Talking about air cargo, its origin and fascinating
history, you often stroll through memories to
discover some unexpected sparkles in the ashes
of the past.
Real pearls of another
era that still linger on in present times.
For myself, I started
in 1968 at Aeroground Services as a warehouse
My career continued
in the early seventies at Pan Am Cargo as cargo
representative, and later at Seaboard World Airlines
and before the 70’s closed I returned to
Pan Am Cargo in 1980.
My time with Seaboard
or SWA in Amsterdam I will never forget, nor my
years with the Pan Am family.
Because we were
families in the air cargo industry, competitors
or not, the memories and relationships have lingered
over the years.
We did what we felt
right to do and kept communication amongst ourselves
You never knew when
you needed each other; operationally, technically
or in competitive marketing deals.
Things changed amongst
the major airlines in air cargo over the years,
but that’s life’s evolution.
a natural process.
So coming from the
times that the air cargo industry in Holland belonged
to names like Henk Schiphorst, John Vuursteen,
Cees Uittenbogaard, Wibo Aris, Frank Volavsek,
Gerard van Eekhout, Adriaan and Walter Bierman,
Ad Scheepbouwer, Peter Legro, Leo de Haas, Rene
Smit and Ohta San, to name just a few offers me
(and you dear reader) a brief encounter with another
time and group of air cargo people.
Once upon a time
in the international air cargo field, as a youngster
you met and looked up to people like Colin Witt,
Ralph Wuergler, Jerry O’Driscoll, Bill Boesch,
John Mahoney and in particular John V. Keenan
and Al Levinson:
“Give me a
Genever, son, and 4 of these lovely salted raw-herrings,”
was Al all the way.
Those were fascinating,
bigger than life air cargo times in Holland.
So many names passed,
so many names stayed.
But at Schiphol
Airport there was an enigma...
In 1969, Frank Volavsek,
General Manager of Seaboard World Airlines in
the presence of John F. Vuursteen, his Sales Manager
at that time, handed over the root of a Sequoia
Gigantea to Mr. Douwes Dekker, Managing Director
of the Schiphol Airport Authority during an official
ceremony at Schiphol.
event was held to commemorate the first ever DC8-freighter
flight between the American West Coast and Schiphol
The date was the
October 16, 1969 to be precise.
The initiative of
Seaboard to plant what in two or three hundred
years might become a giant California Redwood
Tree was soon followed by other airlines.
But only 3 trees
survived over the years in the special ocean-climate
that is the Low-Lands here.
Over the four decades
since it was planted despite storms, the salty
atmosphere near the ocean and even drought, the
SWA Sequoia has pushed ever skyward.
Along the way, even
though SWA and almost everybody else was long
gone, ever watchful John F. Vuursteen who followed
in the footsteps of Frank Volavsek in his position
at Seaboard World Airlines, in the capacity of
Director Benelux & Scandinavia, kept the SWA
tradition high in seeking the well-being of what
both considered “their tree”.
In 1994, Frank and
John arranged a personal celebration, commemorating
the Sequoia’s 25th anniversary; a now 40ft
or 12 meter beauty.
John had became
a very successful GSA at the airport he loved
Even after John
retired 11 years ago he (now 76), remained entangled
and ever watchful of the fate of “Their
Last year, when
I met John again, we were discussing old ‘cargo
times’ when he pointed out that the ‘The
Ol’ Lady’ was still alive and kicking
at the airport and now was a 20 meters or 66 foot
I proposed to take
some special pictures of the occasion.
John was very glad
to co-operate and tried hard to find Frank Volavsek’s
Regretfully we found
out that Frank died only 4 weeks before the planned
photo-shoot at Schiphol.
Frank is gone, but
will be not forgotten.
So here are some
tokens of life within life. John F is still pushing
the old lady as you can see.
And for myself ?
I am proud to have
been part of a Sequoiavian World of Giants.
And Food for Thought
. . .
The average lifespan
of the Sequoia Gigantea is 3,500 years.
Now, ask yourselves,
who will survive ?
Lady” or . . . Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
I hope both will.
(Jos van der Woensel,
Hoofddorp – The Netherlands)
(Editors Note: This story first appeared
in September 2009. It was written by my dear friend
Jos van der Woensel (pictured right) who had been
around air cargo long enough to be able to landscape
it. Jos died March 1, 2011, after having worked
in air cargo for 37 years, retiring in 2005. Jos
continued as an accomplished photographer and
writer documenting life in retirement.