Tag Archives: US Airways

American Airlines Group reports its highest quarterly profit in company history

American Airlines Group (American Airlines and US Airways) today (July 24) issued this financial statement for the second quarter:

American Airlines Group logo

American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) today reported its second quarter 2015 results.

  • Reported record quarterly net profit of $1.9 billion excluding net special charges, a 27 percent increase versus the second quarter 2014
  • Reported record quarterly GAAP net profit of $1.7 billion, a 97 percent increase versus last year’s second quarter
  • Repurchased over $750 million of common stock and authorized an additional $2 billion share repurchase program
  • Declared a dividend of $0.10 per share to be paid on August 24, 2015, to shareholders of record as of August 10, 2015

American Airlines Group’s second quarter 2015 net profit, excluding net special charges, was a record $1.9 billion, or $2.62 per diluted share versus a second quarter 2014 net profit excluding net special charges of $1.5 billion, or $1.98 per diluted share. The Company’s second quarter 2015 pretax margin excluding net special charges was a record 17.2 percent, up 4.4 percentage points from the same period last year.

On a GAAP basis, the Company reported a record net profit of $1.7 billion, or $2.41 per diluted share. This compares to a GAAP net profit of $864 million in the second quarter 2014, or $1.17 per diluted share.

See the accompanying notes in the Financial Tables section of this press release for further explanation, including a reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP financial information.

“Reporting the highest quarterly profit in our history is another indication that our team is on the path to restoring American as the greatest airline in the world,” said Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “These results are especially remarkable considering the significant and successful work underway to integrate two airlines. The more than 100,000 dedicated team members of American Airlines are doing a phenomenal job and we are grateful for their commitment to our customers.”

Revenue and Cost Comparisons

Total revenue in the second quarter was $10.8 billion, a decrease of 4.6 percent versus the second quarter 2014 on a 1.9 percent increase in total available seat miles (ASMs). Consolidated passenger revenue per ASM (PRASM) was 13.57 cents, down 6.9 percent versus the second quarter 2014. Consolidated passenger yield was 16.28 cents, down 6.1 percent year-over-year.

Total operating expenses in the second quarter were $8.9 billion, a decrease of 10.5 percent compared to the second quarter 2014, due primarily to a 36.9 percent decrease in consolidated fuel expense. Second quarter mainline cost per available seat mile (CASM) was 11.87 cents, down 12.8 percent on a 1.5 percent increase in mainline ASMs versus the second quarter 2014. Excluding net special charges and fuel, mainline CASM was 8.77 cents, up 2.5 percent compared to the second quarter 2014. Regional CASM excluding special charges and fuel was 16.02 cents, up 1.4 percent on a 5.5 percent increase in regional ASMs versus the second quarter 2014.

Cash and Investments

As of June 30, 2015, the Company had approximately $9.7 billion in total cash and short-term investments, of which $747 million was restricted. The Company also had an undrawn revolving credit facility of $1.8 billion.

American continues to invest in its product. As part of an extensive fleet renewal plan that has made American’s fleet the youngest of any U.S. network airline, the Company expects to spend $5.4 billion on new aircraft this year. During the second quarter, the Company took delivery of 24 new mainline aircraft and nine new regional aircraft and retired 34 older mainline and eight older regional aircraft. In addition to this fleet renewal program, American is in the midst of investing $2 billion to further enhance its product, including improvements to aircraft interiors, international Wi-Fi connectivity and upgrades to its Admirals Club lounges.

In the second quarter, the Company returned $823 million to its shareholders through the payment of $70 million in quarterly dividends and the repurchase of $753 million of common stock, or 17.3 million shares, at an average price of $43.53 per share. When combined with the dividends and shares repurchased during the first quarter, the Company has returned approximately $1.1 billion to its shareholders in the first half of 2015, including $943 million of shares repurchased under the existing $2 billion share repurchase program approved in January 2015.

Due to the Company’s strong financial performance, its projected cash flow and the repurchase activity to date, the American Airlines Group Board of Directors has authorized an additional $2 billion share repurchase program to be completed by December 31, 2016. This brings the total amount of share repurchase programs authorized in 2015 to $4 billion. The Company also declared a dividend of $0.10 per share to be paid on August 24, 2015, to shareholders of record as of August 10, 2015.

Share repurchases under the share repurchase program may be made through a variety of methods, which may include open market purchases, privately negotiated transactions, block trades or accelerated share repurchase transactions. Any such repurchases will be made from time to time subject to market and economic conditions, applicable legal requirements and other relevant factors. The program does not obligate the Company to repurchase any specific number of shares or continue a dividend for any fixed period, and may be suspended at any time at the Company’s discretion.

Approximately $629 million of the Company’s unrestricted cash and short-term investment balance was held in Venezuelan bolivars. This balance includes approximately $621 million valued at 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar and approximately $8 million valued at 12.8 bolivars per U.S. dollar, with the rate depending on the date the Company submitted its repatriation request to the Venezuelan government. These rates are materially more favorable than the exchange rates currently prevailing for other transactions conducted outside of the Venezuelan government’s currency exchange system.

During 2014, the Company significantly reduced capacity in the Venezuelan market and is no longer accepting bolivars as payment for airline tickets. The Company is monitoring this situation closely and continues to evaluate its holdings of Venezuelan bolivars for additional foreign currency losses or other accounting adjustments, which could be material, particularly in light of the additional uncertainty posed by the recent changes to the foreign exchange regulations and the continued deterioration of economic conditions in Venezuela. More generally, fluctuations in foreign currencies, including devaluations, cannot be predicted by the Company and can significantly affect the value of its assets located outside the United States. These conditions, as well as any further delays, devaluations or imposition of more stringent repatriation restrictions, may materially adversely affect the Company’s business, results of operations and financial condition.

Special Items

In the second quarter, the Company recognized $150 million in net special charges, including:

  • $231 million in merger related integration expenses, including $221 million in mainline special charges and $10 million in regional special charges
  • $77 million in net special credits, including a $68 million credit for bankruptcy related items, principally consisting of fair value adjustments for bankruptcy settlement obligations
  • $11 million non-operating net special credits comprised of a $22 million gain associated with the sale of an investment, offset in part by $11 million in charges principally related to non-cash write offs of unamortized debt discount and debt issuance costs associated with refinancing the Company’s secured term loan facilities
  • $7 million in tax special charges related to certain indefinite-lived intangible assets

Notes:

(1) The 2015 second quarter mainline operating special items totaled a net charge of $144 million, which principally included $221 million of merger integration expenses related to information technology, professional fees, severance, share-based compensation, fleet restructuring, re-branding of aircraft and airport facilities, relocation and training. These charges were offset in part by a net $68 million credit for bankruptcy related items primarily consisting of fair value adjustments for bankruptcy settlement obligations. The 2015 six month period mainline operating special items totaled a net charge of $447 million, which principally included $437 million of merger integration expenses as described above and a net $99 million charge related to the Company’s new pilot joint collective bargaining agreement. These charges were offset in part by a net $73 million credit for bankruptcy related items primarily consisting of fair value adjustments for bankruptcy settlement obligations.

The 2014 second quarter mainline operating special items totaled a net charge of $251 million, which principally included $163 million of merger integration expenses related to information technology, professional fees, severance, share-based compensation, re-branding of aircraft and airport facilities, relocation and training as well as a net $38 million charge for bankruptcy related items primarily consisting of fair value adjustments for bankruptcy settlement obligations and $37 million in charges related to the buyout of leases associated with certain aircraft. The 2014 six month period mainline operating special items totaled a net charge of $114 million, which principally included $365 million of merger integration expenses, $40 million in charges primarily related to the buyout of leases associated with certain aircraft and a net $5 million charge for bankruptcy related items, all as described above. These charges were offset in part by a $309 million gain on the sale of Slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

(2) The 2015 and 2014 second quarter and six month period regional operating special items principally related to merger integration expenses.

(3) The 2015 second quarter nonoperating special items totaled a net credit of $11 million and primarily included a $22 million gain associated with the sale of an investment, offset in part by $11 million in charges principally related to non-cash write offs of unamortized debt discount and debt issuance costs associated with refinancing the Company’s secured term loan facilities. The 2015 six month period nonoperating special items totaled a net credit of $19 million and principally included the $22 million gain associated with the sale of an investment as described above and a $17 million early debt extinguishment gain associated with the repayment of American’s AAdvantage loan with Citibank. These special credits were offset in part by $20 million in charges principally related to non-cash write offs of unamortized debt discount and debt issuance costs associated with the debt refinancing as described above and the prepayment of certain aircraft financings.

The 2014 second quarter and six month period nonoperating special items were primarily due to non-cash interest accretion of $2 million and $33 million, respectively, on bankruptcy settlement obligations.

(4) The 2015 second quarter and six month period tax special items were the result of a non-cash deferred income tax provision related to certain indefinite-lived intangible assets.

During the 2014 second quarter, the Company sold its portfolio of fuel hedging contracts that were scheduled to settle on or after June 30, 2014. In connection with this sale, the Company recorded a special non-cash tax provision of $330 million in the second quarter of 2014 that reversed the non-cash tax provision which was recorded in other comprehensive income (OCI), a subset of stockholders’ equity, principally in 2009. This provision represents the tax effect associated with gains recorded in OCI principally in 2009 due to a net increase in the fair value of the Company’s fuel hedging contracts. In accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the Company retained the $330 million tax provision in OCI until the last contract was settled or terminated. In addition, the Company recorded a special $7 million non-cash deferred income tax provision related to certain indefinite-lived intangible assets in the 2014 second quarter. The 2014 six month period included the $330 million non-cash tax provision related to the settlement of fuel hedges discussed above as well as a special $15 million non-cash deferred income tax provision related to certain indefinite-lived intangible assets.

Read the full report: CLICK HERE

Copyright Photo: Ken Petersen/AirlinersGallery.com. American Airlines and US Airways are already operating under a single AOC. However the last US-coded flight will be flight US 434, a red-eye flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, on October 17, 2015. After that date, all mainline flights will operate under the AA code. Former US Airways Airbus A319-112 N741UW (msn 1269), operated under the US code but now painted in American’s new 2013 livery, approaches the runway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).

American Airlines (current livery only): AG Airline Slide Show

US Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Clint Eastwood to direct feature film about “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger

Warner Brothers (Burbank) has made the following announcement:

Warner Brothers logo

Clint Eastwood will helm Warner Bros. Pictures’ as-yet-untitled drama about the life of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who became an American hero when he landed his disabled jet on the Hudson River, saving the lives of everyone aboard. The announcement was made by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Eastwood will direct the film from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film is being produced by Eastwood and Tim Moore, for Malpaso; Frank Marshall, under the Kennedy/Marshall banner; and Allyn Stewart, for Flashlight Films. Flashlight’s Kipp Nelson and RatPac-Dune’s Steven Mnuchin are serving as executive producers.

In making the announcement, Silverman stated, “Simply put, Clint Eastwood is at the top of his game, not to mention a global treasure. On the heels of his extraordinary work in ‘American Sniper,’ it is tremendously exciting to see him explore the life of another captivating true-life hero. It is also great to be collaborating with Frank Marshall and Allyn Stewart to produce this compelling script by Todd Komarnicki.”

The film will go beyond Sullenberger’s almost impossible and much-heralded achievement of safely landing a jet (above) on the water, which was captured on video and viewed around the world. But behind the scenes, a drama was unfolding that could have cost him his reputation and his wings.

Sullenberger commented, “I am very glad my story is in the hands of gifted storyteller and filmmaker Clint Eastwood, and veteran producers Allyn Stewart and Frank Marshall. The project could not have found a better home than Warner Bros. Pictures. This is truly a dream team.”

Top Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Ill-fated but now preserved in Charlotte, Airbus A320-214 N106US (msn 1044) arrives at CLT before the “Miracle on the Hudson” event of January 17, 2009.

Photo below: Clindberg. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the Captain of US Airways flight 1549.

Chesley Sully Sullenberger

The end of US Airways, today American Airlines is operating under a single FAA operating certificate

American Airlines and US Airways (American Airlines Group) (Dallas/Fort Worth) today (April 8) are operating under a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (Part 121 FAA Air Operators Certificate-AOC).

Before midnight last night, all originating US Airways (formerly USAir) US/USA (AWE) flights were using its codes and after midnight all originating flights were using the American Airlines (AA/AAL) codes. Some US Airways flights technically landed today after midnight using the old codes.

Therefore as an airline, in the eyes of the FAA, US Airways technically was fully merged into American Airlines today (April 8) although brand remnants of US Airways (especially on the aircraft) will take longer to erase.

All flights now use the “American” call sign.

For the record, the last Cactus call sign US Airways flight was flight US 696 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Charlotte (CLT) arriving a little after 6 am (0613) with Airbus A321-231 N971UY (msn 6249) painted in full American colors.

USAirways logo

American Airlines issued this statement:

American Airlines 2013 logo

American Airlines today (April 8) received a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for American and US Airways, marking a major milestone in the integration of the two airlines.

The FAA’s approval for American and US Airways to operate under one certificate is the culmination of more than 18 months of work aligning the carriers’ operating policies and procedures. Beginning today, most flight operations, maintenance and dispatch procedures will be identical for all flights. Air traffic control communications will refer to all American and US Airways flights with the call sign “American.”

“Achieving a single operating certificate is an important step toward becoming a fully integrated airline and the effort to reach today’s milestone touched nearly every area of our company,” said Robert Isom, American’s Chief Operating Officer. “For a project of this scope, many entities and people must come together and see it through to completion, but one person must ultimately oversee it in its entirety. With that, our appreciation for the leadership of Captain and Senior Vice President, Integration Operations Ed Bular, who oversaw this massive project, along with the CAVOK Group under the leadership of Vice President Jim Ballough, cannot be overstated. Likewise, our frontline employees and the union leaders who represent them are to be enthusiastically applauded for their role in learning and implementing new policies and procedures and adhering to those as we move forward under one certificate.

“The FAA’s Joint Transition Team, led by Skip Whitrock, helped guide us through a rigorous process designed to ensure that our airline is built on a solid foundation of regulatory compliance. We are extremely appreciative of the valuable direction that Skip, Division Managers Nick Reyes and Larry Fields and all at the FAA have provided us over the past year.

“Lastly, as a global airline, this work spanned many regions. We thank the Department of Transportation and regulatory authorities in more than 50 countries who worked alongside us to ensure this critical project remained on track.”

Isom concluded, “While today marks a significant milestone for our integration, there is still much that remains ahead and we will intensify our focus on moving to a single reservations system and website and combining our frontline employee workgroups.”

A team of more than 700 employees reviewed 465 manuals along with policies, procedures and programs from both carriers and selected best practices to implement for the merged airline. More than 110,000 employees completed hundreds of thousands of hours of training in multiple phases and more than 115,000 pages on policies and procedures were published.

The FAA’s recognition of American as a single operator does not mean change for customers, who will continue to check in for their flights on aa.com, usairways.com, or at American or US Airways ticket counters until later this year when American moves to a single reservations system.

Since American and US Airways merged in December 2013, the airline has been making steady integration progress, including inducting US Airways into the oneworld alliance, merging separate frequent flyer programs into the single AAdvantage program and reaching five-year joint collective bargaining agreements with its pilots and flight attendants.

Copyright Photo: Michael B. Ing/AirlinersGallery.com. The real story here is how upstart America West Airlines (AWE) (and the Doug Parker-led management team) (Phoenix) became the largest airline in the world by taking over two struggling and larger airlines and adopting their names. US Airways’ legacy 1983 America West retro scheme is pictured on Airbus A319-132 N828AW (msn 1552). You did it Doug Parker. Congratulations. Well done.

American Airlines aircraft slide show (current livery only): AG Airline Slide Show

US Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

USAir aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

America West aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

 

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American expands Embraer 175 operations from Los Angeles

American Airlines (Dallas/Fort Worth) is adding four additional Embraer ERJ 175 American Eagle routes from Los Angeles International Airport. Los Angeles – Austin will be started on May 7 along with Los Angeles – San Antonio. Additionally on June 4, the Los Angeles – Edmonton and Los Angeles – Vancouver routes will also be added per Airline Route.

In other news, American Airlines and US Airways hope to receive a single operating certificate (SOC) in early April from the FAA completing the merger process. US Airways meanwhile has started using the “American” call sign, retiring the former “Cactus” (America West) call sign. The end of US Airways is near.

Copyright Photo: Chris Sands/AirlinersGallery.com. Republic Airlines’ “Brickyard 4231″ arrives from Jacksonville at Miami International Airport (MIA).

American Airlines aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

American Eagle-Republic Airlines aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Jay Selman’s An Inside Look: Connie Tobias – An Aviation Legend Retires

Connie Tobias – An Aviation Legend Retires

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

by Assistant Editor Jay Selman

There are pilots, and there are aviators. When Captain Connie Tobias shut down the engines of her Airbus A321 at the conclusion of US Airways Flight 1967 on March 17, 2015, it brought to an end one chapter in a remarkable career of a remarkable aviator.

Connie Tobias in the cockpit (JS)(LRW)

 

Above Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Connie Tobias in the left seat of the retirement Airbus A321.

Below Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. The Airbus A321 receives a congratulatory water cannon salute on arrival at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).

Connie Tobias A321 water cannon salute (JS)(LRW)

In over 40 years of flying, Connie has logged over 22,000 flight hours and flown over 70 different kinds of aircraft, ranging from a 1902 Wright Glider (below) and 1909 Bleriot (below) to the Airbus A330-300. That, in itself, would be a career to be proud of, but the career of Connie represents so much more.

1903 Wright Flyer

Connie Tobias 1902 Wright Glider (LR)

Connie Tobias 1909 Bleriot (LR)

Connie has not lost any of the feistiness that must have been necessary to break through one barrier after another as a woman born in 1950. She reflects, “When I was a five year old girl, I was expected to play with dolls. I did…sort of. I lined them up at an imaginary airport waiting for the imaginary airplane that I was pretending to be! Even at that age, I was captivated by the lure of flight. In those days, of course, women were not expected to pursue careers as professional pilots.

In fact, when I went to a military recruiter in 1969 to see about becoming a military pilot, I was told rather strongly to go home and be a wife to someone. A year later, I sent a letter to American Airlines seeking employment, I received a similar response. Today, such a response would seem outrageous, but 45 years ago, those answers were generally accepted as the norm.”

Connie Tobias in the Wright Glider (LR)

However, Connie Tobias is anything but the norm. She does not claim to be a rebel, nor is she an iconoclast. She is, however, a strong-willed woman who sets out to accomplish what is important to her. She notes, “People will try to steal your dreams. I refuse to let that happen.” In 1975, Connie, always a fitness freak, set out to bicycle her way across the United States, from California to Delaware. While taking a rest stop somewhere in Missouri, she had her epiphany. “I looked up to the sky and saw a jet airliner cruising high above, leaving a condensation trail in its wake. It was at that exact moment that I decided that there was no way I could spend the next 40 years working in an office cubicle which may or may not have windows. No, that was the moment that I decided that I would do whatever I had to do in order to make the cockpit of an airplane MY office.”

Connie began to take flying lessons in 1975 in Xenia, Ohio. Later, she used a unique angle to build up time. “I washed planes at Ohio University Airport in Athens, Ohio. A freshly-washed airplane needs to be dried quickly, and what better way to dry an airplane than to fly it? I looked for any way possible to build up hours. I flew for a truck and oil field manufacturer, in and out of Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. I earned my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating and built up hours that way. I even flew as a “bird dog” for fire patrol operations, flying single-engine and light twin-engine aircraft. Basically, I did whatever I could to build up flying time.”

Connie’s big break came in 1982 when she applied for a pilot’s position that was posted at Aeromech Airlines, a regional airline based in Clarksburg, WV. She recalls with a wry grin, “The owner of Aeromech was a Greek gentleman, Angelo Koukoulis. The folks in Personnel at the airline accepted my application from Connie Tobias, probably believing that they were getting a Greek man. Of course, I was neither! In those days, female pilots were very few and far between. I was the second female pilot hired by Aeromech Airlines (below). Let’s just say I was generally not greeted with open arms into the fraternity that was almost exclusively male.”

Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Aeromech Airlines Embraer EMB-110P1 Bandeirante N615KC (msn 110230) is parked at the commuter terminal gate at Washington’s National Airport in Allegheny Commuter colors in February 1980.

As soon as she was checked out on the Embraer Bandierante, Connie was advised that she would have to earn an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. Using pretty much the last of her meager savings, Connie passed her ATP practical with flying colors, and her written exam with an astounding 99%. Soon afterward, she learned that none of the male first officers at the airline had ATP ratings! Rather than being angry, she made up her mind that the best way to flourish in any environment was to be the happiest, most positive personality that she could be. Before long, she had built up an impressive stack of complimentary letters. While the aviation fraternity was still slow to accept her, it was apparent that the flying public loved her.

In 1983, Aeromech Airlines merged with Cleveland-based Wright Air Lines, and Connie found herself based in Albany, NY, flying the Convair 600/640. While the Bandeirante was configured for 15 seats, it was a new generation airplane. While the Convair held up to 50 passengers, it was late 1940s technology, devoid of any power-enhanced controls. “The Convair really had to be man-handled, and it was quite a challenge for someone of my size. I worked hard to develop the proper technique to control the Convair, and I believe that that helped earn respect and acceptance from some of the male pilots I flew with.”

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Wright Air Lines Convair 640 N862FW (msn 9) is seen in Miami on October 30, 1983.

Unfortunately, the merger between Wright and Aeromech proved to be a bad marriage and before long, Connie received word that the airline was on its last legs. “First officers for regional airlines were generally earning something below poverty-level wages, and Wright was no exception. I was living paycheck to paycheck, and I knew I had to do something. I had enough money to apply to exactly one airline.” She elected to put in an application to Piedmont Airlines (1st), which was known to be actively hiring women as pilots. In mid-1984, Connie Tobias was hired by Piedmont, becoming the 16th female pilot flying for the company. Today, by comparison, women make up approximately 5% of the US Airways pilot workforce.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Ex-Northeast Airlines/Delta Air Lines Boeing 727-295 N1643 (msn 19448) displays the 1974 livery for Piedmont.

In the mid-1980s, Piedmont was growing by leaps and bounds. Connie started out as a first officer on the Boeing 727 (above), a dramatic step up from the archaic Convair. Piedmont proved to be the Land of Opportunity for Connie, and a mere 26 months later, she became a captain on the company’s Fokker F-28. In rapid succession, she graduated to captain on the twin-engine Boeing 737 and later, the larger tri-jet Boeing 727.

In 1989, Piedmont merged with USAir, later US Airways. As the airline added larger aircraft, Connie made a decision to trade in her low-seniority captain’s seat in exchange for a more comfortable lifestyle of a high-seniority first officer. Connie was able to hold a position in the right seat on the transcontinental Boeing 757 (below) and intercontinental wide-body Boeing 767. She later became a first officer on the largest and longest-range aircraft in the US Airways fleet, the Airbus A330. By all measures, Connie had beaten the odds and broken through the glass ceiling, achieving success in a field that had been considered a male world when she began her journey.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. USAir’s ex-Eastern Boeing 757-225 N604AU (msn 22199) taxies at Miami in the 1989 livery.

Some seven years ago, however, Connie suddenly found herself facing a new battle, this one against Mother Nature. She explains, “To discuss my medical challenges would take another entire article, but let’s just say I had a total of 13 medical issues. Altogether, I was out of work for six years. I was told that I would probably never again be able to pass a first class medical exam that airline pilots must pass twice a year.”

Connie took on the greatest battle of her life with the same tenacity as she faced other challenges. “I was determined to finish my airline career in the cockpit, and not in a hospital bed. To that end, over the course of six years, I required the services of 19 doctors, and was put under anesthesia ten times. This was the biggest battle of them all in my career, and my life.” But Connie has never been one to accept “No” for an answer, and in typical fashion, she fought back. First, she literally clawed her way back into a healthy body. Once that was accomplished, she worked unceasingly to bring her flying skills back up to speed.

Above Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A319-112 N765US (msn 1371) painted in the 1997 color scheme departs the runway at Charlotte.

 

Finally, in 2013, she was restored to flying status with US Airways, on the Airbus A320 family (above). After being off flying status for six years, she was required to fly in the right seat for six months, but in July of 2014, Connie Tobias once again earned the right to wear the four stripes of a captain on the Airbus.

As inspiring as the story of her airline career is, there is much more to the story of this aviator. She explains, “You might say that an aviator has a love affair with the sky. I love flying, and as airliners become more and more automated, it is easy to get a little bit bored. Sure, there are times when I get to exercise and challenge my piloting skills, but I wanted to do more piloting…more aviating…than what airline life was offering me. I began looking at opportunities outside of the airline environment to get my piloting fix.”

That search took Connie to the Collings Foundation, a private non-profit educational facility dedicated to the preservation and public display of transportation-related history, including historic aircraft. For an aviator like Connie Tobias, it was a dream-come-true. “The Collings Foundation gave me the opportunity to fly all sorts of exotic aircraft, from a McDonnell F4D Phantom II (below) to a 1909 Bleriot XI Monoplane. Of course, in order to fly these aircraft, I had to earn a variety of ratings and endorsements, including seaplane and glider and taildragger skills. I also took an extended course in aerobatics and upset recovery. Ironically, while flying the Phantom was one heck of a kick in the pants, it was the Bleriot that required the greatest challenge and the most research…and opened the most unique of doors for me.”

Connie Tobias F-4 Phantom (LR)

It started with Foundation founder Bob Collings running into Connie one day and remarking, “You know, you look like Harriet Quimby. Will you portray her and, while you are at it, learn to fly the Bleriot?” Quimby was an award-winning photojournalist as well as a movie screenwriter who was also interested in aviation. On August 1, 1911, she became the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States. The following year, she became the first female to fly across the English Channel. There is a saying that it is a lucky man who hears opportunity knock, but it is a wise man who opens the door. Obviously, the same applies to a woman, and Connie Tobias proved to be an extremely wise woman who opened the door that led to her parallel career and unique claim to fame. She took Bob Collings’ suggestion and developed a presentation of the life and accomplishments of Harriet Quimby, which she has performed for audiences around the world.

She says, “It is an honor and privilege to be in a position where I can be an inspiration to future aviators, especially girls and young women. In the days when I was breaking into the aviation world, there really weren’t many female role models I could emulate. I’d like to think that between my own accomplishments in aviation and my portrayal of Harriet Quimby, I can inspire others to dream big.”

Flying the Bleriot required intense preparation. Connie relates, “One day, I was watching the movie ‘Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines’. As the movie concluded, I realized that all of the pilots had one thing in common. They all crashed. It was a stark reminder that those early airplanes were very crude in their design, and extremely delicate to fly. I wanted to fly the Bleriot, but I wanted to make darned sure that I was successful. I spoke to the folks at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, home to a number of pre-World War I airplanes including another 1909 Bleriot. The Bleriot guru at Old Rhinebeck suggested that I contact another expert in Texas, and I kept following one lead after another, taking in as much as I could about flying an aircraft that was controlled by powered wing warping. Wing warping was a system for lateral control of early aircraft, and basically a precursor to the aileron.” Connie even referred to Louis Bleriot’s writings in her quest to understand everything she could about the Bleriot and wing warping. In the end, she did, indeed, fly the Bleriot, and she flew it well.

Success begets success. The popular concept is Six Degrees of Separation, that we are connected with anyone in the world by six or fewer steps. In the aviation world, it is closer to Two Degrees of Separation. In 2003, the owners of the Wright Flyer collection were looking for pilots to fly both the 1902 Wright Glider replica and the exact replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, which made the first powered flight. Thanks to her exposure flying the Bleriot, Connie Tobias was selected as one of a handful of pilots to fly the Glider. She wow’ed the organizers by using her skills honed by her tons of research, including hang gliding, by choosing the proper moment to fly the Glider in a near-perfect hover on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, NC. Of those pilots, only Connie had previous experience flying an aircraft that utilized powered wing warping. Late in 2003, she became the first and only woman to fly the 1903 Wright Flyer exact replica. When asked what airplane in her logbook was the most memorable, she answers, “The 1903 Wright Flyer. After all, how many men or women can say that they flew that airplane?”

Connie’s commitment to inspiring students with Quimby’s story along with her involvement in flying the 1903 Wright Flyer and 1909 Bleriot has won her special recognition from The National Aeronautic Association and the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Connie has appeared in numerous documentaries, is a Distinguished Graduate of Engineering, holds the Medal of Merit from Ohio University, and has been inducted into the Amelia Earhart Forest of Friendship. She has been generous in her donations to a cause near and dear to her heart, a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Ohio University. The scholarship assists young men and women in pursuit of a career in aviation. She says, “I remember what it was like trying to break into the aviation world with an empty bank account. There were several times early in my career when I was literally down to my last few dollars. If I can help young men or women avoid some of the financial struggles that I went through, I am happy to do so.” This scholarship is appropriately named The Harriet Quimby Scholarship.

Connie Tobias and the Cabin Crew (JS)(LRW)

Above Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Connie poses with the cabin crew on her last flight with US Airways.

Now that Connie Tobias has retired from her airline job, what does she plan to do with all that free time? “Free time? What free time? My last flight with US Airways was on March 17. The following day, my birthday, is being spent packing for a long-awaited trip to a gala birthday party in Paris. I leave on the 19th, and will spend a little time touring Europe. Once I get home, I will have plenty to keep me busy. I plan to do some hiking, learn another language, and play the piano better. I’d love to continue to fly small airplanes and regain those skills. I still have my instructor’s rating, so that is a possibility. I still have a dream of flying a Bleriot across the English Channel. There is a possibility that the Wright airplane collection will be going to China, and if it does, I plan to go over there for that. I have also thought about flying for the Collings Foundation. And, of course, there is still a demand for Harriet, so I plan to continue portraying her as time permits. I expect to have a full dance card for the foreseeable future.”

If that is not enough, Connie is involved with the following organizations”
International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA),
Ninety Nines (99’s),
Women in Aviation International (WAI),
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA),
Aviation Advisory Board and Board of Visitors – Russ College of Engineering – Ohio University,
National Alumni Board of Directors – Ohio University,
National Aviation Hall of Fame – Board of Nominations

Free time? What free time? We can all learn from the life of Connie Tobias. US Airways is losing a senior captain, but aviation is not. No way.

Copyright Photo Below: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Fellow female pilots come to salute Connie on her last airline flight and her arrival at gate D7 at Charlotte.

Connie Tobias + Female Crew Members (JS)(LRW)

Allied Pilots Association: “Time for Gulf Carriers to Open the Books” (vote in the poll)

Allied Pilots Association logo

Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines and US Airways, has issued this statement as the verbal war between western, mainly U.S. carriers and the fast-growing Big Three Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways) intensifies. Interestingly American Airlines and Qatar Airways are Oneworld Alliance partners. Here is the statement:

Allied Pilots Association President Capt. Keith Wilson issued the following statement as the chief executive officers of Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline gather in Washington, D.C. this week:

“The massive government subsidies that have flowed to these Gulf carriers have tilted the playing field, posing a serious threat to U.S. jobs and the long-term viability of our nation’s airline industry. Government subsidies have enabled Gulf carriers to dump product into the marketplace irrespective of demand or profit-and-loss considerations. It’s time for Gulf carriers to open the books.

“The U.S. airline industry represents a vital national asset — one that generates hundreds of thousands of middle-class jobs and indirectly supports many more. We deserve a level playing field.

“Full and equal compliance with Open Skies agreements is the responsibility of all participating parties.”

What do you think?