In late 2014, George Jehn, a retired Eastern Airlines (and later US Airways) pilot and ALPA union official, published his book, ‘Final Destination: Disaster. What Really Happened to Eastern Airlines’. This book represents an insider’s view of the political and corporate corruption that eventually killed the second largest airline in the free world, in early 1991. George’s thesis is that high U.S. officials wanted/needed to keep the public in the dark about the Eastern Airline history of clandestine service to the CIA; that, after the crash of an Eastern Boeing 727 on 1/1/1985 in Bolivia, U.S. officials needed to ensure the accident would not be properly investigated, as it would expose too much … and so high officials chose instead to simply dissolve the airline. The thesis is amply supported by his facts. The book looks, too, at the role of the CIA and airlines in drug running (remember Oliver North and Iran-Contra, and the explosion of cocaine use in the U.S. three decades ago?). And, it analyzes the failure by NTSB to investigate the crash of EAL flight 980 in the Andes in 1985.
Although events in the 1980’s and early 1990’s triggered the research that went into this book, publication was delayed. George found a literary agent who initially was very keen on publishing, then was scared off. Thankfully, George kept his work and pushed it through to publication two decades later, when the political leaders were no longer as powerful. This goes to show: Whistleblowers often have to settle in for the long haul.
Here’s George’s letter for today, Labor Day 2015:
Labor Day, 2015
To my Friends,
Well, another Labor Day is upon us, and once again American workers from every walk of life and in every occupation, continue to take it on the chin. It makes no difference whether a Democrat or Republican is in charge because no matter which, working men and women are still viewed as the bad guys. Just take a quick look around to confirm this. Obama swore up and down that he is for the “middle class,” yet along with his newly-minted Republican “friends” in both Houses of Congress (at least for this item) passes the trans-Pacific free trade agreement, which is anything but “free.” American workers will pay many times over for this with their additional sweat for less, hard-earned money and jobs. This is no more than the continued “race to the bottom” for the American labor force, whose employers will now claim that they “can’t compete” with workers in the lower paid Pacific Rim countries. In turn, this will translate into cuts in pay and benefits for the American workers or their employers will outsource their jobs. “Job guarantees?” “Retraining assurances?” Pure baloney!
Recall if you will the 1978 United States airline deregulation act, under which all of this started. It contained similar false “promises” and “guarantees,” yet not one single airline pilot was ever protected or went to another airline after their carrier went out of business, with their pay and/or seniority intact, as the language of this legislation stated would happen. And right now, the current New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, another alleged Democrat, sets his sights on attacking public school teachers throughout the state and their union for their alleged “teaching deficiencies,” in some NY public schools—items although beyond their control, they are nonetheless being blamed for.
Today’s definition of Labor Day amounts to no more than a sordid joke on American workers, except it is anything but a joke. It has turned into just another national holiday where the politicians pander to the workers who put them into office, as large retailers offer goods at alleged sale prices and further line their pockets, while their employees are paid minimum wages and Mom and Pop stores are simultaneously put out of business.
Fairly paid and the skilled American work force is what created the American middle class and once made this country great. Without them..? Well, I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blanks for the rest of that sentence, but I think we can all see what transpires around us on a daily basis.
On a much more personal note, since 1978 not one Labor Day ever went by without calling and speaking with my former elected pilot union colleague, close friend and staunch pilot/labor advocate, former Eastern Captain, Skip Copeland. That won’t happen this year because unfortunately Skip passed away late last year after tirelessly fighting for the Eastern pilots for many years. He is sorely missed. May he rest in peace. He earned it.
Perhaps, just maybe, our once-great Republic can one day rekindle all that it once stood for—but don’t hold your breath. On this Labor Day, 2015, the ones I truly feel sorry for are our children and grandchildren who will most likely never know the opportunities the real America once held for all working men and women.
George’s book was published by Changing Lives Press. I bought a copy and read it this summer, and it was a fascinating read. Parts were eerily reminiscent of my own story, blowing the whistle on FAA/ATC safety failures, though George’s story goes all the way to the White House (while my story only rose to high officials at FAA and NATCA). And, it really illuminates the greed-driven politics that have not only undermined aviation, but also are altering the economy we leave for our children.
UPDATE, 4/8/2016: — Robert DeFranco’s Dragon River has optioned the rights to George Jehn’s memoir, ‘Final Destination: Disaster — What Really Happened to Eastern Airlines.’