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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)

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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?

American Airlines Group to join the S&P 500

American Airlines Group Inc. (American Airlines and US Airways)  (NASD: AAL) (Dallas/Fort Worth) will replace Allergan Inc. (NYSE: AGN) in the S&P 500 after the close of trading on Friday, March 20. S&P 500 constituent Actavis plc (NYSE: ACT) is acquiring Allergan in a transaction expected to be completed today.

American Airlines Group is the holding company for American Airlines and US Airways. Headquartered in Fort Worth, TX, the company will be added to the S&P 500 GICS (Global Industry Classification Standard) Airlines Sub-Industry index.

S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a part of McGraw Hill Financial, is the world’s largest, global resource for index-based concepts, data and research. Home to iconic financial market indicators, such as the S&P 500® and the Dow Jones Industrial Average®, S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC has over 115 years of experience constructing innovative and transparent solutions that fulfill the needs of investors. More assets are invested in products based upon our indices than any other provider in the world. With over 1,000,000 indices covering a wide range of asset classes across the globe, S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC defines the way investors measure and trade the markets.

Copyright Photo: Brian Peters/AirlinersGallery.com. As we previously reported, the brand new Boeing 787-8 has been undergoing crew testing. The 787 initially will be deployed between Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) beginning on May 7, before launching internationally between DFW and Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) beginning on June 2. N800AN (msn 40618) taxies at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

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American Airlines to combine the two loyalty programs in the next 30 days, will retain N578UW in US Airways colors

American Airlines (Dallas/Fort Worth) has started notifying its frequent flyer members that it intends to combine American’s AAdvantage program with US Airways’ Dividend Miles in the next 30 days. The combination is another step towards the goal of a single airline and a single operating certificate.

American has also selected the pictured US Airways Airbus A321-231 N578UW (msn 6035) to become the US Airways legacy aircraft in the future American fleet. In December, US Airways added American titles while retaining its 2005 livery. N578UW will keep this look after all of the US Airways aircraft are repainted or retired.

Copyright Photo: Andy Cripps/AirlinersGallery.com. The US Airways legacy aircraft arrives at the Miami hub.

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US Airways flight 445 makes an emergency landing in Denver with smoke in the cabin

US Airways (Phoenix) flight US (AWE) 445 from Charlotte to Denver made a safe emergency landing at Denver International Airport yesterday (March 4) after smoke reportedly filled the cabin. Passengers safely evacuated the pictured Airbus A321-211 registered as N188US (msn 1724) (now painted in American Airlines colors). The 158 passengers and six crew members used the emergency chutes to safely evacuate the aircraft.

Video Below: By CalNinjaMonkey.

American Airlines issued this statement:

American Airlines confirms that US Airways Flight 445, from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Denver International Airport was involved in an incident at Denver this afternoon. While taxiing to the gate, the pilot was alerted to possible smoke in the cabin. The passengers and crew deplaned via the slides and are all in the terminal.

We are in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Airbus A321 had 158 passengers and six crewmembers.

Read the full account from CBS 4 in Denver: CLICK HERE

Top Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/AirlinersGallery.com. Airbus A321-211 N188US (msn 1724) arrives at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).

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Jay Selman’s An Inside Look: Another End of an Era

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

Assistant Editor Jay Selman

Another End of an Era – Farewell to the Boeing 767

by Assistant Editor Jay Selman

February 12, 2015 marked another end of an era at US Airways, as the company retired its last Boeing 767-200. While the airline was quick to point out that its merger partner, American Airlines, operates nearly 60 of the larger 767-300s, the final flight of the 767-200 represented the end of an era for US Airways. Following the general success of flight US 737, marking the retirement of the company’s last 737 Classic in August 2014, US Airways repeated the act with flight US 767, which operated from Philadelphia to Charlotte, and back to PHL.

The 767 entered the US Airways inventory through the merger with Piedmont Airlines in 1989. Piedmont received its first Boeing 767 on May 21st, 1987, shortly after the merger with USAir was announced. N603P was used to inaugurate the carrier’s first intercontinental service, between Charlotte North Carolina and London’s Gatwick Airport. Piedmont ordered six of the type initially, and after merging with USAir, another six were added to the fleet. Eventually, the 767s were used by US Airways in virtually all of its intercontinental markets. The 767 had the range to fly from Charlotte to Rome, Sao Paulo, and even Honolulu. Its common type rating with the 757 allowed the company to better utilize its pilots.

The Boeing 767 first went into service in 1982. It was the manufacturer’s first wide-body twin engine aircraft and was ground-breaking in several aspects. The 767 was the first Boeing wide-body to be designed with a two-crew digital glass cockpit. Cathode ray tube (CRT) color displays and new electronics replaced the role of the flight engineer by enabling the pilot and co-pilot to monitor aircraft systems directly. (A three-crew cockpit remained as an option and was fitted to the first production models. Ansett Australia ordered 767s with three-crew cockpits due to union demands; it was the only airline to operate 767s so configured.) Development of the 767 occurred in tandem with a narrow-body twinjet, the 757, resulting in shared design features which allow pilots to obtain a common type rating to operate both aircraft.

The 767 was initially flown on domestic and transcontinental routes, during which it demonstrated the reliability of its twinjet design. In 1985, the 767 became the first twin-engine airliner to receive regulatory approval for extended overwater flights. The aircraft was then used to expand non-stop service on medium- to long-haul intercontinental routes. Today, thanks to the concept proven by the ground-breaking 767, over 90% of the intercontinental airline flights are operated by twin engine aircraft flown by a two-pilot crew.

US flight US 767 PHL-CLT with Jay Selman (LRW)

Above Photo: Assistant Editor Jay Selman prepares to depart on flight 767 on February 12 from Philadelphia bound for Charlotte.

US Airways flight 767 PHL departure (JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. The morning departure of flight 767 from Philadelphia.

There was a low-keyed celebration at the gate in PHL prior to departure of US 767. Breakfast pastries were served and the gate agent boarding the flight made a short announcement explaining the significance of flight 767. We pushed back from gate A18 in PHL at 8:55 am, five minutes early (below).

US Airways 767-200 at gate A18 PHL (JS)(LRW)

US Airways flight US 767 Capt Scott Lesh (JS)(LRW)

 

At the controls were PHL-based Captain Scott Lesh (above) and First Officer John Hyde (below).

US Airways 767-200 flight 767 Capt Scott Lesh and FO John Hyde in cockpit (JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. Captain Scott Lesh and First Officer John Hyde in the cockpit of N252AU for the final day of revenue flights.

Flying “shotgun” in the flight deck jump seat was First Officer Jim Zazas (below). Jim and I go back a long way, and he is one of those guys we call an “Aviator” with a Capital A. He was in the second 767 class with Piedmont in 1987, and has been on the 757/767 ever since. In his spare time, he flies just about anything with a propeller, especially if it has the classification “Warbird.” From B-17 to P-51, Jim has probably flown it. His latest accomplishment was to get himself checked out in The Tinker Belle, the C-46 based in Monroe, NC. For Jim, this was a farewell to his favorite jet airliner.

US Airways FO Jim Zazas PHL (JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. US Airways First Officer Jim Zazas.

I found it interesting that the flight was basically an extra section, added to the flight schedule approximately one month earlier, yet we departed PHL with every single seat filled. There were a significant number of aviation enthusiasts on board, but for the majority of the passengers, this was merely one more flight from Point A to Point B.

The flight was operated by N252AU, a 767-2B7 ER, msn 24765. 252 was originally delivered to USAir as N652US on May 25, 1990. It was the 308th production 767. From November 1993 until April of 1996, this aircraft was used on a wet lease program on behalf of British Airways, and flew in the British carrier’s colors during that time. Following the merger between US Airways and America West Airlines, the aircraft received its current registration.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/119629568″>US Airways Boeing 767-200 N252AU departure from PHL on the last day</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19954503″>Bruce Drum</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Video: Jay Selman. The departure of N252AU from Philadelphia on the last day.

US Airways 767-200 N252AU arrival at CLT last day (JS)(LRW)

Our flight to Charlotte was uneventful, and following a well-deserved water cannon salute (above), we arrived at Gate D2 a little past 10:44 am. There, the company presented two cakes, decorated in blue and white, commemorating the retirement of the 767-200 (below).

US Airways 767-200 last flight cake (JS)(LRW)

 

US Airways 767-200 last flight US 767 CLT crew (best)(JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. The crew of flight 767 poses with the two special cakes at the Charlotte turnaround.

During the nearly two-hour turnaround, I had a chance to chat with the lead Flight Attendant, Ellie Zalesky. Ellie told me that she began her career with Mohawk. “I’ve worked every airplane from the FH-227 to the A330, and the 767 was my favorite, hands down. I’m really going to miss her.” We had a chance to snap some souvenir photos prior to the final scheduled flight, and then it was time to head back to PHL.

US Airways 767-200 N252AU and crew on ramp CLT (best)(JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: The crew of flight US 767 poses with Boeing 767-2B7 ER N252AU on the ramp at Charlotte during the turnaround.

The return flight of US 767 pushed away from the gate in Charlotte at 12:27. It was markedly different from the first leg. The plane was less than 1/3 full, and this time, the majority of the passengers were hard-core enthusiasts and airline employees, much to the curiosity of the few “regular passengers” on board. There was a party atmosphere in flight, as we took time to enjoy the final flight of the 767-200. The flight attendants were surprised by the “enthusiast culture”, but quickly warmed to the occasion. Captain Lesh made a long announcement regarding the last flight of the 767-200, and its significance to US Airways, and commercial aviation.

US Airways 767-200 N262AU cabin (JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. The cabin of N252AU.

I also had a chance to talk to another old friend, Bruce Clarke, who retired as a Captain on the 757/767. Of the 767, Bruce waxed poetic, “I don’t think that Boeing has ever built a sweeter airliner. She never put me into a situation that I could not easily get out of. With a service ceiling of 41,000 ft, we could get above a lot of weather…and other traffic.” (Shortly before he mentioned that, I looked out the window and noticed a CRJ900 cruising a few thousand feet below us). Clarke continues, “The CF6 engines put out plenty of power so even at max takeoff weight of 395,000 lbs, the 767-200 ER climbs effortlessly. The 767 has inboard and outboard ailerons, which gives her incredible agility. She is a very stable platform and cuts through turbulence like a knife through soft butter. I’ve flown the 707, 727. 737, 757, and 767, and the 767 was by far my favorite.” Clearly, everyone I spoke with who had flown or worked the 767 loves her.

US Airways welcome to Philadelphia (JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: Jay Selman. Back at PHL once again.

We arrived back at the gate in PHL at 13:46, about 20 minutes early. Most of us were in no rush to deplane. Instead, we lingered for just another few minutes, savoring what will probably, for most of us, be our last moments on a 767-200. After all, as US Airways removes its last 767 from the fleet, its merger partner, American Airlines, prepares to introduce the 787 into service.

The crew patiently stayed onboard to pose for final photos, answer final questions, and perhaps absorb those last few moments on the aircraft they love.

When Captain Lesh shut down the CF6s, N252AU had logged 100,813.48 hours, and amassed 18663 cycles, relatively few for today’s jet airliners. The airframe has plenty of life left in her, and, while nothing has been officially announced, there is an excellent chance that the 767 will be “re-purposed” in the near future.

As a postscript, a Boeing 757 scheduled to operate a round trip from Philadelphia to Charlotte later in the day developed a mechanical issue, and 252’s retirement was postponed for another few hours. The final round trip, however, was done with none of the hoopla reserved for flight US 767. As far as we were concerned, we were on THE retirement flight.

Piedmont (2nd) logo

 

As one more side note, when sister ships 249 and 250 were officially retired from the US Airways fleet, they represented the last airplanes that flew for Piedmont Airlines. As an original “Piedmonter”, this fact was as significant to me as the retirement of the 767-200.

Jay Selman with 252 (nose)(JS)(LRW)

Above Photo: What will be the fate of ship “252”?

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US Airways operates its last Boeing 767 revenue flight

US Airways (Phoenix) as planned, operated its last Boeing 767-200 revenue flight and retired the type yesterday joining partner American Airlines (Dallas/Fort Worth) in retiring the aging type.

American previously retired their 767-200s on May 7, 2014 between Los Angeles and New York (JFK). American’s Boeing 767-223 ER N319AA (msn 22320) operated flight AA 30 from Los Angeles to New York (JFK) departing LAX on the evening of May 7 and arriving at JFK during the early morning of May 8. American introduced the 767-200 in November 1982.

US Airways yesterday (February 12) operated its last passenger flight for the Boeing 767.

Assistant Editor Jay Selman was on the historic flight and has published his special report on the last trip.

Read the full report: CLICK HERE

Piedmont Airlines (1st) took delivery of the first 767-200 ER, specifically 767-201 ER N603P (msn 23897), named “The Pride of Piedmont”, on May 21, 1987. The type entered service on June 15, 1987 on the Charlotte – London (Gatwick) route. The type migrated to USAir (later US Airways) with the merger.

Copyright Photo: Bruce Drum/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 767-2B7 ER N252AU (msn 24765) is pictured at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and operated the last revenue flights.

US Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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