Fifty Years Later: Celebrating Apollo 11

This past spring, in anticipation of the big Apollo 11 50th anniversary, I began looking for opportunities to attend one of Gene Kranz’s presentations. Gene is my hero… he’s smart as heck, passionate and kind — an all around incredible person.

He studied aeronautical engineering at St. Louis University — which is a mile or so from where I now live — and even worked at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, which is now, of course, Boeing (the same campus at which I work I today). He also served in the U.S. Air Force between his time in school and at McDonnell.

Gene ultimately went on to work in Mission Control for NASA. He worked on both Project Mercury and Project Gemini before serving as Flight Director for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 missions. For those who’ve seen the 1995 Tom Hanks flick, “Apollo 13,” Kranz’s character is played by Ed Harris… you know, the guy with the buzz cut who always wore the vest.

To this day, I’ve watched just about every documentary and read practically every story about Gene… essentially every anecdote that touches on his incredible life and legacy — I’ve read or heard. In May, when I caught wind of his upcoming presentation at Purdue, I knew I had to at least try to attend. Tickets became available online in early June on a first come, first served basis — and while admission was free, it was still a competitive process. I consider myself very, very lucky to have secured a seat.

Wednesday night, I excitedly loaded up my new Boeing tote bag (thanks Jiho!), crawled into bed and couldn’t seem to fall asleep — I was so anxious to see what Thursday would bring. I woke up with a spring in my step, ready to make the 4-hour drive to West Lafayette.

I thought I had built sufficient pad time into my schedule… and it would have been sufficient had there not been a time change. News flash: Purdue is located within the EASTERN time zone. Even though it was tight, I did make it in time.

After checking into my hotel, I drove to the college campus — a mere mile from where I was staying. I slowly wound my way up to level four of the Grant Street parking garage, got out of my car and hurriedly shuffled over to the elevator. I had a five-minute walk ahead of me and approximately five minutes before the doors opened.

Lucky for me, just after exiting the elevator I happened to run into a very nice guy named Adam. Lo and behold, Adam is the director of the Purdue University Airport. He helped me to quickly navigate to the Loeb Playhouse, as that’s where he was headed too.

I found a seat, and anxiously waited for Gene to take the stage. Before I knew it, 3 o’clock (EASTERN TIME!) had rolled around. The lights dimmed, and a young PhD student took the stage to introduce the man all 1,000 of us were waiting to see. The audience erupted in applause when Gene — white vest and all — took the stage.

I shed a couple tears (OK, more than a couple) during the first 5-10 minutes of Gene’s talk. I simply couldn’t believe I was finally seeing my hero, Gene Kranz — I was just feet from him, listening to him tell these remarkable stories of the early years of American space exploration. He covered all the highs, and all the lows before engaging in Q & A with the audience.

Afterwards, I was determined to try to meet him. I waited patiently against a wall in the auditorium, as the crowd of 1,000 turned to 500… then 100… then 50… then five — I was one of a mere five people left in the suddenly lifeless Loeb Playhouse. I held my copy of “Failure is Not an Option” tightly against my chest. Every so often I would ask a passerby if they knew whether or not Gene would be coming out to sign books. They each said, “No, he won’t.”

After about 30 minutes I was nearly ready to give up. I casually peered around a corner into a hallway outside the theater where I saw a queue of 15-20 people, all holding a copy of Gene’s book.

“Excuse me,” I quietly said to the last person in line — it was a gentleman who appeared to be in his 60s or 70s with a Nikon camera hanging from his neck.

“Do you know if Gene will be coming out to sign books?” I asked.

He came closer to me and motioned for us to turn our backs toward the others in line and said quietly, “This is the line for a special ‘meet and greet’ event, and as I understand it, you need to have a special ticket, or have your name on a list of some sort.”

My eager smile quickly turned into a hopeless frown. “Oh…” I replied.

“I don’t have a ticket but I figure, I may as well try, right?” the gentleman replied.

“You’re right,” I said. “I’m Annie, nice to meet you.”

“I’m Ted,” he said as he reached out to shake my hand.

Ted and I began talking about our lives and what had brought us to Purdue to see Gene. A father and son were standing in front of us — obviously ticket holders — and the dad turned toward us and said, “What’s two more people, right?”

Ted and I nodded and smiled. Through our conversation, I learned that he served in the U.S. Army in the 1960s, and went to school right there at Purdue. He was now retired from Verizon.

Ted was impressed by the fact that I drove the whole way from St. Louis that very morning. He also enjoyed learning that even though my career took some strange turns out of college, I finally found my passion, and with a lot of patience and hard work, landed my dream job as a historian and communicator for Boeing. Along with its heritage companies, Boeing built nearly every component of the Apollo spacecraft and the massive Saturn V rocket — I think that’s pretty remarkable.

After about 15 minutes, a woman waved at all of us to follow her through a doorway. We went down two flights of stairs and through a hallway before stopping — just out of sight around the corner, sat my hero, Gene Kranz.

Two people who obviously had some sort of authority approached me and Ted and asked, “And what are your names?” Ted introduced himself, and we were quickly told that our names weren’t on the list… well, we already knew that. A gentleman offered to escort us back upstairs, and Ted said to him, “What about Annie? Could you please let her meet him? She just drove all the way here from St. Louis.”

“I’m sorry,” the man said.

Ted and I quietly made our way back upstairs — closely followed by the man who had instructed us to do so. We exited the building, before being rudely awakened by the steamy, 95-degree, early evening air. We walked together, weaving in and around campus buildings.

“You know, not a lot of people got to attend this. They had to open up the other viewing areas because of the demand — each of the auditoriums holds thousands,” Ted told me (obviously trying to lift my spirits).

It worked — sort of.

“We’re lucky to have seen him in person,” he added.

I smiled. “You’re right, I do feel very, very lucky,” I said.

Before I knew it, it was time to part ways. Ted was headed into the campus store, but he kindly saw me all the way to the garage where I had parked.

We shook hands, and he wished me safe travels.

I made my way back to my car, picked up dinner and headed back to the hotel. When I got back to my room, I unpacked my purse, which of course included my unsigned copy of Gene’s book.

I immediately lost it.

I sat on the bed and just cried. I couldn’t keep it together and I didn’t know why. I’m 32 years old for goodness sake — I shouldn’t be this sad, should I? I felt like a sad, helpless little kid… just so upset over not getting what I wanted.

I finally pulled it together, ate my dinner and called it a night.

Early the next morning, I gathered my stuff and hit the road. Just as it was on the way to Purdue, the drive back home was beautiful — blue skies, sunshine and seemingly endless fields on either side of the road. It’s not often that I drive for hours on end all by myself, but I found it to be quite relaxing and a good way to gather my thoughts.

I didn’t meet Gene, but I did see him… I did hear him. I got to hear his firsthand account of what happened before, during and after the historic Apollo 11 mission. Through his words, I could feel every emotion he felt 50 years ago — the tension, the joy, the worry and the pride. It was an incredible afternoon and I feel so very lucky to have been there.

So, on this, the 50th anniversary of the historic lunar landing, I’d like to thank everyone whose hard work and selflessness made the Apollo program possible. To Gene, the others in Mission Control, the brave astronauts and the countless NASA employees; to the engineers and other contributors at companies like Boeing, North American and McDonnell Douglas — among others; and of course to the families of all the folks whose dedication kept them away from home for long periods of time… thank you.

I can’t wait to see what the next era of space exploration will hold.

P.S. Earlier in the week, my husband Scott and I were driving through downtown on our way to dinner, and he said we needed to make a quick stop. He pulled over, turned on the hazard lights and left. I saw him rent one of the nearby motorized scooters and he was out of sight before I knew it.

About 20 minutes later he finally returned, and handed me this guy.

I had no idea they were even doing this giveaway to celebrate the Moon landing, but he caught wind of it, bought a special “theme night” ticket and went in just to pick it up to surprise me. Thank you, Scott, for loving me and supporting me in all my pursuits, as nerdy as they might be.

Making Connections in ATL

Last week I was fortunate to spend several days in Atlanta — the city in which I was born 32 years ago. Originally, I’d planned to be there only Tuesday through Thursday for a work conference, but after pondering the idea of heading down a few days early to potentially meet my dad for the weekend (my birthday fell on Father’s Day this year, as it does every so often), I knew I had to at least pitch the idea to him.

He was sold.

I flew into ATL very early on Saturday, June 15 and immediately upon landing, headed toward my favorite place in the entire city — that’s right, the roof of the south economy parking lot right smack-dab in the middle of the airfield. At 8 a.m. the weather was lovely… upper 60s with a moderate breeze. It only took a couple hours, though, for the temperature to sky-rocket and the sun to reach its peak directly above my head. And let me tell you, had that moderate breeze not picked up in strength and frequency, I probably wouldn’t have endured the scorching Georgia heat for as long as I did (six hours). And of course, being able to watch the constant stream of action at the world’s busiest airport made 90 degrees a heck of a lot more bearable.

Around 2:30 that afternoon, my dad arrived to pick me up after driving from his home in Melbourne, Florida over the course of two days. We checked into our hotel, grabbed a bite to eat and turned in pretty early — it had been a long day for us both.

Sunday was a special day… it was my 32nd birthday, it was Father’s Day, and my dad and I were together in the city in which I was born, on the very anniversary that I entered the world and that he had become a father. We went to a baseball game, and despite the blistering sun and intense humidity, we had a great time and were able to see the Braves absolutely crush the Phillies to clinch the three-game series. We enjoyed a special dinner at a restaurant that I had chosen because of its tasty-sounding burgers (and veggie burgers!) and the fact that they had onion rings — the type of greasy grub we’ve been enjoying together (in moderation, of course) for as long as I can remember. Little did I know, however, that this very restaurant I had chosen, was just a hop, skip and a jump away from the house we lived in back in 1987. Even though we moved to Minneapolis shortly after I was born, it really was something to see that place, knowing that so many memories had been made within those walls.

On Monday, my dad hit the road decently early, as he would be driving all the way back home to Melbourne that day, which would take him about nine hours. I worked a half-day from my hotel, before sneaking back over to the airport for another six hours of plane spotting.

Tuesday, I again worked remotely — this time a full-day — before catching a shuttle to the airport where I planned to hop aboard a second shuttle to my new hotel, which was closer to the conference site. Of course, I couldn’t be at the airport without snapping just a few more photos — and by that I mean, I spent a few more hours taking hundreds of photos.

After I had my fill, I headed to my home for the next two nights: the Renaissance Concourse. Those familiar with the area — and especially AV geeks familiar with the area — are likely aware that this particular hotel is a prime location for viewing the runways on the north side of the airport. It’s also situated just a half-mile or so from the Delta Flight Museum, where this year’s Airline Archivists and Historians Association conference was being held. That evening, I attended a meet-and-greet with other conference-goers, before turning in early, knowing I had a jam-packed day ahead of myself.

Wednesday morning I met with a few other conference attendees in the hotel lobby, and we caught the shuttle over to the museum where we enjoyed breakfast, before engaging in several activities throughout the day. Between touring the DC-3 and 747, visiting the Delta Archives and watching presentations by reps from The MediaPreserve, Airways Magazine, Airline Guys and Georgia State University (where they’re preserving a lot of Eastern Airlines artifacts), it was by and large one of the best days of my life — at least in recent memory. That evening, we all shuttled over to a local restaurant for dinner, which served as a great end to a great day.

Thursday morning, we wrapped up the conference by boarding a bus bound for The Coca-Cola Company world headquarters in midtown Atlanta. There, we were fortunate to tour the company’s archives — a well-hidden treasure trove housing artifacts that date back to pre-1900. It was a fascinating experience and one we were all very fortunate to be part of, as the archives are closed to the public… in fact, only staff and their friends and family are permitted. After a great morning, we boarded our bus back to the museum where we were granted early admission to Airliners International 2019 — the world’s largest airline collectibles show. Believe it or not, I didn’t buy a THING!

Several of us were flying out that afternoon, so we caught a shuttle over to the airport, where we hugged and said our goodbyes. In fewer than 48 hours, I made some incredible friends… it was a great group of people with a shared passion for flight, representing nearly all the major U.S. airlines, in addition to a handful of aviation museums — both big and small — throughout the country.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Making Connections,” and the more I think about it… I think that was my favorite thing about my week in Atlanta: the many connections I made.

I connected with my dad on a special day, in a special place… I have memories from our weekend together that I’ll cherish forever.

I connected with — and learned from — museum curators, archivists and historians, most of whom are current or former airline employees, from flight attendants to pilots… HR reps to mechanics, we were certainly a diverse bunch!

I “connected the dots” so to speak, through several — sometimes quite obscure — “Aha!” moments. An example: the syrup urns that Coca-Cola made available to soda fountains in 1896 were produced by a pottery company in Wheeling, West Virginia. Well, just a year earlier in that very city, one of The Boeing Company’s four main “founders” — James “Dutch” Kindelberger — was born. Now I think that’s pretty neat!

Most importantly, I connected with my passion and with my roots… simply put, I connected with myself. At my core, I’m a storyteller who loves airplanes. It took awhile, but I found a way to build a life around that — coupling what I love with what I’m good at. You can do the same… in fact, anyone can.

Often times when I tell folks I work for Boeing, they ask, “Oh, you’re an engineer?” I of course respond that no, I’m not an engineer, I work in communications for our Historical Services department where I wear several different hats: historian, archivist, tour guide, writer and digital strategist. At a high level, my job is to keep the history of Boeing and its heritage companies alive — a pretty sweet gig, eh? And, AND… there are tens of thousands of other sweet gigs throughout the company… and no, they don’t all center around engineering.

Our company, the airlines and really the majority of companies in this (or any) industry require a broad pool of talent and a diverse set of skills to function properly. Yes, the aerospace industry heavily relies on all different types of engineers, but it also needs marketing specialists, financial analysts, customer service representatives, salespeople, accountants and yes… storytellers. That’s all to say that if you work hard to make a connection between what you love and what you’re good at, you too can land your “dream job” just like I did.

Persistence pays off, and positivity and kindness can work wonders. So keep following your dreams, working hard and making those connections… they’ll take you far, both literally and figuratively.

P.S. Thanks to everyone, near and far, who helped me surpass my goal of reaching the 10K mark on my Instagram account. Here’s to new friends — near and far!

TWA lives on in Kansas City

I landed my first full-time job — assignment editor at KCTV in Kansas City — in August 2011. Yes, it took me more than two years after graduating from college to find a 40-hour-a-week gig in my field, but I did it, and I was more than willing to make the nearly 450-mile move to begin that new chapter in my life.

During the 15 months that Scott and I lived there, I hadn’t yet realized my passion for aviation. In fact, I was straight up terrified of flying — every second I spent on an airplane was an anxiety-inducing nightmare filled with sweat and tears (luckily no blood).

Not long after moving back to Minneapolis, I was out jogging near MSP Airport when an airplane lifted off of runway 17 right above me. I looked up and watched it grow smaller and smaller, until it was no more than a speck in the gray autumn sky. That moment changed my life — I decided to face my fear of flying head-on.

I started seeing a counselor for my anxiety, spent as much time as I could out at my new “happy place” (the airport) and began educating myself on the physics of flight, which helped me to look forward to — not dread — flying.

Throughout this personal transformation, I realized how big a part of my life aviation had always been. My dad served more than 30 years with the U.S. Air Force, and my parents met as flight attendants on Eastern Airlines. To this day, both my mom and dad are “AV geeks” in the truest sense, and if it weren’t for Eastern bringing them together, I wouldn’t be here today.

It was through my parents’ own stories about their time as flight attendants that I realized how much of a family affair the airline industry really is. There is an undeniable, inextricable bond between an airline and its current and former employees. From pilots to flight attendants… mechanics to ground crews… it seems that most people who work for an airline have a unique love for their employer — one that endures the ups and downs, the mergers and acquisitions, the dreaded bankruptcies and everything in between. That’s certainly the case with my parents and Eastern, and it seems to ring true with the former employees of TWA too — especially those who now volunteer at the airline’s museum at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City.

Like Eastern, TWA was one of the earliest commercial airlines to be founded in the United States. It started as Transcontinental & Western Air in 1930 and became Trans World Airlines in 1950. The airline endured until 2001 when it was acquired by American Airlines.

Just about 88 years ago, TWA relocated its headquarters from New York to 10 Richards Road in Kansas City. Fittingly, that’s where the TWA museum opened in June 2012, marking the fifth and likely final location for the volunteer-run exhibit that houses artifacts spanning seven decades of aviation history.

TWA holds a special place in my heart, as one of my favorite airplanes — the Douglas DC-3 — came to be because TWA needed a new airplane. The airline had grounded its Fokker F-10s after one was involved in a tragic crash that killed all eight on board, including esteemed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Unfortunately, the first 60 Boeing 247s were all going to United Airlines, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. TWA’s president, Jack Frye, made a call for a new aircraft and ultimately selected Douglas, who built the DC-1, which evolved into the DC-2 and then the incredible workhorse DC-3. The DC-3 was the first airplane to make money simply by flying passengers, and is regarded by many as the greatest airplane of all time.

Later, TWA requested a bigger, more efficient airplane which led to the development of the Lockheed L-049 Constellation or “Connie” — the triple-tail, four-engine prop plane quickly becoming a TWA icon. Into the Jet Age, TWA flew the Boeing 707 and later the famous “Queen of the Skies” Boeing 747.

In 1988, with its Boeing 747s and 767s, and the three-engine Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, TWA “peaked” in a sense — carrying more than half of all transatlantic passengers. Fun fact: Today marks 100 years since the world’s very first transatlantic flight. On this day in 1919, the U.S. Navy’s Curtiss NC-4 flying boat landed in Lisbon, Portugal after a nearly three-week stop-and-go flight from the U.S.

The 1996 crash of TWA flight 800 really left a permanent scar on the airline. On the evening of July 17, flight 800 departed New York’s JFK Airport headed to Paris and ultimately to Rome, but a center-fuel-tank explosion caused it to crash into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 people on board. The airline flew its final flights — both revenue and ceremonial — on Dec. 1, 2001. The MD-80 used in the ceremonial final flight now rests at the TWA Museum.

“The mission of the TWA Museum is to provide information to the public emphasizing the story, history and importance of the major role TWA played in pioneering commercial aviation.

From the birth of airmail to the inception of passenger air travel, to the post-WWII era of global route expansion, TWA led the way for 75 years.”

This intro to the “About Us” section of the museum’s website very accurately captures the overall vibe of the exhibit itself. These days, it’s not often you can learn history firsthand from people who lived it, but that’s what sets the TWA Museum apart. Honestly, I’m still not sure what I enjoyed more — actually seeing the models, photos, equipment and other historical artifacts, or witnessing the pure, unfiltered joy among the former employees who are tasked with keeping the TWA story alive.

To all my AV geek friends, I highly — and I mean highly — recommend you visit the museum next time you’re in the Kansas City area. In and of itself it’s an incredible experience, but factor in the location (IT’S AT AN ACTIVE AIRPORT!) and the fact that just across the airfield is another great tourist attraction: the National Airline History Museum, which boasts more artifacts and a huge hangar full of iconic birds. Make a day of it — trust me, you won’t regret it!

To blue skies and tailwinds…

Good Riddance

“Fuck…”

Pardon my language, but I can’t help that this vulgar, mildly-offensive word is technically the first line of one of my favorite songs of all time: “Good Riddance” by Green Day. The song itself is short and sweet… it’s sad, yet strangely comforting… but most of all, it’s almost always relevant — at least to me.

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road,
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why,
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time.”

So, the song was actually written when I was six years old — in 1993 — but it wasn’t released until 1997. It was wildly popular while I was navigating the craziness that was junior high and high school, in fact, that song was one of the first I learned to play on guitar. And as each school year came to a close, I remember hearing it a whole lot more.

Even before I could make sense of the lyrics, I knew Billie Joe Armstrong was trying to teach me something… I knew he was trying to evoke emotions within me… and he did. And I liked that.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.”

To me, it’s a little strange… I mean the fact that it’s written in the past tense. I get that Armstrong was writing about a breakup, but that aspect of the song always made me scrunch my eyebrows and think, “Had…? Isn’t the best yet to come?”

For me, the best was still yet to come. In fact, I think that still holds true today.

“So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind,
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.”
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial,
For what it’s worth it was worth all the while.”

In the 22 years since this song was released, I’ve grown — physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve traveled the world, gotten married and started to find my place on this planet we call home.

I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos with cameras that have slowly rid themselves of film, shrunk and morphed into the increasingly-advanced, sleek digital devices we carry with us everywhere we go. I’ve taken photos of friends and family, photos of animals and nature, and — of course — photos of airplanes.

And I’ve taken plenty of still frames in my mind.

I have ink all over my body — tattoos of varying significance from my biceps down to my ankles — each of them serving as a permanent reminder of where I was and who I was throughout my years as a young adult.

And it was worth it.

No… not just the tattoos — I mean everything was worth it. The single year I spent at a small town private college as an aspiring pharmacist was worth it. The three years I spent at a public school studying to become a television news reporter were worth it. So were the years I spent working in news while trying to figure out why I declared broadcast journalism as a major. The time I spent figuring out what the heck I was going to do with my life when I realized news wasn’t for me? Yep, worth it.

My years working at a nonprofit, then an energy company and then for the government… worth it. And then, most recently, the years I spent freelancing for an aviation magazine and then finding my place within the greatest aerospace company in the world… YES. DEFINITELY WORTH IT.

For what it’s worth… it truly was worth all the while. And I do wholeheartedly believe that the best — my best — is yet to come.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you have the time of your life.”

I will, thank you.

Our Moon

I can tell just by looking out the window that the air outside is warmer than the air in my living room.

And no matter how hard I try — no matter how captivating the television dialogue is and no matter how loud my cats meow to try to get my attention — I can’t take my eyes off the Moon… our Moon. It feels like there’s a magnetic force between the two blue orbs protruding out of my head and that one massive, majestic orb hanging in the sky… and I don’t know why, but it’s so strong.

The sun shines on it and it glows golden and more vivid with each minute — but I know that without that massive ball of fire there to light it up, our Moon is just a gray, rocky, dusty satellite. That’s it.

Sometimes I wish we had more than one moon. I wonder what the sky would look like at night if we had two moons like Mars. I wonder what it would look like during the day if we had 60-some moons like Jupiter or Saturn. I know how excited I get when I notice mid-afternoon that the small, round, seemingly perfect cloud I’ve affixed my eyes to is actually our Moon. What if I saw dozens of them all at once?

But then, as night falls and the Moon gets higher and brighter — almost pure white against the dark blue sky — I realize just how much I love our one Moon. Of the eight planets that orbit our sun, there are two that don’t have any moons (Mercury and Venus), there’s one that has two moons (Mars), one that has 14 moons (Neptune) and one that has 27 moons (Uranus), there are two that have more than 60 moons (Saturn has 62, Jupiter has 67), but there’s just one planet that has only one moon… and that’s us: Earth.

How different would the space race have been if we had multiple moons? What would the space race have even been if we had no moons at all?

As the 50th anniversary of humankind’s first lunar landing approaches, I’m so thankful for Earth’s one and only satellite: our Moon. And knowing that 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of the last human foot leaving that crater-filled ground… I’m so anxious and hopeful to see what the next generation of lunar exploration holds — for Americans and for the world.

Photo: NASA

“Whoosh!” Time flies… and so do fighter jets.

Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving the office, something incredible happened. I exited the building alongside several other employees—all of us making our way down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. That walk typically feels endless, but on a sunny, 60-degree day like yesterday, everyone seems to enjoy each step a little more. Just seconds after the automatic sliding doors closed behind me, a loud “whoosh!” caused all of us to quickly turn our heads to the right.

An F/A-18 had lifted off runway 12L at St. Louis Lambert International Airport so quickly that I barely caught a glimpse before it became the size of a fly above the eastern horizon. And as it disappeared, another “whoosh!” really got our attention. We all watched a second jet disappear into the clouds… and then “WHOOSH!” — a third and final one sped into the blue spring sky.

Most of you know that my fascination with flight tends toward commercial airplanes, however, I think I’ve got a decent bit of military aviation in my bones. After all, my familial ties to the industry involve both my dad’s decades-long career as a navigator in the U.S. Air Force, and my parents having met as flight attendants on Eastern Airlines.

In St. Louis, Boeing is much more defense-focused, as has been the case since McDonnell first began operations here in 1939. James McDonnell’s company was best known for its fighter jets and—of course—its spacecraft. The first American in space, Alan Shephard, left Earth’s soil and blasted into the black, vast unknown aboard the McDonnell-built single-seat Mercury space capsule.

It’s been three months since I left the Windy City for a new opportunity here in the “Show Me” state, but still, I so vividly remember the way I felt each time I approached Boeing’s world headquarters in Chicago. Starting down at street level, my eyes would slowly make their way up to the apex of our 36-story building. I’d inhale, and slowly exhale… in utter disbelief—but with the utmost gratitude—that I was working for the greatest aerospace company on the planet.

I was.

And I still am.

Boeing and its heritage companies (North American, Douglas and, of course, McDonnell) have such remarkable pasts… to think that I’ve been tasked with helping to preserve that history is beyond me.

Flight has the ability to captivate each and every one of us, young and old. Whether it takes you a few feet off the ground, or all the way to the Moon, to fly is something purely magical—there’s no denying it.

And that’s how it should be.

There is always something new—something bigger and better out there. So it’s up to us to go explore, discover and unleash the future. And I’m so thankful to be part of a company that works to do just that every day.

Flying the Feathered Edge

R.A. “Bob” Hoover, as seen on the cover of the documentary detailing his astounding career.

“Each time I did see an airplane — and there weren’t too many flying back in those days — I’d stop whatever I was doing to watch it until it went out of sight. All I could think about or want to read about would be airplanes and aviation.”

Those words were spoken by R.A. “Bob” Hoover himself during an interview for Flying the Feathered Edge: The Bob Hoover Project, a documentary highlighting the remarkable life and legacy of the man often called the greatest pilot of all time.

My favorite thing about Bob is that his friends and former military comrades say he was “always up to something.” Example: He was shot down in World War II, spent more than a year in a prison camp, escaped, stole a Focke-Wulf F190 (the very plane he was shot down by) and flew to safety in The Netherlands.

Years later, he worked as a test pilot for Boeing heritage company North American Aviation. From the FJ-2 Fury to the F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre… he flew ‘em all.

In the ‘60s, he began flying the can’t-be-stopped P-51 Mustang in airshows. Often called “a pilot’s pilot,” his post-war aerobatics career lasted almost 40 years.

In watching the movie, I of course was enlightened as to what a remarkable pilot and person Bob was (he unfortunately passed away in 2016), but I also realized how many museums are out there housing artifacts and relics from his and other notable pilots’ careers… museums I’ve never been to. From the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and its annex, the Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles, all the way across the country to the San Diego Air and Space Museum… heck, I’ve never even been to the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, Wash.

So, in summary: Annie has a lot of places she needs to go, and everyone needs to watch Flying the Feathered Edge.

And… Scene.