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Authors: Thomas Petzinger Jr.

Tags: #Business & Money, #Biography & History, #Company Profiles, #Economics, #Macroeconomics, #Engineering & Transportation, #Transportation, #Aviation, #Company Histories, #Professional & Technical

Hard Landing

BOOK: Hard Landing
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“Vivid and detailed.… Unlike many dry analyses of deregulation, this book is foremost a tale, fashioned around the ambitions, schemes, and failures of the mercurial men who have dominated aviation for the last 30 years.”

—The Washington Monthly

“Petzinger tells his story with the clarity and attention to detail that makes
The Wall Street Journal
, for which he writes, so readable and entertaining.… There is much here that, in this reporter’s memory, the public didn’t know.…
Hard Landing
is recommended reading for those whose profession requires an understanding of the airline business—or for anyone interested in how big business really works when the TV lights are off and the boardroom door is closed.”


“None tell it better than
Wall Street Journal
columnist Thomas Petzinger, Jr. In his well-written tome that is organized and reads much like an intriguing novel, Petzinger shows how the airline industry painfully changed over the last 25 years.”

—Chicago Tribune

“This is an impressive and wonderfully readable book … the best picture to date of the dramatic changes in U.S. civil aviation over the last two decades. Much of it reads like a novel-only it is all true.… The overall effect is enthralling.… Read this one!”


“Petzinger’s reporting shines. The book is filled with the reconstructed conversations of the men who led America’s airlines through the last three decades. Its sweep is breathtaking.”

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Lively and absorbing … required reading.”

—Boston Globe

“A sharply drawn, engaging book about air wars largely led by some colorful brigands.”


“Petzinger focuses on the people in the epic contest. And that’s what makes the book so fun, and elevates
Hard Landing
above the typical aviation or business book.”

—Dallas Morning News

“A wonderful book that explains why the airline business is such a crazy industry.”

—St. Petersburg Times

“This riveting book is replete with little-known facts.… An important book [that] reads like a novel and leaves the reader eager for his next.”

—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Fascinating insights from a journalist who obviously well researched the topic.”


“What makes this frank, matter-of-fact volume engaging is its detailed analysis of the politics and big-business duplicity behind those flashy ads.”

—Air & Space

“Colorfully chronicles the changing alliances and enmities of these men as they battle to win at any cost and change the way the world travels.”


“In this comprehensive exploration of the industry, Petzinger focuses on the brilliant but sometimes seriously flawed leaders who have revolutionized the business of moving people in flying cylinders.… Intriguing.”

—Orange County Register
Oil and Honor: The Texaco-Pennzoil Wars

Copyright © 1995, 1996 by Thomas Petzinger, Jr.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc. for permission to reprint four lines from “God Save the Queen” by Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, Steve Jones, and Glen Matlock. Copyright © 1977 by Glitterbest Limited and WB Music Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc., Miami, FL 33014.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published by Three Rivers Press, New York, New York.
Member of the Crown Publishing Group.

Random House, Inc. New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland

THREE RIVERS PRESS is a registered trademark and the Three Rivers Press colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

This work was originally published in hardcover and in slightly different form by Times Books in 1995. Originally published in paperback by Times Books in 1996.

Library of Congress Cataloging in-Publication Data

Petzinger, Thomas, Jr.
Hard landing : the epic contest for power and profits that plunged the airlines into chaos / Thomas Petzinger, Jr.
1. Airlines—United States—History.  2. Aeronautics, commercial—United States history.  3. Aeronautics, commercial—Deregulation—United States history.  I. Title.

HE9803.A4P48          1995

                                           387.7′0973—dc20     95-13684

eISBN: 978-0-307-77449-1


To Paulette
And to Beatrice, Eva, and Janis





It was a love of the air and sky and flying, the lure of adventure, the appreciation of beauty. It lay beyond the descriptive words of men—where immortality is touched through danger, where life meets death on an equal plane; where man is more than man

The Spirit of St. Louis
, 1953

This is a nasty, rotten business

American Airlines, 1994


I grew up around the airlines. As a teenager I handled baggage and freight for United Airlines. My late grandmother, Beatrice V. March, founded a travel agency in Ohio 40 years ago. My father, Thomas V. Petzinger, Sr., built it into a business well known for integrity and innovation. My brother, Charles C. Petzinger, is now building the business into a world-class operation. Over the years my mother, Jean March Petzinger, and my sister, Elizabeth Ann Holter, involved themselves in the agency whenever it required class.

My first thanks thus go to my relatives for exposing me to the delights of the travel profession. Only now, after researching this book, do I appreciate how hard they have had to work to extract a living from it.

I owe a tremendous debt to my sources, who are listed elsewhere. In addition to thanking them for their time, trust, and candor, I wish to extend my regrets to each and every one of them that this is not precisely the book any of them might have wished me to write.

The Wall Street Journal
, I thank Paul Steiger, the managing editor, who kept a job open for me while I disappeared to work on this project. News editor Cynthia Crossen helped assure a soft landing on my return. For their encouragement, moral support, and reporting assistance along the way, I thank my
colleagues Jill
Abramson, Laurie Cohen, Brian Coleman, Al Hunt, Bruce Ingersoll, Hal Lancaster, Laurie McGinley, Walt Mossberg, Alan Murray, Asra Nomani, Rick Wartzman, and David Wessel, as well as my former colleagues Eugene Carlson, Jim Stewart, and Peter Truell. I especially wish to thank the
Bridget O’Brian, who not only shared her insights but provided years of outstanding coverage on which this manuscript heavily relies.

Apropos of that, I am grateful to many other current and former
reporters whose trailblazing reporting precedes my efforts here. They include Teri Agins, Jeff Bailey, Buck Brown, Bryan Burrough, Harlan Byrne, Susan Carey, Gary Cohn, John Curley, Jon Dahl, Bob Davis, Steve Frazier, George Getschow, Dick Gibson, Roy Harris, Jim Hirsch, Al Karr, Scott Kilman, John Koten, Joann Lublin, Mike McCarthy, Priscilla Meyer, Daniel Pearl, Brett Pulley, Carl Quintanilla, Bob Rose, Dean Rotbart, Brent Schlender, Ron Shafer, Randy Smith, Roger Thurow, and Judy Valente. I would like to single out the
Bill Carley, who covered more big stories than anyone else during much of the period encompassed by this book.

There is a regrettable trend in business journalism to resist acknowledging the work of people at other publications. I am proud to cite the work of outstanding journalists from elsewhere, including, at
, Kenneth Labich, Rush Loving, Jr., Louis Kraar, and Peter Nulty; at
Business Week
, Aaron Bernstein; John Byrne, Reggi Ann Dubin, James Ellis, Pete Engardio, Chuck Hawkins, and Jim Norman; at
Aviation Week
, James T. McKenna, James Ott, and Carole A. Shifrin; at
Crain’s Chicago Business
, Mark Hornung; at the
Chicago Tribune
, Carol Jouzaitis and Jim Warren; at
The New York Times
, Adam Bryant and Agis Salpukis; at
Air Transport World
, Joan Feldman; at
The Washington Post
, Richard Weintraub; and writing in
Texas Monthly
, William P. Barrett, James Fallows, and Jan Jarobe.

Anyone who writes a book about commercial aviation owes an incalculable debt to Robert Daley, R.E.G. Davies, Robert Serling, and Carl Solberg, who have written outstanding histories. Two other authors—Dan Reed, who has written a biography of Robert Crandall, and Capt. John J. Nance, who wrote an account of Braniff’s failure—generously shared insights with me.

I cannot mention everyone in the airline industry who provided help, but I would like to single out a few: at American Airlines, Al Becker, Iain Burns, Lizanne Peppard, and the infinitely patient and helpful John Hotard; at British Airways, Sandy Gardner, Peter Jones, John Lampi, Derek Ross, and David Snelling; at Southwest Airlines, Helen Bordelon, Ginger Hardage, Kristie Kerr, and Ed Stewart; at the Air Line Pilots Association, John Mazor and Kathy White; at United Airlines, Millie Borkowski and Jan Johnson. Thanks also to one of the greatest knowledge resources in the airline industry, Marion Mistrik, chief librarian at the Air Transport Association in Washington, D.C.

A number of my friends and associates read all or part of the manuscript and provided valuable comments; my thanks to Bob Cross, Katherine Field, Stephen Holter, Joe Meier, Bridget O’Brian, Carolyn Phillips, and Babak Varzandeh. Dick Tofel found bloopers that no one else would have caught. The toughest copy editor I know—my mother, Jean Petzinger—read every word a couple of times and improved more of them than I can count.

I have been blessed with intelligent and dedicated researchers. Cortney Murdoch rounded up records across the country. Babak Varzandeh endured the frustrations of the SEC. John Whittier joined me for countless hours over photocopiers. Jennifer Reingold, Colin Cowles, and Cass DuRant helped me accumulate a massive library of clippings.

BOOK: Hard Landing
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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