Distinguished Dignitaries Receive High Honors At ACONE Luncheon

Presenting the Cabot Award:Photo left to right: Herbert D. Kelleher, John G.L. Cabot, Dan Schrager, President of ACONE
Presenting the Cabot Award:Photo left to right: Herbert D. Kelleher, John G.L. Cabot, Dan Schrager, President of ACONE

July, 2012

Two nationally recognized personalities received awards at the prestigious Cabot Awards sponsored by ACONE, (Aero Club of New England.)

Herb Kelleher Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, received the coveted Cabot Award from Dan Schrager, Acone president and John G.L. Cabot for his dynamic leadership in making Southwest the 5th largest airline in the U.S.

Captain, Thomas Jerome, Hudner Jr., Medal of Honor recipient for his courageous action in Korea attempting to save a downed fellow Navy pilot, was awarded a commemorative plaque by Dr. Gary Kearney, Capt. USN (ret) and Joe Passafiume, members of Acone.

The luncheon took place at the Harvard Club and was attended by some 200 members and friends.

During his acceptance talk, Herb Kelleher practically had the audience mesmerized with his tales of starting an airline and all the political machinations and roadblocks encountered in the process.

Southwest commenced service with three airplanes in 1971 and by May of 2008, operated a fleet of more than 527 airplanes, performing more than 3,400 flights per day. Southwest has been profitable for 38 consecutive years; has never furloughed an employee; and today carries the most originating domestic passengers of any U.S. airline.

From its start in 1971 — after overcoming a year’s worth of legal challenges from competitors who tried to keep it grounded — Southwest succeeded by offering low fares to its passengers, eliminating unnecessary services and avoiding the “hub-and-spoke” scheduling system used by other airlines.

During his tenure as CEO of Southwest, Kelleher’s colorful personality created an ‘esprit de corps’ that made Southwest employees well known for taking themselves lightly—often singing in-flight announcements to the tune of popular theme songs—but still taking their jobs seriously.

In Fortune magazine’s annual poll, Southwest is consistently named among the top five Most Admired Corporations in America and the only airline to make Fortune’s top 10 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.

Money magazine revealed that during the 30-year period 1972-2002, Southwest produced the highest return to shareholders of any company included in the S&P 500 during that 30-year period: $10,000 invested in Southwest in 1972 was worth $10,200,000 in 2002 (an average increase of 25.99% per year).

Herb Kelleher served as Executive Chairman of Southwest from March 1978 to May 2008 and as President and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001. Over the years, Kelleher has received a plethora of awards and honors.

Also at the recent Cabot Awards luncheon ACONE paid special tribute to Concord resident, Thomas J. Hudner, Jr who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic action during the Korean conflict.

During the battle of Chosin, Hudner’s wingman, Ensign Jesse Brown’s Corsair was hit by ground fire from Chinese troops and crashed behind enemy lines.

In an attempt to save Brown, Hudner quickly maneuvered his own aircraft, circling over the downed pilot to protect him from enemy troops infesting the area. Then without regard to landing on the rough, mountainous terrain and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperatures, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops.

With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free.

Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher.

Hudner then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate attempt to free the pilot, but to no avail.

For Lt. (J.G.) Hudner’s exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate, sustaining and enhancing the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service, he was awarded the country’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

During the Cabot Awards, ACONE, the oldest Aero Club in the Americas, awarded Captain Hudner a plaque, commemorating and forever memorializing the events of 4 December 1950 in CFA-32 Squadron history.

Both Kelleher and Hudner received standing ovations from the audience who claimed the event was one of the most enjoyable Cabot events ever.