Exploring New Zealand by a DC-3 Aircraft - United Hub

Exploring New Zealand by a DC-3 aircraft

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By SFO A320 Captain Scott Cooper

I recently returned from an incredible tour of New Zealand. Instead of travelling by bus, we flew around on a true aviation classic, a DC-3. In 12 days, our group flew "low and slow," experiencing all this beautiful country has to offer, from the North to the South Island.

DC-3 Aircraft in New Zealand

On the first day, we met our crew (mostly retired pilots and flight attendants) and left Auckland for Rotorua (known locally as "RotoVegas") to experience the natural thermal springs, and a traditional Maori Haka dance and Hangi dinner. The following day, owing to bad weather, we were taken by coach bus down to Palmerston North for the flight down to Blenheim on the South Island. This region is home to the Marlborough wine region, and it's where you can find some of the best sauvignon blanc on the planet. We landed at the Omaka airfield, which is a grass strip and home to the incredible Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum. The next day, we boarded our DC-3 for the one-hour flight down the coast to Christchurch. Upon arrival, we toured the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch has traditionally been the starting point for expeditions and military operations to Antarctica). Christchurch itself was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2011 but is being rebuilt anew.

Town of Te Anau in New Zealand

The following morning, we departed once again for the short, 20-minute flight to Ashburton, a large grass airfield and home to the amazing Ashburton Aviation Museum. After a barbeque lunch, we took off for the beautiful town of Dunedin. Dunedin, on the south east coast of the South Island, is home to New Zealand's first university and truly one of the most beautiful small towns in the world. After a great day of exploring Dunedin, we took off for the one hour flight across the tip of the Southern Alps to the charming lakeside town of Te Anau. Te Anau is the gateway to the Milford Sound region and home to some of the most spectacular and unspoiled scenery in the world. It's also where the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed. Cruising up the Milford Sound is quite an experience, as clear days are rare. Gale force winds are more common, but the scenery is simply stunning and worth the journey. The next morning, we left for Queenstown, which can only be described as a sportsman's paradise. The town of 18,000 is the starting point for hiking, kayaking, jet boating, bungee jumping or skiing (in the winter). In the evening, our group cruised up Lake Wakatipu on an old, coal-burning steamship, which was built in the same year as the Titanic. A fun fact about our tour director was that he is a direct descendant of William Murdoch, who was the First Officer on the RMS Titanic itself.

After a couple great days in Queenstown, it was off again to Wanaka, which is home to one of the biggest air shows in the Southern Hemisphere (one that our DC-3, "Betsy" participates in every year), as well as a great aviation museum and the largest collection of Packard cars in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. For the next few days, we flew up to the towns of Hokitika, Greymouth, and Westport, before our final stop on the South Island, Nelson. Like Dunedin, Nelson is one of the most charming and livable small towns on the planet.

Scott Cooper with the DC-3 aircraft

After about nine days flying around the South Island, we left its beautiful shores to land on the North Island, once again in New Plymouth. After a great evening and tour of WWII exhibit at the airport, curated by none other than Jim Hickey (TVNZ's most famous weatherman and an all-around great guy), we headed back up to Ardmore airport in Auckland. After landing, the official tour wrapped up, capping off a 12-day trip of a lifetime, but the aviation experience was not quite over yet, as an optional scenic flight over Auckland in a PBY Catalina aircraft was on offer.

This was an incredible experience to fly in one of only two Catalinas left in the world today, certified to carry passengers. This tour is offered just once or twice a year and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If interested check out pacifictrailways.co.nz.

Why we fly

By The Hub team, November 27, 2020

In October 2019, we launched a first-of-its-kind airline miles donation platform, Miles on a Mission. In the inaugural year, MileagePlus members donated over 70 million miles, with United matching over 20 million miles, to 51 organizations. These miles have allowed for these organizations to do important, life-changing, life-saving work in the communities we serve around the globe.

United cargo connects products to people all over the world this holiday season

By The Hub team, November 23, 2020

Critical medical shipments – Check.

High-tech electronics – Check.

2.7 million pounds of lobster? Check.


While this year's holiday gatherings will look a little different, millions of people around the world will still carry on the tradition of celebrating the holidays with a meal.

As the appetite for different types of food from all over the world increases, so does the need for safe and reliable transport. Fish caught in the United Kingdom can depart at breakfast and arrive in Washington D.C. in time for dinner. Thanks to United Cargo's expansive network, we are longer constrained by global distance or the seasonality of a product,

United Cargo plays a big role in transporting shipments with a limited shelf life around the world. Packed in between the latest electronics from Asia and the hottest fashion items from Europe, our aircraft carry a variety of perishable shipments like flowers, fruit, meat and vegetables, where speed and careful handling keeps them fresh. Whether it's cherries from Washington State or vegetables from Peru, our temperature-controlled shipping processes and vast global network helps move these commodities all over the world.

While the holidays are an exceptionally busy time of year for shipping perishable items, United Cargo transports these critical goods for people all over the world year-round. Earlier this year, United Cargo moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program to support communities impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, with the holiday season here, we anticipate the cargo holds of our aircraft to be full of grocery store replenishments, including staples like turkey and ham, hitting shelves across the globe.

We take pride in our role to make sure perishables and produce arrive on time and at the peak of freshness. These products sustain, feed and nurture the world, and consumers around the globe depend on them every single day.

Since March 19, United has operated nearly 8,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 272 million pounds of cargo on those flights alone. United Cargo is proud of the role we play maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access commodities from all over the globe.

Bon appetit!

Happy Veterans Day

By The Hub team, November 11, 2020

With thousands of veteran and reservist employees at United, we are incredibly grateful for their dedication, courage and bravery. Not only do they serve our country, they also bring a standard of excellence and professionalism to work on a daily basis.

We are thrilled to celebrate and thank our veteran and reservist employees this Veterans Day. We asked a few of them to share stories from their experiences while enlisted. Read a few of them below!

Larry Ferrarini, ORD Lead Ramp Service

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Tiffini Wilson, ORD Customer Service Representative

Tiffini served in the U.S. Navy Reserves from 1999 to 2013. She came from a military family and always knew she wanted to serve. In her experience, the Navy has a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. She feels proud that she is able to serve her country and other people get to stay home and feel safe.

Tiffini has worked at United for 24 years and feels grateful that her supervisors have always been supportive of her military service and flexible when she was deployed. She even received care packages from colleagues when she was serving in the Middle East. She has learned that being a leader is about listening, in the military and at United. She applies that mentality to when she is working with customers, as well. She says, "sometimes people are having a bad day and need to vent and be acknowledged."

Thank you for your service, Tiffini!

Terry Blake, DCA First Officer B767/B757

Terry joined the U.S. Air Force in 2014 and is currently serving. He says, "The military is a great career and I am proud that I have been given the opportunity to serve my country and the State of West Virginia." During his time in the service, he has been working aeromedical evacuation missions where he moves the critically wounded warriors from combat zones to hospitals in Europe and the U.S. He feels lucky to fly for United and work with many great people. He is proud to work alongside ALPA professional pilots and all the other employees at the company.

Thank you for your service, Terry!

Katherine McDonald, HR Partner Senior Manager

Katherine served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and says, "For me, serving is a calling. It means serving this great nation and being ready when needed." She joined the military to belong and contribute to something bigger than herself. When she was applying for her job at United, she found information about the United4Veterans business resource group on the company website. This increased her desire to work for a company that she could bring her military experience to and be celebrated. "The inclusivity I feel at United makes me feel so valued, both as an employee and as a veteran. I am so grateful to work for a company that is committed to our military employees and customers."

Thank you for your service, Katherine!

Troy A. Engholm, DEN Ramp Service

Troy served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2013. He says, "I loved serving 30+ years in our United States Air Force because it gave me a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride to know that I was serving in the best Air Force, with the best professionals, the world has ever seen."

After serving, Troy joined United in 2015 and has loved it ever since. He believes this profession allows us to connect families together and provide a multitude of experiences for our customers. They get to see the world. The most rewarding part of his job is when he sees joy on a customer's face.

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Fred "Motown" Crowell, ORD Lead Ramp Service

Motown served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1970. Motown grew up in Detroit and aspired to follow in his brother's footsteps by applying to a job at United. Just after he was hired, he was drafted to the Army and was on active duty in Vietnam. His unit was the first to invade Cambodia. His unit that served together still meet up every year in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Memorial.

When he returned home, he returned to United and has been here for 53 years. Over the years, he's been able to travel with his family around the world and even take his wife back to Vietnam and show her where he was stationed.

Thank you for your service, Motown!

Garrett West, Regional Director Aircraft Maintenance ORD

Garrett served in the U.S. Marines for 7 years and 1 year in active reserves. From childhood, he had always dreamed of becoming a United States Marine. He has been grateful to serve with many different people from all types of backgrounds. And, he has many fond memories and experiences of cruising the Mediterranean when he was part of the Marine Amphibious Ready Group. He says, "Having the honor to wear the EGA (the Marine emblem that includes an Eagle, Globe and Anchor) and to represent and serve our great nation is beyond words."

Garret began his career at United as a frontline technician and has worked to a Hub leader. He says, "As we all press on and continue to work through challenges, the tenacity of our employees across the board and working alongside so many dedicated people has done nothing but instill confidence in our future."

Thank you for your service, Garrett!

Pete DeLeon, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Pete served in the U.S. Marines from 1977 to 1984. He grew up in a military family and had a desire to join early on. During his time in the Marines, he traveled all over the world, including to the American Embassy in Cyprus; Lima, Peru and Okinawa, Japan. He has a great sense of pride for his time in the service and feels grateful that he could give back to his country.

After the Marines, Pete joined United 33 years ago. He has held many roles in various places across the system. First, he was a load planner in Miami, then moved to New Orleans where he was the chief coordinator during Hurricane Katrina. Pete says, "I thoroughly enjoy what I do on a daily basis, working with and assisting customers. I enjoy the people I work with I look forward to coming to work on a daily basis as every day is different at the airport."

He says the Marines taught him how to be professional, treat people with respect and to make quick decisions when necessary. He always goes the extra mile for customers and colleagues.

Thank you for your service, Pete!

Steve Driver, ORD Customer Service Representative

Steve served in the U.S. Army for 20 years from 1976 to 1996. He says, "It was my honor to serve my country. I was very proud to be a part of the U.S. Army and protecting my country. The camaraderie was amazing. The way my unit worked together to complete missions was not like anything I've ever been a part of before. Wearing the uniform gave all of use a sense of pride." He has worked with United for over 23 years and he describes his time as very rewarding. He enjoys working with his coworkers and learning about the industry every day.

Thank you for your service, Steve!

Jim Herrera, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Jim Herrera served in the U.S. Marines Reserve from 1976 to 1985. Though he served after the Vietnam war, he saw the impact of that on his fellow veterans. Over time, he has seen a great shift in positive support for veterans and he is very grateful for that. He has been with Untied for over 42 years. He is grateful for the stability his career at United provides for him to do what he loves and raise his family.

Thank you for your service, Jim!

Session Martin, ORD Lead Customer Service Representative

Session served in the U.S. Army for 3 years and 9 months. He says that his time in the service means everything to him. He is proud to have been part of the team and did his duty to preserve our lifestyle in America. "I feel like I owned that to my country. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would," says Session. Even after 51 years at United, Session still says he is having a good time, he enjoys coming to work every day. His favorite part is connecting with the customers and networking with people.

Thank you for your service, Session!

Troy VanderWeyden, DCA First Officer B777

Troy has been flying the Air National Guard for the past 10 years. His missions include aeromedical evacuations, strategic delivery of troops and cargo across the globe, as well as humanitarian aid flights. Five years ago, his lifelong dream was fulfilled when he was hired by United. A special family connection is that his father is also a United pilot, Captain Alan VanderWeyden.

Troy shares, "United is extremely accommodating and appreciative of my and everyone's military obligations and offers endless support. The DCA Flight Operations has a strong relationship with the West Virginia Air National Guard and reflects highly on the Flight Operations folks and our personnel in the unit."

Thank you for your service, Troy!

Scott Kirby, CEO

'No excuses.' Fellow U.S. Air Force Academy grads are familiar with a lesson in leadership that I still apply in my work today.

This simple saying teaches freshmen cadets to take responsibility in solving problems, no matter whose fault it is. At @United I see this mantra in action every single day. Not one United team member caused this current crisis, but we are all 100% focused on solving the impact it has had on our company. Veterans Day is the perfect reminder that the thousands of veterans at our company — including the colleagues in these photos — are part of that charge. It's an honor to have so many veterans in our ranks.
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