Out of Sight
Technician Jason Robinson keeps service up front while working behind the scenes
United Houston-based line technician Jason Robinson has made a lot of customers happy over the years—but usually they don’t have a chance to see or appreciate the things he does, as the vast majority of maintenance work to keep our fleets safe and reliable takes place out of sight.
“Nobody wants to see a technician come on the plane after they’ve boarded,” says Robinson, a 29-year United veteran, with a laugh. “You can hear the groans, but we’re just as interested in that plane taking off on time as anybody else.”
Robinson says he always tries to remember how much the customers, pilots, and flight attendants are counting on him and his co-workers in those instances, and he works to keep everybody informed as much as possible.
“It’s usually something we can take care of right there, like a seat recline issue, and it’s a great feeling when you get it fixed and get applause from the customers or hugs from the flight attendants,” he says. He has also helped out a number of customers by locating items they’ve left on planes and doing his best to track the customers down and return the items while following proper procedures. The effort certainly is appreciated—he still gets holiday cards from customers he helped years ago.
“That’s just the way he is,” says Don Gunn, a retired Houston geologist who’s been Robinson’s close friend and workout partner for years. “He is as devoted as anyone to promoting United’s interests through his own actions—like looking out closely for things people might have left on a plane. He doesn’t think of it as going out of his way or going the extra mile. It’s all part of being professional.”
“When it comes to work ethic and dedication, they don’t come any better than Jason,” adds United shift manager Darrell Miller. “You would never know based on what he says about himself, because he’s modest, he doesn’t blow his own horn, but his peers know, and they all look up to him.”
“Jason has a great attitude and is a real role model,” agrees United technician Pete Altinger, who has known Robinson for decades. “He doesn’t seem to ever lose his cool—in any situation—and he’s seen every situation you can imagine.”
Robinson’s current supervisor, Wayne Anthony, says that while Houston, one of United’s largest hubs, has hundreds of technicians who are devoted to customer service and positive interactions with co-workers, “Jason takes it to a whole other level. I don’t think anyone gets as many hugs and handshakes from flight crews as he does.”
Robinson is also well known (again, not because of any self-promotion) for his community service. He works tirelessly for several nonprofits, including Teen Challenge and House of Promise. Around Houston, he also regularly entertains senior citizens as a guitarist in Glory Bound Express.
“There’s nothing as satisfying as playing country and gospel music for people who appreciate it,” Robinson says. “Although I should be clear, I’m not that good of a guitar player. Instead of me being in the band, let’s just say that the band allows me to play with them.”
A typical response from a humble technician who is highly regarded by his peers and—when they get the opportunity to realize what he and other technicians do every day—United’s customers.
A Message From United CEO Oscar Munoz:
The fall season always promises us a lot to look forward to—the weather is cooling down, baseball playoffs are heating up, and football season is kicking off. But, for me, this is also a time to look back and reflect.
You see, one year ago this month I joined the United family as its new CEO, at a time when we faced a set of important choices and challenges for the future. In my first letter introducing myself, I promised that people would see me out traveling our network, listening to and learning from our employees, in order to foster a greater sense of shared purpose in serving our customers.
Fueled by a belief in the promise and potential of this iconic airline, our leadership team and I, along with the more than 86,000 dedicated United professionals across the system, set to work charting a bright new course for the future.
As is often the case, however, life had different plans. Only a few weeks into the job, I experienced a critical heart attack, requiring heart transplant surgery. As you can imagine, it was a life-altering experience. Above all, it was a life-affirming one.
Two months later, thanks to the love and encouragement of my wonderful wife and four children, as well as the incredible outpouring of support and good wishes from my broader United family, I came back to work with a renewed sense of urgency and determination.
I am often asked what inspired me to return to United after such a serious health scare. My answer is simple: our people. As I travel our network, I see the passion and pride they take in serving you, our customer, in order to provide a better experience with each flight you take with us.
Every day I receive emails from customers asking me to thank a member of our team who went the extra mile to deliver the new spirit of United that I promised at the outset. But, as you can imagine, I also receive my share of emails telling us how we can do better, and I know we are only as good as your last flight with us was great.
We know we have more work ahead of us, and we measure our success with proof, not promises. But, as I look back on what has been a transformative year for United, as well as for me personally, I am more determined than ever to seize the exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us.
I am confident that we are positioned for take off as never before in our history. I hope that you join us on this journey, as we strive to show you the very best of the friendly skies in the next year, and in many more to come.
President and CEO, United Airlines
Young chefs fly to the White House for Kids’ “State Dinner”
This past July, kids from around the country participated in the fifth annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a competition presented by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative in partnership with PBS flagship station WGBH, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kids ages 8 to 12 were invited to create an original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty for a chance to attend the Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House. One winner from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and each of the U.S. territories was chosen from over 1200 submissions.
The winners and their guardians were flown to Washington, D.C., courtesy of United, where they dined with the First Lady at the White House and toured the kitchen garden. The lunch menu featured a variety of recipes created by the winners themselves, including a watermelon salad (Minnesota), a sweet and savory chicken and peach entrée (Colorado), and a spinach smoothie (Alaska.)
Jimmy Samartzis, vice president of United Clubs and Food Services, attended the event and met many of the children. “These kids are incredible and full of creative ideas on how to make eating healthy, tasty, and fun, and we couldn’t be more proud to have flown them,” he says.
All of the winning recipes will be featured in the 2016 Kids’ “State Dinner” cookbook, available for download on the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge website.
Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon
Ask the Pilot with Captain Bo Ellis
Q: Do the same aircraft have the same flight controls in the flight deck?
A: All commercial aircraft do have similar controls to manage the four basic principles involved in flight: lift, drag, thrust, and gravity/weight. Within United’s fleet, our cockpit controls are similar in our Boeing fleets, and also in our Airbus fleets, with some minor differences between specific models. The main difference between the two manufacturers is that Boeing utilizes a yoke (steering wheel) and Airbus incorporates a side control stick.
Some aircraft controls are so similar between models that a pilot learning to fly a different aircraft may be able to transition into the new plane more quickly. For example, a pilot who transitions from a Boeing 777 to a Boeing 787 could have his or her required training time on the new aircraft reduced by approximately 50 percent because of similarities.
The next time you board a United flight, feel free to stop by and say hi to the pilots. Time permitting, they will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the flight or the aircraft.
You can write to United’s chief pilots by addressing firstname.lastname@example.org