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   Vol. 18 No. 36
Monday May 20, 2019

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Somebody once asked the great photographer Ansel Adams to identify what makes a picture great. He said: “There are always two people in the picture: the photographer and the viewer.”
     We are sitting in the lower lobby of the Trump golf resort, host to a rousing CNS Partnership Conference for 2019. Above our table are some wonderful pictures of Ben Hogan, a top golfer in the 1930s and 40s.
     As he closes in on his second year of serving as President of American Airlines Cargo, it is fair to say that Richard (Rick) Elieson guided the freight fortunes of the world’s largest airline with a steady hand.
     Rick Elieson is also a great photographer. Not just great because he knows how to handle a camera. In this age where everybody seems to be a phone photographer, Rick has the ability to snap stunning, original photos of wildlife in their natural settings.
     Rick is also a futurist, and as our conversation continued, he always pivoted towards looking ahead. But who could have guessed that this story would be about the wild things happening in Cargo? It’s very cool when vocation and avocation come together with the possibility to make the going great.

Customer Meetings In Phoenix

     “We just had our annual partner event where we bring in several dozen business partners and focused on innovation, not only what is happening in Cargo, but also across the airline. We gave them the ability to focus on what we are up to from an innovation perspective, not just in air cargo but also from the rest of American, which will eventually have some impact on our cargo offerings.
     “We brought in experts from all over the airline to say, “here is what we are doing” rather than “here are some ideas and concepts.”
     “As you can imagine the menu was quite interesting, but the pilot program we are currently running with baggage garnered the most attention.”

Keeping Track In The Picture

     The program, which is not RFID or Bluetooth, is looking at an alternative system to keep track of baggage, and perhaps eventually cargo. “We are working on a new baggage tracking technology that does not require expensive RFID tags, or other types of media, and it is more accurate than barcodes or RFID. When you check your bag, the system captures detailed data about your bag and as the bag moves through the system, we can use those details with a high level of precision to identify the bag at subsequent points in the process. “All of this without any expensive bagtags (RFID) or other devices attached.”
     “What’s more,” Rick smiles, “if the bag was somehow damaged, it would still be identifiable and we would have much better data to determine exactly where the damage occurred."

Got His Goat

     “Our top priority is digitizing things.
     “Here are some examples.
     “Last year we were shipping a goat. So sure enough the AWB is stapled on the outside of the crate.
     “And somewhere along the way the goat ate most of the air waybill.
     “On one hand, I suppose the goat thought the meal came with our first class animal transport service, but the reality was he couldn’t quite get to the phone number on the AWB, so we were able to get him to his destination for dessert!”
     "That’s a simple example of why we have to digitize,” Rick said.
     “Another example, knowing my love for photography, was illustrated when I recently received a picture of a trucker sitting with an old manual typewriter on his lap, attempting to make an edit to an airway bill.
     “I just thought, nice picture, but since when do we require people to have to move backwards to make simple changes?
     “Stuff happens so we are going digital and that means speed and accuracy,” Rick said.

An American Hackathon

     Dear reader, you have probably heard the term “hackathon,” but you may not be sure of what it means.
     A hackathon is most commonly associated with hackers or computer programmers.
     However, while hacking typically involves computers, hackathons are primarily events where groups of people gather to “hack” an idea.
     At these major events, people come together to take an idea and turn it into something real using technology.

Cargo Cosplay Hackathon

     “Technology is not only at play here; American Airlines Cargo is also about process change,” Rick said.
     “We have done two hackathons in the last month,” Rick said.
     “One was just for the cargo unit as a first-time venture that was quite focused on IT and business procedures and was really cool.
     “The second was our annual corporate hackathon that included everybody, meaning more than 1,000 team members from all over the airline.
     “For the corporate hackathon we always dress up in a Star Wars theme.
     “So I’m dressed as Han Solo, the freighter pilot, and one of our guys, Steven Liest is dressed up as Chewbacca,
     “We had a lot of fun while sharing and learning some new ideas.”

The Terrible Twos

     We made reference at the top of this story that Rick has been in place atop American Airlines Cargo for just over two years now.
     When we ask for a ‘self-report card’ of his time as President so far, asking if he is feeling the “terrible twos,” the response is immediate.
     “I love two-year-olds,” Rick says, obviously speaking from personal experience.
     “They cannot speak very well, but they communicate their thoughts clearly.
     “Two year olds are super fun because of that.
     “You see the growth but their communication skills are yet to be fully developed.”
     Question answered, and the thought that this guy is too cool for school is left hanging in the air.
     Rick adds:
     “What I really love about our team is their collaborative ability.
     “We have joint ownership over the entire business.”

Attitude Replaces Altitude

     “My direct staff is head of operations, head of sales, head of marketing, finance, accounting, etc.
     “When a problem emerges, the spirit of our team comes to the forefront because we are in a really good place believing challenges and rewards belong to everybody.
     “We just made some staff changes, but my top priority was maintaining the non-proprietary attitude of our people, including no retreating into silos.
     “Together we own this, this is our business. How do we solve it is the focus today at American Airlines Cargo.”

The Passion

     “One thing I am working on for American Airlines Cargo and probably will be forever is gaining more intimate knowledge of how the air cargo business works, and continually keeping up with the rapid changes in the industry.
     “From lithium batteries in shipments to learning what else we can do to enhance our understanding of all the drivers around us in the logistics business, it is a constant learning experience.
     “For example, how you promote personal and professional development of team members is not something that has a finish line, but rather something that you always work to improve,” Rick Elieson declares.

Reading A Book As It Reads You

     “I am passionate about education and always reading a book.
     “A lot of the reading I do is in the car listening to audio books during my commute, maybe an audiobook a week,” Rick says.
     “'Nine Lies About Work' is one I just finished and liked.”
     Marcus Buckingham and Cisco Leadership and Team Intelligence head Ashley Goodall authored this book, which explains that there are some big lies—distortions, faulty assumptions and wrong thinking—that we encounter every time we show up for work. Nine lies, to be exact, that often have the net effect of causing dysfunction and frustration in workplaces suppressing growth in the environment.
     “I got turned on to this book via some articles the authors wrote for the Harvard Business Review.
     “Think it is a great read for people that are striving to be a better leader within a large organization.
     “I actually I had to pull over on the highway twice to take notes,” Rick laughed.
     “I guess that is a downside to audiobooks!”

     Rick Elieson transitions easily between a vocation at American Airlines Cargo to his avocation as a very talented naturalist photographer. His dexterity in the latter practice is evidence to the depths and commitments of his passions.
     A magnificent collection of his photographs, (here) which capture the detail and force of natural life, should confirm his perceptiveness


The Air Cargo Business Picture

     “It is not uncommon,” Rick says, “for people to look at the market and hang their head and declare that business is not what it was last year,” he said.
     “But in proper context, if not for 2018, we would all be slapping each other on the back, saying:
     “Isn’t 2019 the best year that we have had?
     “American Airlines Cargo is still growing. “There are some sectors where demand is strong. There are also some areas where we are struggling a bit.
     “But if 2019 becomes our second best year ever, I’ll take that as a win!
     “No reason to flinch—things are still good,” Rick Elieson said.

AA Gets New IT System October

     “We are cutting over to American Airlines’ new Cargo IT system called ‘Payload’ (during development & test phase) this winter,” Rick said.
     “The system, in terms of costs, requires as much money and effort on the change management portion as on the technology piece.
     “The new system for American Airlines Cargo is, in a word, critical for us,” Rick Elieson said.
     “Sure, it will have all the bells and whistles, but what excites me is what Payload enables via its platform.
     “Currently we are on the same platform we have been on for 40 years.
     “Business isn’t the same, the customer needs evolve, and you find yourself asking: Can I add that to our existing platform developed in 1979?
     “The answer has been to add another system and append the old one.
     “So now air cargo has 91 different systems that are all loosely tied together in order to get cargo from A to B while attempting to meet customer demands.
     “When you say that you want to think differently and add to the service we provide or our product offering, currently I have to go and make changes in 91 different systems.
     “Sorry to say, but when confronted with that reality, we often end up with a non-starter because we simply cannot make the change.
     “So a new platform that is integrated from end-to-end opens up endless possibilities and the future in can-do terms.
     “It is all quite exciting and just around the corner for American Airlines Cargo,” Rick Elieson said.

Chuckles For May 13, 2014

There is a great, if not slightly unknown and perhaps overlooked, industry event that meets September 16 until 19 as ULD CARE opens its 32nd Annual ULD CARE Conference in Montreal, Canada.

A Joyful Obsession

     For Urs Wiesendanger, (above left) President, ULD CARE, and Bob Rogers, (above right) VP & Treasurer, ULD CARE, kicking the cans has been a joyful lifelong obsession.
     To Urs and Bob, the devices are eye candy on the hardstand.
     It’s always a beautiful thing to see them trail around behind tugs and move up from the ramp into the bellies and main decks of waiting aircraft.

Love Your ULD

     Urs and Bob love ULDs with an uncommon passion heard and felt in the way this charming duo fly off on the subject.

Happy Birthday In Singapore

     “In Singapore, IATA World Cargo Symposium (WCS) celebrated the 60th anniversary of ULD,” Bob Rogers reports.
     On display were some early belly hold pods that were put into every day use by the late Ed George, pioneer cargo man at Western Airlines.
     “In Singapore,” Bob Rogers continues, “ULDs 60th birthday was highlighted during the WCS opening plenary and then given prominence in the ULD track, including a video appearance by Jim Jackson, now in his 90’s who alongside Jean-Jacques Machon, was at the forefront of the development of the SAE, ISO, regulatory and IATA standards, without which the ULD operations as we know them today could not exist,” Bob Rogers said.

Nice & EASA

     “And talking of the ULD track, in Singapore we were able to hear from Daniel Coutelier, Senior Better Regulations Officer, EASA on their plans to develop enhanced safety regulations for the ground handling industry across Europe.
     “While not specific to ULD operations, this is nevertheless an initiative of interest to the ULD community and ULD CARE intends to remain informed on this process.
     “We think that it is also very noteworthy that 11 out of the 50 exhibitors (22%) at WCS were ULD related while 3 out the 12 track sponsors (25%) were ULD CARE members.
     “Looking back at the very first WCS 13 years ago, the ULD presence has come a very long way,” Urs Wiesendanger said.

Save The Date September

     “Montréal, Québec, Canada is the site of the next ULD CONFERENCE, September 16-19, 2019,” Urs said.
     “We are eager to see everyone there as ULD’s are becoming center stage at many industry meetings.
     “A team of ULD CARE board members is working hard to create an engaging and dynamic agenda.
     “The conference will take place at the Loews Hotel Vogue, located downtown,” Bob Rogers said.

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If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 18 No. 33
Opening Night At CNS
Lionel Gets And Offer He Can't Refuse
Carmen Darn Charmin'
In Golfer's Paradise
Vol. 18 No. 34
Qatar Has Pole Position
Warren Jones Towering Example
Chicago Delivered By Irish Ken
Sterling Is Silver At 25
Why CNS Partnership

Vol. 18 No. 35
Tariff Throws Air Cargo A Curve
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Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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