The 747's final tour of duty - United Hub
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The 747's final tour of duty

By Matt Adams, November 01, 2017

United ramp serviceman Tryg Farestad watched through his cabin window as Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, in Craven County, North Carolina, came into view below him. This Boeing 747 on which he was a passenger had dropped below the cloud line as it made its final descent, and Farestad craned his neck for a better look at the base. Much had changed in the decades since he called it home, but the memories still loomed large in his life and career.

The aircraft touched down on the runway at Cherry Point and taxied to a stop. As Farestad and the rest of the crew offloaded, a crowd of Marines stared up at the massive jet that would be their last taste of home before they embarked upon a nine-month tour of duty on foreign soil.

Tryg Farestad (right) with colleagues

Fifty years ago, Farestad stood in the exact same spot as those men and women. He was a Marine during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Cherry Point after returning from Asia. Standing on the other side as part of the group of United employees who now support the airline's U.S. military charters, Farestad scanned the crowd and knew exactly what each soldier was feeling" the same mix of nerves and anticipation that he had experienced as he prepared to take off for Da Nang in 1967.

"Most of them are so young and so gung-ho, but they don't know what to expect," Farestad says. "When they find out I was in the service, especially having been in Vietnam, they have a million questions. It does me good to talk with them, and I hope it does them good to talk to an old G.I."

Since World War II, United has been proud of its role in transporting troops across the globe. Thanks to its size and cargo capacity, the 747 has been a particularly useful tool for moving U.S. armed forces. Of the hundreds of military charter flights United has operated in the past year, roughly 60 percent have been served by 747s.

Like the 747, Farestad joined United in 1970 and has been a workhorse for the airline ever since. A Jersey farmboy, he has spent most of his career in Philadelphia working in a variety of roles, from aircraft load planning and ramp services to refueling operations. That breadth of experience has made him a valuable addition to the charters team.

"We fly into areas where United doesn't have a presence, so we need to know how to do everything when we're in the field," he says. "We load an unload the aircraft, refuel it, make sure everything is set for the flight crew and catering – anything you could think of. No two days are the same."

When the last military-chartered 747 completed its mission in October, it signaled the end of an era that will be missed by the small but dedicated group of employees like Farestad who have supported that subsection of United's business.

"It was one of the nicest airplanes you could fly on," he says. "The soldiers loved the size of it, and I always enjoyed giving them tours. Some of them couldn't believe it when they saw the second deck, the fact that you had to take a staircase up to your seat."

Just like selling your first car or moving away from home, it's the people, experiences, and conversations for which the 747 was the setting that Farestad will truly miss – particularly the encouragement his unique background qualified him to offer.

"When we were in flight, I would circulate around the cabin and talk with the G.Is," he says. "The experiences they have will open their eyes to the rest of the world. Travel has that effect on everyone, and we've been fortunate to be part of that here."

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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