iPhone photo I was able to take of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 and the fallen soldier baggage cart at the airline's maintenance facility in Seattle during a special Veteran's event in November 2011.
Today is Memorial Day, where hopefully most people are able to at least take a moment and think about those who have given the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. It is a day where it shouldn’t matter if you support war or even what political party you vote for. It should be a day where we remember those men and women who have been killed while serving in the armed forces.
When a solider dies while serving, it is a delicate process to bring their body back home. There are special military protocols that airlines must follow when transporting the remains of a fallen solider, but some airlines don’t want to do the bare minimum. Each body must have a volunteer escort that follows the fallen solider from the mortuary to their final resting place.
About a year ago, Alaska Airlines technicians realized that the process of transporting a fallen solider was lacking and they looked to improve it.
“We noticed a lot of violations of military protocols due to a lack of awareness and training,” said Brian Bowden, an Alaska Airlines line aircraft technician. “Our goal is to show respect by ensuring the proper standards are followed.”
Bowden and 13 other technicians created a new “Fallen Solider” program to, “seamlessly transfer the remains of soldiers killed in action through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.” Part of that program was creating a special baggage cart that would only be used to transport fallen soldiers. The cart was refurbished with carpet and has a retractable American flag curtain with plaques representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The program gives details on how to properly load and unload a soldier’s remains, as well as taking care of the escort or families. “These brave men and women sacrificed their lives for you and me,” line aircraft technician Tony Sander stated. “Often, their families are traveling alongside the fallen soldier. Mishandlings are embarrassing and unacceptable.”
Escorts will fly in the main cabin, while the fallen soldier will fly in the cargo hold. During layovers, escorts need to stay with the fallen soldier at all times and that can be challenging. Alaska has gone out of their way to provide escorts or others travelling with the remains, a working station at the airline’s maintenance facility. Airline crew will also make sure that the escort is well fed during any down time and cater to any of their other needs.
Many of the technicians who worked on the program are veterans themselves and take great pride in taking care of their own. “The technicians wanted ownership. The group has many passionate ex-military members who re-designed the process completely on their own time,” said Paul Taylor, director of line maintenance. “They took decisive action and lived up to their word.”
The program has been so successful that it has spread beyond Seattle and to other airports. “This process needs to reach all the airports we serve. Training at our other sites would spread a deeper respect for all the fallen soldiers of our armed forces,” technician Bowden said.
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 coming in for a landing. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.
A big cheers to Alaska Airlines and the technicians who took the initiative to do the right thing.
On top of the Fallen Soldiers program, Alaska has a 100 person Employee Military Resource Group whose sole focus is to hire, retain and promote military employees.
Alaska has also recently started a new apprentice program, aimed directly at military experience and the transition to civilian/corporate work. Alaska proudly employees veterans who work in all capacities from maintenance to flying to the executive offices.
Thumbnail from each of my Flickr photo sets in 2011. Lots of good stuff. SUPER DOOPER bonus if you can tell me what each of these thumbnails represent -- without going to my Flickr page.
First of all, a Happy New Year to everyone. 2011 was another great year for the blog. Without your readership, airlines wouldn’t be willing to let me go on these adventures and share them with you, so I am highly appreciative for all your support.
In 2011, I was able to rack up over 81,000 miles flying for the blog (compared to 50,000 in 2010). Out of all the stories, photos and experiences which were the most popular to me and you? Well, this year it wasn’t so easy. All these “Tops” come directly from the blog at AirlineReporter.com and do not take into account of the readership on the Seattle PI or Reuters (even though are very important as well — but I just don’t have good data from those). Here are Top 5’s in different categories:
Top 5 Viewed Blogs
Rarely does time spent on a story relate directly to the amount of traffic seen. Many times, having access to a few sweet photos or a video and taking three minutes to post it will inevitably see more traffic than a story I work on for weeks. Traffic is traffic of course and it is always interesting seeing the most popular stories. These are the top viewed stories for 2011:
* Airbus A380 wing hits building at Paris Airshow
* Interior photos of ANA’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner
* JAL livery revealed on 787 Dreamliner
* Photo of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental outside, unpainted
* Taking a look at Delta’s Economy Comfort vs United’s Economy Plus
Top 5 Experiences
Lots of miles and many great experiences this last year, but these are my five favorite (in no particular order):
* Flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for the first time
* Hitching a ride on a Beechcraft Starship
* Experiencing Singapore Airline’s A380 Business Class
* Delivering a RwandAir Boeing 737
* Watching the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental take her first flight
Top 5 Cities Reading the Blog
This is the first year that Seattle (where I am based) moves down to number two in readership behind New York. Also, all five are US cities, where last year London made the list. Here are the cities that read my blog the most in 2011 (in order of most to least):
* New York
* Los Angeles
* San Francisco
I feel lucky that I was able to fly over 81,000 miles for the blog in 2011. Hoping to break the 100k mark for 2012.
Top 5 Photos On The Blog
I am not a professional photographer, nor do I want to be one. I have enjoyed learning a lot about photography in 2011, but being around people who are truly amazing photographers, I won’t ever get to that level — but I am okay with that (less stressful for sure). Sometimes I like what I take, sometimes I do not. These are the Top 5 photos I enjoyed that were taken for the blog. Not saying they will win any awards, but here they are:
* Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 at Narita
* Boeing 747-8I at Boeing Field (taken by Nick Smith for AirlineReporter.com)
* Singapore skyline at night
* Rear view of the Beechcraft Starship. The plane has so many amazing angles, but I really enjoyed this one.
* Inside the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with tinted windows
Top 5 Most Commented Blogs
This year has seen many more comments on my stories and I LOVE IT. Not surprisingly there tend to be more comments on some of my more controversal topics. Here are the top commented stories (in order from most to least) of 2011:
* Received My First Body Scan and I Am Okay With It
* Airline Livery Opinion of the Week: American Airlines Livery Stinks
* PHOTOS: Airbus A380 Wing Hits Building at Paris Air Show
* CONTEST: How Many Boeing 737s Are Still Flying?
* Was United Airline’s Computer Outage That Big of a Deal? I Say Nay.
Previous New Years Posts:
Top 5 of 2010
My 6 favorite blogs of 2009
So what did your airline-related 2011 look like? Fly anywhere cool? Take some good photos? Where are you hoping to go in 2012?
Happy Holidays says the Boeing 737.
I hope you all have a great holiday season and safe travels. If you end up having an interesting airline story over the holiday — please share!
Original Image from Thomas Becker
Photoshopped by AirlineReporter.com