Published on September 21st, 2012 | by Dr. Richard Martorano1
Captain Ed Groel – Superstar in the Airline Industry
I have already said how impressed I am with airline pilots or actually, anyone aligned with the aircraft industry. I have been surrounded by celebrities my entire life but I find anyone with the skills to fly an airplane exceptionally interesting.
Ed Groel is a retired United Airlines pilot who lives in my neighborhood. Ed Groel to me is a SuperStar. Ed has the personality you would expect and want from an airline pilot. He is low-key, calm and stable in his mannerisms. Ed does not seem to excite quickly, however you must pay attention to his wit, which is very dry.
All of the above mannerisms and characteristics I described are also relevant to a good golfer. Ed is a single digit handicap golfer. What does that tell you? I rest my case.
At the age of nine, Ed knew he wanted to fly. Taking AFROTC at New Jersey Institute of Technology, he graduated as a second lieutenant at age 23 with a degree in Civil Engineering.
He entered the Air Force and as most trainees, flew F-80s jets which were T-33 trainers. From 1962 to January 1968, he flew C-130 cargo ships in Vietnam with over 300 combat hours and over 2,000 hours in the air.
I asked why he flew cargo ships rather than fighter jets and he told me a story about a foolishness he participated in while in flight school that will remain untold. Let us just say his participation in that little episode was very different from Ed’s current personality. However, even today if you look closely, you will sense a little mischievousness in his nature.
In 1969, Ed’s starting salary at United was $600 per month and his final pay rate before retirement was in the middle six figures. With the responsibility he had for an expensive aircraft and several hundred people on board, he deserved every penny of it.
I want the people sitting as Captains flying my airplane to be well paid because I assume they are very good at what they do.
A point of interest – the last five years before its bankruptcy, pilots at United Airlines took 25% of their pay in stock. As everyone did due to the airline’s bankruptcy, the stock was lost which means Ed lost thousands upon thousands of dollars of earned income.
Ed’s lovely lady Donna is a registered nurse and graduated from Belview at New York University. They married in 1964, lived well and raised two daughters and one son. Today their son and a daughter-in-law are also pilots with United Airlines.
Still in excellent health and very good at what he did, accumulating 21,000 hours in the air, Ed was retired at the mandatory age of 60. I did the arithmetic:
- 21,000 hours = 875 days
- 875 days = 125 weeks
- 125 weeks = 28 months
- 28 months = 2 and ½ years
That is actual hours in the air and does not include any of the down time in preparation, planning and hospitality.
My conversations with Ed were about the difference in flying today as opposed to the last 25 years. He flew in commercial aviation. He told me without missing a beat; the difference was in his career the airline industry was a family. “Most of the time you flew with the same crew and had comradeship and friendships. In addition, it was less stressful from the standpoint of security. The pilots did not have to pack weapons and the flight attendants did not have to address rowdiness on a regular basis.”
For all of us who flew commercially for business in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we can validate what Ed said. Flying was often not stressful and most importantly it was not a security risk. I feel sorry for traveling people today and could not imagine being on the road flying 100,000 miles a year. Traveling today is not fun. The expense, missed flights, lost baggage, overweight people sitting next to you and the sloppiness in which passengers are dressed today does not contribute to happy traveling.
Unfortunately, if you are going to go somewhere you must travel and most probably, that travel will be by air. The administrators and executives in the industry know it is not fun. Those working in the industry at the terminals know that is not fun. I cannot say whether I think it is ever going to change but I do thank my Lord that I do not have to travel as I did when I was younger.
I enjoy talking with those who have had careers in aviation because as I said I am most respectful of the intellect, abilities and dedication they have and give to their skill. I am thankful when I see a little gray hair on my pilot and one who seems to be in good physical shape, not overweight and smiling as he walks through the terminal.
See you next time with another SuperStar. Enjoy your life and do something nice for someone.