Helping Our Passengers and Pets: How Steve Thomas Went Above & Beyond

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Zoey the Seeing Eye Dog on the flight with her owner from Chicago to Colorado Springs.

A visually-impaired customer was waiting to board her flight from Chicago to Colorado Springs when her seeing eye dog, Zoe, became ill. Trans States ORD Base Manager, Stephen Thomas graciously stepped in to make the customer’s trip a positive experience. Read the customer compliment below:

When something or someone goes out of their way to make a positive impact, I have to share!

During a 30-minute layover from Chicago to Colorado, my dog Zoe became ill while guiding me to the gate. After TSA explained the procedure for cleaning up after Zoe, I was certain that we’d missed our flight. We were informed when we got to the gate that our flight was delayed. With more time on our hands, I thought it was a good idea to take Zoe to pet relief.

Upon our journey to the pet relief area, I realized that it was outside of security. I asked a gentleman coming off the escalator to confirm if the area was indeed outside of security. Stephen Thomas introduced himself and confirmed that it was. Because I wasn’t authorized to go outside of security, Steve took it upon himself to take Zoe to pet relief for me! When Steve and Zoe returned, he informed me that our plane would be boarding soon. We quickly placed Zoe’s harness back on and Steve escorted me all the way to my seat. He also gave me his telephone number and told me to call him anytime I am in O’Hare.

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Trans States ORD Base Manager Stephen Thomas.

Zoe and I have had our share of bad experiences while flying, but this was the opposite. In this exceptional circumstance when Zoe was sick, and we had a very tight connection, Steve made quite the difference. He really did not have time to do this, but he wanted to make sure it happened. He never treated me with pity as a blind person or grabbed my arm as Zoe was guiding (which so often happens in airports)! He just wanted me to make sure I didn’t miss my flight! 

Kudos to Steve for a job well done!

Trans States Pilots Visit Japan to Test New Mitsubishi Regional Jet

As the domestic launch customer for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), Trans States will be the first U.S. airline to fly this innovative new aircraft.  With the delivery date inching closer, Trans States Manager of Flight Operations Training, Captain Les Hock, and Line Check Airman Richard Vellinga, recently visited Japan to perform a human factors evaluation on the MRJ.

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Captain Richard Vellinga and Captain Les Hock in the Mitsubishi Regional Jet simulator.

“A human factors evaluation is required in the certification process on any new aircraft,” Captain Hock explained. “After the manufacturer comes up with the design, how the aircraft will be laid out, and how the systems will interact, line pilots are brought in to make sure that pilots can safely and comfortably fly the aircraft.”

While in Japan, Captain Hock and Captain Vellinga ran through various scenarios testing the aircraft features and flight deck layout, including the distance to vital controls. They also evaluated flight displays to ensure that information was clear, accessible, and accurate.

“Trans States pilots will love this jet,” Captain Hock enthused.  “It has the absolute latest in avionics, including all the advanced automation you’d find in large Boeing or Airbus aircraft. It will truly prepare pilots for the majors, because they’ll gain experience with state-of-the-art operating systems.”

Passengers will also love the new MRJ. With a significantly wider and taller cabin than any other regional jet currently on the market, the MRJ was designed with passenger comfort in mind.  The aircraft will be also be exceptionally quiet.  Following a recent flyover, The Seattle Times reported that spectators couldn’t hear the MRJ at all until it passed directly overhead.

“There’s no doubt that the new MRJ has superior technology,” Captain Hock added.  “It’s truly an optimized design that is engineered to work best for our pilots, passengers and the Trans States operation.”

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For more information about the MRJ, click here: https://bit.ly/2KeS6CM.

Passenger Declares Trans States Flight Crew “Santa’s Angels and Elves”

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“Santa’s Angels & Elves” (Captain Richard Gittings, First Officer Jason Lawrence, and Flight Attendant Dana George) pose for a selfie with passengers on Christmas Eve

The holidays may be over, but we couldn’t resist sharing this passenger’s story of how the kindness of one of our flight crews turned a stressful situation into a flight that she and her family would never forget.

I wanted to tell you about a Christmas miracle that three of your crew members helped bring about. Captain Richard Gittings, First Officer Jason Lawrence, and the amazing Flight Attendant Dana George were Santa’s elves and angels for our family on the evening of December 24 on a flight from Denver to Dickinson, North Dakota.

In order to understand how much their kindness and generosity meant to us, I would like to give you a little background.  My husband is a chemical engineer and works away from home half the year.  For the last two years, we have missed every holiday together.  It has been very hard for my three children, my husband, and I.  After a lot of thought, we decided to splurge on plane tickets. This would mean we could be together for Christmas, even though it was in a work location. There was no tree or presents, but what really mattered was that we would be together. We don’t fly much or have the opportunity to go on vacation—this was a big deal!

Our flight out of Casper, Wyoming was delayed by over an hour and a half, and we had anticipated a two-hour layover in Denver.  I prayed that we would have 30 minutes to get to our gate. Many of the passengers expressed that they would have to get a flight out on Christmas Day because they had already missed their connection.  I was very anxious.

When we exited the plane onto the tarmac in Denver, it appeared I had 10 minutes to get my children and myself to the next gate.  I didn’t know how far it was, and I was panicked. When we entered the building, I was crying.  All I could think was that after two years of no holidays, missed birthdays, and missed events, we were going to spend Christmas at the airport!

As I entered the airport I gave my boarding passes to the first person who appeared to work for the airport and asked where our gate was and if they could help me.  Your crew was there!  All three of them said, “You are here! You can board the plane with us!”

The Captain and Flight Attendant reassured me it was okay, that I had made it.  Honestly, I think I had only three minutes after getting off the previous flight.  After your crew talked to me for a minute, and I knew we definitely were going to get to Dickinson, I started crying tears of joy!  Not knowing our history, I am sure some people thought I was nuts, but your crew was so gracious.

Once we boarded the flight to Dickinson and were in the air, Dana George started getting refreshments. She was so kind, and my daughter and son joked with her.  My son even said, “Ms. George treated me like a king.”  Their kindness meant so much to us.  It has been a rough year, and they literally brought a miracle to our family.  We were able to be together!

My family was desperately in need of kindness and we received it from your crew.

When we arrived, the Captain generously gave a tour of the aircraft to my kids.  They loved it!  He was such a fun guy!  Thank you for these incredible people.  Their kindness meant so much to my little family.  I will forever remember this crew.  It really was a Christmas miracle!

Thank you so much for this amazing experience.

Trans States Mechanic Becomes a U.S. Citizen

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Trans States mechanic and new American citizen, Julio Tavara Faya

St. Louis-based mechanic Julio Tavara Faya recently accomplished a pretty special milestone.  After living in the United States for a number of years, he officially became a U.S. citizen.

Julio is originally from Peru, but later moved to Puerto Rico.  After discovering that he enjoyed working on cars, Julio decided to pursue a career in aviation maintenance.  As a green card holder, Julio was eligible to join the United States military, and he received his initial aviation maintenance training with the Coast Guard.

After leaving the Coast Guard, Julio went on to study aviation maintenance at Spartan College in Tulsa, where he received his Airframe & Powerplant (A & P) license.  Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Trans States as a St. Louis-based Line Mechanic.  At Trans States, Julio’s outstanding work ethic and attention to detail caught the attention of management, and he was quickly promoted to Floor Inspector.

However, earning his A & P and working for Trans States weren’t the only things on Julio’s plate these past several years.  He was also working on completing the requirements for U.S. citizenship.  Becoming a citizen can be a complicated process that can take years, and Julio remembers the day when he officially received his American citizenship as both humbling and exciting.

Julio’s citizenship ceremony took place in St. Louis, where a number of local dignitaries were on hand to greet the new citizens.  “At my ceremony, two judges, the President of Saint Louis University, and the President of the Saint Louis University School of Law were there to welcome me to my new life as an American citizen,”  Julio recalled.  The highlight of the ceremony came at the end, when Julio exchanging his green card for his certificate of citizenship.

But even though he’s crossed becoming a citizen off his list, Julio’s to-do list isn’t complete just yet.  He plans to obtain his Associate’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance and then work towards a Bachelor’s Degree.  He’d like to work in maintenance management someday, with a goal of eventually working in safety investigations.

“Trans States is still my first job in my aviation maintenance career,” Julio says, “but the opportunities I have received have already prepared me for my future.”

We’re proud that Julio has chosen to call Trans States home, and we can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.

IT Systems Manager Recalls Playing for the Kansas City Royals

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You would expect a baseball player who made it to the big leagues to have grown up on the game, the star of their Little League and high school teams.  But that wasn’t the case with IT Systems Manager Eric Walls, who played for the Kansas City Royals from 1992-1996.

Eric didn’t even play baseball in high school, focusing instead on wrestling, cross country and track.  In fact, prior to college, his only experience with baseball was playing for the t-ball team that his dad coached when he was a kid.

While attending Greenville College, Eric’s roommate suggested that he try out for the baseball team, in spite of his lack of experience.  But Eric was fast, and what he lacked in experience he made up for with speed.  “As it turns out,” he recalls, “I made a perfect pinch hitter.  When I tried out, my 60 yard dash time was faster than average by several seconds.”

It wasn’t long until Eric was offered a full baseball scholarship to Kaskaskia College. While there, Eric received pre-draft camp invitations from the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs and the Kansas City Royals. “The next thing I knew,” he recalls, “people started congratulating me on being drafted to play for Kansas City.”  It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and he took it, even though it meant delaying the completion of his education.

“It really wasn’t until I was playing for the majors that I truly fell in love with baseball,” Eric admits.  From 1992 to 1996, Eric was a pinch hitter and outfielder for the Royals and Royals-affiliated minor league teams, including the Rockford Royals.  During his best season, he hit .320, led the team in triples, and was one of the team’s top performers in doubles, overall hits, RBIs and stolen bases.

Eric hit his first home run towards the end of his first season with the Royals.  During a game against the Florida Marlins, Eric remembers hitting the ball as hard as he could before taking off to first base.  When he rounded second, thinking that he had hit a double, he noticed his entire dugout was cracking up. “That’s when I realized I had hit my first ever home run, and I just started celebrating and show-boating on my way back to home plate.”

When Eric’s manager reminded him that it was against etiquette to show up the pitcher, he admitted that he didn’t really care because he was so excited. “Then, at my next at bat,” he continues, “the pitcher threw at me.  As I took first base, I made sure to tip my helmet to him, letting him know I understood.”

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Trans States Airlines IT Systems Manager and former Kansas City Royals player Eric Walls.

Another memorable moment was the time that a pitch knocked him out cold.  “I was the second at-bat, and the first pitch was inside and out-of-the-way.” Eric thought he was ready for the second pitch, but it bounced off of his jaw and bruised his arm.  He was out for nearly seven minutes.  “When I came to,” he recalls, “I thought I had only been out for a few seconds. I was ready to take first base, but my teammates grabbed me and told me that I had to sit out.” It wasn’t until after Eric returned to the dugout that one of his teammates told him that he’d forgotten to mention that that particular pitcher was known for his aggressive pitches.

Eventually, Eric wanted to move forward with his personal and professional life, and left baseball to finish his academic career. “My agent and family may have been a little upset, but since I didn’t grow up on the game, I felt ready to move on.  To this day, I don’t have any hangups about walking away.”

Twenty years later, Eric is an IT professional with a family.  “My son is typical video game-loving teenager now,” he says, “but I made sure to start him off with baseball, and he played until he was 15.”  Eric also has a daughter who is a gymnast. “She is very competitive, and recently placed 15th in her national competition.”