Think Airplanes and Turkeys

By Robert Mark on November 22nd, 2007

I love offering my two cents on everything aviation here at Jetwhine. But every so often I also like to share a few stories about some of the cool people I’ve met along the way during my career.

Since today is Thanksgiving and most everyone is thinking about turkey, it seemed appropriate to tell a quick story about Herb Kelleher, who at the time I met him was still the head honcho at Southwest Airlines. Today Herb is chairman of the airline’s board.

Seven or maybe eight years ago, I was invited to hear Herb speak at the Transportation Center at Northwestern University where I interned as a grad student.

After Herb gave his talk, the professor who invited him gave him a bottle of Wild Turkey – that’s bourbon for you non drinkers – as a thank you gift. A bunch of us went back to a meeting room that had been set up for everyone to get chatty over a few cocktails. For those of you who don’t know Herb, it doesn’t take much work to engage in any kind of conversation with this icon.

scan0003They raffled off a copy of Herb’s book, “Nuts,” the inside story of how the people at Southwest has made their so successful – 125th straight dividend recently I believe. I won the book and walked up to receive my gift and have Herb sign the volume.

As I approached him, I just suddenly got nervous. Sounds crazy but I didn’t know what to say. Here’s this icon of the airline industry, a man who arm wrestled someone to settle a business dispute and I froze up.

So I said the first thing that came to mind. “Hi Herb. Sure looks like that bottle of Wild Turkey is going to waste.” He looks at me and smiles and then takes another drag on his cigarette – the Northwestern folks were really upset with him about his smoking too. “You know, you’re right,” he says to me. “What’s your name?”

I tell him and Herb grabs the bottle of Wild Turkey, puts his arm on my shoulder and yells to the crowd, “Hey everybody. My friend Rob and I are going to crack open this bottle. Who’s going to help?”

Suddenly we had plenty of friends. That’s just the way Herb is around people. My guess is he’s like that as a boss too. There are too few like him though. Say hi to Herb if you meet him.

How a story for two from some of you about the people you’ve met along the way? I’ll bet there are plenty of people who would like to hear about more of our industry influencers. Was it your flight instructor, a school professor, a neighbor. Tell us.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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One Response to “Think Airplanes and Turkeys”

  1. J.C. Carvill Says:

    And after reading this article, whenever I think about airplanes and (wild) turkeys, I’ll always remember Herb and his way, which is kind and good around people surrounding him.

    J.C. Carvill
    Email: support@cosmosing.com
    URL: http://www.cosmosing.com/jeanclaudecarvill/index.php

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