Captain Eddie, Juan Trippe, Herb, C.S. Smith are all up there I guess. In our part of the world Sir Reginald Ansett was a man far ahead of his time. Wily, cunning and a straight talker (led a brave campaign to try and stop his Female flight attendants from no longer having to retire from flying at the grand old age of late 20's with the line "My business customers do not want to be served dinner on the flight home after a hard day of work by old boilers"! Or along those lines anyway). Created a true transport/tourism empire with planes, express buses, touring buses, hotels, island resorts, rent-a-car, credit card company, insurance, freight, city to airport bus shuttles etc. At one time, one could plan a trip and everything you did on the trip was Ansett owned/operated.
Incensed at new vehicle prices that he needed to buy for ground operations, he bought a car dealership to access better deals for the company!
Fought the Government many times on an unfair playing field when they set up their own domestic airline as well having Qantas designated as the only International carrier. One of those characters who influenced many peoples travelling habits out of respect and the traditional Aussie habit of rooting for the underdog. Made lot's of enemies along the way, of course, but used resourcefulness, forward thinking and more than the odd dirty trick or two to keep his Ansett Airlines in the air. From a once a day trip in 1936 in a Fokker that he flew, he built Ansett into by far the largest airline in Australia (until the QF/TN merger takeover in the early 90's)
and unfortunately passed on before his greatest dream/desire/wish was fulfilled in seeing the Ansett name fly internationally. He used to fly from his estate on Melbourne's southern peninsula outskirts every morning in an Ansett helicopter to Head Office in the city.
I'm sure he's spinning in his grave at what Ansett has become under the leadership of the "money-moguls" and the selling off of nearly every Ansett asset that there was. The fact that he passed on within a couple of years of losing the battle to NewsCorp and TNT to keep control of Ansett is probably no conincidence.
Ansett could do a lot worse than name one of their fleet leading 744's as the
"Spirit of Sir Reg", even though they seem to carving a niche in our psyche that it is a new Ansett heading on a path totally distinct from the past.
Sorry for the long history lesson - but everyone knows about Trippe, Rickenbacker et al, and there were some other lesser knowns around the world that did as good a job in relative terms.