From left: Geoffrey & Sabiha Arend with Jacques
Ancher and “Wild Thing” Jan Meurer, together for the first
time in Istanbul last Friday as Jacques joined the air cargo immortals
in the TIACA Hall of Fame.
may have “departed the building” 15 years ago, but last Friday
well-wishers gathered in a compact room as one of the truly great executives
of air cargo—a dreamer and doer unrivaled in our industry—Jacques
Ancher was finally inducted into the prestigious TIACA Hall Of Fame in
Istanbul, Turkey. During the last decade of the 20th century,Jacques made
history at KLM Cargo.
While ocean trade slipped past the picturesque
hotel windows, plying their way up from the Bosphorus to inland ports
and back out to sea, and air trade winged toward jam-packed Ataturk International
and (in a lyrical inspiration for FlyingTypers) in and out of
the only airport in the world named for a woman called Sabiha, Jacques
Ancher, a man who always loved air cargo, took the floor and hit “refresh”
on the air cargo thought process in a simple, reasonable, and direct manner.
Jacques spoke for just a few minutes and
did so without notes—straight from the shoulder and right from the
“I am still fascinated by this business.
“If you stand back and take the full
view of air cargo, what is in clear focus is that this is a multi-billon
dollar business driven by a large, dedicated group that includes the best,
most prestigious companies in the world.
“Air cargo is really and truly golden.
“Although I have gotten along in years
since we last spoke when I retired from KLM, I cannot understand why this
beautiful cargo industry is still treated in some cases as a stepchild.
“We must be doing something wrong,”
Jacques Ancher declared, as the room sat up and paid attention.
“I came here expecting to receive
an award, not to say much more, having never attended any industry events
or award dinners since I left 15 years ago.
“But once again talking to my former
colleagues and listening to your business scenarios and speeches here
tonight, especially the laudatory comments about me, I must admit I am
“I wish that they were all true,”Ancher
“But looking out on many of the people
here tonight, and how important this group is today in leading the industry,
I still feel air cargo is heading in the right direction.
“I also want to acknowledge the time
many of us had together and how we tried to change the air cargo business.
“But I’d like to also say that
in retrospect there are two things I wish I had done differently.
“I wish I had gone to both aircraft
manufacturers Boeing and Airbus and asked them to deliver airplanes without
“The reasoning is that new airplanes
without cargo capacity would make all of our lives much simpler.
“Under that scenario, when an airline
bought an airplane the decision to carry cargo would also represent a
true commitment to the air cargo business.
“The second thing I would have done
differently is the way we attempted to change air cargo by organizational
structure within our company, KLM.
“If I did it again today, I would
inspire change through innovation.
“I believe the key to change is people.
“Only through people can you change
what you are doing.
“If you can build innovation into
your structure you have a chance to win.
“In a broader sense, cargo needs innovation.
“To build innovation you must allow
your people to experiment with new ideas, to see whether they can work
or not work.
“If you do that you will change not
only people’s outlook, you will also change air cargo.
“I only have to look at my grandchildren,
with their thumbs and fingers zipping across a tiny mobile keyboard on
a cell-phone or PDA to know that innovation is accelerating change in
“Air cargo could benefit greatly by
simply looking around and building its future by innovation.”
Last Thursday, April 24, Jacques Ancher
landed in Istanbul and gave us a couple of clear thinking hours to rub
His vision lit up the night.
To paraphrase what the baseball player and
sage Yogi Berra once said:
“It was like deja-vu all over again.”
Jacques brought his own atmosphere into
the room. You could feel the air change as he moved about the place softly,
in subdued elegance, his words measured, thoughtful and full of promise.
You felt the barometric pressure rising
as he spoke.
I am absolutely certain if he were displeased
about something we might have felt the ballroom misting over last Friday.
Too bad you were not there.
Too bad we will not see his kind again soon,
if ever again, in air cargo.
Earlier at this gathering there had been
some talk about the need to attract new people into air cargo, followed
by an announcement of a TIACA-sponsored pilot program moving forward wherein
a couple dozen young people will soon gather in Netherlands for an immersion
into air cargo.
It’s not much, all things considered,
but the effort is at least a beginning.
And as it is said:
“If you can’t do better, clap.”
Part of the problem of bringing not only
young but also new people into air cargo in some cases is that the old
people do not seem to want to step aside.
A quick look around this TIACA gathering
confirms that thought.
Maybe there are “new” people
someplace else whilst all these cargo trade shows are being conducted.
In that case, maybe some of these old faces
should stay in office during the next show, say CNS Partnership or TIACA
ACF in Incheon later this year, whilst “new faces” are given
a turn to share their thoughts, hopes and dreams for a better air cargo
When it takes the oldest guy in the room,
Jacques Ancher, to point the way towards the youth— based on the
common sense observations formed while watching the grandkids—maybe
it’s time for all of us to shut up and take a lesson.
As we celebrate William Shakespeare’s
birthday this past weekend (April 26), a favorite quote comes to mind
that seems apropos of our evening with Jacques, although written four
hundred years ago:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in
our stars, but in ourselves.”