The Flying Ace (1926)

A couple of nights ago I saw the film “The Flying Ace”. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I.

The film was released in 1926 by The Norman Studio in Jacksonville, Florida. The plot of the film, as written at imdb.com states: “A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective. His first case: recover a stolen satchel filled with $25,000 of company payroll, locate a missing employee, and capture a gang of railroad thieves.”

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The writer, producer, and director of the film was Richard E. Norman. According to his grandson, who was present at the screening, Richard E. Norman was “ahead of his time.” Richard E. Norman set out to showcase black life through inspirational characters. It was through his “race films” that Richard E. Norman set out to give Black audiences characters and stories they could aspire to.

On hand at the screening were historians, movie buffs, and aviation enthusiasts. Opening remarks were given by Dan Norman, the grandson of Richard E. Norman. Dan Norman is currently a Delta 757/767 Captain. Dan’s father was also an airline pilot. The film was accompanied by a conductor and musicians playing various instruments. This music brought the silent film to life.

For over an hour I sat transfixed at the screen as images of black people in roles of fighter pilot, love interest (believed to be inspired by the aviatrix Bessie Coleman), detective, and railroad manager played on the screen. I sat there thinking, “all of this happened in 1926!”

IMG_6776 IMG_6778

Tonight in Hollywood the 88th Academy Awards will be celebrated. Many of today’s Black actors and actresses plan not to be in attendance. The #OscarSoWhite movement has highlighted, once again, the lack of Black actors and actresses who have not been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

According to Dan Norman this film will be available on DVD shortly as the music is currently being scored. When it becomes available I’ll be sure to pick up a copy. I encourage you to check it out as well.

Thanks Richard E. Norman for making this film. That’s entertainment!

 

Coldplay and Song Airlines?

When Coldplay was announced as the halftime act at Super Bowl 50 I was excited to see the show, hear the songs they’d play. As it turned out they were headliners and joined (some would say eclipsed) on stage by Beyonce and Bruno Mars. There was even the popular actress who mistook them for Maroon 5 and sent out a tweet about it. Oops. From the first time I heard Coldplay, I’ve always been a fan.

Many years ago I interviewed for a startup airline within-an-airline. Eventually that airline became known as Song. At the time of the interview it didn’t have a name (code named FreshAir). We were brought in and told to be ourselves; that this new venture was all about self expression.

It was during our initial training that we were shown the video below. It featured an amazing voiceover and a very cool song I had never heard before. I was totally drawn in. The song was Clocks by Coldplay. Ever since then whenever I hear this song I’m reminded of Song. During my years as a Star (that’s what we were known as; we were also referred to as Talent) I learned so much about myself, so much about customer service, so much about what it means to work in an environment that was inclusive, supportive. For 3 years I lived what going to work should be like. Song gave us all the opportunity to shine, to blossom.

Enjoy the video!

WordPress 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

#TBT Memory – Song Airlines

Many airlines have in place a system in place whereby crew members can be rewarded or recognized for providing exceptional customer service. But did you know my former airline, Song Airlines, had a system in place whereby crew members could reward passengers?

One such innovation was rewarding passengers for good behavior or good deeds with round trip tickets. That’s right. During this particular campaign each FA (we were called Talent) were given 4 roundtrip tickets to travel anywhere on the Song route map. At the time we flew from the Northeast (NY, Boston) to Florida (FLL, PBI, MCO, TPA), from the Northeast to the West Coast (LAX, SFO, SEA, LAS), and from Florida to the West Coast. Not sure if any other airlines did or do this. It was truly unique. Due to our size (approximately 1100 crew members and dedicated ground staff) and culture we were able to implement, test and try many things. Will share more things in future posts.

Here’s how the campaign worked: If you as a crew member observed a passenger doing a good deed: helping fellow passengers, assisting you or other crew members, or just plain being a thoughtful, caring human being, you as the crew member could reward the passenger with a roundtrip ticket. There were no stipulations placed on the deed being done by the passenger. Each crew member had free reign to do what they wished with their 4 tickets. Once you gave out your tickets that was it. I can tell you passengers were really nice to the crews because they knew we had tickets!

Good times. Good times indeed.

Sylvester

Inspired by a stranger

It’s funny how someone you’ve never met before can inspire you to do something; or to do more than you have been doing. Happened to me recently on a flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles. After an early morning and somewhat busy day of work, I traveled to LA to meet a friend. Upon boarding my flight I found myself seated in an exit row middle seat. I’m not complaining as getting on this flight was touch and go. I made my way to the exit row and advised the gentleman in the aisle seat that I would be seated in the center seat. He stood up to allow me access to my seat when I noticed I had seen him earlier in the day while at work. Once I got settled I said, “You were at my job earlier today.” The gentleman works for a multinational company that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets and satellites. For most of the 4 hour flight we spoke about aviation, the aerospace industry, airplanes, and all that goes into designing, making and selling them. I learned a lot! To say I was on Cloud 9 would be an understatement. When we arrived at LAX we exchanged business cards and made a point to say we would keep in touch. To keep my word, I sent a follow up email letting him know what a pleasure it was to meet and that my trip to LA had went well (was attending a listening party for the singer/songwriter Seal). In keeping his word, he responded back. It was during his response that he mentioned he had visited the AirlineGuys website and noticed I hadn’t written anything in a bit. Color me embarrassed. I thank him for the reminder and said I would “get on it.”

So, here I am writing to you because a stranger inspired me.

Happy landings,

Sylvester

We were there!

Yesterday was April 15. Waxing poetic about Tax Day is not what this post is about. April 15, 2003 was the day Song Airlines took to the skies. Each April 15 it’s nice to remember the good ole days. Song was around for 3 years and had a huge impact on who we are today. Ahhhh…memories.

 

 

Collecting experiences never gets old

While waiting on my flight I bumped into a former colleague. During our chat he asked “And why would you do that?” and my response was “Because I can. I like to collect experiences.” And he wasn’t the only asking why I would fly roundtrip over the Atlantic ocean to spend 4 hours in another country. Now before your mind starts to wander, please know this was a legitimate journey. No shenanigans planned or expected.

As the youngest of 9 children I used to dream of doing things like this. Experiencing something like this helps me bring my existence full circle. As a kid growing up in rural Florida I used to dream of hopping on planes and flying around the world. Those dreams have come true and are still coming true. Why this trip? Well, let me tell you about the trip.

The 747, The Queen of The Skies, is rapidly approaching her last coronation. Many of the world’s airlines have retired or are retiring this majestic machine. What started as a dream for the Boeing designers ended up changing the world. The original “jumbo jet” made the world a smaller place.

Every now and then you can catch a 747 operating on a domestic route. Most 747s ply the Pacific or are freighters. As part of the summer schedule, Atlanta and Detroit receive daily 747 service to Amsterdam. With Spring Break winding down, and summer travel not here just yet, the loads look great for NRSA travel. Let’s go!

When flying NRSA you have to be strategic and most importantly flexible. Flying  to Detroit to take the daily 747 to Amsterdam was the better option because loads were extremely favorable. Hopped a flight to Detroit and had several hours to spend enjoying the airport. When boarding began I kindly requested from the gate agent seat 1K., if available. Wanted to be at the “pointy end” of the plane. Sitting in Row 1 puts you further forward than the pilots. I think most people would prefer to sit on the upper deck. However, I had sat on the upper deck of a 747 before from Tokyo to Detroit a  few years back and wanted to experience something new.

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Ship 6308 DTW – AMS

While sitting in my seat I took in the lines, the curves, and the essence of this magnificent flying machine. Thought about all the talented men and women who put her together. I wondered how may times she had flown around the world, who she had carried to far off destinations, what her last flight would be, where and when she would be retired. Spent the flight enjoying some tasty foods, drinking fine champagne, watching movies, looking out the window, and having brief conversations with the crew. The crew was very nice and took great care of me. While sitting there I couldn’t help but think this is exactly what I had imagined my life was going to be.

We arrived early in Amsterdam. Checking in for the return flight to Atlanta was quick and efficient. The Delta and KLM agents were most friendly and helpful. Now I had about 4 hours before I headed back to Atlanta. What to do? People watch of course. And buy some stroopwafels to bring back home.

The boarding process was a bit hectic as the nonstop 747 to Atlanta was very full. The company which handles security for my flight were efficient, thorough, and very friendly. There were the usual questions (“did anyone give you anything to carry?”), however, there was a difference in how they did their jobs.

Ship 6308 AMS - ATL

Ship 6308 AMS – ATL

I was pleased to receive a seat on the the flight in the “pointy end” of the plane on the main deck. Just before pushback the flight attendant was able to move me to an open window seat at 9K. For the next 8 hours and 49 mins I was again taking it all in. Had some terrific food and drink, watched a couple of movies, shared pics via twitter and instagram (thank goodness for inflight wifi), and had great conversations with the crew. Speaking of the crew, they were most excellent. They treated the whole cabin with kindness and respect. They were attentive, efficient and smiled a lot. I felt grateful to have such a wonderful crew on this special trip.  Some of the same thoughts I had on the DTW-AMS flight came to mind. In addition I started to think about experiences.

As I get older I have begun to collect less things and more experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I still have lots of airline stuff (writing this while sitting in 747 seats from NWA). However, things are things. They accumulate. They collect dust. We store many of these things and then rarely think about them. Experiences on the other hand are with us at all times, no matter where we are. The slightest thought, sound, or smell can trigger a memory that is as vivid as when it first occurred.

Also on this flight I’m transported back to the little kid who dreamed of getting away, seeing the world, experiencing new things. As Annie Lenox sang, “Sweet dreams are made of this.”

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Sylvester

airlineguys™ Community builders. Aviation enthusiasts. Experience in airline operation/leadership/PR/. Former cabin crew. Discerners of excellent customer service.

Marry me, fly for free – Is this still a thing?

Saw a t-shirt recently that read: “Marry me, fly for free!” Made me wonder, is this still a thing?!

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that free travel may have been a draw to marry someone in the airline business. The benefit of travel is a wonderful thing. To the non-airline person, thoughts of day trips to NYC for shopping and weekends in Paris is alluring. Before companies began offering benefits to same-sex couples, I was approached by someone that wanted to marry me so she could fly for free. Her partner worked for an airline, and at that time her partner’s airline didn’t extend same-sex couple travel benefits.  Imagine that! Someone was willing to marry me, not because I can offer a lifetime of love and great memories, but because they could fly for free. True story.

After many takeoffs and landings later, let me say the benefit of travel is still a wonderful thing. Looking back on all the places I’ve been is simply amazing. And there are plenty more places to visit. As we know, the world of aviation has changed in so many ways. It’s a very cyclical industry. Years of flying high and record profits can change overnight.

Ok, back to “Marry me, fly for free” being a thing. With high load factors (81% in 2014. A recent LA Times article reported a record number of people traveled by air in 2014. According to the DOT, 848.1M traveled by air in the US), weight and balance issues, payload optimized flights, competition to get a seat from commuters, active employees, retires, and buddy pass riders; it’s a wonder anyone looks to marry an airline employee for the benefit of free flights. Once you factor in not getting a seat for several flights, paying to eat at the airport, sleeping in an airport or paying for a hotel room, and missing days from getting to your destination; airline employee travel is hardly “free”. Some airlines subtly discourage relying solely on travel privileges; if you want to get there buy a ticket.

I’ll say it again, the benefit of travel is a beautiful thing. Wouldn’t change it for the world. As for marrying an airline employee for free flights, marry them because you love them. And according to my mom love ain’t enough. Before marrying someone you should know you like them. And what’s not to like about airline folk? Airline people are some of the quirkiest, funniest, thoughtful, helpful, compassionate people that I know. And THAT should be reason enough to marry one.

Sylvester

airlineguys™ Community builders. Aviation enthusiasts. Experience in airline operation/leadership/PR/. Former cabin crew. Discerners of excellent customer service.

I saw myself…

Even though I gave up flying 7 years ago, I thought I saw myself working the flight the other night. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. However, the young male flight attendant working the cabin reminded me so much of myself that I had to do a double take. It was like being in a parallel universe.

As I boarded and got settled in my seat, he breezed by and said “Hi Sly!” For a moment I thought “How does he know me?” He looked slightly familiar yet I couldn’t recall his name or how we had met. As boarding progressed I noticed that he was engaging, smiling, and proactively assisting customers with their carry-on bags as they settled in. He seemed to really enjoy himself. Even during the live safety demo he was having fun. During the beverage service he made chit-chat with customers he interacted with. When he was within earshot I heard him say to the passengers he served, “my pleasure.” It was pure, genuine, and heartfelt. When he got to me I received the same level of customer service delivered to those before me.

Upon arrival, I made it a point to wait until all passengers had deplaned to speak with the flight attendant who had truly caused me to take notice of his customer service skills. As I approached he said “Hey Sly! You taught my Service From the Heart class.” That was the missing clue I was looking for. I went on to tell him that I enjoyed the flight and that I had noticed his ability to deliver great customer service. I gave him specifics: his smile, approachability, eye contact, his genuine use of the phrase, “my pleasure.” He thanked me and said, “this means a lot coming from you”. He told me that he had never considered being a flight attendant until I spoke of my time as a flight attendant during a class I was facilitating and he was attending. He said he was happy he became a flight attendant and enjoys his job. I was moved, flattered, and felt grateful to have been on this flight. I was also moved in that I had touched someone’s life in such a positive way.

I hope his career as a flight attendant shapes up to be everything he wants it to be. May his level of professionalism and passion for the job inspire someone else to raise the bar on delivering excellent customer service.

5 Reasons You Should Book The “Pan Am Experience” Today

Stepping onto the Pan Am 747 named Juan T. Trippe was amazing. Every detail, from the stewardess uniforms right down to the galleys, was just perfect. No, we weren’t dreaming, we were getting ready to embark on the “Pan Am Experience”. There has been much written about Anthony Toth, his love of all things Pan Am, and how he partnered up with Air Hollywood to recreate the passenger experience on board a Pan Am 747. Here are the Top 5 reasons you should book a flight on the “Pan Am Experience” today:

5.  If you love all things Pan Am – Pan Am was truly a pioneer. If you’re into waxing nostalgic about the “good old days” of Pan Am, you’ve come to the right place. Be prepared to walk down memory lane and be transported back to a time when flying was considered glamourous.

4. If you like to time travel – Being on board for Pan Am Experience was truly like stepping back in time. Every detail was meticulously recreated to give you the sense of what it was like to fly on a 747 back in the 70s. The seats, the galleys, even the clipper appliqué on the wall.

3.  If you’d like to meet a real Pan Am stewardess – On our flight was Barbara. She flew with Pan Am during the heydays. She was there to provide background and answer questions from the passengers about Pan Am. She was lovely and shared stories from a wonderful time in aviation history. We even played a game of “do you know…” And she knows someone that we know, who is a former Pan Am stewardess. The world is truly a small place. The “stewardesses” who served us were models, actresses, and dancers. In other words, they have day jobs. They were a fun bunch and brought lots of good energy to the experience. This is something that they do because it’s cool and allows them to experience something different. This era of flying was at least 25 years before they were even born.

2. If you’d like to meet someone who has taken “avgeek” to another level – Anthony Toth served as the “Captain” of our flight. This captain worked behind the scenes assisting the stewardesses in providing a seamless experience. Not only was he in the galley preparing meals, he answered questions after the flight. Anthony has over the years put together a huge archive of Pan Am memorabilia. He informed us that his collection now has upwards of 50,000 Pan Am items. A good selection of the collection was on display in the lobby of the “terminal”. The majority of the collection is kept behind the scenes and is used during the flight.

1. Because it’s “AirlineGuys-approved” – The reason you should book today? As the AirlineGuys, we approve of this message. And we’d never steer you wrong when it comes to aviation 😉

Barbara, Darin, Sylvester, Rachel

Barbara, Darin, Sylvester, Rachel

Sylvester & Darin

To see more pictures from our flight, click here.