The Interview

Michael Manning has built a significant portfolio of newspaper, magazine, radio and television interviews featuring guests from stage, screen, television, journalism, music, sports, business and more!

What distinguishes “The Interview” online from many Television and Radio programs of the same genre is that Michael chooses to casually “visit” with each guest as if they were having coffee at a cafĂ© and sharing conversation casually. "In this setting, my guests are much more relaxed and encouraged to be themselves, and the result is the privilege of spending some quality time with someone in a more reflective mood", said Michael. "I have been on both sides of the table, and that experience has allowed me to pose questions with the utmost respect and care to my guests. This allows my audience to gain a sense of their personality. In comes the warmth and often humor resulting in a meaningful experience that really stays with you for some time. And that's what the experience should be!" he said.

Please join Michael for his feature, "The Interview".

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Michael Manning Special Feature: Captain Mark Pyle, Last Pan Am Flight 1991

Photo Courtesy of Doug Miller, Pan Am Historical Foundation
Pan Am operated the Boeing 727-100 and -200 Series

(Pan Am)
Captain Mark Pyle
Captain Mark Pyle flew Pan Am's last revenue scheduled flight in a Boeing 727-200 dubbed "Clipper Goodwill" (N368PA). I had a special travel agency desktop model of this plane created for my extensive Pan Am collection. Captain Pyle began the morning of December 4, 1991 with a departure from JFK Airport in New York to Miami and onto Barbados. Upon his arrival in Barbados, he observed the Pan Am Station Manager walking toward the plane and sensed the news was bad. Rumors were heavy in those final days that Delta Air Lines might be pulling out of a commitment made to help finance what was being termed "Pan Am II"--a scaled down Miami-based airline serving the Latin American market only. The night before, during a tense bankruptcy hearing in Judge Cornelius Blackshear's Bankruptcy Courtroom, Lawrence Handlesman, attorney for Delta Air Lines, stood up and announced that his client had decided not to commit further financing to Pan Am. "The world has changed" said Handlesman. He intoned this three times, by one account. With the stroke of a pen from Judge Blackshear, the end of Pan Am arrived with a devastating blow to more than 9,000 remaining employees. Captain Pyle was handed a Western Union message by his Station Manager. The message was from Pan Am's new CEO Russell Ray, Jr. stating that Pan Am's Plan of Reorganization was withdrawn, and that all actions should be undertaken to minimize customer inconvenience and to secure the company's assets. It was all over. The issue of refueling "Clipper Goodwill" delayed the return flight to Miami by three hours. All Pan Am personnel stationed at Barbados boarded the last flight home to Miami to avoid being abandoned. The passengers on board passed a hat to take up a collection for the flight crew recognizing that the festive holidays would not be pleasant at all for the Pan Am employees.

Captain Pyle flew with National Airlines and served as a Check Pilot when Pan Am acquired National in 1980. He retired from Delta Air Lines. The crew for this flight was Captain Mark Pyle, First Officer Bob Knox and Flight Engineer Chuck Freeman. I'd like to quote from Captain Pyle's recollection to Miami Television Reporter Rob Fuller of that fateful day:

CAPTAIN PYLE: "When they said it's over, this was something that we had prepared for years at Pan Am. Anyway, in my case it had been eleven years that my family had wondered from month to month how long the airline would last (after the merger with National Airlines). And even though I was mentally prepared, I found myself emotionally unprepared as I'm sure everybody else did. But we were overwhelmed with the sense of loss, and the ladies on the flight--the Flight Attendants were overwhelmed with a sense of grief--almost immediately tearful. Everyone with their own thoughts--private thoughts. Mine of course, ran the full gamut from 'Wow! It really happened', even though we knew that it would and finally did to 'Where do you go?', 'What do you do?'---and all the way to the sense of enormous loss and a historical airline like Pan American was allowed to fall into the abyss. And then as we approached Miami of course we were told by the company radio frequency that we used ---"PAN OP"--we called it--our operations people told us that we were the last ones. And at first I thought 'They must be joking'! Someone, one of my friends had landed before I did--just making some kind of a joke of the day. And then my (Flight) Engineer assured me, and with tears in his eyes that we were the last flight. And the tower said 'Could you do a low pass?' Well, I haven't done that since the Navy, so to me this was fun if nothing else--one last fun with the airplane. So, having briefed the passengers so they would know what to expect we flew down Runway 12--Runway One-Two at about a hundred feet and with flaps at 15 (degrees) and about a hundred and eighty knots, nothing too spectacular. I would have liked to come in at two-hundred and fifty and smoked the other side of the runway. But I didn't want any fear amongst the people--any more than they would have to have. So, we just did a very easy non-chalant low pass and over the field, pulled up and came back around for a landing. And I think that all of us in the cockpit were doing fairly well with our emotions until we saw the fire trucks lined up and the Emergency vehicles and the Pan Am ground crew people and the airport personnel and policemen and everyone else lined up to greet the airplane. And in my own case, I had no tears, although certainly emotionally shell-shocked. No tears, until they fired the water canons over the airplane in a final salute to everyone that had ever flown in a Pan Am airplane as far as I was concerned. At that moment, our crew represented everybody who had ever flown in this uniform, and in these "Clipper Ships". And I don't mind telling you, at that moment it was difficult to get to the gate --and everybody in the cockpit had 'smoke in our eyes'--I guess that's a macho term for what happened and I said 'Guys, just don't let me ding the wing tip, help me get this thing to the gate' because I couldn't see very well. Quite emotional. And probably will remain etched in my memory for a long time I would think".

The author is most grateful to Captain Pyle and broadcaster Rob Fuller in Miami for this post.