Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AA Spring

Talk about a long time comin'...  The passengers and employees of American Airlines have been patient enough to wait for the renaissance of our company.  That patience has been rewarded with the impending merger of American Airlines and US Airways, resulting in the evolution of an icon.  With the anticipated government approval of this venture, American Airlines will be the largest airline in the world. Again. Elvis has entered the building.

I recently met Tom Horton, the CEO of AMR (the parent company of American Airlines).  He asked me how it felt out there, on the line.  I told him that the conversation was (finally) changing.  Instead of rehashing the contract, stagnation and morale issues, people were now focused on the new branding, new uniforms, new airplanes and, best of all, new-hires. When we start worrying about uniform fabrics, things have to be looking up.  And looking up, they are.  This year, we will see the addition to the fleet of sixty new aircraft.  New, as in brand new, cup holders and new-car smell included. We are adding new destinations, routes and frequencies.  And, yes, we are adding new people.  The new flight attendants are hitting the line as I write this.  The recalled-from-furlough pilots have been in the training pipeline since the beginning of the year. We anticipate having new-hire pilots on board later this year.

And what a time to become a pilot.  Because we haven't hired a pilot in over eleven years (much like every other airline), we have a pilot seniority list that has become older (more experienced) while marching unabatedly towards the FAA mandatory retirement age of 65.  In short, the pilots that are hired at the new American Airlines will enjoy the seniority progression that happens only once in a generation.  In fact, the pilot shortage that has been forecast for the last ten years has arrived.  While we anticipate a large number of applicants when the recruitment doors finally open, the pool will be drained quickly and new methods will have to be crafted to generate the quality "joiner" that this airline deserves.  These people will enjoy career progression and an industry-leading contract that is the result of negotiations complicated by bankruptcy, lawyers, frustration, stagnation and the ailing-but-improving economy.  I look forward to seeing them in the cockpit before chestnuts are, once again, roasting on an open fire.

This wasn't easy and it wasn't without cost.  Many people at AMR lost their jobs.  Many people had to accept compromised retirement and wage packages.  Accusations of corporate greed are spoken out loud and with great disdain.  With all of that, we are still here.  This airline is stronger, with an improved trajectory.  Strong airlines make good neighbors and provide more convenient and safer travel.  You want your airline to be healthy.  Airfares remain reasonable, especially when you consider that they are lower now than they were thirty years ago (adjusted for inflation). More than ever, the world is at your doorstep.

Our passengers are embracing the new American Airlines.  We intend to honor that with a reinvigorated commitment to everything you should expect from your airline, in a word: integrity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's up at the ol' airline?

The answer: same thing that's up at every other airline.

The journalists that get paid to write about this stuff will tell you that American Airlines shouldn't be flying planes around. (The rhetoric looks good/attracts attention for headlines, leaders, Google hits, etc..) Based on recent (and, admittedly, dismal) on-time statistics alone, that conclusion is ridiculous, unsupportable and irresponsible conjecture.

If you were to accurately identify maintenance issues and their ensuing effects at the other major airlines, you would see a statistical tie, based on averages of  aircraft hours and average passenger air miles flown or scheduled.  Because American Airlines management is in the middle of a sizable labor dispute with the Allied Pilots Association, the pilot's union, every hiccup becomes newsworthy and the normally transparent components of running an international airline become opaque and, ultimately, distracting.

Every pilot can point to any piece of journalism (professional or otherwise) and pick out the fouled nomenclature and inaccurate recounting.  Most of these journalists don't have the experience or patience to source the material in order to simply honor the truth.  (Politicians seem to be equally as challenged...hence factcheck.org..but that is an enormous digression best saved for another rant..) Some get close and some just offer opinions, which cannot be rejected because it is, simply (and merely), opinion.  As we know, opinions aren't necessarily encumbered with fact.  Strictly speaking, opinions don't have to be.  But, to respect an opinion, the reader should have a working knowledge of the truth and then decide if it's worthy of consideration (and changing their own opinion).

The truth here is that problems exist at all airlines.  The issues at American have little to do with aviation safety or compromised public risk.  As I tell my passengers, airline flying is a safe venture because we have very specific rules and procedures in place.  These lines, in most cases, are clearly drawn and the consequences that follow are, essentially, binary.  In all other cases, the outcomes are based on subjective evaluations, derived by experience and judgement and ending with the captain's decision.  It is this very subjectivity that is getting so much attention.

Negotiations Resume

In an effort to move towards the mutual goal of running a thriving international airline with the newest fleet of jets (more than 500 on order from Boeing and Airbus), intense negotiations between management and the pilot union will resume this week.  This 11th hour revelation is welcomed news for the company, the employees and, most importantly, the passengers.

My charge is to insure your safety, strive for your comfort and accomplish this in a timely way.  This is what you asked of me when you traded your credit card number for an airplane ride. This is exactly what you will find on my jet.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Times, They Are a-Changin'

Dylan (Bob) was (is) so right.

The pilots of American Airlines are approaching a waypoint.  This is a point in legal and nautical space where a course, as yet to be selected, will be taken.  Dynamic environments require planning, consideration and intentionality. Procrastination is not an option.  For those who want to wait and see what happens, I recommend geology.

Since this vote will determine the course of our airline after August 8th, 2012, the choice is pivotal.  It is also binary.  We have to decide whether to accept the tentative agreement (TA) the union (Allied Pilots Association) has approved and sent to the membership for ratification or reject it and let the bankruptcy court decide our initial fate.  The choice is really simple.  If a member believes that there is more on the table that can be brought to the pilots in the form of another agreement, that pilot will vote no.  If a pilot believes that approving this deal is better than the consequences of a TA rejection, which would probably include: contract abrogation by the court, extended time frame for re-negotiations and confidence that this agreement will allow American Airlines to compete effectively with the competition while securing benefits not included in the consequences of contract abrogation, that pilot will vote yes.

The pilots are frustrated and angry.  Some see a 'no' vote as a message to management that enough is enough.  We gave hundreds of millions with our concessionary vote in '03 and management has wasted our money and run us into the ground (which, in any aviation sense, is a really bad idea).  Others see this as a realistic path to health and prosperity based on where we are (vs. where we were).  The industry has changed and the competition has figured that out. We either change with the environment or become part of the pantheon of airlines that exist only in the forms of memorabilia, fables, and stories from the good ol' days.

The younger pilots with impaired seniority may reject this TA because they have other options overseas.  The older/senior pilots might reject this because they believe their "seats" to be safe (with more on the table and nothing to lose). Everyone else might see the pay raises, seat protection, retirement protection and 13.5% equity stake as two in the bush and vote yes to ratify the agreement.  In any case, it seems that some votes are based on anger and some votes based on objective consequences.

Many have called for a new management team.  Many would love to see Bob Crandall's return to an AMR leadership role.  Bob Crandall believes that the pilots must accept this TA.  If A equals B...

Regardless, the best vote, yes or no, is the one that is based on prudence and pragmatism.  It's perfectly valid to be angry at management failures and mistakes now in the past, but the valid vote is based on the objective flow chart.  This is how we fly airplanes.  This vote for our collective futures should be handled with equal and due consideration.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unintelligently Designed Republicans

It's getting worse and worse: Devo. The current election cycle is proof positive that evolution is culling the intelligence from the current republican primary process.  It would be, how can I put this gently...inhumane.. of any being with any creative ability whatsoever to intentionally create politicians that are as insulting to the American electorate as the cast of clowns currently in the media spotlight.  So, ID just can't be a player here (or anywhere else because..well, let's save that for another day). With over thirty people on the New Hampshire ballot as candidates for President..of the United States... (okay, some of them want to make it a legal requirement to brush your teeth..which, actually, might have some merit), it may behoove the good people of New Hampshire to take a serious look at some of the folks that were not invited to the debates.

But, let's take a snapshot of the players still standing.  (I just don't have the heart to pick on the ones that have bailed out..tempting as it might be.) As a given, let's just say that the one thing they have in common is pandering.  They have all changed their positions to match what they think the audience du jour wants to hear.  Okay; flip-flop, flip-flop, whatever it takes to put me on top.  One millionaire likes firing people and says he created about fifty times as many jobs as he actually has. (By the way, the President can't fire elected officials...which truly is a shame.) In an effort to dilute and erase his own egregious acts, another millionaire admits mistakes while not taking responsibility for his own hypocrisy, all the while using semantics to cover the millions he raked in doing exactly what he is now accusing his rivals of doing.  And then there's the guy who wants to turn the government upside down, clean the slate and alienate every ally the US has (left), while being eleven years past normal retirement age.  If he were there for two terms (I'll wait for the laughing to cease...).....he'd be 84 when he started writing his memoirs, assuming he could remember where he left his pen.  Then there's the genius (millionaire) who can't answer a question without asking a question (instead of inserting an answer) and thinks that clear moral certitude comes directly from a supreme being and ethics are right or wrong...because he (the candidate) said so.  Can't ya just see it?  "Kids, clean the dishes and Newt, launch the nukes... why? because I said so, that's why.."  And then there's the guy that wants to eliminate three government agencies, just as soon as gets around to remembering which ones they are, and now makes a joke about it.  This is the same guy that insists on vaccinations for all women but thinks that outlawing texting is too invasive in people's lives.

This country doesn't need any one of these guys.  We need, rather, the world needs a few really smart people to ramp up the debate.  There should be a brilliant opponent to the incumbent of every political race because it's the discussion that elevates the process and educates the people.  It makes the debaters better and smarter and willing to change positions because they...yes, with any luck at all, they evolve. After all, it's only natural.

The outcome in New Hampshire won't change the winner of the nomination.  It would be refreshing, however, if the candidates went to South Carolina with the idea that there are no easy answers. 9-9-9 ideas are insulting, shortsighted, unsophisticated and are merely naive concepts of the truly complex matrices that are integral to a country that is way too large for bumper sticker slogans.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

American Airlines lances the wound

Finally. This not-so-transparent elephant in the room has had its cloaking device de-powered. All of the AA employees are (finally) on the same plane, as it were. From the skycaps at the airport to the executives in Texas, we are all walking through the courthouse doors, shoulder-to-shoulder, as we enter Chapter 11. But, before the sayers of doom; the self-proclaimed analysts that have spent more time creating their own platforms of self-important perspective than learning this highly nuanced industry start writing the epitaphs, the public (ya know, the people that read these factually-void rants) should know the truths. And the most important one is this: the sun also rises. (Boy, I wish I was the first to write that..)

American Airlines will not attempt to rewrite history, rather, the airline will take advantage of the industry's history that has led us to this point. We have been sitting at the poker table watching the tells; going to school on those that have been playing the game. While, it's true, we have lost money on certain antes and bets, we have protected enormous reserves while incrementally and quietly creating side deals that will propel us past those that took us for a beleaguered and waning entity. Let's just consider that an investment; the cost of doing this business. Of note, we will, at an exponential pace, become the worldwide carrier with the youngest, most adaptable fleet of the newest generation aircraft. We will have a cost structure that cannot be ignored or taken for granted. With the already-announced replacement of senior management, the employees will finally start to feel like they have a part in the renascence.

Most of the analysts miss that part. They don't mention that American goes into this process with more than four billion dollars in the bank. No other airline has done that. We can't be bullied by debtors-in-possession because there aren't very many. Because of that, a hostile takeover is hardly a threat and we will consider merging interests on our terms. Read Boyd's report. He's spent his time living with the industry while other reporters are off reading the Cliff Notes of industry analysis and cobbling together something from a Googled search. To be fair, most of these business writers couldn't possible understand the complex matrices that make an airline operate and an airplane fly safely from Point A to Point B. They are just not experienced enough to know that. But I'll never understand why they pretend to do so.

The dark side. Yes, the employees will take a hit. We have been living under a compromised contract for eight years and we thought our sacrifices would be paid back, with interest. While we might have been better off today with the bankruptcy option in 2003, we have had our pensions intact for that much longer. What happens next is anybody's guess. But, I am very confident that this was not an overnight decision and when Tom Horton was brought back, it was with a very keen eye looking towards November 29, 2011.

Tom is touring our bases, cites and crew domiciles. He is listening to his colleagues (rank and file) and the feel is one of coalesced confidence. Generically, the overall attitude is one of acceptance and aggressive rebuilding.

In the meantime, the airline's operations run normally with the business issues transparent to the average customer. There are promotional programs to double frequent flyer miles (which are perfectly safe), add Samsung tablets to business and first class cabins on selected flights, new aircraft continue to arrive and, as of this week, American Airlines becomes the first airline in history that has FAA authorization for pilots to use iPads for all operational information; gate to gate. We can finally unload those forty pound bags and save our backs (and medical costs..).

So, look up. That's where American is going.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ferdy, the former owner

Here, Ferdy welcomes us to our new world: s/v ZEBRINA. This 40' Endeavour has lots in store for us. With thousands of miles already under her keel, including a trip through the Panama Canal, we look forward to seeing many parts of the world that are unavailable by other means of transport. The economy has made available certain options that didn't really exist a few years ago. While we see our live-aboard lives going full time in about five years, we felt the need to take advantage of the times and invest in our retirement now. So, here she is and here we go.

Here are a few quick snaps of the aft stateroom, the forward V-birth stateroom, the galley, the salon (with the former owner) and two exterior views. We came upon her original name and, after following the explicit demands of the naming ceremony, renamed her as she was known before: Zebrina.
We bought her in Titusville, Florida and we are currently in the process of bringing her north. She's currently safely nestled in a terrific marina in Brunswick, GA. With a recent re-powering (with a brand new Yanmar 4JH series engine) and many navigational and structural upgrades, we look forward to the miles yet to see the bow..and stern.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Who knew? Quien sabe? Javea, Spain

Finding a non-traditional vacation destination has certainly become easier with the internet. It all starts with what you want to do, followed closely by how much time and money you want to spend. With those questions in hand, a few Google searches bring the answers directly to your computer.

We wanted to find an exotic locale with warm weather, near the water and in Spain. We insist on quiet and comfortable (but not lavish) accommodations with cooking facilities. And not expensive. After some www digging, we found a small town on the east coast of Spain that felt right: Javea. The town is north of Alicante and south of Valencia on the Costa Del Sol. After really looking for the best deals through various US website and renters of villas, we found Starvillasjavea.com

There are many options on the website and I compared what we wanted with the other "agents" around the world that were interested in trading our money for their rental properties. After settling on the four bedroom villa (with two pools and a killer view, as seen here) that was going to cost less than 100 bucks a night, we worked directly with the staff of Star Villas (who are actually on site, in Javea, unlike the majority of these other agents) and booked the villa. After that, we started looking for a rental car by doing multiple web searches for the least expensive and correctly sized vehicle. And after all that searching, we ended up coming back to the Starvillasjavea.com website and used their link to Victoria Auto Rental. They were the least expensive and most responsive.

Upon arrival in Barcelona, we were personally met by the Victoria representative who shuttled us to their operation, about a five-minute drive. After 15 minutes of paperwork, we were on our way.

As for Javea, the locals are not used to seeing Americans. During the peak Euro vacation months of July and August, the villas fill up with lots of UK residents, as well as visitors from Germany, Italy, Ireland and, of course, Spain. The town of Javea has an old port with an active marina as well as a newer section that caters more to the tourists. English speaking residents can be found, particularly in the newer section of town but speaking a little Spanish is a great plus.

I will post more of a travelogue later but so many people have asked about our Spanish holiday, I wanted to get the Starvillasjavea link on the blog. This is a great time to be in Spain. Airfares are down and it has never been easier to find the out-of-the-way locales that don't look like Disneyworld. If you're looking for a place that doesn't look like every other place, consider renting a villa in Javea. It's much less expensive than you think, much more comfortable than any hotel and offers the privacy and comfort of a home away from home.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Peacham, Vermont.

Not visible in the photograph is the snow on top of Mt. Washington and other parts of the Presidential Range. Peacham is, purportedly, the most photographed town in Vermont.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just beyond the park's gates..tourists, picnics, cameras, kids, runners and life going on. As usual.

Luxembourg Gardens.
Paris, France September 2008

Sometimes it feels like you are the only one in the world navigating a complex relationship but we are all in good company. Trouble, even in Parisian paradise.

South entrance to Luxembourg Gardens.
You have to wonder what this generation remembers; what the city of Paris was like only half a lifetime ago. Still, there is tolerance, survival and renaissance. This woman was finding a moment in the Luxembourg Gardens to come to terms with the day. Maybe more.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Warm and green

Four distinct seasons always present themselves so dramatically. And while some don't seem to last long enough, we are always happy to see what's next. (Yes, even winter..) Spring is winning here and the colors are unrelenting. As is the gratitude for such surroundings.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Retreating Snow, Advancing Spring

The temperature variations in Vermont bring complex landscapes that change by the minute.  The snow melts and exposes the ground that his been hidden since December, leaving fog and mud.  And more mud.  (The fifth season.)  But, the geese are passing through, robins are finding good feeding and, it appears, springs is starting to win.    

Monday, October 29, 2007

New landscapes every day.

There isn't a day that goes by here in the Green Mountain State when the dynamic nature of..well, nature..doesn't expose brand new dimensions. The scenery is never dull. As the radio crackles with news of fires in California, tropical storms in the Dominican Republic and (gasp) snow in the upper elevations of Vermont, it's difficult not to be humbled but whatever is coming next.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just another (spectacular) autumn day

The last six months in Vermont have been beyond description (but that won't stop me) with breathtaking weather and color. With the season so dry and warm, I have been hard-pressed to convince myself to spend any time inside sitting at a computer. And the season continues. Global warming? Climate change? Yup. But we might as well take in the view while we try and fix it.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

April Snows Bring May's ...

I've never woken up to a Vermont snowfall that wasn't breathtakingly gorgeous. But a few have taken me by surprise. This is a bit unusual for April as the ski resorts are winding down and the sugaring season comes to a close. It just means that mud season will last a little longer. It's always worth it. Let's hope the occupants that take up residence in these bluebird houses feel the same way since their arrival is imminent.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Croatian Sister

This photograph was taken in the central square in Zagreb. Quite the happening place. It was a perfect September evening for being outside, listening to the local musicians, taking advantage of the plentiful eateries and contemplating the changes that this country has gone through in the last 15 years. Yet, this women seemed consumed by sadness. She noticed me right after I took the photograph and didn't seem all too pleased that I took an interest in her. So, I put the camera in my lap until she moved on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Trio Triptych performs in Saxtons River, Vermont at Main Street Arts on April 7, 2007. The concert is double billed with House Blend, an a cappella choral ensemble whose repertoire is as eclectic as its character.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Winter gives way

This is the time of year in Vermont when winter and spring co mingle to form the daily landscape dynamic. As the ice gives way to water, the frozen roads give way to mud (our fifth season). As the frost level rises, surely the buds are not far behind.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Going someplace?

If it looks like this at home or at the airport..

Contact your airline before you leave home. It's likely that the phones will be busy because staffing has been reduced in favor of promoting website usage. The website can tell you the status of the flights and, in many cases, you can have the airline send you a text message if there are any changes in departure or arrival times. Even so, check the website for any last minute changes. You may even want to make a preemptive reservation at a motel near the airport in case things don't go your way (and you'll beat the rush). And, bring food, entertainment and patience. Keep your toiletries and medications with you (don't put them in checked baggage). Airline delays are triggered by safety concerns. How the individual airline treats you during that disruption will make the difference when it comes time to book your next flight. But bear in mind that gate agents are pressured by schedule and occasionally unreasonable demands from employers and passengers alike. Being as patient as possible will generate timelier resolutions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the airplane..

In every craft, there are those trusted colleagues that think they deserve your money more than you do. But how does the betrayal transpire? What leads us into making these bad decisions that we end up regretting? This article addresses the exposure and an on-going investigation into a former airline pilot. Click the fltops.com link on the first page of the blog or just click here: http://www.fltops.com/article.asp?ID=5674&Gateway=Industry

Babe in the Woods

Fred Picker was fond of pointing out that most photographers put their cameras in the wrong spot. For capturing the moment that moves you (the decisive moment as Cartier-Bresson would say), you must be uncompromising in all respects, including camera location. Usually, the weather is bad, the roads are dangerous or you're wearing the wrong shoes. If you're lucky, you'll get all three. In this photograph, I was heading south along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia when I spotted this billboard. Since there is every possibility that these hills were still laden with land mines, I thought it would be best to stop the car, press the button, and get going. Sometimes the light and clouds cooperate. Apart from the content of the photograph, it means as much (or more) to know what was going on around me (including the cars rapidly approaching from behind.


The people of the Republic of Georgia are known for their hospitality, polyphonic music and gratitude for the many gifts that touch their lives. Trio Triptych was formed to celebrate Georgian music and culture and integrate music from various traditions from the United States and other countries in the Western World. With more to come. The members of Triptych are planning a singing tour of Georgia (on bicycles) in the fall of 2008. Sponsors are being lined up to support this intercultural exchange. For additional information on how to Sponsor Triptych contact us directly: mail to: simcocreative@hughes.net

Everything old is new again

Taken from a square in the old city of Dubrovnik, this beautiful young woman was kind enough to favor me with a glance while vestiges of an older generation serve as chaperon. The Dalmatian coast is known for the beautiful women. They become even more stunning and breathtaking knowing that they have survived the hardships of war to evolve into happy, motivated citizens of the world.

And they're off..

This is the place for expressing only three things: Likes, dislikes and everything in between. Think about things that move you. Or don't. Restaurants that meet or exceed your highest standards and those that dissapoint. Somebody do a good job changing a tire? Cleaning your windows? What do you like about your dry cleaner? Tell them why. Or why not. Make it better. 'Spress yourself.