On September 25, 2020, Ethel Lund
Pattison will retire.
Let me state matter-of-factly that we will
not see anyone quite like her again.
Her retirement won’t be accompanied
by the multi-million dollar rewards bestowed upon pampered airline executives
for the accomplishment of losing billions of dollars.
So let us resolve that at least her retirement
will garner the respectful attention that Ethel deserves.
A Very Special Lady
What makes this retirement so special? I’m
glad I asked.
In January 2006, Los Angeles’s Board
of Airport Commissioners named a rose garden adjacent to the Clifton A.
Moore Administration Building (the old ATC tower) at LAX in honor of Ethel.
The occasion was to mark Ethel’s 50th
anniversary of service at LAX and was the most years of service of any
active employee of the airport department. That was 14 years ago!
Pattison joined the Department of Airports’
public relations staff in January 1956 to launch the LAX Tour and Education
Program for local school students and service organizations. Ethel was
promoted to the position of chief airport tour guide in 1961.
Ethel Today Is 94
The 94 years-young Ethel Pattison has now
accumulated 64 years of service at LAX. To
provide historical perspective, Ethel had already worked at LAX for almost
four years when she saw Nikita Khrushchev arrive ahead of his Camp David
meetings with then-President Eisenhower in late September 1959.
A Brief Encounter
I met Ethel in February 2016 while researching
a piece I would write for FlyingTypers on the Beatles’ arrival at
LAX at the beginning of their first major U.S. tour in September 1964.
I had visited LAX’s Flight Path Museum several times and knew it
contained a trove of photos and historical documents, so hoped to source
material for my article there.
I felt optimistic when I secured a meeting
with a woman whose title was Airport Information Specialist.
I immediately felt even better when I saw
that she already had several black & white photos of the Beatles’
arrival on the wall next to her desk.
I felt celebratory when she identified herself
as the woman walking behind a young Paul McCartney in one of the photos.
I was not just meeting someone who could provide documents about the Beatles’
arrival. I was meeting someone who rode in a decoy limousine used to divert
fans from the limo actually carrying the Beatles.
To this Beatlemaniac, it felt like meeting
an extra who’d had a speaking role in A Hard Days Night. For that
story, click here.
My southern mother instilled that a gentleman
never asks a lady her age. I would not have guessed that the ebullient
woman I met had already circled the sun 90 times by then. Ethel knew precisely
where all materials were and generously shared copies with me but in our
discussions, she needed no notes. Her recall was richly detailed and aligned
perfectly with reports completed by airport operations and marketing staff
As we walked, Ethel provided first-hand
accounts of many more celebrities and politicians whose arrivals are captured
in photographs lining the Museum’s walls. How many airports saw
more celebrities than LAX during those years?!! The conversation never
Ethel Began At United Airlines
If somehow anyone in our industry is still
unimpressed by the singularity of Ethel’s career, let me add that
Ethel’s career in aviation did not begin with her 64 years at LAX.
Ethel’s aviation career began as a
flight attendant for United Airlines and she has served as past national
and Los Angeles chapter president of Clipped Wings, the UA flight attendant
In a 2018 interview for an article in The
Telegraph, Pattison recounted graduating from USC (the University
of Southern California) where Pattison met a sorority sister who had already
become a “stewardess” for United. Pattison was accepted and
entered United’s training program in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1951.
Ruled Out Because of Marriage
Pattison’s flight attendant career
ended when she married. A 1966 New York Times classified ad for stewardesses
at Eastern Airlines stipulated the following requirement: “single
(widows and divorcees with no children considered)”. Pattison observed
the following in The Telegraph article: “The flight attendants
these days are very good at what they do. And they stay a long time –
because they can, and they aren’t discriminated against, as I was.
If you’re young nowadays, you can’t imagine someone telling
you to stop doing your job because you’re getting married.”
Always For The Love of Flight
Adding Pattison’s United stint, Ethel’s
retirement comes nearly 70 years after she began her air transportation-related
career. I am grateful that at least a few hours in those years were made
available to me. I have met numerous airline executives, airport directors
and powerful politicians. Many were only memorable because of the power
represented by their positions. Ethel Pattison stands out because of the
substance of her character and the herculean feat of maintaing an abundance
of enthusiasm for this industry after so many decades. Bon voyage, Ethel.
I am so glad to have met you.
Note: Many were surprised 3 years ago when Austin, TX-based
Mike Webber closed his successful 16-year-old cargo consulting practice
to join global behemoth Landrum & Brown (L&B, owned by DAR Group).
Webber always struck us as too independent
for such a setting but was obviously proud of the cargo team he’d established at L&B, so we were surprised again when Webber
announced his departure from L&B in May 2020.
Webber’s moves were closely tracked
by former clients and by airport consulting firms far more comfortable
partnering with a niche cargo planner, so Webber is busy again. Webber
observes that the ongoing pandemic has complicated his methodology at
the expense of on-site interviews and that pandemic responses are part
of every conversation. Still, demand for his services has not been diminished
but rather has grown with an almost even mix of international and domestic
Based in one of America's greatest music
towns, Webber is also managing music talent and helping to produce a documentary
about a 1970s Southern California Punk Rock band. On several occasions,
FT readers have had the opportunity to enjoy his writing on music-related
topics - the Beatles' arrivals at JFK and LAX,
as well as trips through his beloved former hometowns Kansas City and New
Orleans. Webber's spare time at conferences finds him hunting rare
vinyl records and hanging out in live music clubs.