Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> Article

Delegate's Cousin Pilots First Flight After 911 —
'Uplifting Ending to
A Very Sad Week' 


The first American Airlines flight following the September 11th terrorist attacks readies for takeoff..

Look at the "wallpaper" on Judy Hice’s computer screen and you will seen the photo of sleek, shiny jet rolling down a runaway. Not just any jet. This was the first American Airlines plane to take the air following the September 11 terrorist attacks. And, as the president of UE Local 1004 will proudly tell you — it was commanded by her cousin Mike Hice. Look again, and you will notice an American flag flying from Captain Mike’s cockpit. And as Judy will tell, there’s a story behind those Stars and Stripes.

Assigned to fly the first flight out of Reno, Captain Mike decided his plane had to have an American flag. In an e-mail to his family, he said, "[as] the day that we would return to the skies approached, I remembered that American Airlines used to fly a small company pennant out of the Copilot window in the 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, and the 1960’s on their propeller aircraft. The tradition was lost when the company moved into jet aircraft in the early 1960’s. Being assigned to fly the first flight out of Reno, I decided that no matter what, I would have a flag to fly from my airplane when we departed. My crew and I set out to find a flag on the last day of our stay in Reno."

In the patriotic outpouring following the September 11 tragedy that proved to be nearly impossible: every store was sold out; even the VFW had no more to spare. Captain Mike was advised to call a local radio talk show.


"When I called the station and told them my plan and the need for a flag, they put me right on the air," Captain Mike relates. He explained his plan — and the calls immediately started coming. Within seconds, Mike had two offers from radio listeners who promised to deliver flags to the hotel on their way home from work. The next caller offered yet another flag. Not needing a third flag, Mike was about to decline the offer when the man on the other end of the line said, "I’m in the lobby now, come on down."

In the ten minutes Captain Mike was out of his room he garnered 67 messages, as strangers offered use of their fathers’ burial flags, a parade ceremonial flag with gold fringe and a flag that had flown on the battleship USS California, among other variants of Old Glory.

"We flew the flag out the window from the moment we arrived at the aircraft until we took the runway for take off," says Captain Mike. "We received all kinds of compliments from other company airplanes out on the taxiways with us, from the air traffic controllers, and from the ground personnel."

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the pilot says, "it was an uplifting ending to a very sad and trying week."

Judy Hice is a computer technician at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Santa Clarita, Calif.; she was recently elected financial secretary of UE District 10 and a member of the union’s national executive board. She was a delegate to this year's UE National Convention, during which she learned about this story.

UE News - 10/01 - web

Home -> UE News -> 2001 Archives -> Article

Home • About UE • Organize! • Independent Unions • Search • Site Guide • What's New • Contact UE
UE News • Political Action • Info for Workers • Resources • Education • Health & Safety • International • Links

Copyright © 2003 UE. All Rights Reserved