As James pointed out in a previous post, I "moonlight" as a contributing editor for Airways magazine. (And, I promise, "cross my heart and wanna die," that I didn't put him up to writing the post!) The publication recently held a dinner in Seattle where the public could meet the editorial staff, and thanks to Southwest's generosity, I was able to invite some of our folks who work in the Seattle area. (click on pic to enlarge) This includes Bill Rogers (l), who represents Southwest at the Boeing plant in Renton; next to Bill is Eli Rodriguez, our Seattle Station Leader; followed by Richard Juen, a Seattle Operations Supervisor; and on the right is Stuart Shrum, a Seattle Customer Service Supervisor.
The event was held at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, with a private tour of the facility followed by a reception in the Red Barn, which was Boeing's original factory. The dinner was held in one of the Museum's conference rooms and featured salmon from the Pacific Northwest.
The guest speaker for the evening was Steven Udvar-Hazy, who is the Chairman of International Lease Finance Corporation, a company that leases over 800 aircraft to airlines around the world. In addition, Mr. Udvar-Hazy donated millions of his personal money to fund the Smithsonian's magnificent Steven F.Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, where Southwest just started service!
I found several personal comparisons with Mr. Udvar-Hazy (although I am no way as successful as he is!). Both he and I took our first airplane trips in 1954. I flew on a DC-3, and he flew with his family on a Soviet copy of the DC-3, an Li-2. Both of us grew up as airline "nuts," and in 1958 after his family escaped the Soviet occupation of Hungary, he and his family eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1962. That was the same year my family moved to LA, and we both hung around LAX as much as possible. He also began collecting airline timetables then, as did I, and we both have kept our collections.
In the audience question and answer session, I asked him to talk about his relationship with the Smithsonian. The Institute was trying to raise over $100 million to finance the Dulles facility, and they were looking for a lead corporate sponsor. He wanted to show his gratitude to America for all our country has meant to him, and he donated over half of the Smithsonian's goal. Other companies then pitched in the rest. All Americans, and all aviation enthusiasts everywhere should be grateful for his generosity.