spent a wonderful evening last Thursday (February 18)
sitting with Ed Chism, recently retired Cargo Manager,
USA Emirates Sky Cargo, Duncan Watson, VP Cargo Commercial
Operations America, Middle East, & GCC, and a couple
hundred “close friends” at an event to honored
and celebrate Ed’s retirement.
It was a very lovely,
stylish encounter at The Garden City Hotel in Long Island,
New York. There were good people, warm surroundings,
and fine food and drink, with Emirates handling everything
with grace and ease.
I kept thinking about
May 19, 1927, nearly 89 years to the day, when The Garden
City Hotel hosted Charles Lindbergh. He woke the morning
of May 20th and took the short drive to Roosevelt Air
Field, where he climbed into the cockpit of his tiny
monoplane, “Spirit of St. Louis,” and took
off for Paris, France, landing May 21, the first man
to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.
All Emirates SkyCargo—from left
to right, Bruce White, Eddie O'Neill, Brendan Furlong,
Nabil Sultan, Ed Chism and Hiran Pereira.
Saying his goodbyes after
a stellar 50-year career in air cargo, Ed, who speaks
in very soft tones that demand proper listening, said:
“I owe all that
has happened to the wonderful people who surround me—my
family, my lifelong friends and our wonderful people
at Emirates, who are the best in air cargo.”
Ed then asked:
“Would the people
from Emirates raise your hands?”
A split-second later he
raised both his arms at the audience and said, “higher!”
What simple, heartfelt,
uplifting evidence of the closeness and love shared
in the Emirates community.
Ed then said, “I
love you too!”
Ed's class, heart, and
very tender goodbye and farewell were extraordinary
and shared by everyone in the room last Thursday.
Amongst all the people
I have ever known in my life, Ed Chism is certainly
one of the greatest. Among other things, he lifts people.
And he does it speaking
in a whisper.
Later Duncan smiled and
said, “Ed's people would do anything, including
walking on hot coals, for him.”
truly was a great leader,” Duncan Watson said.
“Our job at Emirates
SkyCargo has been made ever so much easier by Ed Chism.
“I have only worked
with Ed directly for the last two years but can say
that this has been a very enjoyable experience for me
and I learned a lot from him.
“He is a truly respected,
well liked, and professional person who delivers with
a unique style and character all his own,” Duncan
of the USA business under Ed’s stewardship both
as GSA since 1993 and as Emirates SkyCargo in 2004 has
“The growth followed
from the first New York flight launched in 2004 to 12
destinations serving with passenger flights and freighters.
“This now results
in a business in robust health and ready for the next
stage of growth and development as it is being handed
on to the new management team,” Duncan concluded.
Pan Am To Emirates
once in a lifetime (or in my racket, if you are really
lucky, a couple of times), you get to talk to somebody
who truly lights up the room.
It is Ed Chism’s
presentation, experience, wisdom, positive point of
view, and cutting right to the chase that sets this
air cargo executive apart.
Ed has been in the cargo
business since Lyndon Johnson was U.S. President.
He has been humping and
moving freight around the world since he was 19 years
He has risen in the air
cargo industry from an entry clerk at PAA to waking
up one day and having the rather sad and thankless task
of closing down Pam Am Clipper Cargo altogether at Building
67, JFK, when the great airline was finally grounded
forever in December 1991.
“I was always fascinated
with airplanes and the airlines.
“A friend of mine
worked for American Airlines so I asked him if there
were any jobs at AA and he said no, but that he heard
that Pan Am was hiring.
“So at 19 I went
to JFK PAA Hangar 14, put in an application and they
asked me if I could type and I replied:
“They told me there
were some openings in cargo and although I wasn’t
much interested in the field, I indicated interest,
figuring that was a good way to get my foot in the door.
(Photo Left) Pictured at JFK Air Cargo Expo
2005are (L to R) Ed Chism, D0lores Hofman, Queens
Air Services Development, Air Cargo Association
President, Jim Larsen. (Photo Right) Isaac Nijankin
and Ed Chism.
“Air cargo is where
I started and stayed for the past 43 years.
“I worked for Pan
Am for 25 years.
“I had actually
started in Building 67 the week it opened, driving a
forklift in Import on the midnight shift with Tuesdays
and Wednesdays off.
“We were not automated
much at the time except for the Flow Access System,
which was basically the first FedEx system several decades
before that company went into business.
“Building 67 was
designed for B707s so most cargo were small packages.
“The system was
not perfected, and when the B747s came on, we ripped
it out so that we could build up containers and pallets
and other unitized freight.
“I did all the jobs
and finally worked in a satellite unit in the passenger
terminal that coordinated the freight on and off the
flights as my first management experience.
“Later as a supervisor
and a duty manager in both import & export, I moved
up to director of ramp operations at a time when JFK
International was Pan Am hub for six B747 freighters.
“At that point I
was in charge of postal activities, cargo ramp, and
also coordinating freight, both passenger and all cargo.
“When in the mid
1980s Clipper Cargo headquarters moved from Manhattan
to Building 67, my job under Thor Johnson was worldwide
director of sales and services, where I served until
the airline shut down.
“Looking back, I
learned everything at Pan Am.
to U.S. Customs to all the regulatory authority requirements
to security, you did it all—you had to do it all
and that was it.
(Photo left) Emirates launched service to
JFK in October 2004. Celebrating the service from
l to r were Ed Chism, Russ Rumenik, Bruce White
and Peter Sedgley—several generations of
air cargo expertise. Shortly after this snap occurred,
Mr. Ed & Co. started filling up the flights.
(Photo Right) At TIACA 2000 in Washington, D.C.,
left to right—Prakash Nair, Emirates SkyCargo
Manager Network Cargo Sales Development: Ram Menen,
Emirates SkyCargo Divisional Senior Vice President
Cargo and Ed Chism.
“I guess my entrepreneurial
spirit was greatly helped along by that experience because
just after the airline went out of business, I declined
to join Pan Am II, preferring to open my GSA company
at JFK International off airport in Springfield Gardens.
“We had several
companies that we conducted various tasks for, including
consulting, but Emirates was among our first accounts,
and eventually Emirates grew into our biggest.
began with a presentation for Ram Menen, which he accepted.
“In 1993, Emirates
began booking air cargo in USA; as an offline carrier
we had zero revenue as we began moving freight via interline
partners from New York to Emirates’ London flights.
“As my GSA company
expanded, we set up two Emirates freighter flights weekly
from JFK to Dubai.
“Initially the freighter
flights grew nicely in the scheme of things, as those
flights were always full and continued up until Emirates
began flying into New York from Dubai non-stop.
“Emirates is truly
a great airline.
“If you want to
draw comparisons between Emirates and Pan Am there is
no comparison from an air cargo viewpoint.
is far superior to anything Pan Am Clipper Cargo did
or hoped to become, even in its heyday.
Ed Chism with longtime friend and colleague
Work To Be Done
“The big challenge
to the air cargo industry ahead continues to be about
the same as before, and that is getting forwarders and
governments to endorse and practice utilizing paperless
air cargo or e-freight.
“Here, America is
a good example of the problem of putting e-freight into
“In some cities
you can do paperless business with exports, but not
“In other cities
it can be the other way around, while in yet other USA
destinations it can be all shipments or worse—not
allowing e-freight as part of the supply chain process
that for real change, there has to be a collaborative
effort across the board, but no one seems to know how
and when that will happen.”
Often when talking to
Ed he says:
go outside and have a smoke.”
Without a word we stand
outside as Ed continues the conversation, cigarette
it,” Ed said, “change, whatever the need,
comes very slowly to air cargo. Aside from some information
technology driven by the Internet and newer handling
systems that have come on line during the past twenty
years, the air cargo business has not changed all that
much over time.
“You still make
out airwaybills, do consolidations, and then book the
cargo on a flight.
“Pallets are still
built and airplanes are still loaded as they always
were in air cargo.”
"The real magic in
air cargo," Ed says waving his cigarette, "is
keeping it simple, letting everyone know what to expect
and always staying close to your customer."
We said goodbye to Ed
Chism last Thursday with some promises to get together
Ed Chism pictured with
(ltor) the late Sir Maurice Flanagan and Nigel Page.
through that conversation with Ed I can recall a time
when New York was the center of the universe for some
truly great air cargo executives who served the famous
international flag airlines and freight forwarders,
during an era when the top USA gateway was here—the
jewel in the crown of any international air cargo business.
These few dozen people
in various positions, from the top to the bottom, seated
in offices on and around JFK International Airport,
changed history over decades, and (among other achievements)
gave birth to industry groups like CNS and TIACA to
create much of what we know today as organized air cargo.
There is still some of
that breed out there among us, like Ed Chism, Thor Johnson,
Guenter Rohrmann, John Ryan, Barry Lennihan, Jerry Trimboli
and others who showed up to bid Ed Chism farewell.
They gave Ed Chism a plaque
festooned with a silver dhow, the ancient Arabian trading
This last glimpse of him surrounded
by admirers in the hotel where Lindbergh also had a
big night inspired nostalgic thoughts and a sense of
But now we just wish him well,
sharing the hope of everyone in that room that Mr. Ed
and family have many happy landings in a multitude of