Chapter 34

Hawaii was my first challenge, as these were the aircraft that I had sold to Jack Magoon, and he was unhappy. First, the aircraft were the early versions of the MD-80, limited in takeoff gross weight and engine thrust, and they were difficult to sell to another carrier. In addition, Jack had taken tax credits that were nontransferable to the next owner. British Aerospace had stepped up to these problems and Jack was in enough displeasure with Douglas to make the change.

Paul Finazzo, the new President of Hawaiian Airlines, wanted to stay with Douglas, but he wanted to go back to the DC-9-50 which I had originally sold to Hawaiian. It took five months to find a way to convert the MD-80s at Hawaiian to DC-9-50s and stop the swap to British Aerospace. It was ranked as one of the top three things that benefited Douglas that year.

Kim had to criticize my selection of hotel where I stayed (the only one available due to a convention in town). instead of thanking me for saving the DC-9 fleet. On top of that, our car was stolen from the parking lot at Los Angeles Airport when we returned.

One of Barbaras and my more humorous experiences occurred during one of the trips to Hawaii during the "save the DC-9 campaign." We had invited Paul Finazzo and his wife to dinner at the Hallekalani, an expensive hotel, set for 7:00 p.m. After a rigorous day of touring, Babs and I decided to take a nap, with plenty of time to wake up for our dinner appointment. The telephone rang waking me, and it was Paul wondering where we were; it was 7:30 p.m. I told Paul to give us thirty minutes. If you can imagine two people showering and dressing and getting to the hotel one mile away in 30 minutes, I would say impossible. We did it; you do the imagining. Paul had added his two daughters to the group, both living in Honolulu. In fact, one was a pilot for Hawaiian. It was a pleasant evening and a dinner bill of $660. Paul loved to spend other peoples money, but together we saved the DC-9 fleet at Hawaiian. Kim complained about the bill.

While in the midst of the Hawaiian campaign, I was learning that Northwest was further along in discussions with Airbus Industries. Over the past two years, Steve Rothmeier had been courted by Airbus and suddenly he was serious about the A-320, an aircraft similar to the MD-80 in size but with a higher level of technology, which fascinated Steve.

We countered with equal offers but were unable to budge Steve. Airbus had done a remarkable job of overcoming the history of the airline. Don Nyrop was about to disown Steve. When Steve purchased the A-320, a foreign aircraft with the General Electric engine, he had destroyed the Holy Grail of Don Nyrop. The GE Salesman broke down and cried. I can only say that Don Nyrop deserved to have this happen. He could have let Joe purchase the MD-80. He may not have gotten a Boeing airplane, but he would have had his Pratt and Whitney engine. He threatened Steve that he would sell all his Northwest stock. Steve had his day; the A-320 was in.

It was not much longer that Steve was ousted and Steve Wolf became President. He was an outsider with extensive airline experience. In time, Northwest merged with Republic and inherited their MD-80/DC-9 fleet. It was a shame that Nyrop could not see the road ahead. He would have let Joe Lapinsky buy the MD-80.