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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 41
Wednesday October 20, 2021

Peter Hansen Pulled Air Cargo By The Bootstraps

Peter Hansen

     You look at this picture.
     Here is Peter Hansen.
     Does he look familiar?
     Well he should, because before he died on September 9th in Cape Town, South Africa, for almost four decades from the dawn of modern air cargo, Peter was most important, and amongst his peers a very respected, down on the ground, innovative air cargo builder of the last century.
     We realize that time marching on can be ferocious and people can get lost in the shuffle.
     But, not this time.
     For air cargo, Peter Hansen simply was the whole package, back at the beginnings when creativity was the order of the day.
     Without precedent to fall back upon, Peter was the one with the know how to be a driving force for remarkable operations that were created between airline, forwarder and shipper.
     It was what Henry James described as “grasping imagination” that created airborne traffic where none had existed before.
     We will get into that a bit later.
     Peter Hansen was born in 1934 and he woke up one morning at age 10 in Hamburg and was handed a German antitank weapon and told to help defend the city.
     Fortunately, he never had to use it.
     After finishing school Peter did an apprenticeship at Paul Ahrends Ewerführerei (habor barge company) in Hamburg Harbor.
     Shortly thereafter he went on his own to England to learn English, then he moved to New York City in 1961, took some odd jobs in the city before landing a job with Lufthansa at JFK, which began his air cargo career.
     Peter worked for some years at Lufthansa based at LAX, then he moved over to Seaboard World Airlines where he worked for the great John Mahoney. Later when Flying Tigers took over Seaboard, Peter was based in Europe (FRA).
     As Flying Tigers went into FedEx, Peter was based at LON.
     Bill Boesch, as President of AA Cargo brought Peter to DFW and then to MIA. Peter finally moved to Polar Air (HGK), before he retired to CPT.
     As an early entrepreneurial air cargo man Peter was a charming, warm and outgoing individual with a very big heart, known as a good friend to many.
     A born salesman, Peter was also an excellent manager.
     “Peter lived his life to the fullest, up to just days before his passing on September 9 in Cape Town.
     “He still went swimming three times a week; went sailing on the weekends.
     “Peter also loved life, went to lunch daily with his wife Wenka,” his friend Hardy Zantke recalled.
     Hardy, it needs to be mentioned, is the son of the great, very early German air cargo journalist, Siegfried Zantke who was born 110 years ago in Germany.
     “Since COVID started we spoke every day on the telephone for 15 minutes, which was good for both of us,” Hardy recalled.
     “In early September Peter complained of dizzy spells,” Hardy said.
     “After that things and went downhill fast.
     “I asked his son Till in Hawaii, to come to Peter’s side on Monday September 7.
     “Spoke with Peter on Tuesday the 8th, as he hung on waiting for his son to arrive on Wednesday the 9th.
     “He died with his wife and son by his bedside.”
Peter, Wenka, Till and Sonya Hansen

     So who was Peter Hansen and why does he matter in 2021?
     “Peter,” Hardy recalled, “was one of the first people out there filling up airplanes with cargo.”
     While at Seaboard World, Peter worked for and alongside the aforementioned John Mahoney, who is generally regarded as a genius and father of modern air cargo thinking, the core of which was, always be creative.
     Mahoney always said that airlines were not training air cargo people as strategic thinkers, but at Seaboard with Peter and others, all of that changed.
     However, with Peter the change went into overdrive.
     Peter approached clients with factual and detailed information that beat down the popularly-held notion by traffic managers especially, to automatically decline usage of air cargo because of cost.
     Peter invited shippers to take a closer look at the then popular Total Cost Concept (TCC) as his sales approach.
     TCC determined that 59 cents out of every production dollar represents distribution costs, versus 41 cents cost of manufacture.
     Here is an example:
     Peter, as a forwarder account executive, personally introduced a California toy manufactured product to a German toy wholesaler.
     Since transport costs would be born by the purchaser, Hansen engaged him in deep seated comparison cost analysis whose results, not only favored air, but also landed Seaboard an initial cargo movement of ten tons.
     To top it all here, the air cargo movement for that California toy company was its first entry into the overseas market.
     Another outstanding example of the aforementioned “grasping imagination” at Seaboard during the Mahoney/Hansen era, was an idea borrowed from the steamships that saw the all-cargo carrier set up a subsidiary company to buy, transport and sell to the perishables industry.
     Peter travelled to Europe contacting several supermarket chain buyers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
     Peter offered fresh-picked California strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers for sale at prices that included transportation and insurance payable COD.
     Then Peter would fly to California, orders in hand and arrange for purchase from the farmers.
     Telling that story, Peter said simply:
     “When I began in air cargo we were selling on the value of the product per pound; traffic managers were time conscious.
     “Most shipments had an element of emergency attached to them.
     “We had to be self-reliant and innovative.
     “Shippers hated change from methods that they were used to,” Peter Hansen declared.
     “Our approach was:
     “What are your problems? What can we do for you?”
     “At SWA we usually came up with some ideas and an occasional breakthrough.
     “For example SWA created Third World business by working out a more economic routing system,” Peter Hansen recalled.
     “Peter and I,” Hardy Zantke recalled, “became good friends after I met him in the mid 1970’s. He was cargo sales for Seaboard and I was the forwarder setting up Deugro’s Airfreight Forwarding office at LAX.
      “We bought a sailboat together, which we shared until Flying Tigers Cargo Line moved him to FRA in the mid 1980’s.
     “After I departed from Deugro in 1980, Peter Hansen brought the late Jo Frigger (Chairman of EMO Trans) and I back together in 1982. Jo had been my first boss at Deugro when we both came from Germany and opened offices at LAX and SFO for Emo Trans.
     “I partnered with Jo, an all-time great in air cargo, sadly lost on April 19th, until my early retirement in 1995,” Hardy Zantke recalled.
     “Peter had many good friends, like the late Bill Randazzo, (Panalpina) who started Pack-Air in California, and Alfred Kuehlewind, who founded Commodity Forwarders, which he sold a few years ago to Kuehne & Nagel, and many others in the early air cargo scene,” Hardy Zantke concluded.
     At Seaboard and then throughout his career Peter Hansen was close to air cargo pioneer and TIACA Hall of Fame recipient and former President of American Airlines Cargo, Bill Boesch.
     Here Bill fondly remembers Peter.
     “Peter Hansen, I am proud to say was a friend and one of the best air cargo marketing people I have ever known.
     I first met Peter when I was with Seaboard World Airlines. When I joined Seaboard I worked in Customer Service, and was responsible for routing the pallets out of our JFK base. Peter, as usual, produced a great deal of business and the pallets he sent in were labeled EXLAX.
     “For a few years I am embarrassed to say that I thought the laxative company was one of our biggest customers.
     “When Seaboard landed its domestic authority after Airline Deregulation with the ending of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in 1978, John Mahoney, who was head of Cargo Marketing sent me to Detroit, Ned Wallace to Chicago, and Ron Hoppner was in San Francisco and Peter was already in Los Angeles.
     “When I went to American Airlines, I thought so highly of Peter that I recruited him to run the entire Caribbean cargo marketing for AA Cargo and again he did a superb job.
     “But Peter fell in love with South Africa and moved there.
     “One of my fondest memories of Peter was when he and I went to Japan to visit Yutaka Saito who was managing director for Asia/Oceania sales for American Airlines Cargo in Tokyo.
     “Peter took his young son who brought along his skateboard, which was the first time I had seen one.
     “Peter’s son became a humanity medical doctor, and he was very proud of him.
     “Buz Whalen, who was also one of the great air cargo pioneers, and Japan Airlines staff vice president cargo for the Americas, (who died just last year) gave us the tickets.
     “Another time we were having lunch in Hamburg on the lake and Peter was telling me his life story including how he met Wenka, his great wife.
     “I can picture both these moments touching each other in my memory in October 2021 like it was yesterday.
     “These moments are among the fondest memories of my life.
     “Over the years I tried to hire Peter many times to run Europe, but he would never leave South Africa.
     “Peter was a very likable person and I am fortunate to have had him in my life.
     “I can go on and on with stories about this great man but just let me say that I for one, will mourn him deeply and pray that God has welcomed him to everlasting peace.
     “Peter, I miss you!”, Bill Boesch said softly.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
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