Chief Executive Officers of Eastern Airlines
Eddie Rickenbacker, CEO
He was born Edward Rickenbacher (without a middle name) in Columbus, Ohio to German-speaking Swiss immigrants. He loved machines from his childhood on, and experimented with them, encouraged by his father's words: "A machine has to have a purpose".
In what was to become one of the defining characteristics of Rickenbacker's life, he nearly died many times in events ranging from an early run-in with a horse-drawn carriage, to a botched tonsillectomy, to airplane crashes. His first near death experience occurred when he was in the "Horsehead Gang". He lived near a mine, and they decided to ride a cart down the slope. It tipped over and almost crushed them.
Thirteen-year-old Rickenbacker's schooling ended in grade seven after the accidental death of his father on August 26, 1904. He found jobs to help support the family, but driven by an intense admiration for machines, Rickenbacker taught himself as much as he could, including enrolling in a correspondence course in engineering. He aggressively pursued any chance of involvement with automobiles. Rickenbacker went to work at the Columbus Buggy Company, eventually becoming a salesman.
Rickenbacker became well-known as a race car driver, competing in the Indianapolis 500 four times before World War I. Rickenbacker joined the Maxwell Race Team in 1915 after leaving Peugeot. After the Maxwell team disbanded that same year, he joined the Prest-O-Lite team as manager and continued to race improved Maxwells for Prest-O-Lite.
Rickenbacker wanted to join the Allied troops in World War I, but the U.S. had not yet entered the war. He had several chance encounters with aviators, including a fortuitous incident in which he repaired a stranded aircraft for T. F. Dodd, a man who later became General John J. Pershing's aviation officer and an important contact in Rickenbacker's attempt to join air combat.
During World War I, with its anti-German atmosphere, he ? like many other German Americans
? changed his surname; the "h" in "Rickenbacher" became a "k" in an
effort to "take the Hun out of his name." As he was already well known
at the time, the change received wide publicity. "From then on", as he
wrote in his autobiography, "most Rickenbachers were practically forced
to spell their name in the way I had..."
He believed his given name "looked a little plain." He signed his name 26 times, with a different middle initial each time. After settling upon "V", he selected "Vernon" as a middle name.
In 1916, Rickenbacker traveled to London, with the aim of developing an English car for American races. Because of an erroneous press story and Rickenbacker's known Swiss heritage, he was suspected of being a spy. En route and in England, agents closely monitored his actions.
On a sea voyage back to America, he came up with the idea to recruit his race car driver friends as fighter pilots, on the theory that such men were accustomed to tight spaces and high speeds. His suggestion was ignored by the military.
When, in 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, Rickenbacker had enlisted in the United States Army and was training in France with some of the first American troops. He arrived in France on June 26, 1917 as a Sergeant First Class.
Most men chosen for pilot training had degrees from prestigious colleges, and Rickenbacker had to struggle to gain permission to fly because of his perceived lack of qualifications. Because of his mechanical abilities, Rickenbacker was assigned as engineering officer in a flight-training facility at Issoudun, where he practiced flying during his free time. He learned to fly well, but because his skills were so highly valued, Rickenbacker's superiors tried to prevent him from attaining his wings with the other pilots.
Rickenbacker demonstrated that he had a qualified replacement, and the military awarded him a place in one of America's air combat units, the 94th Aero Squadron, informally known as the "Hat-in-the-Ring" Squadron after its insignia. Originally he flew the Nieuport 28, at first without armament. On April 29, 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first plane and claimed his fifth to become an ace on May 28. Rickenbacker was awarded the French Croix de Guerre that month for his five victories.
On May 30, he scored his sixth victory. It would be his last for three and a half months. He developed an ear infection in July which almost ended his flying career and grounded him for several weeks. He shot down Germany's hottest new fighter, the Fokker D.VII, on September 14 and another the next day.
On September 24, 1918, now a captain, he was named commander of the squadron, and on the following day, he claimed two more German planes, for which he was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. After claiming yet another Fokker D.VII on September 27, he became a balloon buster by downing observation balloons on September 28, October 1, October 27, and October 30, 1918.
Thirteen more wins followed in October, bringing his total to thirteen Fokker D.VIIs, four other German fighters, five highly defended observation balloons, and only four of the easier two-seated reconnaissance planes.
The military determined ace status by verifying combat claims by a pilot; confirmation was needed from ground witnesses, affirmations of other pilots, or observation of the wreckage of the opposing enemy aircraft. If no witnesses could be found, a reported kill was not counted. It was an imperfect system, dependent on the frailties of human observation, as well as vagaries of weather and terrain. Most aces records are thus best estimates, not exact counts. Nevertheless, Rickenbacker's 26 victories remained the American record until World War II.
Rickenbacker flew a total of 300 combat hours, reportedly more than any other U.S. pilot in the war.
When Rickenbacker learned of the Armistice, he flew an airplane above the western front to observe the cease fire and the displays of joy and comradeship as the formerly warring troops crossed the front lines and joined in celebration.
After World War I ended, Rickenbacker was approached several times about exploiting his fame. He chose to go on a Liberty bond tour. He was offered many movie positions, but did not want all the attention, even though he was the most celebrated aviator in America (soon to be supplanted by Charles Lindbergh after his solo flight across the Atlantic). Rickenbacker described his World War I flying experiences in his memoirs, Fighting the Flying Circus, published after the war. In this book, he also describes the character, exploits, and death of fellow pilot Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Rickenbacker also continued to associate with Reed Chambers, with whom he had served in World War I; they jointly founded an airline.
In 1922, Rickenbacker married Adelaide Frost Durant; their marriage lasted for the rest of his life. Although they spent considerable time in Florida, Texas and Ohio, the Rickenbackers lived chiefly in New York City. They adopted two boys: David Edward in 1925, and William Frost in 1928. Adelaide was an unconventional wife for the times: she was five years older than her husband, had been previously married, and was outspoken and active. As independent as she was, Adelaide fully supported Rickenbacker's endeavors until his death in 1973.
He started the Rickenbacker Motor Company in 1920, selling technologically advanced cars incorporating innovations from automobile racing. The Rickenbacker came equipped with the first four-wheel brake system. Probably due to bad publicity from the other car manufacturers, who feared they would be unable to sell their inventory of cars with two-wheel braking, the company had trouble selling its cars and eventually went bankrupt in 1927. Rickenbacker went into massive debt, but was determined to pay back all of the $250,000 he owed, despite personally going bankrupt (and therefore no longer being legally obligated to do so). Eventually, all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. incorporated four-wheel braking.
On November 1, 1927, Rickenbacker bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which he operated for nearly a decade and a half, overseeing many improvements to the facility. Once the Speedway operations were under control, Rickenbacker looked for additional opportunities for entrepreneurship, including in sales for the Cadillac division of General Motors, and for various aircraft manufacturers and airlines. After the 500-mile (800 km) race in 1941, Rickenbacker closed the Speedway due to World War II. Among other things, holding the race would have been a waste of valuable gasoline and other fuels. In 1945, Rickenbacker sold the racetrack to the businessman Anton Hulman, Jr.Clashes with President Roosevelt
Rickenbacker was adamantly opposed to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies, seeing them as little better than socialism. For this, he drew criticism and ire from the press and the Roosevelt administration, which ordered NBC Radio not to allow him to broadcast opinions critical of Roosevelt's policies after Rickenbacker had harshly denounced the president's decision to rescind existing mail contracts in 1934 and have Army Air Corps pilots carry the air mail. At the time, Rickenbacker was vice president of one of the companies affected, Eastern Air Transport. When a number of inexperienced, under-trained army pilots were killed in crashes soon afterward, Rickenbacker stated, "That's legalized murder!"
Rickenbacker's most lasting business endeavor was his longtime leadership of Eastern Air Lines. Through the 1920s, he had worked with and for General Motors (GM): first as the California distributor for its new car, the short-lived Sheridan, then later as a marketer for the LaSalle, and finally as vice president of sales for their affiliate, Fokker Aircraft Company. He persuaded GM to purchase North American Aviation, a conglomerate whose assets included Eastern Air Transport. GM asked him to manage Eastern, beginning in 1935. With the help of some friends, Rickenbacker merged Eastern Air Transport and Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines, an airline that eventually grew from a company flying a few thousand miles per week into a major airline. In April 1938, after learning that GM was considering selling Eastern to John D. Hertz, Rickenbacker met with GM's Chairman of the Board, Alfred P. Sloan, and bought the company for $3.5 million.
Rickenbacker oversaw many radical changes in the field of commercial aviation. He negotiated with the U.S. government to acquire air mail routes, a great advantage to companies in need of business. He helped develop and support new aircraft designs. Rickenbacker bought the new, large, faster airliners for Eastern Airlines, including the four-engined Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-4. Rickenbacker personally collaborated with many of the pioneers of aviation, including Donald W. Douglas, the founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company, and the designer and builder of the large, four-engine airlines, the DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, and DC-8 (its first jet airliner).
Rickenbacker promoted flying to the American public, but, always aware of the possibility of accidents, he wrote in his autobiography, "I have never liked to use the word "safe" in connection with either Eastern Air Lines or the entire transportation field; I prefer the word 'reliable'."
Rickenbacker's near-fatal airline crash
Main article: Eastern Air Lines Flight 21
Rickenbacker often traveled for business on Eastern Airlines flights. On February 26, 1941, he was a passenger on a Douglas DC-3 airliner that crashed just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rickenbacker suffered especially grave injuries, and he was soaked in fuel, immobile, and trapped in the wreckage. In spite of his own critical wounds, Rickenbacker encouraged the other passengers, offered what consolation he could to those around him who were injured or dying, and guided the survivors who were still ambulatory to attempt to find help. The survivors were rescued after spending the night at the crash site. Rickenbacker barely survived. This was just the first time that the press announced his death while he was still alive.
In a dramatic retelling of the incident, Rickenbacker's autobiography relates his astonishing experiences. While he was still conscious but in terrible pain, Rickenbacker was left behind while some ambulances carried away bodies of the dead. When Rickenbacker arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that the emergency surgeons and physicians left him for dead for some time. They instructed their assistants to "take care of the live ones." Rickenbacker's injuries included a fractured skull, other head injuries, a shattered left elbow with a crushed nerve, a paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, a pelvis broken in two places, a severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Rickenbacker's left eyeball was also blown out of its socket.
It took many months in the hospital, followed by a long time at home, for Rickenbacker to heal from this multitude of injuries and to regain his full eyesight. Rickenbacker described his terrible experience with vivid accounts of his mental state as he approached death?emphasizing the supreme act of will that it took to stave off dying. Rickenbacker's autobiography reports that he spent ten days on the door of death, which he illustrated as having an overwhelming sensation of calm and pleasure.
Rickenbacker also scripted a popular comic strip called Ace Drummond from 1935-1940. He worked with aviation artist and author Clayton Knight, who illustrated the series. The strip followed the adventures of aviator Drummond. It was later adapted into a film serial and radio program.
supported the war effort as a civilian. In 1942, he toured training
bases in the southwestern United States and in England. He encouraged
the American public to contribute time and resources, and pledged
Eastern Airlines equipment and personnel for use in military activities.
Rickenbacker inspected troops, operations, and equipment, and served in a publicity function to increase support from civilians and soldiers. In 1942, with a sweeping letter of authorization from Henry L. Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War, Rickenbacker visited England on an official war mission and made ground-breaking recommendations for better war operations.
Adrift at sea
One of Rickenbacker's most famous near-death experiences occurred in October 1942. He was sent on a tour of the Pacific Theater of Operations to review both living conditions and military operations, and also to deliver personally a secret message to General Douglas MacArthur from the President. After visiting several air and sea bases in Hawaii, Rickenbacker was a passenger in the B-17D Flying Fortress numbered 40-3089, which strayed hundreds of miles off course while on its way to a refueling stop on Canton Island in the Central Pacific Ocean. The B-17 was forced to ditch in a remote and little-traveled part of the Central Pacific.
The failure in navigation has been ascribed to an out-of-adjustment celestial navigation instrument, an octant, which gave a systematic bias to all of its readings. That octant reportedly had suffered a severe shock in a pre-takeoff mishap. This unnecessary ditching spurred on the development of improved navigational instruments and also better survival gear for the air crewmen. The B-17's pilot-in-command, Captain William T Cherry, Jr., was forced to ditch his B-17 in the Pacific Ocean, rather close to Japanese-held islands, also. However, the Americans were never spotted by Japanese patrol planes, and they were to drift on the ocean for thousands of miles.
For 24 days, Rickenbacker, the Army captain Hans C. Adamson, his friend and business partner, and the rest of the crewmen drifted in life rafts at sea. Rickenbacker was still suffering somewhat from his earlier airplane crash, and Capt. Adamson sustained serious injuries during the ditching. The other crewmen in the B-17 were hurt to varying degrees. The crewmen's food supply ran out after three days. Then, on the eighth day, a seagull landed on Rickenbacker's head. He warily and cautiously captured it, and then the survivors meticulously divided it into equal parts and used part of it for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water that fell and similar food "miracles".
Rickenbacker assumed leadership, encouraging and browbeating the others to keep their spirits up. One crewman, Alexander Kaczmarczyk of the USAAF, died and was buried at sea. The U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy's patrol planes planned to abandon the search for the lost B-17 crewmen after just over two weeks, but Rickenbacker's wife persuaded them to extend it another week. The services agreed to do so. Once again, the newspapers and radio broadcasts reported that Rickenbacker was dead.
A U.S. Navy patrol OS2U-3 Kingfisher float-plane piloted by Lieutenant William F. Eadie, USN spotted and rescued the survivors on November 13, off the coast of Nukufetau near the Samoa Islands. All were suffering from exposure, sunburn, dehydration, and near-starvation. Eadie was awarded the Navy's Air Medal. His citation reads:
For meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight as pilot of a scouting plane in search of the survivors of the Rickenbacker party on November 12, 1942. Discovering their tiny raft after a search of more than 10 hours, Lieutenant Eadie, knowing that every moment counted after 20 days of hunger and thirst which these men had endured, brought his plane down on the open sea near the raft. Placing the most severely injured man in the cockpit of his small plane, and lashing the others to the wings, he taxied toward his base 40 miles away, until given assistance by a passing ship. His courageous and skillful accomplishment of this dangerous mission was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Rickenbacker completed his assignment and delivered his message to General MacArthur, which has never been made public. Rickenbacker had thought that he had been lost for 21 days, and wrote a book about this experience titled Seven Came Through, published by Doubleday, Doran. It was not until later that he recalculated the number of days, and he corrected himself in his autobiography in 1967.
The story was also recounted in Lt. James Whittaker's book We Thought We Heard The Angels Sing, published in 1943.
The story of Rickenbacker's ordeal has been used as an example for Alcoholics Anonymous when the first of their Twelve Traditions was formulated: Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity."
1943 mission to the USSR
Still determined to support the U.S. war effort, Rickenbacker suggested a fact-finding mission in the Soviet Union to provide the Soviets with needed technical assistance for their American aircraft. Rickenbacker approached Soviet diplomats, and avoided requesting help from President Franklin Roosevelt, due to their prior disagreements. With the help of the Secretary of War and by trading favors with the Soviet ambassador, Rickenbacker secured unlikely permission to travel to the Soviet Union. The War Department provided everything Rickenbacker needed, including a highly unusual letter stating that the bearer was authorized to "visit ... any ... areas he may deem necessary for such purposes as he will explain to you in person", signed by the Secretary of War.
Rickenbacker's trip took him over South America, where he made observations about the conditions there. He stopped in Africa, China and India, at each stop reviewing American operations and making notes to report to authorities. In Iran, Rickenbacker offered to bring along an American officer, whose unapproved request to travel to the Soviet Union delayed Rickenbacker's party for a few days.
In the Soviet Union, Rickenbacker observed wartime conditions, the extraordinary dedication and patriotism by the populace, and the ruthless denial of food to those deemed unproductive to the war effort. He befriended many Soviet officials and shared his knowledge of the aircraft they had received from the United States. He was lavishly entertained and recalled attempts by KGB agents and officials to get him intoxicated enough to disclose sensitive information.
Rickenbacker's mission was successful. He discovered that a commander of Moscow's defense had stayed at Rickenbacker's home in 1937, and personal connections like this and the respect the Soviet military personnel had for him greatly aided his information-gathering. He learned about Soviet defense strategies and capabilities. In the distraction resulting from the outbreak of the Battle of Kursk, he saw a map of the front line showing the locations of all major Soviet military units, which he did his best to memorize. He also persuaded his hosts to give him an unprecedented tour of the Shturmovik aircraft factory. But it was comments made by Rickenbacker during his trip that alerted the Soviets to the existence of the secret B-29 Superfortress program.
Rickenbacker observed some traces of capitalism (for example, people were allowed to grow food and sell their surplus) and predicted that the Soviet Union would eventually become a capitalist nation.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill interviewed Rickenbacker about his mission. In the U.S., Rickenbacker's information resulted in some diplomatic and military action, but President Roosevelt did not meet with Rickenbacker.
Although his main home was in New York City for many years, Rickenbacker owned a winter home in Coconut Grove, Florida, near the Eastern Airlines' major maintenance and administrative headquarters at the Miami International Airport. For a time, Eastern was the most profitable airline in the postwar era. During the late 1950s though, Eastern Airline's fortunes declined, and Rickenbacker was forced out of his position as CEO on October 1, 1959. Rickenbacker also resigned as the Chairman of the Board on December 31, 1963, at the age of 73. After that, Capt. and Mrs. Rickenbacker traveled extensively for a number of years.
In the 1960s, Rickenbacker became a well-known speaker. He shared his vision for the future of technology and commerce, exhorted Americans to respect the enemy, the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but still uphold American values. Rickenbacker endorsed many conservative ideas.
In 1967, when Rickenbacker published his autobiography, a special edition was printed for the employees of Eastern Air Lines, and it contained the following dedication:
To the Men and Women of Eastern Air Lines
It is with pleasure and pride that I inscribe to you this copy of my life story from the time I was three years of age. You
will find therein the source of those principles I used to preach; and
if they can help you avoid even a few of the keen disappointments and
bitter heartaches that I have lived through, then I will feel well
repaid for my efforts.
From these principles and our labors together emerged one of our country's great airlines and further developed our great heritage of pioneering. In the years ahead young, strong hands will carry them into a future which you and I, with all our dreams, can scarcely visualize---that "Parade of Youth" which always was and always will be the true spirit of Eastern Air Lines.
(Signed) Capt Eddie Rickenbacker
Capt. Rickenbacker suffered from a stroke while he was in Switzerland seeking special medical treatment for Mrs. Rickenbacker, and he then contracted pneumonia. Rickenbacker died on July 23, 1973 in Zürich, Switzerland, and then his body was interred in Columbus, Ohio, at the Green Lawn Cemetery.
In 1977, at the age of 92, Adelaide Rickenbacker was completely blind, suffering from failing health, and still grieving severely from the loss of her husband. She shot herself to death at their home on Key Biscayne, Florida.
Medal of Honor Citation
Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lieutenant. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.
Medal of Honor citation, awarded November 6, 1930
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Montsec, France, April 29, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked an enemy Albatross monoplane, and after a vigorous fight in which he followed his foe into German territory, he succeeded in shooting it down near Vigneulles-les-Hatton Chatel. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919
Second Distinguished Service Cross Citation
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S . for extraordinary heroism in action over Richecourt, France, on May 17, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross enemy planes, shooting one down in the vicinity of Richecourt, France, and forcing the others to retreat over their own lines. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919
Third Distinguished Service Cross citation
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over St. Mihiel, France, on May 22, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross monoplanes 4,000 meters over St. Mihiel, France. He drove them back into German territory, separated one from the group, and shot it down near Flirey. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919
Fourth Distinguished Service Cross citation
Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker,
Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action
over Boise Rate, France, on May 28, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker sighted a
group of two battle planes and four monoplanes, German planes, which he
at once attacked vigorously, shooting down one and dispersing the
others. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919.
Fifth Distinguished Service Cross Citation
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action on May 30, 1918, 4,000 meters over Jaulny, France. Captain Rickenbacker attacked a group of five enemy planes. After a violent battle, he shot down one plane and drove the others away.
General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919
Sixth Distinguished Service Cross citation
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Villecy, France, September 14, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked four Fokker enemy planes at an altitude of 3,000 meters. After a sharp and hot action, he succeeded in shooting one down in flames and dispersing the other three. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919
Seventh Distinguished Service Cross Citation
Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker,
Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action
in the region of Bois-de-Wavrille, France, September 15, 1918. Captain
Rickenbacker encountered six enemy planes, who were in the act of
attacking four Spads, which were below them. Undeterred by their
superior numbers, he unhesitatingly attacked them and succeeded in
shooting one down in flames and completely breaking the formation of the
others. General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919.
Rickenbacker was inducted into various halls of fame including the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1965, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994. He also received the Tony Jannus Award in 1967 for his contributions to scheduled commercial aviation.
What is now Dobbins Air Reserve Base was originally called Rickenbacker Field in his honor when it opened in 1941. In November 1947, a four mile (6 km) causeway was completed, linking Miami on the mainland of Florida with Crandon Park on the island of Key Biscayne.T he road was named Rickenbacker Causeway in his honor. In 1974, Lockbourne Air Force Base in his home town of Columbus was renamed Rickenbacker Air Force Base. On April 1, 1980 it was turned over to the Air National Guard and renamed Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. It shares an airfield with Rickenbacker International Airport.
The Rickenbacker award is the Civil Air Patrol cadet achievement equivalent to an Active Duty Air Force Technical Sergeant. Cadets awarded the Rickenbacker achievement are promoted to C/TSgt. The United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in honor of Rickenbacker's accomplishments as an aviation pioneer in 1995.
In his comic strip Li'l Abner, Al Capp included an airplane pilot modeled on Rickenbacker: Cap'n Eddie Ricketyback. Eddie Rickenbacker appears in the computer game Red Baron as one of the Allied aces.
In the 1999 game System Shock 2, a military spaceship is named the UNN Rickenbacker. Wings of War: Famous Aces features Rickenbacker's Spad XIII. He also appears in the WWI simulation game Rise of Flight as an instructor.
In the 2007 movie The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Billy Mitchell compares Eddie Rickenbacker with the Red Baron to illustrate his own dominance of competitive video game playing, stating "There's a level of difference between some people."
In 2009, musician Todd Snider wrote a song called "Money, Compliments, and Publicity," which revolves around a statement Rickenbacker made indicating that the pinnacle of success is when you lose interest in money, compliments, and publicity.
In the 2004 novel The Godfather Returns, Nick Geraci is reading Eddie Rickenbacker's autobiography. His father quotes from the sleeve of the book.
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Floyd D. Hall, Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer of Eastern Airlines from 1963 to 1970
Floyd D. Hall
Floyd D. Hall (April 4, 1916 – April
26, 2012) was an American businessman and Pilot who served as Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer of Eastern Airlines from 1963 to 1970 between the tenures of Eddie
Rickenbacker and Frank Borman.
Hall was born in Lamar, Colorado,
the son of a hotel owner. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1936,
served in the United States Army Air Corps for two years, then joined TWA as a pilot. Upon
the outbreak of World War II, he returned to the Army Air Corps, where he rose
to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1946, he returned to TWA, where he worked
as a pilot for ten years, then in management. In 1964, he was hired by Eastern
Airlines as chief executive. He died in Woodstock, Vermont.
Floyd D. Hall, a former airline pilot who rose to
chairman and chief executive of Eastern Airlines in the mid-1960s but who was
unable to stem the financial difficulties that eventually led to the company’s
demise. Mr. Hall, whose 12 years as head of Eastern Airlines
were bracketed by the leadership of two renowned fliers — the World War I
fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker and the astronaut Frank Borman.
“He will take over what may well be the toughest job in the business, scrubbing the moss off a carrier that used to be the biggest and most consistent moneymaker,” Newsweek wrote in December 1963, when Eastern’s board lured Mr. Hall away from Trans World Airlines. Since 1960, Newsweek continued, “Eastern has lost $39 million, including $12.5 million in the first nine months of 1963.”
The company had been plagued by stodgy management,
increasing competition on its once-lucrative routes — mostly along the East
Coast — and complaints about old planes, late departures and unsatisfactory
on-board service. Mr. Hall increased shuttle flights. He improved the
quality and variety of on-board meals and introduced free drinks in first class.
He greatly improved on-time ratings. And he made all of that known through
aggressive advertising, notably a “Wings of Man” campaign
created by Young & Rubicon.
“I believe that if we bite the bullet where we have to, stand tall, tighten our belt and remember that second-best is not good enough, we can rehabilitate this airline,” he told The New York Times shortly after moving into his office and hanging his framed TWA pilot’s wings and captain’s stripes on the wall.
Floyd D. Hall, Credit Patrick A. Burns/The New York Times
After switching from the cockpit to the executive suite at TWA, Mr. Hall helped resuscitate that struggling airline. As Senior Vice President, Systems General Manager and a Board member, he played a major role in TWA’s reporting $18 million in profit in 1963, compared with a deficit of $10.8 million the year before.
“Pilot Hall has impressive experience in pulling out of nose dives,” Time magazine said in 1964.
But his efforts at Eastern did not fare as well. In October 1975, when Mr. Hall stepped down as chief executive after 12 years, the company announced a net loss of $20.7 million for the year to date. Faced with increasing competition from discount airlines, Eastern continued to struggle for the next 16 years. Its last flight was on Jan. 18, 1991.
When the United States entered World War II, Mr. Hall was called back into the Air Corps, where he rose to lieutenant colonel. He rejoined TWA in 1946 and was a pilot for the next 10 years. His two brothers, Howard and Wesley, who died before him, were also TWA pilots.
Besides his daughter, Mr. Hall is survived by his stepson, Nixon Griffis; five grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, the former Kimathea Griffis, died in 2000. His first marriage, to the late Mary Feild, ended in divorce.
As a teenager in the early 1930s, Mr. Hall made his first flight, in a Ford Tri-Motor. But even after going into management, he continued to fly.
“I flew a Boeing 727 jet seven months ago, and didn’t bang it up at all,” he said after becoming chief executive of Eastern. “On the other hand, I wouldn’t subject Eastern’s cash customers to my brand of flying.”
Samuel L. Higginbottom, President and COO
Samuel L. Higginbottom,
President and CEO of Eastern Airlines
1970 - 1974
By Chabeli Herrera
He served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. “His insight into business, world affairs, education and people were legendary and I counted on him for his wise counsel over the course of several decades,” said Laurans Mendelson, HEICO’s Chairman and CEO. “He was a key leader and developer of the U.S. aviation and airline industries where he helped usher in the Jet Age.”
Jana Higginbottom, his wife who still has hints of her Brazilian heritage when she speaks English, said, “The funny thing is that my husband, would never ever once correct my English...he was so amazing”.
Among his other interests, said wife Jana, were fishing, cooking, tennis, golf, and most of all, cars. He had almost 100 cars throughout his life. “We would always tease him; he was trying to match his age with the number of cars” Jana Higginbottom said. “He was short two or three cars to 95.” His last one: a BMW 7 series.
Donations can be made to Columbia University Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
Frank Borman, President and CO
Frank Frederick Borman, II (born March 14, 1928), (Col, USAF, Ret.), is a retired United States Air Force pilot, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, best remembered as the Commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to fly around the Moon, making him, along with crew mates Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, the first of only 24 humans to do so. Before flying on Apollo, he set a fourteen-day spaceflight endurance record on Gemini 7, and also served on the NASA review board which investigated the Apollo 1 fire.
Borman was born on March 14, 1928, in Gary, Indiana, where the Frank Borman Expressway is named after him. He is of German descent, born as the only child to parents Edwin and Marjorie Borman. Because he suffered from numerous sinus problems in the cold and damp weather, his father packed up the family and moved to the better climate of Tucson, Arizona, which Borman considers his home town. He started to fly at the age of 15.
Borman graduated from Tucson High School in 1946. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1950, where he served as an Army Football Manager, and along with part of his graduating class, he entered the United States Air Force (USAF) and became a fighter pilot. He received his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1957. Later, Borman was selected for the Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class 60C, I) and became a test pilot. He completed the Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program in 1970.
Borman married Susan Bugbee in 1950, and they have two sons: Frederick (born October 4, 1951) and Edwin (born July 20, 1953), and four grandchildren.
Gemini 7 mission
Following graduation, Borman was a career U.S. Air Force officer. Prior to joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space program in 1962, he received his pilot wings in 1951 and served as a fighter pilot with the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the Philippine Islands from 1951 to 1953, and as an operational pilot and flight instructor in various squadrons in the United States, from 1953 until 1956.
In 1957, he became an assistant professor of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics at West Point, where he served until 1960. In 1960, Borman began serving as an experimental test pilot engaged in organizing and administering special projects for the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, 1960–1962.
During his military service, he logged over 6,000 hours of flying time.
In 1966 and 1968, Borman served as special presidential ambassador on trips throughout the Far East
and Europe. In 1970, he undertook another special presidential mission,
a worldwide tour to seek support for the release of American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam.
Borman was selected by NASA for the second NASA astronaut group in 1962, and was chosen as the Command Pilot for Gemini 7. He was one of just four of this group chosen to command their first Gemini missions, the others being James McDivitt, Neil Armstrong, and Elliot See. (See was killed in a T-38 trainer jet crash three months before his mission. Astronauts Gerald Carr and Joe Engle, selected later, also commanded their first space flights.)
Borman flew Gemini 7 in December 1965 with Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr. This was a long-endurance flight which set a fourteen-day record, and also acted as the target vehicle in the first space rendezvous performed by Gemini 6A. The two craft came within one foot (30 centimeters) of each other and they took turns flying around each other, taking both still and motion pictures.
Borman was selected in late 1966 to command the third manned Apollo mission, planned as an elliptical medium Earth orbit test of the second manned Lunar Module (LM) on the first manned launch of the Saturn V lunar rocket sometime in 1967 or early 1968. However, in January 1967, the crew of the first manned Apollo mission Apollo 1 (then designated "AS-204"), Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a fire aboard their Command Module, delaying the Apollo program. Following this deadly accident, the AS-204 Accident Review Board was charged with investigating the root causes of the fire and recommending corrective measures – Borman was chosen as the only astronaut to serve on the review board. In April 1967, while serving on the board, Borman was one of five astronauts who testified before a United States Senate committee investigating the Apollo 1 fire. His testimony helped convince U.S. Congress that Apollo would be safe to fly again.
The Apollo 8 mission is also notable for the Earthrise photograph taken by William Anders of the Earth rising above the Lunar horizon as the Command Module orbited the Moon, and for the reading from Genesis that was broadcast to Earth from Lunar orbit.
The success of Apollo 8 avoided jeopardizing the goal of making the first manned Moon landing by the end of 1969 by not waiting for the delayed LM, and also provided invaluable experience in navigation to the Moon.
Space journalist Andrew Chaikin claims that, following the death of Gus Grissom, Borman became astronaut chief Deke Slayton's choice to command the first Moon landing attempt. In the fall of 1968, Slayton offered command of the first landing to Borman, who turned it down, choosing to retire instead.
In early 1969, Borman became a special advisor to Eastern Air Lines and after retiring from NASA and the U.S. Air Force in 1970 as a Colonel, he was made Senior Vice President-Operations Group at the company. In 1972, Borman received a phone call one evening informing him that Eastern Flight 401 had disappeared off the radarscope near Florida's Everglades. Soon, Borman himself was wading through the murky swamps, helping rescue crash victims and loading survivors into rescue helicopters.
He was later promoted to Executive Vice President-General Operations Manager and was elected to Eastern's Board of Directors in July 1974. In May 1975, Borman was elected President and Chief Operating Officer. He was named Chief Executive Officer of Eastern in December 1975 and became Chairman of the Board in December 1976.
After Borman became Eastern's CEO, the company went through the four
most profitable years in the company's history. However, in 1983,
contentious battles with labor unions, particularly the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) led the company to abandon several profitable programs and the resulting losses led to the sale of the airline to Texas Air Corporation, headed by Frank Lorenzo. Borman retired from Eastern in June 1986.
Borman and his wife returned to reside in Tucson, Arizona, and then in 2006 they moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he enjoyed rebuilding and flying vintage airplanes from the World War II and Korean War era. He was a member of the Society of Antique Modelers (SAM).
Borman gave the Commencement Address to the graduating class of 2008 at the University of Arizona.
Borman has since appeared in the documentary When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions. On November 13, 2008, Borman and his fellow Apollo 8 crewmates, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, appeared on the NASA TV channel to discuss the Apollo 8 mission.
Borman also appeared in the 2005 documentary "Race to the Moon", which was shown as part of the PBS American Experience series. The film, renamed in 2013 as "Earthrise: The First Lunar Voyage," centered on the events that led up to NASA's Apollo 8 mission.
Joseph B. Leonard
President and Chief Operating Officer
1985 - 1986
Joe Leonard was named
President and Chief Operating Officer with Frank Borman remaining as Chairman.
Joseph B. Leonard is a corporate director. Mr. Leonard served as the
interim Chief Executive Officer of Walter Energy, Inc. from 2010 to 2011.
He was Chairman of AirTran Holdings, Inc. from 1999 to 2008 and Chief Executive Officer from 1999 to 2007.
Mr. Leonard was also President and
Chief Executive Officer of Allied Signal's Aerospace marketing, sales and
He previously held various senior management
positions with Northwest Airlines, Eastern Airlines and American
Mr. Leonard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace
Engineering from Auburn University.
Phil Bakes President and
Chief Executive Officer
October 17, 1986 - April 21, 1990
Phil Bakes was named new
President on October 17, 1986, and Joe Leonard named Executive Vice President
and Chief Operating Officer.
Phil was born in Little Rock, AR to Philip J. Bakes, Sr. and Theresa (Tiernan) Bakes, and grew up in Chicago, IL. He was a 1971 magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School where he served as Articles Editor of the Harvard Law Review. From 1972 to 1980, Phil dedicated his life to public service, first as a Watergate Special Prosecutor, then as general counsel to the Civil Aeronautics Board, and finally with Senator Edward M. Kennedy working with the Senate Judiciary Committee and later as Kennedy's Deputy Campaign manager during his 1980 presidential run.
In 1980, Phil began his long career at the highest levels of the travel and hospitality industry. He was President of Continental Airlines from 1980 to 1985. In 1985, he moved his family to Miami, where he proudly headed Eastern Airlines as its President and CEO, where he helped engineer a major turn- around and reorganization, as well as participated in numerous acquisitions, mergers and divestitures during the airline industry’s decade of post-
deregulation adjustment and consolidation.
For the last 30 years of his life, Phil made Miami his home, and it was a community and place he loved most above all others. He developed life-long personal relationships, especially through the Young Presidents and World Presidents Organizations as well as co-founder of the Miami-based Strategic Forum.
Robert Gould become
President of Eastern and Chief Operating Officer.
Robert Gould was formerly the Vice President of Pan
American Airways,until he become President of Eastern and Chief Operating
Prior to joining Pan American Gould was a Marine pilot for 5 years. Gould joined Pan American as a pilot in 1965 and knew Shugrue who had joined Pan American in 1968 as a pilot. At one point in his career, Gould, as an ALPA representative, was negotiating with Shugrue, who at that time was negotiating labor contracts for Pan American.
After two tours in the U.S. Marine Corps as a commissioned officer flying fighter jets and helicopters (and setting the pushup record at Parris Island), Mr. Gould joined Pan American World Airways. Mr. Gould enjoyed a highly successful and influential career in the airline industry. In his 25 years at Pan Am, he not only traveled the world, but advanced to captain of the 737, 707 and 747 aircraft. He was the first union official (Airline Pilots Association) to be nominated to the Pan American Board of Directors, and at the time, one of only two union officials in the country to sit on the board of a major U.S. Corporation.
He moved from active flying to management and became Sr.
Vice President of Operations for Pan Am. In this capacity, one of the
most monumental and saddest events of his life was being sent to
Lockerbie, Scotland to supervise the investigation of the terrible 1988
bombing of a Pan Am 747. One of his best friends, James McQuarry, was
the pilot on that fated flight. Mr. Gould scoured the enormous crash
scene himself looking for his friend’s body, which he located, and then
personally returned the remains to McQuarry’s widow back in the States.
Mr. Gould went on to become President of Eastern Airlines and
President of MGM Grand Airlines before spending the remainder of his
career as an Aviation Safety Consultant with Simat, Helliesen &
Eichner. In his retirement, Mr. Gould enjoyed working outside at his
home in West Redding, Conn., and his tree farm in North Carolina.
Robert L. Gould, father of local resident Kristen Gould Case, passed away on March 6, 2009, at the age of 70. In his retirement, Mr. Gould enjoyed working outside at his home in West Redding, Conn., and his tree farm in North Carolina.