Trans States Airlines at the Special Olympics North Carolina 2016 Plane Pull

The 2016 Plane Pull benefiting the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC) is a wrap, and we’re proud to have been a part of it!  On April 30, over 70 five-person teams competed against each another to physically pull one of our Embraer 145s!  As you can imagine, that’s no small feat, but these teams pulled it off – and raised over $110,00 for SONC in the process!

This year marked the 16th year for the annual Plane Pull competition, which began as a unique and fun way to raise money for Special Olympics. “Numerous Special Olympics states host a Plane Pull,” says Special Olympics North Carolina President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne, “but originally it started with 20-person teams and huge jets. In North Carolina, the format changed to 5-person teams and regional jets, since it allowed for more teams to enter be a part of this important and fun event.”

The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!
The 2016 SONC Plane Pull winners, The Bertie Enforcers, pulling a Trans States Airlines Embraer 145!

To participate, each team must raise at least $800, with the proceeds going towards providing training and Special Olympics competition opportunities for nearly 40,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  Thanks to generous donations from sponsors, athletes are never charged a fee to participate in any of these year-round training and competition offered by Special Olympics.

In addition to the annual festivities, the 2016 SONC Plane Pull also incorporated several new features. The event began with “opening ceremonies,” where members of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle club rode in carrying the Special Olympics Flame Of Hope, as well as the United States and North Carolina flags. “Four SONC athletes also got the honor of riding on the motorcycles with the law enforcement officers,” further explains Keith L. Fishburne. “Then, an athlete delivered a short invocation, another athlete gave a short speech sharing Special Olympics’ impact on their life, and another athlete declare the Plane Pull underway.” From there, the teams hit the tarmac at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and got “pulling!”

The competition is a race to see who can pull the airplane 25 feet in the least amount of time. All teams competed in the first round, with the top 20 advancing on to the second round. The Final Round consists of the “Fast 5” from Round 2 competing to determine the Overall Champions.  This year, the Bertie Enforcers of the Bertie County Correctional Institution upset the two-time defending champions, The Smokey Bears of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, with a final pull of 7.85 seconds.

One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.
One of the participants of the 2016 SONC Plane Pull in front of the Embraer 145, provided by Trans States Airlines.

Raleigh-Durham Chief Pilot Jonathan Jones expressed his gratitude in being a part of such a tremendous event, saying, “The Special Olympics is an amazing organization that affects the lives of so many people throughout North Carolina and the rest of the world.  We are a part of the community here and appreciate the opportunity to be involved with The Special Olympics and help over 38,000 North Carolina athletes. What a great way to spend the day, pulling planes and making a difference.”

We’re so proud to have been a part of helping a wonderful event benefiting such a wonderful organization.  We can’t wait for the 2017 SONC Plane Pull!

American Airlines Ground Crews get the Job Done

AA ground crew

A big shout-out to the American Airlines ground crew in St. Louis for the professional and efficient service they provide!  They’ve developed a reputation among our St. Louis-based flight crews for quickly loading checked bags and for providing quick and accurate baggage counts prior to departure.  The efforts of this important team are essential to our mission of achieving a safe and on-time departure for each and every flight.  Thank you for all that you do!

A “Shocking” Optical Illusion…

Lightning

Airline employees are generally not fans of severe weather, given the inevitable operational consequences. But even airline employees can appreciate the incredible photo ops that severe weather can bring!  Materials Clerk Sierra McCoy snapped this photo at our maintenance hangar during a thunderstorm that rolled through St. Louis Tuesday. It may look like the lightning bolt struck one of our planes, but it appears that even Mother Nature loves to trick others with optical illusions!

Flight Attendant “Just doing her job” Impresses Passenger

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Superstar Flight Attendant Yewande Martins

We know that we have the best crews in the business, and we love to hear our passengers sing their praises.  We received the below note from a passenger who told us how impressed she was by the service that Flight Attendant Yewande Martins provided on a recent flight.

“I am sure you get a million emails a day, but this is one you should read!  I travel quite frequently, and I recently had one of the best inflight experiences ever.  My flight from Houston to Jacksonville could not have been better, and that was 100% due to Yewande Martins.

Between comforting the never-flown-before passengers (seated adjacent to me), helping children with unexpected needs, or assisting frequent flyers (like me), she was amazing.

I know you can’t clone her, but if you could, I’m certain that I, and everyone else, would fly you. It is people like Yewande that make you and United Airlines successful. Please ensure she receives all the proper attention and accolades from what she promises me was “just doing her job.”  I hope I had the honor and privilege of flying with her again.”

Way to go, Yewande!

Pilot Recruiters Make Invaluable Connections at Annual Women in Aviation Conference

WIA 2016

The 27th Annual Women in Aviation International conference wrapped up last week, and we’re proud to have been a part of it!  Nearly 5,000 people participated in the three day event, which was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.  Women in Aviation, International is a not-for-profit focused on encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in aviation, and its members include representatives from all areas of the aerospace industry, including astronauts, pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, airport managers and more.

The annual conference has long been considered one of aviation’s premiere professional development and networking events, and this year’s event was no exception.  Keynote speakers included astronauts Dr. Rhea Seddon and Robert “Hoot” Gibson; Jessica Cox, the world’s first certified armless pilot; Deborah Lee Hames, the 23rd Secretary of the U.S. Air Force; and Doreen Welsh, one of the flight attendants on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 (the “Miracle on the Hudson”).  The conference also included seminars and workshops on a wide variety of aviation-related topics, as well as a job fair that gave attendees the opportunity  interview with airline recruiters.

Our pilot recruiting team was on-site for the entire duration of the job fair, conducting interviews and meeting with both current and aspiring commercial pilots.  “This conference has truly become one of the year’s not-to-be-missed recruiting events, as you get to meet hundreds of candidates face to face,” said pilot recruiter Zenia Bharucha.  “It’s so important to build relationships with the next generation of aviators, and there’s nothing more exciting than watching these young pilots take their first steps towards fulfilling their dreams of flying for a commercial airline.”

Hundreds of prospective pilots were eager to drop off their resumes with our recruiters, which didn’t surprise Director of Recruitment Deb Smith.  “We have a great story to tell.  We’re one of the fastest growing regional airlines in the industry, and we offer top-tier pay, fast Captain upgrades and direct access to the left seat for qualified pilots.  Candidates recognize what we have to offer and are excited about the prospect of flying for us!”

The pilot recruiting team will be on the road all spring, visiting flight schools and collegiate aviation programs, as well as hosting hiring events all over the country.  For a complete list of events, or to schedule an interview, please click here.

Ron Davis Brings a Wealth of Experience to New Role

Ron Davis

Congratulations to Ronald Davis, who has been named the new Manager of Inflight Standards and Compliance.  The Inflight department, which includes all of our Flight Attendants, is hugely focused on the role that our Flight Attendants play in the safety of our passengers, as well as on the customer experience.

Ron will be responsible for the standardization of Inflight policy across operational departments, as well as for the management of Inflight’s Safety Management System, or SMS.  SMS is a widely-used program in aviation that promotes a top down and bottom up approach to safety awareness.  SMS advocates that safety isn’t just the responsibility of management or front line employees, but that every single team member, from pilots and flight attendants to mechanics and office support staff, can play an important role in the safety of an airline.  Safety is always our number one priority, and we take our SMS program very seriously.

With nearly three decades of aviation experience, including an extensive Inflight background, Ron brings a wealth of experience to his new role.  He began his aviation career in 1988 as a Saint Louis-based Flight Attendant with Trans World Airlines (TWA). He held numerous positions within TWA’s Inflight department, and also worked at TWA’s corporate headquarters in its International Pricing/Tariffs, Advertising and Marketing division.  Ron joined our team as a Flight Attendant in 2002 and went on hold various positions in our Inflight Training department.

At Trans States, we believe in promoting from within whenever possible, which means that our employees have significant upward mobility opportunities over the ​course of their careers.  We love seeing talented employees build careers and progress professionally!

Operations Response Team Helps On-Time Performance

In this industry, every minute counts.  On each and every flight we operate, our passengers are counting on us to get them to their final destinations safely and on-time. That’s why several talented Flight Attendants are currently on special assignment to help minimize and prevent operational delays.  The Operations Response Team monitors the causes of delays at our hub airports so that we can better understand why the delays occurred and, and most importantly, what we can do to avoid them in the future.

The team is also on hand to jump in and help our crews in any way that they can, especially during quick turns.  A “quick turn” is when flight crews have only a short amount of time to deplane passengers, clean the cabin, re-stock commissary items, and board passengers for the next flight.  During quick turns, team members can be seen doing everything from helping load gate checked bags and cleaning out seat back pockets, to stocking commissary items and printing releases for our flight crews.

The assistance provided by this team can make the difference between an on-time departure and a flight leaving the gate late.  During a recent turn in St. Louis, the inbound aircraft  arrived late, and in order for the next flight to depart on time, the flight crews had just 20 minutes to deplane the passengers, clean the main cabin, change crews and board passengers for the next flight.  That would have been a tough goal to meet under normal circumstances, but a little extra help can make a big difference.  With the combined efforts of the flight crews and the Operations Response Team, the turn took just 18 minutes!

At Trans States Airlines, we look at each day as a new opportunity to be even better than we were the day before, and the feedback and assistance provided by the Operations Response Team is helping us do just that.  These team members are just a few of the hundreds of Trans States Airlines employees around the country working behind the scenes to ensure that our aircraft operate safely and on-time.

And the Fourth Quarter Above & Beyond Winners are…

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The ballots have been cast, the votes have been tallied, and the winners of our fourth quarter 2015 Above & Beyond contest are now official.  This quarterly contest recognizes team members who go beyond what their job requires of them to provide exemplary service to our passengers. As always, we’re blown away by the kind and caring individuals who call Trans States home.

Ischell Laxon was the winner from our Inflight team.  She received so many customer compliments this quarter that we had trouble deciding on one to highlight.  We finally settled on one from a professional musician, who told us how Ischell went above and beyond to ensure the safety of his orchestra’s instruments during a flight.

Captain Cody Moser and Captain Thomas Ryba took the award in the Team/Flight Crew category.  Captain Moser and Captain Ryba won for the extraordinary way that they worked together to get a grieving passenger and her family on a flight to Houston after the unexpected death of her son.

The Maintenance award this quarter goes to mechanic Josh Varacalli, who finished his shift and then flew across the country so that he could spend his day off fixing a broken aircraft.  Josh was able to troubleshoot and fix the plane within just a few hours of arriving.  Of Josh, the co-worker who nominated him said, “His dedication to the company is truly above and beyond, and he deserves this award if anyone does.”

Our award winner in the Corporate/Station Employee category was Karen Hatlelid, the STL Station Manager. Karen frequently goes out of her way to provide special goodies in the crew room, and recently treated STL flight crews and maintenance employees to grilled cheese and fried egg sandwiches. The crew member who nominated Karen told us that she always has a big smile on her face and a positive attitude!

Our final fourth quarter award recipient is pilot Joshua Cobaugh, who was nominated by a flight attendant who has flown a number of trips with him.  She told us, “I’ve never come across a pilot quite like Josh! He has an amazingly work ethic and provides astonishing customer service to his fellow employees, as well as to the passengers.”

Whenever a flight attendant has a bag that won’t fit in the overhead bin, Josh always offers to carry it back to the jetbridge so the passengers don’t have to.  If there are no ramp employees to take them, he personally carries them to the back of the plane.  If an airport is short staffed during a late night arrival, Josh is quick to help with the wheelchairs, strollers and valet checked bags.  Josh also prioritizes passenger comfort—one cold morning while waiting on air stairs, he used his own bag as a step so that he could warm up the aircraft and ensure that it was at a comfortable temperature by the time the passengers boarded.

Josh’s commitment to his co-workers is also frequently on display.  After a flight, Josh can be found helping the flight attendants cross seat belts, clean out seat back pockets, and even re-stocking the galley.

What an awesome group of employees!  Each winner will receive a $50 Visa gift card for representing the airline in such an exemplary manner.  These individuals are truly representative of the Above & Beyond spirit!

That’s officially a wrap on Above & Beyond for 2015.  But stay tuned—the first quarter 2016 contest is already under way, and we’ll share some of the best submissions that we receive here.

Congratulations to the fourth quarter winners!

Systems Operations Control Prepares for Jonas

Systems Operations Control (SOC) at our headquarters in St. Louis is in overdrive today as it prepares for much of our operation to be impacted by winter storm Jonas. Jonas, which forecasters predict will dump up to two feet of snow in places, is expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard and much of the South over the weekend.  Proactive planning is key to minimizing the impact of Jonas on our customers—hundreds of flights have already been canceled in advance of the storm, giving travelers as much time as possible to make alternate plans and reducing the likelihood of passengers being stranded at airports over the weekend.

The Trans States SOC is also proactively planning for Jonas.  Two of the key departments housed in the SOC are Crew Scheduling and Dispatch, both of which have been working overtime to ensure that crews and aircraft are moved away from the cities that are expected to be hit the hardest by this weather event.  However, when making decisions about where to move crews and airplanes during the storm, the SOC must also think about where those crews and airplanes need to be after the storm.  Once the weather has passed and the airports have re-opened, our customers are counting on our crews and aircraft being in place and ready to go.

Other proactive measures to weather the storm include having extra employees on hand to assist our schedulers and dispatchers, as well as additional phone lines and a dedicated email address to ensure that our crews can get the information they need over the weekend.

Once the storm has passed, it’s our priority to return to full operational strength as quickly as possible—and we’re going to do everything in our power to make that happen.  “We’ve been working with our partners days in advance to come up with a game plan for the recovery of the operation,” said Elizabeth Bevenour, Manager of the Trans States SOC. “But due to the changing nature of Jonas, we’ve had to modify our plan multiple times. We’re constantly on our toes!  But this is what we do best, and we have a great team in place to pull this off.”

Flight Attendant “Turned Frustrating Experience into a Pleasant One”

We received this nice note from a passenger regarding Flight Attendant Brianna Drum. Here’s what he had to say after a recent flight:

“I was on American Airlines flight # 4116 on December 17 from New York LaGuardia to Greensboro operated by your company.  The flight was delayed a few times for various reasons, which normally would have been very frustrating.  The flight attendant, Brianna Drum, was very polite and understanding with everyone, despite some frustrations.

I had over 90 flights in 2015 and she was by far the best flight attendant of any of them.  I honestly don’t know of a specific thing that she did to make a difference, but it is kind of like having two different servers at a restaurant, they both take your order and bring your food, but one of them makes the whole experience better.  She somehow turned a frustrating situation into a pleasant one.”

Brianna personifies Trans States Airlines’ commitment to providing our customers with an exceptional passenger experience.  Regardless of the situation, our employees can be counted on to do their very best for our customers.  Service like Brianna’s is what it’s all about.

Chicago Crew Base Welcomes New Inflight Supervisor

 

Hernane Diniz
Chicago Inflight Supervisor, Hernane Diniz

Trans States employees are a talented and accomplished bunch, and Hernane Diniz, the new Inflight Supervisor at our Chicago crew base, is no exception.  An industry veteran with a diverse array of aviation experience, Hernane moved from Brazil to the United States when he was 18 to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.  He earned his Private Pilot License from American Flyers Flight School, and went on to study Aviation Management and Safety at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.  After finishing school, he became an International Customer Service Agent for United Airlines in Chicago, gaining valuable experience in airline operations.

In 2014, Hernane decided to further diversify his aviation resume by becoming a Flight Attendant.  He interviewed with several airlines, but chose to join Trans States, a decision that he is quite proud of.  Hernane has fond memories of the time he spent as a Chicago-based Flight Attendant, and says that it was a year full of fun days on airport reserve, trips to new places and great laughs with his crews.

After a year as a Flight Attendant, Hernane was selected as the Inflight Supervisor for the Chciago crew base.  In his new role, Hernane supervises the Flight Attendants based out of the Chicago base and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Chicago Inflight department, as well as for monitoring Inflight operational performance.  Of his new position, Hernane says, “I feel humbled and thankful for the opportunity Trans States Airlines has given me. I am looking forward to providing guidance and support to my co-workers, and as a team, delivering excellent service to our customers, while keeping safety as our number one priority.”

At Trans States, we want to give our employees as many opportunities as possible to grow their careers, and we promote from within whenever we can.  Hernane’s promotion from Flight Attendant to Supervisor is a perfect example of our commitment to our employees’ professional advancement.  We want to make sure that Trans States a great place for them to build careers and call home!

Brothers Austin and Kyle Jacobsen Share the Flight Deck

Kyle and Austin Jacobsen
Brothers and co-workers:  First Officer Austin Jacobsen and Captain Kyle Jacobsen

In addition to being co-workers, First Officer Austin Jacobsen and Captain Kyle Jacobsen are also brothers.  The two, who have the distinction of being one of the only sets of siblings to ever fly together at Trans States, were recently recently profiled in their hometown paper, the Spencer Daily Reporter.  Austin and Kyle spoke at length about what led them to pursue careers in aviation, what they like best about their jobs, and on achieving their dream to fly together.

We’re proud that Austin and Kyle have chosen to call Trans States home!

Crew Gets a Little Extra Help on Christmas Eve

Skippy the Elf
Skippy the Elf, greeting passengers and helping with pre-flight checks.

As the official airline of the North Pole, Trans States is always delighted to help Santa out over the holidays.  We had a guest on the flight deck this Christmas Eve, when Skippy the Elf caught a ride with Captain Jason Newell and First Officer Chad Memmel.  Skippy made himself comfortable on the instrument panel so that he could wish our passengers a Merry Christmas as they were boarding and deplaning.

The Trans States SOC Gives Back with Holiday Toy Drive

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Last year the Trans States SOC got into the holiday spirit with hot chocolate, an advent calendar, a personalized stocking for each SOC employee, and more.  However, this year the SOC employees they decided that in addition to the in-office festivities, they also wanted to organize something that would allow Trans States employees to give back to the local community.

Each year the Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys during December and November, and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. “When the Trans States SOC was looking for a charity to support this holiday season, Toys for Tots seemed like a great place to start,” said SOC Manager Elizabeth Bevenour.

Employees in the SOC work 7 days a week, with shifts going nearly around the clock, so SOC employees are often unable to participate in fundraisers that take place during regular office hours.  The SOC set out a toy collection box for two weeks, making it easy for employees to drop off their donations, regardless of what shift they worked.  “We collected approximately 100 toys this year, which I  think is great for our first year,” says Dispatcher Tom Wagoner, who helped Elizabeth coordinate the event.

The SOC plans to make a Toys for Tots drive an annual holiday event, and also has other plans for giving back to the local community next year, including canned food drives and more.

For more information on the Toys for Tots program, please visit http://toysfortots.org.

Flight Attendant Ischell Laxton Continues to Wow

Our Inflight team is very focused on the customer experience and works hard to provide a “Wow” experience for our customers on each and every flight. Last month we told you about Flight Attendant Ischell Laxton, who despite being a relatively new flight attendant, has been generating a seemingly endless number of rave reviews from our passengers.  The accolades for Ischell continue to pour in, and we wanted to share one of our recent favorites:

I am a United employee with 40 years of seniority and I had to take the time to compliment Ischell Laxton, the Flight Attendant that was on my flight 3362-27 HSV-DEN.  In all my years of flying I have never experienced a more pleasant, accommodating, helpful and generous crew member.

From the time we took off to the time we landed, she was all about the customer.  This 50 seat airplane on a 2 1/2 hour flight had no WiFi, no video, no meals, and was pretty full (39 out of 50), but the time went by quickly because of her.  Her announcements, safety demo, exit briefing, beverage service, follow up, cabin readiness, as well as anything else she could do, was delivered professionally and with a caring smile.  She obviously was by herself on this aircraft, but worked hard, and it was noticed by myself and others.  Believe it or not, a local Denver talk show host was on the flight and I heard him mention the flight on his radio show Saturday morning (his name is Ken Moon, on Denver station KHOW AM630).  This is an example of how good Customer Service (as well as bad) has a ripple effect.

Sincerely, James M

Ischell is a great example of how hard our Inflight team works to deliver a “Wow” experience for our passengers!

Bloomington Station Wins Prestigious Award

Central Illinois Regional Airport award pic

Congratulations to our Bloomington, IL station for winning the prestigious “Customer Cup” customer service award from American Airlines!  This quarterly award recognizes stations for improving the customer experience in areas including gate interactions, the boarding process, on board interactions, delays, and baggage handling.

The Bloomington team came in #1 ahead of all other American stations at airports of comparable size.  Way to go!