Picture of Tara Titcombe

Giving you an INSIDE LOOK at how we run our airline.

When we originally came up with the title ­“Gearhead” for this column, I laughed to myself and then called my dad. As the daughter of a mechanic, I guess my entire childhood prepared me for this column. I grew up surrounded by car parts. When I was a little girl, I’d have to run out to the garage to call my dad in for dinner, or I’d have to run out to help him bleed brakes, hand him tools or pour cat litter on an oil spill. The summers of my youth were spent driving across the Midwest to car shows, and Sundays were always reserved as race day. When I learned to drive, I was taught not only how to steer the car but also how to change the spark plugs, the oil, the tires and the battery.

About the time I left for college, I left behind my interest in all things mechanical. I majored in English at a small liberal-arts college and became more engrossed by poetry and music than by vintage cars and racing. I went on to get a master’s degree in journalism, and the only races I planned on covering were the political kind.

It was during that time, however, that I came to realize just how complicated some stories and people can be. I began to truly appreciate simplicity and became incredibly thankful for my strong, humble roots. After a long day or a hard time, I’d call up my dad just to listen to someone honest. I was as interested in his stories as I was in those I’d just heard in an interview. I learned that every person — from a mechanic to a CEO — has an equally important story to tell.

After a few years of political reporting and travel writing, I found myself in the aviation industry, writing airline-related articles — ­everything from pilot training to baggage handling to operations-control systems. That is where I found my niche. It’s a way to combine my left-brained roots with my right-brained passion. It’s also a way for me to tell the stories of people who all too often go unnoticed, and that’s the part I enjoy the most. I’m much more at home working with a machinist or sweating on the tarmac loading bags with a ramper than I ever will be in a corporate office.

I’m excited to get to do all of that and much more with this column in American Way. This is your behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of our airline. This is a way for me to show you the mechanics of things. Just like my dad showed me how to change the oil, I’d like to show you how we train our pilots or how we get meals onboard. This also is a way for you to get to know our employees, and I can’t wait to share their stories with you. Our people are truly the gears and gauges that make this airline work. They are the real gearheads.
Signatureof Tara Titcombe
Associate Editor