TW870 wrote:This is a fantastic, interesting thread.
I have three to name - and I am sorry they are all U.S. based - but that is what I have studied most.
I fully agree with ImperialEagle - that Don Nyrop has to be in my top 3. He turned a small town airline into a global powerhouse. He was obsessive about cost control during regulation - which was rare. Although this set him up for some rough conflicts with Guy Cook and others in the labor movement (I am strongly pro-union but still like Nyrop overall), it made him an innovator. The JT9D powered DC-10 is just one example of his focus on commonality and cost control at every level, as he wanted a 300-seat jet but wanted to avoid introducing a second high bypass turbofan. Rumor has it that NW bought almost all of its jets in cash during regulation - because Nyrop hated paying interest to the banks.
I'm putting Charles Tillinghast from TWA on here. He was by no means financially successful, as he failed to take advantage of TWA's excellent assets in the 1970s, and left it terribly positioned for deregulation when it should have kicked American out of Chicago and challenged United for the top spot in the U.S. But Tillinghast is just a dramatic, vivid person. Go read the transcripts of the lead-up to airline deregulation in the Senate. Tillinghast just blew up at both Democrats and Republicans on the witness stand, calling Kahn and Kennedy's deregulation plan "Alice in Wonderland" over and over. I just love how bombastic he was.
Finally, Alvin Feldman from Frontier and Continental. He staged a heroic campaign to defend Continental against the Lorenzo LBO, and arranged both a potential merger with Western and the employee buyout option (both of which were defeated by Lorenzo). He rallied the troops through the initial crisis of deregulation. Sadly we know this did not end well. Feldman's wife died in 1980, and that added to his deep despair about Lorenzo and deregulation. He committed suicide in his office at LAX on August 9th, 1981.
If you read the Senate transcripts on the Airline Deregulation Act, you get a great sense of the intense drama over deregulation, and how various managers responded.
Aviation is a PASSION even more than it is a BUSINESS. I swear that's true.
I will look up your story and read about it. Thanks so much!