Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jack Frye Safari #2 - Wheeler Texas

Wheeler Texas, 8/25/13
The Frye Ranch in Wheeler Texas is where Jack Frye began his trek towards becoming one of America’s greatest aviators and Airline executives. Who would have known that as a kid raising cattle and tending to the family needs on the ranch, he would lead one of the world’s greatest airline companies!

Excited to finally be able to visit Jack’s childhood home, we began the trip from southern California driving 16 hours to Wheeler Texas. When we arrived we decided to pass through and pay our respects at Jack Frye’s grave site. This was quite an experience to actually visit and remember the famous Jack Frye who is mostly unknown to the American public. We also paid respects to his brother Donald Frye and parents William and Nellie Frye. The Wheeler cemetery is of the old fashioned and simple grounds without much beauty and ambiance and wasn't manicured very well today. And in retrospect, it’s kind of sad to me that this great man that impacted American society so much is left in a lonely, dusty and less than spectacular grave site. But then again, Jack would probably not have wanted any special attention made upon him, the kind and unassuming man that he was. We were blessed to have been able to finally pay our respects this day.

NOTE: To view photos full size, right click on them and open in a new window.


Wheeler Texas

Wheeler Texas Cemetery







After an hour of paying our respects, we drove on over to Sweetwater Oklahoma, 21 miles to the east on highway 152. If you remember Jack was born in Sweetwater in 1904 while his parents William and Nellie were on the way to Wheeler to settle on the Frye Ranch. I was hoping to find somebody that might remember the story of Jack Frye in hopes they would be able to point us to any dwelling where he was actually born. Well, the main intersection of Sweetwater was found to be nothing but a gas station, a convenience store and a couple outcrop buildings. The intersection was bustling with traffic consisting of construction equipment such as gas rigs, earth moving tractors and all kinds of farming equipment overcoming the small 4 corner intersection of Hwy 152 & 30. We even witnessed an accident where a stake bed truck hauling a large backhoe and trailer hit a new Ford F250 as it tried to miss the stake bed turning into the gas station parking lot. The result was the large load hit his brakes very hard, clipped the rear of the F250 and broke the steering arms in the process! Anyway, there will need to be more research done to try and pinpoint where Jack was born.




Sweetwater Texas
So we drove back to Wheeler and stopped by the City building to see if they knew where exactly the Frye Ranch was located. I knew it was somewhere northeast of Wheeler, but the exact spot could have been anywhere on the hundreds of thousands of acres surrounding us. And I also knew the Puryear family was residing on the property, so, I spoke with a nice lady at the city by the name of Claudine and she knew right away that Tom Puryear would be able to help. I gave her a Jack Frye Blog card, explained who I was in relation to the Frye family and she gave the residence a call. After they hung up Claudine said Tom would be calling me.


Downtown Wheeler Texas


Wheeler County Courthouse


Sure enough, about an hour later Tom called me and we had a nice conversation about the family and he gave me exact directions to the Frye Ranch location. Much to my surprise, Tom’s home was no more than 300 yards away from the Frye dwellings! Unfortunately we were unable to personally meet Tom as he had a doctor’s appointment in Abilene, but as we drove into the Puryear Ranch where the Frye dwellings are located, his wife Karen was on the way out and met us on their driveway. What a wonderful and sweet lady Mrs. Puryear is, and so accommodating. We chatted a few minutes about Jack and Emily and their daughter Nevajac, and she was very interested to hear more. She said, Jack was the hero of the family and once I mentioned Nevajac, she suddenly remembered the unique name. Mrs. Puryear said we could drive down to the Frye dwellings, walk around and check out the whole area as we pleased. By now I’m completely thrilled and gave her a big hug.

After we parted company with Mrs. Puryear, I began to experience a sense of connection in a way that reminded me of my upbringing in Apple Valley, CA. Our family also lived out of town with no neighbors or stores and commerce accommodations. We knew what it meant to be without and to conserve of our resources on our 10 acre homestead. As we rounded the Puryear home the first thought I had was young Jack meeting those 3 stranded pilots in the field of which I believe I was viewing right in front of us! This accounting has been shared by Jack’s sister Sunny as being 3 Army Curtiss JN-4 “Jennies”, a plane Jack would become very familiar with a few years later at Burdett Field, Los Angeles.
Looking from the front door, the Frye field
where Jack helped the stranded pilots.
Then as the scene opened before our eyes, there it is, The Frye Ranch dwellings. Just a beautiful and lush area that has the old red brick home and the white two story home in all they’re splendor. And a new home on site now occupied by the son of the Puryears.
The Frye Ranch at last!




As you can see the 2 story home roofing is deteriorating badly though, the brick walls and foundation are solid and intact. The Puryears keep the grounds cut but the rear of the dwellings are overgrown with thick foliage.

We also learned the old Spring house has finally succumbed to a rising water level and is now completely underwater. The pond is now a lake full of catfish. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see a slightly lighter colored area under the water. That’s the Springhouse!








The old Red Brick House with new tin roof. This dwelling was built in 1884 by Jacks grandparents, Henry and Lula Frye. According to Tom Puryear, the home hasn’t been opened in over 30 years, and he has plans to do some restoration work inside.

Entry into the White home showing the Puryear home in the background
One of two underground cool storage lockers behind the house
View of the rugged brick wall texture on the two story home.
Rear view of the red brick house and two story home

Shot of the dwellings from the lake edge. Beautiful clouds!
A great panoramic shot of the Frye Ranch
We had an unbelievable time visiting the Frye Ranch. I have read many accounting's of this place and to be able to set my own eyes and breath and smell the air that Jack did was a wonderful experience. If I could dream a little bit, I can envision a Jack Frye Memorial being erected here with of all things a shiny DC-3 aircraft in the field commemorating Jacks impact on airline and cargo transportation that changed the world. Yes, Jack Frye truly and still is the hero of the family… and TWA.

This ends the Jack Frye Safari to Wheeler Texas. I hope you have enjoyed our trip and the photos of the old Frye Ranch. I will be producing a video of our trip soon. This was a very enriching, long traveled and fulfilling journey I will always treasure. I want to thank the Puryear Family for their graciousness in allowing us to experience the property as intimately as we did. They are wonderful people that have a long history with the Frye Ranch dating back to the very beginning.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jack Frye Video Presentation




It’s fitting at this time after covering a lot of Jack Frye's professional life to post this video I produced in his honor. I hope you enjoy the presentation and share it with your friends and family. Especially the immediate and extended Frye family members.

One family member quoted to me recently that, "Jack was the hero of the family." Not to detract from other family members of the Frye clan and their accomplishments, I also feel good about reiterating this simple truth. He really was and still is an American hero, not of the combative duties of his fellow countrymen of his time, but to all of the American public who experienced his amazing airline accomplishments making America a better place than before.

Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog
2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jack Frye Plays Howard Hughes Hand...

Since December 1934, our young, energetic, fiercely competitive 30 year old President of TWA stood at the crossroads of aviation history. He had helped steer the DC aircraft revolution, was the first to offer passengers a new way of life in travel, and he made air transportation respectable, safe, comfortable and on time. Jack Frye pioneering through the 30’s saw the beginning of major technological advances in aircraft and many logistical ground support operations. The discovery of calm flight above the clouds and the discovery of 150 mph winds up there we now call the jet stream were Frye firsts. The first pressurized cabin airliner, the 307 Stratoliner. The advancement of radio communications from ground to air crew that enabled great scheduling efficiency. And the introduction to the new Sperry Auto Pilot system. These are just a few innovations that occurred during the Frye legacy. Then onto the 40’s, Jack Frye helped conceive the new Constellation aircraft that opened up International travel. His service as president in working with the US Government during WWII was superior and generously rewarded by President Harry Truman with the Medal of Merit, America’s highest civilian decoration. The huge expansion of travel routes and eventually the establishment of shorter global air routes, Jack Frye was on the cutting edge of airline development.




Standing at the gate of a new frontier in air travel, Jack Frye owned it, loved every minute of it, consumed it 24 hours a day with extraordinary skill and style for 13 courageous pioneering years as TWA’s chief. His modus operandi was always forward thinking and committing to growing TWA and airline travel as a whole, and this cost money. We must remember the airline industry was seeing new advancements and new ideas on a daily basis during the 30’s through the 40’s. This fact couldn’t be helped being an immerging industry since the dawn of powered flight at Kitty Hawk. But to Jack Frye’s demise as TWA’s chief executive, there was and is always the case in any large corporation, bean counting lawyers that were constantly at his coattails. One Noah Dietrich, Howard Hughes chief council just couldn’t stomach Jack Frye spending his client’s money on airplanes and staff. He couldn’t and wouldn’t see the silver lining beyond the clouds with his business management style. Dietrich was about protectionism, Frye was about growth and expansion and so was Hughes. But, as has been recorded, Dietrich got into Howards ear and for the most part convinced his master that Frye needed to go.

Through the pilots strike in 1946 amidst plunging revenue during the recession, Howard Hughes was still loyal to Jack Frye and he still favored Jack’s business style and bravado though guardedly. According to George Spater, “Hughes wanted to retain Frye on the condition that Dietrich have a greater say in the running of the airline” (Serling 1983). This alleged notion was flatly denied by Frye. It has been recorded that Jack Frye during this tumultuous time of friction between him and Howard, he installed long telephone extension cords in his Washington residence that would enable him to have hours long conversations with Hughes while walking from room to room or preparing a meal or a drink without interruption. Some of the private conversations of Jack and Howard was known to have been recorded by Frye, but to this day no one knows what happened to the tapes. My suspicion is Jack either destroyed them or packed them away in a box of many that ended up in a storage facility, somewhere.


Before Hughes could fire him, Jack Frye played his hand and resigned from TWA, February 17, 1947. He had no ill will toward Hughes, and likewise of Howard. In fact Howard really wanted him to stay on condition he take some of Dietrichs financial advice. Hughes was obviously tentative but Jack being the visionary pioneer type refused. And for good reason. Obviously by Jack Frye’s incredible track record of achievements up to 1947, his career was dedicated and purposeful and made fantastic headway in the globalization of air travel. Did Howard forget that? Was he such a whiner and a small man not to see what Jack Frye had achieved for his investment? Sure the company was in the red but was about to rocket into the black if Jack Frye stayed on board and on course. It was Noah Dietrich that saddled Hughes into succumbing. One of the last persons Jack Frye saw before officially leaving TWA was Hal Blackburn. With unbelief he asked Jack, “Are you really leaving us?” Frye sadly replied, “Blackie, I don’t know.” “Under the circumstances, unless things change, I can’t stay.”

The following are some employee memories of Jack Frye from Serling's 1983 book – Howard Hughes Airline.

Buy it here


George Spater – “I don’t know if he’s ever gotten the credit he deserved. He was a great believer in high standards of service. He’d go over the TWA advertising copy word by word to make sure it was in good taste and honest. He insisted that the airplanes be clean. He was a great originator and innovator.”

John Collins – “It was Jack Frye who thought up the idea of putting a red carpet down between the boarding gate and the airplane. I laughed at this and talked Jack out of it by claiming the carpet would blow away the first time there was a high wind. But later United adopted the idea and so did TWA.”

Carter Burgess – “God he was a bright guy. He was a great writer, a remarkable master of the English language. Some of his memorandums were masterpieces. I remember one he wrote to John Collins about the size of the cinnamon buns on morning flights. ‘They look like cow pies’, Frye complained. He could be ruthless yet he was a very decent guy, and he could fly an airplane about as well as any pilot who ever lived.”

Bob Rummel – “Easygoing in appearance but very tough and determined underneath.”

Jean Phillips – Frye was reputed to have Indian blood and Jean believed it. She told Jack, “When you come down the corridor I know it’s you before you step foot in my office.” But I never hear Frye coming. I think it’s because he walks on the balls of his feet like an Indian.

Image courtesy Eric Johnson collection

Jack Frye left a huge part of himself with TWA,
                                                 the airline he loved so much...
All that I have read, and the former TWA employees that I have spoken too unanimously concur that Jack Frye was a beloved president. To this day for those who remember him and his story, every single memory and perception of the man who trail blazed TWA into the history books express - Jack Frye was the aviators aviator, the employees favorite boss, and the passengers fondest memory of a man who delivered them the best travel service with style and a pleasure knowing they were in safe and comfortable hands. It was Jack Frye that originally conceived and delivered the idea of safety, on time schedules and comfort for his guest travelers. And it is recorded that many employees in management and in the rank and file truly wanted Frye to return as their chief through his remaining 12 years of life. He constantly put himself in the travelers position to find out what pleased them as America's most personable airline executive... What a Legacy! May he continue to be remembered and honored as such.
We have covered most all of Jack Frye's incredible career pioneering the airline industry, but there is much more to tell of this great American. Stay tuned...


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jack Frye receives Presidential Medal of Merit

I believe Jack Frye being the Texas gentleman and genuine man of service to his employees and customers was never out to be in the limelight, but rather to just do the job the very best he could. We have seen this characteristic of him throughout this blog space time and time again. Especially during the war when duty called for the country to pitch in to defeat the enemy. WWII was a cleansing period of history for which we all today are deeply indebted to the hundreds of thousands of GI's sacrificial service and the thousands of industries who supported them in so many ways. Aviation was key to the defeat of Hitler and the Japanese forever sealing victory for freedom and mankind during this critical period of our history. And being the gentleman he was, Jack Frye freely extended congratulatory credit to all of his employees for their excellent service.



Image courtesy Nevajac Frye collection


President Truman awarded Jack Frye the Presidential Medal of Merit - October 1, 1947, 12:45 P.M.
Click here for the record.







Jack Frye and his company Trans World Airlines was one of the very first key companies led by a man who deeply loved his country. And he was certainly deserving of the award we are sharing with you on this post - the Presidential Medal of Merit. America's top civilian decoration for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States. There are only 65 recipients of this honor while it was in appointment!






If you have followed along these many months on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog, you will have realized this honor was perfectly suited for the man who had a dream way back in 1923. There was never one more deserving of this honor that finally put Jack Frye in the limelight he so richly deserved. If you are just joining the blog. I hope you start at the beginning post and read and learn of this pioneering aviation hero of all time. You will be richly rewarded for doing so... Enjoy


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rumors of Jack Frye Resigning?

The TWA Airline Strike of 1946 — the first real airline strike in America was a seminal event. This was another unfortunate circumstance in a series of events in 1946 including the grounding of the Constellation, the heavy investment to establish International expansion, the post-war recession and the vast differences of Howard Hughes and Jack Frye on how the company should be run. Rumors of Jack Frye resigning began to filter throughout the company, though he denied it.
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Frye Announces TWA Reorganization

At the behest of prime stockholder Howard Hughes, and the Board of Directors, on October 16, 1946 Jack Frye and Vice President  Paul Richter announce a new reorganization plan for TWA and its Worldwide operations. The meeting was held in Kansas City with all department heads present, regional managers, department and section heads. The new organization would consist of the International Division, Transcontinental Division and the System Staff Division. 
 
In the meeting, Jack Frye emphasized, "We have one job - to realize the objectives of TWA as a system through the medium of two operating divisions." "In the last few years," he said, "TWA has changed from a Transcontinental airline to an international business operating almost four times as many route miles as before the war." "We knew that without a sound organization, it would be impossible for TWA to reach its objectives - to perform the job in sight, to meet competition, and to operate profitably. By the summer of 1946, it became apparent what we had to do."
 
It now has become apparent the company is moving in a direction foreign of its beginnings managerially, and monetarily as it moves into the super-competitive global arena in a big way. New philosophies, new operational goals and new management structures are about to send TWA into a new frontier, hopefully for the better. I believe Jack Frye by now realizes his days are numbered with this new direction of the Hughes and Dietrich packed board even though he was a member. Deep down with a reserved demeanor, Jack is already taking inventory of his marketability in another professional path. His pride and love for the company he had lead to grow into a global powerhouse may have still been true inside, but outside his business savvy realized its time to move on.
 
 
 
 



Images courtesy WHMCKC

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pilots Strike Over...

 
The airline pilots strike began October 21st and ended on November 15, 1946. In conjunction with the recession, low passenger numbers and the mounting expenses to establish and run the new International operations, president Frye had his hands literally full of challenges. And Noah Dietrich didn't help matters. Undaunted and ever the optimist, Jack Frye maintained vision and a positive perception TWA would overcome its negative state of affairs. He loved flying, his airline company and his thousands of employees.
 
 
 
Images courtesy WHMCKC
 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

TWA Pilots Strike

The following article is courtesy of http://www.alpa.org/ and is posted for those desiring to read a more in depth accounting of the first real airline pilots strike, a milestone marker in airline history of which TWA was hit first.

Air Line Pilot, September 2001, p. 14
By Capt. Karl Ruppenthal (TWA, Ret.)


Hitler’s defeat and the end of World War II marked enormous changes for U.S. airlines. With the end of years of shortages and rationing came an enormous pent-up demand for travel. During the war years, the airlines’ schedules had been reduced to bare skeletons, providing little service simply because the carriers had few airplanes and even fewer pilots—the military had commandeered both.


War’s end meant that the airlines could once again acquire all the airplanes they might want—not just new ones from the factory but also hundreds of used airplanes from the military at bargain prices. Before the war, the venerable Douglas DC-3 was the industry standard, with more of those 21-passenger airplanes in service throughout the world than the combined total of all the other airliners. But war’s end changed all that. The airlines could now acquire the much larger, much faster DC-4s and Lockheed Constellations. Because of their greatly increased size and speed, one of these new airplanes could do the work of six or eight DC-3s. They were far more productive. Further, they were but precursors to the far more advanced airplanes then on the drawing boards. A technological revolution was in the offing.

A revolution of a different sort was brewing in the airline boardrooms. For years, strong, charismatic individuals, most of whom had once been pilots, had headed the important airlines. The famous Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker led Eastern; Gen. C.R. Smith steered American; pilot-visionary Jack Frye headed TWA; and W.A. Patterson, a capable, no-nonsense banker, ran United. Each of these men had certain idiosyncrasies, which the pilots recognized (and sometimes used to their advantage). Rickenbacker believed that his captains were the best in the industry. They reputedly would bring their flights to destination when the weather was so bad that the other carriers cancelled. While he was a tough negotiator, Rickenbacker could usually be counted on to give his beloved captains a raise. United’s Patterson was more democratic. In his book, copilots were important, too. More than once, contract negotiations with United had produced an increase in copilot pay. They often were the best-paid in the industry. Traditionally, ALPA negotiated with one airline at a time. Whichever airline was next in line to negotiate a contract (and that was usually TWA or American) would be asked to meet the industry standard. That airline was asked to match the captains’ raise that had been negotiated on Eastern, the copilots’ raise negotiated with United, plus some improvements in working conditions. The airlines had complained long and loud about these tactics, which they called "whipsaw negotiations." Now, they determined to do something about it. They proposed industry wide bargaining, under which all pilots would be covered by one nationwide contract. Pay and working conditions on every airline in the industry would be standard. The entire airline industry would negotiate but a single contract with ALPA, and contract negotiations would occur no more frequently than once a year.

Under this arrangement, all pilots would be subject to one industry wide contract. The two rates of pay would be $l,000 per month for captains, and $300 per month for copilots. Pilots would be paid no formula pay—no gross weight pay, no mileage pay, no pay for training, no pay for weather delays, no pay for any other items that current contracts cover. A spokesman for the airline industry summed up the industry position: an airplane was an airplane was an airplane. All airplanes were pretty much the same.

At that time, the airlines had no formal programs for training their pilots. Copilots basically learned what they could from the captains with whom they flew. They were commonly considered to be trainees, under the tutelage of the captain with whom they flew. Thus, reasoned the airlines, copilots were entitled to no more than a trainee’s pay. During the war years, the airlines had had an acute shortage of pilots. The shortage was so great that meeting the Army’s need for transport would have been virtually impossible unless pilots on wartime transport duties flew more than 85 hours a month, which had long been the industry standard. After much debate and considerable soul-searching, ALPA agreed to a wartime extension. To ameliorate the shortage, and to help in the war effort, flight-time limitations would be waived for the duration of the war, and pilots might fly as many as l00 hours per month (they were sometimes prevailed upon to fly even more). And so, the airline industry proposed an increase in allowable monthly hours. The pilots’ monthly pay would be based on the assumption that all pilots could be required to fly 100 hours a month. They also proposed relaxation of the on-duty limitations.

Postwar turmoil
As the war wound down and U.S. industry returned to peacetime, much of industry—including the airlines—was in considerable turmoil. Wartime legislation provided that no one would be disadvantaged because of having served in the armed services. The law provided that their jobs would be preserved. On the airlines, the seniority system meant that the pilots who returned from military service often displaced other pilots who had been deemed essential to keep the nation’s airlines running and who had not gone off to war. These pilots had stayed at home to make it possible for the airlines to provide at least skeleton airline service. As the servicemen returned, they frequently displaced other employees. Considerable disruption resulted. For a pilot who was accustomed to flying as captain, being "bumped" back to copilot status because of the return of a more senior serviceman was particularly painful. Less evident, but acutely important, were the problems caused by returning colonels and generals. Some of them were very competent executives on loan from the airline executive suites. They, too, returned home from the war expecting to return to the offices they had temporarily vacated. They, too, often "bumped" the presidents, vice-presidents, and other officers who had taken their places for the duration. Well-regarded Paul Richter returned to TWA as executive vice-president, seeking to displace John Collings, his wartime substitute. And Gen. C.R. Smith returned to American, where Ralph Damon had served as president during the war years. For reasons never made public, Damon was selected to head the effort to restructure industrial relations in the airline industry and to institute industrywide bargaining.

At that time, Howard Hughes was TWA’s controlling stockholder. He and TWA President Jack Frye made an exceptional team. They were bold and inventive. Further, they had vision. TWA was the first airline to fly nonstop from coast to coast (albeit with an occasional refueling stop in Kansas City when westerly winds were strong). TWA was the first to pressurize its airplanes, the first to provide coffee freshly brewed on board, the first with in-flight movies. Hughes and Frye dreamed of round-the-world schedules. They were full of ideas. But they were novices in dealing with contract negotiations.

Industry wide contract
The year was 1946. For various reasons (or perhaps by default), TWA was chosen as the battleground for the proposed industry wide contract. Aided by various professionals from the Air Transport Association, Ralph Damon was designated as the industry’s chief negotiator. Although the negotiations were held at TWA’s headquarters (which were then in Kansas City), TWA’s executives had no formal role in the negotiations. The parties talked for many weeks but made virtually no progress. The two sides were simply too far apart. TWA’s pilots wanted a contract with TWA that would provide some modest pay increases. But Ralph Damon and his people insisted that they would negotiate for the entire airline industry and not just TWA. They insisted on an industry wide contract with flat pay coupled with an increase in allowable monthly hours. The negotiations had much talk but no give. Many fruitless days and countless hours of talking made clear that the parties could not reach an agreement. Neither party would budge seriously from its initial bargaining stance. The negotiations were completely stalemated. Privately, several of the pilots on the negotiating team admitted that they were in a particularly difficult spot. Some of them were in a financial bind, as were a number of their friends. In returning to their airline domicile from their previous military base, they had incurred moving expenses. Some had no savings. A monthly guarantee of $1,000 sounded like a lot of money to some captains. And the Damon team offered a raise of $20 a month to copilots who were already on flat pay, because for pay purposes they were considered as trainees. But the pilots had to look beyond their immediate financial needs. An industry wide contract would cost ALPA an important bargaining tool: It could no longer play one airline against another. It could not secure an advantage for the captains on one airline, followed by a raise for the copilots on another. Airline contracts would no longer recognize that the needs of pilots flying for short-haul carriers differ widely from those of pilots on long-haul routes. Gone would be wage differentials for flying faster airplanes, for heavier airplanes, for night flying, for training, for deadheading. If flat pay became a reality, negotiating raises of any kind would be much more difficult. Further, what if the proposed industry wide negotiations should founder? Did anyone really believe that the pilots would be allowed to strike? If industrywide negotiations failed, pilots could, in theory, strike; but that would be unthinkable in America, a country dependent upon reliable airline service. The strike and the threat of a strike would forever be foreclosed from the pilots. The TWA pilots’ Negotiating Committee spent many hours in meetings devoted to strategy and tactics. They had many frank, and sometimes heated, exchanges. The negotiators were told of copilots who had bought houses and were behind in their mortgage payments. Some desperately needed more money, and they needed it soon.

Bush Voights, a highly regarded TWA captain, was a member of the Negotiating Committee. He tried to intervene with Howard Hughes to persuade him to break with the industry. Hughes had often asked Voights to be his copilot when he flew a new airplane or engaged in some flying adventure. Other captains asked Richter for his help. But to no avail. While Richter had returned to his former desk at TWA, he appeared to have been scorned of his authority. The Negotiating Committee could find no easy way out of the dilemma. It could capitulate and accept what Damon had offered. It could continue the fruitless negotiations forever. Or it could call a strike on the airline. And so, with great reluctance, the Negotiating Committee recommended a strike. It would be the first real strike in the U.S. airline industry, and a strike for which neither side was well prepared. The TWA pilots had authorized a strike on March 26, 1946, by an 812–9 margin.

The pilots’ Negotiating Committee, together with the TWA Master Executive Council, announced the strike, stating that the airline would be shut down as of Oct. 21, 1946. And then the problems began. Although the pilots in general agreed that something drastic must be done, to some the idea of a strike was abhorrent. We consider ourselves to be professional people, they argued. True professionals do not strike. (This was well before the day when strikes were called by teachers, nurses, doctors, and various other professionals.) Many pilots, of course, feared that the company might try to break the strike. It could operate some flights using management personnel, and it might persuade some pilots to join their ranks. The strike could disintegrate. Some pilots questioned how they would get home. If the strike began when they were on a flight to Detroit, how would they get to their home base in Kansas City? And what about the pilots stationed in Frankfurt, Rome, and Cairo? Questions concerning money abounded.

The strike begins
Not only did the paychecks stop coming for pilots, they stopped also for the flight engineers, the hostesses (now known as flight attendants), the mechanics, and the other ground personnel. ALPA had no strike fund, and most of the other employees were not even organized. Some pilots in Los Angeles, New York, and Detroit managed to get part-time or temporary jobs. But in Kansas City (TWA’s largest domicile), the situation was more difficult. TWA was one of the city’s largest employers. With so many TWA employees out of a job, the city simply did not have enough available jobs to employ them. Even when an employer had a vacancy, most were reluctant to hire someone who they knew would be temporary. They knew that when the strike was over, most employees would return to TWA. ALPA President Dave Behncke had his hands full. He was doing his best to bolster the Negotiating Committee on holding the line, to get the negotiations restarted, and to provide at least some money to the out-of-work pilots. That last item was not an easy job. ALPA had no strike fund; further, it had no surplus funds at all. Some pilots had never joined ALPA. If dues were raised or an assessment for strike benefits for the TWA striking members was begun, pilots might simply quit the union. Some pilots did not fully appreciate the fact that the battle was not just between the TWA pilots and TWA management, but was a battle that would profoundly affect them all. Such pilots might continue dutifully to pay their dues, but refuse to pay strike assessments. And then what?

For several days, ALPA leaders discussed the importance of strike benefits. After all, they reasoned, the TWA That they alone should bear the trauma and uncertainties caused by a strike, in addition to all of the financial costs, was simply not fair. Eventually, the ALPA leaders voted to pay benefits to the striking pilots. The actual amounts voted were minimal, but the ALPA board members felt that these amounts were about all that the nonstriking pilots on the other airlines would be willing to contribute. But a significant precedent was established: ALPA would pay strike benefits to pilots on an authorized strike. Persuading many pilots to pay their strike assessment was difficult. ALPA had virtually nothing in its treasury, and the strike assessment funds were slow in coming in—so slow that they were not paid to the striking TWA pilots until many months after the strike had been settled.

While the financial pressures on many of the pilots were substantial, for many of the hostesses, they were severe. Poorly paid, they lived from one paycheck to the next. And when those paychecks stopped coming, the hostesses could not pay the rent. Bob Overman, a well-liked, senior captain in Kansas City, addressed that problem. At a general meeting of all Kansas City pilots, he described the seriousness of the problem. Then he passed the hat, asking every pilot who possibly could do so to contribute. Emergency loans were made to those pilots and hostesses who were truly in distress. And thus began the first airline credit union in America. Not only did TWA formally establish a credit union, ALPA did likewise. Further, ALPA members in general began to appreciate the value of an emergency plan. ALPA’s Board of Directors took a realistic look at the Association’s finances and bolstered them. Then, perhaps for the first time, the pilots recognized the importance of a realistic strike fund—not just pious hopes that striking pilots could somehow be compensated, but actual funds on hand, which could be useful in contract negotiations, since their existence could convince recalcitrant management that a strike could actually take place. And, of course, funds could be sent quickly to striking pilots in the event a strike actually was called.

Capt. Ruppenthal was a member of the TWA MEC during the strike and later served on the pilots’ Negotiating Committee for various contracts, as MEC chairman, and as executive vice-president of ALPA for a short time. He later earned a Ph.D. and taught at Stanford University.



Sunday, September 1, 2013

Frye announces First ever Shorter World Travel routes

With all of the pioneering TWA developments in air travel up to this point in 1946, our favorite airline president, Jack Frye had done it again. And you the flying public have a lot to be thankful for that Mr. Frye's impact along with his terrific TWA team made it so that traveling from the US to the Orient and Europe in the shortest amount of time would establish airline routes we have enjoyed for over 47 years now!
 
I tell you, if there ever was a story of a man's life in aviation to be told to the world on the big screen, Jack Frye's is it. Speilberg, Scorsese or whomever, are you listening? The Jack Frye blog will be happy to consult and help capture the essence of this true American hero...
 
 
Here we see Jack Frye, second from right, conferring with other airline company executives about the new shorter world travel routes. He and Northwest Airlines executives had agreed to take the lead on this new frontier after hearing many complaints from passengers that the traditional lines across the globe were just too long. So, Jack Frye, being the quintessential visionary, decided to do something about it - another notable TWA first!
 

 
First announcement of the new shorter world travel routes.
 
 
 
Here shown is retired Navy Rear Admiral H.B. Miller, recently hired in 1946 by Jack Frye to head the TWA public relations department with his first order of business being to address the consumer complaints on new world travel developments. It was a success!
 

Images courtesy WHMCKC