrome, the headlights fitting in beautifully with the fenders, the sloping rear adorned with the trademark Cadillac red bezel tail light lenses of the 1950's.
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Recently, I read about General Motors new CEO Mary Barra, relative to my comments about the late John DeLorean's book, "On a Clear Day, You Can See General Motors". Barra is attempting to reform a dysfunctional culture that DeLorean described back in 1979. To her credit, Barra is fighting this head on. One example that was cited in the October issue of Fortune Magazine's "50 Most Powerful Women", was a decision by Cadillac to dramatically reinvent its product in the early 2000s. A stunning concept vehicle was created, only to have the initial idea tabled without any debate. Next, the car maker resisted a complete redesign and opted towards building the car off the Corvette chassis. Barra insists those days are over. Gradual day-by-day changes in behavior and decision-making is underway for the first time in decades. New managerial training worldwide is designed to "reignite managers". I wish her well on her efforts. The article noted that Chrysler has had a "scrappier temperament" than Ford and GM, and that Alan Mullally's turnaround of Ford is "already considered legendary". Barra states that "The ultimate proof point will be when we deliver exceptional financial results by continuing to do exceptional products and providing an exceptional customer experience". Unlike the GM of the past, Barra is said to be "looking outward", which is quite refreshing. 
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Just the same, driving this vintage 1953 Cadillac would most certainly be an experience that defines the phrase, "turnpike cruiser". With a change in thinking, measuring, collaborating, encouraging debate and creating high quality new products that the public actually wants, I agree with Warren Buffett that Barra is moving GM in the right direction.