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25 Years of Success

25 Years of Success

APA was set up so as to allow the American Airlines pilots to govern their own destiny in a democratic way, and to be responsive to the membership, which has the final control.

The proposed Constitution and By-Laws of our Association contained recommendations from Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, where committees were active, plus participation from every base. All AAL pilots were represented. The By-Laws have been added to only infrequently over the years attesting to the wisdom and thoroughness of the framers. Popular acceptance was established. The officers are charged with fostering and administering programs and policies with sound planning and foresight. The governmental powers are vested in the Board of Directors and the Officers in accordance with the Constitution and By-Laws. The objectives of our non-profit Association are set forth in Article 1. There has been marked success over the years.

We progressed along with American Airlines through some trying times, but it was always the future that counted most. Our achievements were made possible with strength and with dignity. The active and loyal participation of our members, as well as responsible leadership, was a necessity. Those achievements have had a dynamic impact on the entire industry which the pilots of other airlines have benefited. There is a community of interest among all pilots, i.e., Safety and Regulation. Each carrier pilot group must be free, however, to solve its own problems in its own way and not be bound by inflexible rules formulated by others to serve the purpose of other groups of hierarchies.

The first year was a tough one for APA. The early monies to get started came from volunteers, as did the help with mailings and office work. A small cubicle of space on 114 East 40 Street, New York City, served as our first Headquarters. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Officer's wives and to all the New York pilots as well as the pilots around the system who, when on layovers in New York, pitched in to help out.

Things rapidly improved after our dues check-off procedure was in gear and our move to the 54th floor of the Chrysler Building. Mona Householder joined us there. She is still maintaining a professional office staff through five different Presidents. She deserves a lot of credit for our efficiency over the years.

By March of 1965, all understandings and agreements of the past two years were in place, including the Tripartite and our Flight Officer category. Full explanations were given our Board and at local meetings. We had completed our assignment just in time for a new Committee to prepare the Opener due May 8, for the 1965 contract. The Officers of the Association being ex-officio members of the Negotiating Committee, Joe Garvey became Chairman.

With Marion Sadler, President of American Airlines and C. R. Smith, Chairman of the Board, our relationship with the Company remained very positive through the next two contracts. The Spater era would be somewhat more difficult.

The pilot hiring program which had begun in 1964 was rapidly expanding our seniority list with projections of more to come. The training load for upgrades and new equipment was recognized as a problem both for us and the Company. A novel approach was taken for temporary relief called the Temporary Relief Duty Period (TRDP). The TRDP was essentially that all pilots would work one extra duty period each month with pay but no credit. We did not want to bastardize our basic 75 credited hour maximum month. There was a definite one-year limit: September 1, 1965 until August 31, 1966. Pay protections were built in for all pilots so that no one could lose from any status or equipment changes. Tight rules were written into this temporary Letter of Agreement. It worked well.

This document was approved by our Board of Directors on August 5 and 6 along with the 1965 contract. We were so far ahead of the industry in all provisions that it was estimated it would take many years for other pilot groups to catch up. President Sadler's statements to the Board commending the AAL pilots' professional performance and his desire to maintain his pilots in a position of leadership were well received. The Company committed to 1,050 new hire pilots.

Lest there be a misconception, this negotiation was no pushover, nor would the next one, but it was obtained in direct negotiations after a lot of hard bargaining.

While we were enjoying the benefits of our contract, ALPA was still having problems with the jurisdictional dispute with the flight engineers. Quoting from Aviation Daily of October 21, 1965: "FEIA President William A. Gill, Jr. said, the union is planning to fight what he called ALPA raids on FEIA membership at Pan American, National and TWA" . . ."that ALPA was seeking a craft and class determination on TWA and had taken steps on National and Pan American to start such action." The article further quoted: "Representatives of the National Mediation Board are of the opinion that a solution of the problem could be found if ALPA would agree to a solution along the lines of APA's Tripartite Agreement."

In 1966 American participated in a Military Air Charter (MAC) operation. Five weeks of continuous negotiations led to an agreement covering such flights. In December, we became an all turbine airline. The Electras left a couple of years later.

1967 saw great growth on AAL. We had 3,358 pilots on our roster as of June 30, compared with the 1,580 in 1964. National Officer elections were held. Nick O'Connell was again elected President, J. R. Lyons as Vice President, and Paul Atkins as Secretary-Treasurer. All National Committees were very active. We added an Astrolog and a Supersonic Transport (SST) Committee.

The 1967 contract would be opened in May and not concluded until December 20. Part of the delay could be attributed to what was happening to top management on American. President Sadler underwent major surgery during the summer. George Spater was named Vice Chairman of the Board, a position which would lead to the Presidency of AAL in early 1968. Both C. R. Smith and Sadler announced their retirements. Spater was a different breed. He did not get along that well with his own people in top management. He was a professorial type, reminiscent of Sayen, who never understood how to communicate with his employees. We had an array of different people to negotiate with. We were able, however, to reach a quite satisfactory contract with some help from the NMB. We agreed to a very good training section and to commence discussions on the Trans Pacific Operation in May of 1968. American was expecting a route award. AAL did not get quite what it wanted and delays followed.

APA had to make plans for the future with our growing numbers and problems down the road. Two members were added to the home office staff: an attorney, and a man to help in the areas of air safety, training, new equipment, etc. We were becoming a large organization.

In 1969 we would be looking to another round of negotiations, the establishment of our overseas contract, and the introduction of the 747 and DC-10 equipment. The Spater influence would be felt. There had been TWU-Mechanics strike which had shut down the whole airline for a short period. We felt we had a better hammer. We did have to rattle the cage a bit. As it turned out, even though delayed, our contract agreement reached on May 29, 1970 was one we could be proud of. It was once again the best in the industry, including International; a 4-1/2 hour minimum day; a Credit Account Plan (CAP) which places time in excess of 75 hours in an account at the rate of 1-1/4 - 1-1/2 or two minutes for each one minute above 75 hours to be repaid to the pilot only in terms of removal with pay for a trip to be flown by a fellow pilot - a new "first;" more vacation in upper and lower seniority brackets; Company paid life insurance; and pay, the highest in every category on all pieces of equipment. Nick stated in his annual report that year: "It has been reassuring to me, attending various domicile meetings, to note the interest, enthusiasm and willingness to serve evidenced by all our members. Our success during this past year must be attributed to the unity of our group. Unity displayed and practiced by all from the oldest to the youngest, the most senior to the most junior, an understanding of and dedication to the welfare of all, bodes well for the future of our group."

The period of the 70s would see some rough times for the airlines and the economy. Other airlines were experiencing layoffs in the early 70s but we had not, yet. APA membership climbed to over 99%. The next contract would face many problems and Spater. There was infighting at the top on AAL. The impact of which would funnel down through all ranks, including the pilots. There were assaults on our contractual rights and many grievances filed. Before Spater left AAL on September 18, 1973, there was general chaos and a bit of scandal. We may have provided some fuel for the fire.

In 1970 the merger bug bit American. It bought Trans Caribbean Airlines (TCA) and made an offer of merger with Western Airlines (WAL). This was the first time a pilot group has been faced with the merging of two other seniority lists at the same time. Our Merger Committee had plans well in advance and became very active. The WAL merger was turned down, but the TCA deal went through. We spent over three years and a lengthy arbitration before all problems were resolved.

1970 found APA's new Headquarters comfortably situated in Arlington, Texas. We had moved from New York by action of the Board of Directors. There were elections for National Officers. Nick O'Connell remained President, W. H. "Bud" Barry became Vice President, and W. M. Culbertson Secretary-Treasurer.

By 1972 there were furloughs on most airlines. TWA saw their seniority list depleted by over one thousand numbers. We were hit on AAL as well, but later. Our Association cushioned the blow. In 1971 an accommodation agreement was reached that kept all pilots on the payroll during the worst of the recession. The consideration for the Company was an extension of our contract for a period of ninety days. This had a desirable effect of putting us behind some other pilot group contracts, which we could build on. They had historically done this to us.

Over 300 APA members were active in committee work either on a local or national level. Skyjacking was a major concern during the early 70s. Marty Seham was actively representing us in Washington before the CAB. There were two proceedings which could vitally effect us. The carriers proposed setting up an organization called "Air Conference" which would have the power to represent all member carriers in their dealings with various labor organizations. One of the organizers, Spater of American, reminded us of the 1940s. The other matter concerned the carriers Mutual Aid Pact, with origins in 1958, which allowed operating airlines to subsidize other carriers which are on strike. Both these ventures would eventually disappear.

The 1972 contract negotiations carried over to 1973 before a settlement was reached on April 2. It was not easy. A strike vote had to be taken. Nick could have landed in jail, if he could have been found. Negotiations continued under the auspices of the NMB and the U.S. Labor Department Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C. George Warde had been made President of AAL during 1972, under Spater. This helped to end the ordeal in April of 1973.

APA celebrated its tenth anniversary shortly thereafter with a good contract, the TCA arbitration nearly completed and 3,444 pilots on the payroll. All furloughed TCA pilots had been recalled plus approximately 199 new hires were added to our list. We were financially sound. Our very democratic ways had served us well and was our strongest forte. Some had predicted otherwise. The Incumbent National Officers were returned to office.

With Spater's resignation from American in September, C. R. Smith returned as Chairman for a short time to straighten out the mess at the top. We were not sorry to see Spater leave, but Warde had been a friend. C. R. Smith went outside the Company and picked Albert V. Casey as President of American Airlines. C. R. Smith quit and Casey became President February 20, 1974.

Casey proved a very good choice. He was a take charge kind of guy and personable. Donald Lloyd-Jones was a Senior Vice President. We had two men at the top level with whom we could communicate. Within two months Casey was made Chairman of the Board as well as President.

During the latter part of 1973 while C. R. Smith was still around, APA negotiated a Supplemental Agreement to stem the massive furloughing. The Mid-East oil boycott had reversed American's plan for expansion to one of pilot overages. The Agreement accepted by the APA Board of Directors spread the misery somewhat and saved 354 of our members from furlough. It did not make everybody happy, but it was about the best that could be made of a lousy situation.

American's Pacific routes, which were money losers, were exchanged for some of Pan American's Caribbean destinations in 1974. APA fought against this but to no avail.

The 1975 contract was signed well before the amendable date with little difficulty. Our relationship with management was better than it had been in years. The fortunes of American Airlines were on the upturn and we were going with them.

American had the best safety record in the industry. The first accident in ten years happened in 1976 at St. Thomas. There would be much effort spent in protecting the crew and shutting down the St. Thomas operation on AAL as unsafe under those airport conditions. The National Officer elections of 1976 found J. R. Lyons President, Robert Malone Vice President, and William Culbertson Secretary-Treasurer. One of the first orders of business was the successful investigation and handling of the St. Thomas matter.

The 1977 contract was signed before the amendable date. This was a first instance that two back-to-back agreements had been reached in record time. Our continuing good relationship with management made it possible. We still maintained the best overall agreement in the industry. Charles A. Pasciuto, Vice President Labor Relations, handled the negotiations for the Company. He had been around for some time. He was tough but someone we could trust and work with. We had to be just as tough. Somehow we always managed to surmount the troubled areas.

The recall of all furloughed pilots had been completed and the newly hired had brought our seniority list to 3,715. Copilot pay percentages had been increased in this contract as well as pay of reserve pilots and much improved deadhead pay and credit provisions. We wanted no member to feel left out. We had the best retirement provisions of any airline. In 1978 we added the agreed-to option of Lump Sum.

The Company, after the shutdown at St. Thomas, wanted to operate a service that did not involve our pilots or aircraft. The Agreement that let them accomplish this, on a limited basis, led to the new "Scope" agreement which we now have in the Contract. Marty Seham was very instrumental in accomplishing and authoring the contents of our Supplemental Agreement at that time.

During late 1978 and the 1979 period, American Airlines was making a corporate decision to move their Headquarters to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It was done during the summer of 1979.

As of June 30, 1979 we were in good shape financially, we had 4, 228 pilots on our seniority list, a retirement "B" fund which had increased from some $41 million in 1964 to over $500 million in 1979. (Today it is nearly $1.5 billion.) We had done a little fore-sighting in that area. Our position of a "best" contract for the pilots of America's leading airline was always maintained. Protection of the basics was the primary objective in negotiations; the 75 hour credited monthly maximum, the benefits package, and especially working conditions. Future effects were always considered as well as overall content. Any week spots in our agreements were ultimately beefed up. Patience was sometimes required as it took considerable time to accomplish some of our desires. We did, though, with the solidarity and support of all the AAL pilots. If we are to expect the best, we must give our best.

Pilots hired in the 1960s were encouraged to actively participate in Association affairs. They did. The Officers elected in 1979 were Robert Malone President, Fred Vogel Vice President, Francis Fosdick Secretary-Treasurer.

The governmental forces were busy with "deregulation" of the airline industry. They were not sympathetic with the role of commercial pilots and their position of influence. It would be a new ball game. What this would mean to the airlines and the pilots would be felt in the 1980s.

Robert Crandall was made President of American Airlines on July 16, 1980. No doubt that American will continue to be the "best" airline in the free world and that APA can and will be the best pilot group in the industry.

It was gratifying to get back to just flying airplanes the last year of my career with American. The story of the 1980s can best be written by those who were there. The Association is in good hands. You have doubled your numbers again. The future is up to you. If this brief history of the earlier days can in any way be helpful, I will be pleased.

August, 1989

J. R. Lyons