Look Out! Bob Crandall Is Back!
For almost 20 years, Robert Crandall was top dog at American Airlines where he was not exactly what you would call a “sweetheart” of a boss. In fact, the American Airlines employees who toiled a couple of levels below him had a choice nickname for Crandall. They called him “Fang”.
Crandall retired in 1998 but is still considered an aviation legend for turning American Airlines into an industry behemoth.
Ten years later, at a major conference on transportation, Crandall caused shockwaves throughout the industry by unequivocally endorsing rail as a critical element of America’s transportation infrastructure. Here’s an exact quote:
“If I were the King of Spain – that is, if I could do whatever I wanted to do – I’d prohibit flights to either Boston or Washington from LaGuardia while simultaneously upgrading the rail system – tracks, equipment, power and whatever else is needed – to assure maximum running speed and minimum elapsed time. By doing so, we would better use the railroad asset and would free airplanes, airspace and airport facilities for flights to places that cannot be conveniently reached by rail. Once that was accomplished, I’d move in the same direction in and around Chicago, thus relieving the pressure on O’Hare and on the west coast, thus relieving pressure at Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
Wow! Does that mean those of us working for more and better and faster trains have a high-powered supporter in Bob Crandall? Uh … well, no.
Bob Crandall is the driving force behind a so-called grassroots organization created to oppose All Aboard Florida, the privately financed passenger rail service that will run between Miami and Orlando. And “driving force” is no overstatement; Crandall has helped raise a million dollars to bankroll the organization, the money being used to hire lawyers and run media condemning the proposed passenger service.
There’s no possible way to misinterpret his words in support of passenger trains at that conference back in 2008, so why is Bob Crandall now so virulently opposed to the All Aboard Florida plan when the trains will relieve much of the horrendous automobile congestion on the existing interstate highway connecting those two Florida cities?
Folks back in Florida say there are at least two possibilities. First, the only thing Bob Crandall loves more than a good fight is being in charge of a good fight. And, second, Bob Crandall has a home in Palm City, Florida, about 100 miles north of Miami. I’ll bet a cold bottle of Bikini Blonde Lager he and his high-tone neighbors don’t want those trains running through their town.