have called CNS Partnership a lot of things over its first quarter century,
but the gathering has never been slow or late in providing a first-class
venue for conducting business.
Credit the individual who dreamed up the
Partnership Conference in the first place—former CNS President Tony
Calabrese (1986/2006)—for ensuring there was plenty of time (and
space) for cargo executives to feel they had discovered the perfect spot
to cut a deal all by themselves.
“When I started at CNS, the airlines
and the forwarders, even the airlines and airlines, barely spoke to each
other,” Tony recalled.
“What happened right from the very
first Partnership Conference in 1986 is that everybody discovered, through
understanding, that our supposed differences were more myth than fact.”
Tony Calabrese shepherded
this North American gathering (which began in 1991) for 15 years until
his retirement in 2006. He recalls those years as quite positive for air
cargo as well as for himself.
“I never went to work one day at CNS
that I was not glad to be there.
“I was part of the original board
that put CNS together and into business.” For the record, CNS was
born from IATA losing its anti-trust immunity, a consequence of the Competitive
Marketing investigation and subsequent deregulation, which is the reason
that the American-based organization had to keep an arm’s length
relationship with IATA for many years.
“For years we struggled for recognition
and many people thought CNS was no more than the CASS settlement system.
“To change that perception, we started
CNS Focus as a four-page newsletter and sent it around to our members.
“While attending a luncheon at the
Wings Club I had mentioned to an IATA official that I was with CNS and
the reply was an enthusiastic: ‘Oh yes, that is my favorite news
“We had a good laugh at that one,
but the comment told us we needed to do some work at defining CNS to people
in the world at large.
“CNS Focus as a publication certainly
helped raise awareness, but I felt that there was still more work to do.
“So we began The CNS Partnership Conference.
But I wanted our conference to be different. To us ‘Partnership’
was never about CNS, it was more about industry stakeholders’ objectives
and needs. We never looked at the event as a big money-maker either, but
rather our approach was to do what was good for air cargo.
“The purpose was to bring airlines
and forwarders together. From that simple premise we held our first conference
in Tarpon Springs (near Tampa), Florida. We set up meeting tables of ten
places each in the hall and assigned luck of the draw seating to everyone.
“The idea right out of the gate was
to keep people from congregating with co-workers or best friends. We wanted
to stimulate the conversation, the floor discussion, even debate.”
“I recall 97 people showed up for
that first Partnership Conference and half again as many for our second
gathering a year later in Dallas.”
As CNS Partnership celebrates 25 gatherings
this week, it’s good to remember the dedication and hard work from
the man who transmuted good ideas into a great transportation organization—Tony
Calabrese made CNS great by carrying the organization around on his shoulders
from day one.
Tony Calabrese began his career in transportation
as a bicycle messenger in Manhattan. “Our
offices were on East 36 Street, just down the block from Emery Airfreight.
Often my assignment was to pedal my bike over to the big daily newspapers
of the day to deliver celebrity photographs that were shot out at Idlewild
When he retired, Anthony Calabrese handed
over a first-class industry force to the future of air cargo. Tony was
a master at making CNS unique and vital while keeping IATA at arms’
length, paying tribute to be sure, but guarding its independence, special
character, and industry role. Once upon a time, CNS had an abundance of
that New York ingredient, steeped in JFK cargo history and legendary characters.
It was a time, Tony recalled, when every airline had a major headquarters
in North America and an executive presence that made transportation superstars
out of air cargo people. At CNS during the 1980s, and in truth right up
to his retirement, there was always a lot happening, but Tony never coveted
the limelight; quite the opposite, he preferred to stay in the background,
making things work. Characteristically, Tony is still giving much of the
credit for CNS to others.
“Guenter Rohrmann was a very dynamic
board member and Chairman of CNS.
“During those years, the CNS Board—both
airlines and forwarder members—really gave the organization purpose.”
“It was the CNS members who carried
the ball and helped make things work.” People like Cotton Daly (TWA),
Buz Whalen (JAL), Pat Phelan (Aer Lingus), Ed Mortiz (British), Isaac
Nijankin (Varig), Jerry Trimboli (SAS), Bill Boesch (AA), Dave Brooks
(AA), Jim Friedel (NWA), and of course others, including brokers and forwarders
like Joel Ditkowsky and Jo Frigger (EMO Trans).
“From the media, Dick Malkin, carried
his more than 50 years of experience in air cargo forward, and was available
to shape and guide the early development of our magazine, CNS Focus.
"Although Dick cautioned us early on
about the idea of an Airline/Agent Forum, The CNS Partnership Conference,
he stood up to every task and made things much better by his kind advice
and constant presence as a major contributor to the CNS Partnership Conference.
"His surveys and analysis gave CNS
new insights about the world of air cargo, which enhanced our programs.
“I am reluctant to name names because
leaving someone out can cause an unnecessary slight. Safe to say, all
the people who we worked with who helped lift our CNS idea are in a special
place and we still think about them.
“Often someone we have not thought
about for years will be recalled because of an incident or a project we
once shared. The memories are mostly positive and I am very grateful to
have shared them. Our best work has been bringing the industry together.”