John was born into an airline family with family members working for many years with Mohawk and Eastern Airlines. From an early age, the “Airline” business was in his blood. After graduating from the University of Miami with a BBA majoring in Transportation Management John was fortunate enough to be hired by Flying Tigers in 1978 as a Ramp Supervisor at JFK. During John’s tenure there, he progressed to Chief Operations Supervisor and his last position at JFK was Manager Import Services.
Then …John’s dream job…He transferred to LAX as an OpsCon Duty Manager. Two great mentors helped him achieve this position (thanks to I.J. and G.V.W). And then came 1989, when John’s position was moved to Memphis, TN with FedEx where he worked in Global Operations Control until 1998. John then moved to Charter Operations and continued to work there until 2004 when he was fortunate enough to return to LAX with FedEx AOG. This was a major career change but well worth being able to come “Back West”.
John has been with AOG from 2004 to 2019 and has enjoyed the challenge. In 2019 he made the plunge into retirement and never looked back!
It has been a privilege to serve on this Board since January 2006.
Vice President & Communications
Helena’s career path took her quite by accident into the aviation industry when she accepted a part-time job at Flying Tigers at LAX in 1980 at Hi-Tiger.
After many wonderful opportunities to travel with FTL, interline parties and making lifelong friends, she ended up on the Third Floor in Operations Control where she met her husband, John, and developed an interest in all things aviation. After the FTL/FDX merger in 1989, Helena and John spent 13 years in Memphis and finally made their way back to Los Angeles in 2002 working at the old Flying Tiger hangar, now part of FedEx. It is rather serendipitous that Helena ended up at Flying Tigers as her father came to the USA in 1956 on a Flying Tiger DC4 refugee mission from Eastern Europe.
Helena has two degrees in aviation (BS and MAS) earned from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and considers herself something of a perpetual student. Helena was born and raised in Los Angeles with Croatian roots and loves to travel to Croatia any chance she gets to visit with family.
Margi has been a Member of the Flying Tigers Club Board of Directors, and served as Club Secretary since May 2007. During her position on the Board she was editor of the Newsletter from May 2007 through March 2014; as well as coordinating the 500 Club Board in the Flying Tigers room at Flight Path Museum and Learning Center.
She started working at Flying Tigers in 1973 as a swing shift file clerk and part-time Hi-Tiger receptionist. She held positions in the Finance Department before moving on to Public Relations and Advertising with Nissan Davis at the helm where she was editorial assistant to Colleen Ferguson on the TigeReview, and advertising coordination under Carol Svensson.
She left Flying Tigers in 1985 to expand her experience in marketing and small business development. In 1990, she joined Airborne Express at LAX as a customer service/operations agent DHL, retiring in 2009 from DHL following a corporate merger.
Gary M. Molinari began his career with Flying Tigers in May of 1972. His ﬁrst position with FTL was as an Internal Auditor where he performed both ﬁnancial and operational audits, this experience will lend itself to the Treasurer position as solid background for creative bookkeeping and sound embezzlement techniques.
Gary’s next assignment was as Manager of Credit and Collections where he was responsible to collect on all of FTL’s outstanding accounts receivable, utilizing those same strong-armed tactics gained in this job will help to ensure all Tiger Retirement Club dues are paid on time. He then moved on to a P&L position in the Charter Department and at the time of the FedEx merger was General Manager of Contract Programs with operational and Proﬁt and Loss responsibility for the commercial and military cargo and passenger charter business.
Gary and his family relocated to Memphis in 1989 and continued with FedEx as the Managing Director of Charters until his retirement in June of 2008 and returning to the Los Angeles area.
Toni began her Flying Tigers career in Customer Service at O’Hare Airport Chicago August 1970, coming from a two year engagement at Eastern Airlines Cargo. In 1972 she relinquished her position of Supervisor and transferred to Customer Service at LAX to enjoy the sun of California. Although “it never rains in Southern California” she remembers avoiding the water creeping under the door of the ground floor office at the Avion Drive terminal.
While serving our Japanese and Chinese accounts, under the wing of Anita Nakajima, she expanded her knowledge of the international side of the business. Eventually she transferred to the Operations department as the first female Ramp Supervisor, focusing on DC8 and 747 export and import flights, buildup and manifesting. Over the years at LAX she advanced to Chief Operations Supervisor-Import and Export and worked closely with U.S. Customs. In 1987 she transferred to the Quality Assurance Department at HDQ-World Way West where she supported Field Operations regarding international documentation procedures.
In 1989 she moved to FedEx Headquarters in Memphis as a Regulatory Systems Advisor where she supported 023 Cargo requirements relative to reporting interfaces between KIAC and various Customs systems both in the US and at non-US locations off shore. Having started in the Cargo business as a child, and still having lots to do on her list, she retired in May 2013 and is currently deciding what to do when she grows up.
Polly Price joined the Flying Tiger family as an occupational health nurse at the LAX maintenance facility in June, 1971. She remained in that position when the merger with Fed Ex occurred, taking on the additional duties of Safety Specialist, until the nursing position was eliminated at which time she became a full time Safety Specialist.
Since her retirement in September 2003, she has kept busy with various volunteer activities. She has always been an active member of her church and the United Methodist Women. She is the secretary on the board of directors of a local food pantry (CASE) and also the coordinator of a program (TOTS) that gives mothers a morning off by providing care for their young children one day a week.
Charles Calleja started his career at Flying Tigers in November 1970 as a part time cargo handler at the Los Angeles freight terminal. He spent 19 years and worked his way up to a lead position at LAX. Prior to joining FTL, Charlie spent 4 years in the US Navy as an Aircraft Mechanic and in 1985 accepted a position as a mechanic at the LAX Hangar. Charlie became part of FedEx in 1989 and is still on the job as a mechanic.
Charlie joined the Flying Tiger Club Board in 2010 as the Merchandise Director.
John Dickson was born in Southern California and began his career with Flying Tigers on July 31, 1978 as a flight crewmember based at LAX. Becoming a professional pilot was a dream he possessed since his first flight lesson at age14 while being raised under the flight pattern of the Torrance Airport. He built his flight hours as a young commercial pilot at Hawthorne Airport and LAX and attended CSULB at night, where he earned a Business Administration degree. His boyhood dream was finally realized at age 24 after FTL hired him, training was completed, and he was “checked out” as a new Second Officer on the DC-8-63. Quickly surpassing his passion for flying was the sudden exuberance found in being part of something so dynamic – the largest air cargo airline in the world at the time. The Tiger Spirit was instantly instilled in him and has only grown stronger as time has passed.
Although not fully realized at the time, as often happens during unexpected disruptions in life, John’s most fulfilling years as a Flying Tiger came amidst the downturn in corporate profitability during the early 1980’s when he was furloughed as a pilot on April 1, 1982. Captain Dick Wilson, VP of Operations, had directed all departments to place a priority on rehiring furloughed pilots into positions they might be qualified for. John applied for a handful of openings at High Tiger and was hired as a Fuel Data Analyst in the Flight Planning Department on the 3rd floor. Under the watchful eyes of Basil Pepper and Ken Bucklee, he worked closely with flight planners, crew planners, and managers within the charter department, and was exposed to a side of FTL that most line pilots never get to see. More importantly he gained an appreciation for the close bond that existed among all employees who worked in headquarters, the Can Do attitude, the smiles and the warmth, and subsequently made many new life-long friends during his short tenure at a desk.
John was rehired as a pilot on April 1st, 1984. For the next five years he flew in various seats on the DC8, B747, and B727 and was based in MCI, ORD, and JFK. After T-Day, as a B747 First Officer, FedEx began selling aircraft, the New York crew base was closed, and he was transferred to Memphis to begin training as a DC10 First Officer. John and his new wife, Jeanne, moved from Southern California to Tennessee to begin the second part of his career eventually assuming the position of Captain on the B727, DC10, and MD11. He retired from FedEx after 38 ½ years of combined service on December 31, 2016.
John currently lives with Jeanne in Dallas, Texas and is the grandfather of three. He has kept his passion for the Flying Tiger Line alive through participation in the Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association and the Flying Tiger Club. In 2012 he was elected as President of FTLPA, a position he still holds today.
He considers it an honor to now be a Board Member of the Flying Tiger Club and pledges his dedication at helping to preserve the legacy of our great airline as the Museum Director. Like most of us, John will be forever grateful for the privilege of being a part of the Flying Tiger family. He has devoted a significant amount of time in the past decade trying to ensure that recognition of our uniquely wonderful company continues for many more years to come.
So who is Fran?
Fran walked into the lobby of HiTiger in July, 1980 and told Buena Cheeks on the day of her interview that she planned to retire from Flying Tigers. What a great optimist! She worked in INFS on the first and second floors of LoTiger on non-revenue accounting systems including General Ledger and Accounts Payable. She loved jump-seating to HNL, SFO and ORD. Her son grew up at Tigers making appearances at Open Houses and Tiger Cub parties and now works for FedEx as a courier.
Fran was transferred to the revenue accounting C-ARMs system after the Tiger-FedEx merger then transferred into FedEx service/ramp engineering, finally utilizing her engineering degree from UCLA.
She retired from FedEx in 2003 with many other Flying Tigers. She currently resides close to the ramp and the Flying Tiger Museum where she is the Director of Archives.
In her free time, Fran volunteers as an Ambassador at Los Verdes Golf Course, and plays and watches golf, including with some fellow Tigers on Wednesdays in the Flying Tiger Twilight League and now Fridays. Disneyland is her favorite place to take a walk. Fran is a proud NFL owner as a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers. Although she has resided in southern California all her life, her roots are in the Midwest with “da Yoopers”, pasties and Packers. Oh, and she likes to fish!
The best part of Don’s working life was the time he spent at the Flying Tiger Line. And any successes he had during his career he owes to two people that guided him along the way – Paul Stokes who directed him to a career in Ground Operations and Art Ives who guided him the rest of the way – essentially teaching him what it meant to be a quality Tiger employee. Both of these gentlemen became two of his best friends.
Don started for Tigers in 1963 at Burbank as a CONOPS agent, working as Loadmaster for both passenger and cargo charters. When the Burbank station closed, he worked as an Operations Supervisor at LAX following a short period of vacation relief in DTW, SEA, and PDX.
Tired of shift work, Don moved to Ground Operations training department, where he met Art Ives. The fun part was traveling to different stations in the U.S. and Asia, making friendships that have lasted to this day – from Larry Honda in Japan to Kenny Thompson in EWR – and many others along the way.
During the mid-’70s, the rising fuel prices hit Tigers and many cutbacks were needed. Unfortunately, it required the elimination of Ground Ops Training. Furloughed, Don spent a year managing Love’s BBQ restaurants in Camarillo and Ventura. But his heart never left Tigers and at the end of the year he was back to Tigers – this time in Flight Ops in the Training Center. In that position, Don was also asked to restart the Ground Ops Training and in the early ’80s he was selected as Director of Training in a combined department of Customer Service, Ground Ops, Sales, and Management Development training, working with Neil Brooksby, Mary Donovan, and Mark Spitzer. There were many great people on the team – many still members of this Club: Al Hollander, Mark Taylor, Dick Feuerherm, Dick Davis, Lenore Samela, Susie Grace, Tony Ma and too many others to name.
Just prior to the merger with FedEx, Don left the airline and joined the Tiger Federal Credit Union staff. The FedEx and Tiger credit unions did not merge, resulting in a major drop in assets for the Tiger Credit Union causing a reduction in staff. He then moved to the Hughes Aircraft credit union where he worked in various positions until he retired in 1999. But at heart, Don was – and always will be – a Tiger.
After all these years, it’s the friendships that Don remembers best. In 1991, Art Ives retired and moved to Denver. Art and Don made a pact to meet half way between Denver and L.A. to play golf once a year. Art found a golf course in Moab, Utah – about a 10-hour drive for each of them. They met there every year until Art’s health failed. Within a few years, Paul Stokes and Maynard Ekedal joined them for the annual outing and over the years other Tigers joined them for three days of golf – Honda-san, Shirakawa-san, Mori-san from Japan, Ron Labac, Al Meluskey, Charlie Malone, and others.
Currently, Don and Joy are enjoying retirement in Apple Valley, CA, in spite of the summer heat. Until recent health issues impinged on his activity, Don enjoyed golfing and being the Club Treasurer. Although limited in stamina, Don is feeling good, reading voraciously, and still enjoying life.