Shortly before heading out the other day, I read that Ed Beauvais had passed away. He was 84. Beauvais was a giant in the aviation industry, and was a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.
Beauvais was best known as the founder and CEO of America West Airlines. Prior to that, he had an extensive career as an aviation executive and consultant with Frontier Airlines (the original incarnation), Western Airlines, and Continental Airlines. However, in the 1980s and early 90s, Beauvais put Phoenix on the aviation map.
I was fortunate to work for America West in the early days. I was hired as a security guard when the company had just 900 employees. Within a few years, the company grew to nearly 10,000. Because of that phenomenal growth, I was able to coax my way into an analyst position in the Pilot Planning department, despite my lack of experience, and I remained there for the next couple of years. My analyst gig was my first adult job after leaving the Coast Guard, and changed my life in many ways. But back to Ed…
The thing I remember most about Ed Beauvais, and something I still think of often, is that he was a people’s CEO — in the same way Tommy Lasorda was a player’s coach in major league baseball.
Every other Tuesday, unless he was legitimately unable to do it, Ed worked a 6-hour shift throwing bags on the ramp at Sky Harbor Airport. He wore the burgundy coveralls that all America West ramp employees wore. He wore steel toed boots. He wore ear protection. He threw bags. He rolled up his sleeves. He even ate crappy chicken salad sandwiches out of cellophane wrappers. And he kept up with the best of them.
A part of my job was to run pilot scheduling information from my office to the ramp a couple times each day. Occasionally I’d see Ed cutting it up in the break room with other ramp employees. I might also see him standing under a 757 offloading bags and covered in sweat.
Ed was the most passionate person I’ve ever known in a business environment, and was relentlessly positive. I have few memories of seeing him without a smile on his face. Ed was a visionary. He started the first in-house travel agency of a major airline — Ameriwest Vacations. He also created the concept of fully cross-trained and cross-utilized CSR (all ground personnel). As he used to say…
“There are only CSRs…”
There were no specialists. Every person hired in at that level was cross-trained in all of those positions, and therefore could be utilized at any of them. People could bid their seniority — a senior employee who wanted to work in-flight could do that, but they had to take at least one rotation off per quarter and work a different job. The thing America West was most known for, was also Ed’s idea… free cocktails on all flights. No wonder America West took over Phoenix in just a few years.
Ed Beauvais personally signed off on me, a low-level analyst with no aviation degree, to help start a crew-base in Honolulu, in preparation for regular service to Nagoya Japan. Shortly after I returned from that assignment, I left America West to return to Colorado. It was a bittersweet departure, because America West was the first corporate family I’d ever had — and Ed Beauvais was the patriarch.
There’s a handful of business leaders who influenced my early adult life. Ed Beauvais is at the top of that list.
There’s something else though, something I couldn’t find in any of the obituaries and articles I read about him after he passed, but I can speak to it personally…
Ed Beauvais told a joke to somebody every day of his life — or at least he did during my time at America West. He believed that humor in the workplace was a gateway to better morale, and to this day, I believe that to be true. To underscore Beauvais’ sense of humor I’ll throw one more at you before I close this…
My partner in the Pilot Planning department and I spent so much time there during a particularly difficult phase, that we actually pitched a tent in the middle of the office — as a comical protest. We even hung out there in our downtime. One morning Beauvais walked past the tent, and without slowing or looking down, he dropped a paper bag at the tent door. It was a bag of marshmallows, some graham crackers, and a few Hershey bars — for making s’mores.
Ed Beauvais got his final pair of wings this week. If he’s as true to his form in heaven as he was on earth, I’m certain he’ll try and start an airline there.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
Mph Avg: 15.1
Seat Time: 11 hours 33 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Bellrays. Enjoy…