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Hall of Fame 2013 - Bill Boesch

Bill Boesch

Bill Boesch is one of the greatest of all the big-time global air cargo executives our industry has ever produced.

What’s more, he did it all working in various top management positions: at a scheduled all-cargo carrier, a freight forwarder, the largest carrier of cargo and mail in the world, the biggest USA combination carrier, and finally, in retirement, coming back to save thousands of lives by engineering ground support convoys to carry cargo in and out of battlefronts during the terrible Iraq and Afghanistan War.

Bill Boesch was raised in Queens, New York, near Idlewild Airport (today JFK), and later lived in Long Island, New York.

In 1965 he went out to IDL that had just been renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport, looking for a job at all-cargo Seaboard World Airlines.

Growing up near the big airport, Bill could often see from his home the aircraft of the world coming and going.

The day and night action sparked Bill’s imagination of destinations newly discovered and places yet unseen.

At the time Seaboard was operating the major all-cargo resource across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City, while Flying Tigers operated the all-cargo USA flag across the Pacific from Los Angeles.

Seaboard had built an impressive global headquarters located on JFK airport at Federal Circle, offering both a direct opportunity for employment and the launch pad for what turned out to be Bill’s nearly 50-year odyssey in air cargo.

During a decade at Seaboard working with people such as the legendary cargo sales and marketing guru John Mahoney, whose theories and application of various cargo methodologies are still in practice today, Bill learned and worked his way up, and by the mid 1970’s was an integral part of the SWA team as they built a pioneering US flag all-cargo carrier that, among other things, launched the first US all-cargo B747freighter flights across the Atlantic.

Next Bill went to work for Emery Worldwide in 1975.

Emery recognized talent and promptly put Bill in charge of the Emery International Division, where he served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Emery in 1985 and Executive Vice President and General Manager in 1987 before leaving the company to become Pan American World Airways’ Senior Vice President of Cargo.

Bill expanded duties at PAA as Senior Vice President for Passenger Marketing and Cargo Operations at the beginning of 1988, but unfortunately for Pan Am (nearing the end of its run), the game was down rather than up as the “big blue meatball” (as insiders affectionately described the carrier’s logo) disappeared from the skies in 1991.

Bill had landed the job of a lifetime, going to work for Bob Crandall as American Airlines’ Vice-President of Cargo.

He became President and CEO of the Cargo Division in 1991 and Chairman of the Cargo Division in 1996.

Under Bill’s direction American became a world leader in the air cargo and logistics business, with annual revenues of over a billion dollars.

Bill retired from AA in 1996 and was saluted by dignitaries from every part of the aviation and airline business including Mr. Crandall, Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher, and many others.

Unable to sit still for long, Bill moved back into the fray in 2004 as CEO of DHL/DP Global Mail.

He is credited with leading DHL/DP Global out of its financial difficulties and also leading the way toward integration with Smartmail.

He directed the movement of both companies’ corporate headquarters and was a principal player in the branding change to DHL Global Mail.

But just when he was putting the final touches on a career that left him with many choices for a luxury retirement, Bill Boesch confounded logic and, some might say, reason, by standing up and answering the call of his country.

Bill went to work, carrying a rifle and wearing body armor, on the ground at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict; his goal was to mastermind a plan that took soldiers out of harm’s way.

What Bill Boesch did is epic in both military and transportation history.

Realizing that long streams of truck convoys were constantly needed to supply troops, but that the roads traveled were hostile, Bill took thousands of soldiers out of the driver’s seat: with an armed escort at his side, Bill went into the towns and villages and negotiated with local Sheiks and other community leaders to hire local labor to drive the trucks.

In one fell swoop, Bill took the troops out of harm’s way, provided jobs in areas where local unemployment was running above 60 percent, and delivered the goods on time. All of this is best described by Four Star General of the United States Air Force Raymond E. Johns Jr., who serves as Commander, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois USA:

“Bill did the hard, dirty, dangerous work necessary to establish effective relationships with tribal leaders and then devised a working transportation system that reliably supplied distant outposts.

“The most compelling point, in my view, is that Bill quietly did all this while saving taxpayer dollars and the lives of US service members.”

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