This Chrome is Solid Gold – Part 2: Two Down…

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

How do you feel about your "competition?"

How do you feel about your “competition?”

I had planned to talk about California Chrome’s early years, but the coverage of the first two races has been so complete, I’m sure you’ve heard just about everything there is to tell about him prior to the Kentucky Derby.

 

Since the Kentucky Derby, I’ve found that there is a very personal connection with California Chrome. It was my great pleasure to find out that one of the Kalitta family of companies (Kalitta Air, Kalitta Charters, and K2) had the distinct honor of flying California Chrome from Louisville to Baltimore. My friends, who know what a huge fan I am, sent me a couple of photos of California Chrome on the plane. It wasn’t as though I actually needed another reason to cheer for Chrome, but it sure added to the personal enjoyment.

California Chrome on K2 flight from Louisville to Baltimore

California Chrome on K2 flight from Louisville to Baltimore

 

California Chrome in his stall on K2 aircraft

California Chrome in his stall on K2 aircraft

California Chrome leaves K2 aircraft for ride to Pimlico

California Chrome leaves K2 aircraft for ride to Pimlico

I also want to touch on how wonderful I think it is that Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, was able to train a Kentucky Derby winner after accompanying the great Swaps on the train from California to win the 1955 Kentucky Derby. Sherman was Swaps regular work rider and he slept in the straw with Swaps all the way east. I also think it’s incredibly touching that he visited Swaps’ grave before this Derby and asked the great one to imbue Chrome with some of his toughness. I believe that was one request that was granted.

 

Art Sherman with California Chrome

Art Sherman with California Chrome

 

The Great Swaps

The Great Swaps

 

Chromie's Favorite Trick Stealing the Hat off Alan Sherman's (Art's Son & Assistant Trainer) Head

Chromie’s Favorite Trick
Stealing the Hat off Alan Sherman’s (Art’s Son & Assistant Trainer) Head

One more shout-out regarding the Kentucky Derby. It goes to California Chrome’s spectacular “pony” horse. When I saw the pony leading Chrome in the Kentucky Derby, I could swear he looked like an old friend – Perfect Drift. The more I saw the pony, the more I concentrated on HIM rather than Chrome (which, my friends, is really saying something). I could have sworn it was Perfect Drift. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know how much I have always adored Perfect Drift. I’ve been a huge fan of Perfect Drift ever since he started racing. Having bred to Dynaformer, all his horses (especially Perfect Drift and Barbaro) have been favorites. I visited Drift at the Kentucky Derby Museum while he was their “representative.”

Perfect Drift at The Kentucky Derby Museum

Perfect Drift at The Kentucky Derby Museum

Susan Salk in one of the other blogs I follow did a bang-up piece on Perfect Drift in his new job as “pony” in her blog http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/ That’s when I knew for certain I was right. Chrome’s pony horse was my old pal, Perfect Drift. I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed one of her photos from her blog. If you head over to her blog, I think you will really enjoy it. I read every one of her posts and have loved to hear the happy stories of “off the track” thoroughbreds in their new lives.

Perfect Drift Ponying California Chrome at the Kentucky Derby

Perfect Drift Ponying California Chrome at the Kentucky Derby

If you watched the Preakness Stakes, you saw that Chromie (affectionately Tweeted and written about as #Chromie) broke well from the gate. This is really important for Chromie. He has had a history of having to overcome poor “breaks” (starts) from the gate. This time, he was rocking forward. It’s not that he’s a bad actor in the starting gate. There are horses who constantly fight going into the starting gate, or flip over, or just flat won’t go in at all. Chrome is anxious. He rocks back and forth with anticipation. He’s getting better with each race, it seems; and one can only hope that he will be rocking forward when they pop the gates at Belmont Park on June 7.

 

California Chrome in Preakness Winners' Circle

California Chrome in Preakness Winners’ Circle

Now, we’re on the brink of the first Triple Crown (Chrome?) in 36 years. Without going into all of the negative press horse racing has gotten just over the past few months, I can confidently say that we sure could use a Triple “Chrome” winner now more than ever. This is especially true for this particular horse with his storybook background, working-class owners, and septuagenarian trainer.

California Chrome Racing with History?

California Chrome
Racing with History?

A whole cottage industry has sprung up around California Chrome. Tee-shirts and other garments are being printed with DAP (Dumb Ass Partners – the ownership’s racing name) colors and logos and California Chrome’s name (or #Chromie). Many of the parties selling these items are donating a percentage of their sales to my dear friends at Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/ ). If you’re interested in checking out some of these items, Teespring.com and Etsy have them. I, personally, do not have any financial interest nor do I receive any funds from any of these, but I have made purchases for myself.

California Chrome Sure Doesn't Look Like He's Stressed

California Chrome
Sure Doesn’t Look Like He’s Stressed

As the Belmont Stakes gets closer, I hope to be blogging more about this year’s Triple Crown and the sense of destiny surrounding California Chrome. Stories like this don’t come along very often. As the adage goes, “A racehorse is an animal that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time.” I sure am enjoying this ride. I’m praying that it takes all of us to the Winners’ Circle at Belmont Park on June 7; and California Chrome into the history books and his own slice of immortality.

 

California Chrome Yes, We're ALL Looking at You, Kid!

California Chrome
Yes, We’re ALL Looking at You, Kid!

 

Up Next: Solid Chrome

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Working for a Legend

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

Some people are lucky. They find a job/career they absolutely love. The luckiest are those who find it early in life. I think those who are the next luckiest are the ones who find that job they love after years and years of drudging away in jobs that just get them by. I count myself in the last group.

“Our” first 747-400 (N740CK)

My dad and my brother were always talking airplanes, so I grew up with an appreciation for aviation. Of course, the love of my life – my husband, Jim – has been in aviation his whole career. In 2008, I started working at Kalitta Air and began my own career in aviation. Better late than never! One of the main reasons I enjoy my job so much is that the owner of the company is a hands-on individual who surrounds himself with people who would walk through fire for him. Why? Because we all love him – that’s why. We know that Connie Kalitta is a stand-up guy who appreciates his people. We aren’t numbers to him – we’re people. That would be enough. There’s more to Connie Kalitta, though. He’s a bona fide legend.

Me with Connie “The Bounty Hunter” Kalitta

To give you some background, I’m going to paraphrase – and downright steal – from both the Kalitta Air and Kalitta Motorsports websites. Why reinvent the wheel when one already goes zero to 300 in less than 4 seconds? (I want to especially thank the exceedingly talented Todd Myers for writing such fabulous prose.)

———–

Connie with Jeff Arend (after a win)

Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta has been an icon in the world of professional drag racing for over 50 years as a team owner. Kalitta, who has been involved in the sport as a driver, tuner, and as an owner, has dedicated an amazing amount of time and resources to building one of the most successful teams in the history of auto racing. Kalitta Motorsports has won five world championships. The first came in 1977 when he served as crew chief for Shirley Muldowney. He earned the next two, 1979 and 1982, when he drove to IHRA championships. The last two came as team owner of Kalitta Motorsports when his late son Scott drove to the NHRA titles in 1994 and 1995.

 

Connie’s experience in the airline industry goes back to 1967 when he began transporting parts for the automotive business with a twin engine Cessna 310 (purchased with his race winnings) that he piloted himself. Over the years, Kalitta grew from a one airplane operation into American International Airways, Inc. (AIA), that used B747, L1011, DC8, B727, DC9, Twin Beech and Learjet aircraft in worldwide airfreight, air ambulance and charter passenger operations. AIA supported the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations with award-winning efforts.

Kalitta Air is Born

In 1997, AIA merged with Kitty Hawk, Inc. and Connie resigned from the company and the Board of Directors to pursue other interests. When Kitty Hawk International (the former AIA) ceased operations and filed Chapter 11, Connie fought to purchase the Aircraft Certificate and resurrect the airline. Kalitta Air received its DOT and FAA authority to begin operations in November 2000 and immediately began revenue service.

 

Connie quickly obtained the necessary approvals from the government and secured contracts with the USPS and the DOD. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when airports were closed and all flights were grounded, there was one plane in the sky that night that was not an F-16 fighter. It was a Kalitta Air 747 hauling relief supplies from the West coast to aid disaster workers. In 2003 Kalitta was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for support of the Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom Operations and Kalitta continues to support the USPS with scheduled flights delivering mail and packages to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

To sum up how Connie feels about his two worlds…”I do what I love, and I love what I do, I’m very blessed.”

 

———————–

Connie & me at the Employee Appreciation event

This is the man I work for. Unlike so many who have large businesses, Connie is here, on-site, almost every day. He’ll always wave and smile when you see him walking through the hangar. Up close, he’s quick to say hello. I’ve never felt as appreciated nor known where I fit in the grand scheme of things as much as I do at Kalitta Air. When the man at the top is quick to show his appreciation with luncheons and family picnics, you know you are valued. Connie has been very generous. When things are going very well for the airline, paychecks have been known to reflect that fact. No wonder virtually every employee reveres the man. We know where we stand with him and he knows we’ll work our hardest and best for him.

Patron Funny Car

A great example of how Kalitta Air shows its appreciation is the party that was thrown in our hangar on October 12. They were racing the weekend that had been set-aside for the Kalitta picnic, so they cancelled it and brought the party to us. There were door prizes (including large, flat-screen televisions, Ipads, Ipod docking stations, and apparel from all the companies). Kalitta Motorsports also brought over one of the Funny Cars.

Jim & me with Patron Funny Car

Lest I make Connie sound like an angel, let me point out right away that he is a hard-nosed business man. He knows every inch of his aircraft (which he could also pilot in a pinch) and has his finger firmly on the pulse of his businesses. He has an expectation that things will be done right. If something isn’t done up to his standards, he’ll let you know – in no uncertain terms – and in the strongest possible language. No, Connie is no angel; but he’s one hell of a boss.

 

That is what it’s like to work for THIS legend!

 

This is the Patron show car. It was formerly (and could easily once again be) ready for the track.

Here’s a photo taken with Doug Kalitta. Doug drives the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Doug has earned 31 wins over his 12-year career.

Kalitta Charters (returning a hero)

Doug is Connie’s nephew. He also owns Kalitta Charters (a charter airline service). “Charters” does executive charters, air ambulance and cargo services. They carry anything from organs for transplant to Kentucky Derby horses. Kalitta Charters is honored to be the sole company that has a contract with the government to fly the remains of soldiers to their final resting places

 

Up Next: Why We Call it “Fall”

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, follow the WordPress prompts to subscribe. I hope you will. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Having the Blues Can be Good!

I got introduced to air shows at a very early age. Perhaps that was foreshadowing that, one day, I would be in aviation. Daddy always loved airplanes. My brother was in Army aviation until he retired, and is now a civilian contractor with the Army. Jim has been in aviation his entire working career. I guess it was destined.

One of Our Planes in HI

One of the great things about working for Kalitta Air (and there are many) is that every year, around the middle of July, there is a big air show at Willow Run Airport (Thunder Over Michigan). Check it out on the web, if you like.

CORSAIR!

Our headquarters (where I work) is also at Willow Run. For several days prior to the show (held Saturday and Sunday), the exhibitors fly in. It’s not at all unusual to see World War II-vintage aircraft (P-51 Mustangs, F-4U Corsairs, B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-24 Liberators, and B-25 Mitchells, and others). Every “odd” year, there is an extra, added attraction…the Blue Angels (the Navy’s flight demonstration team)!

Practice Day 1

The “Boss,” the Blue Angels’ Commanding Officer must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. “Boss” flies the Number 1 jet. Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with strict qualifications are eligible to fly the other jets. Generally, Numbers 1 through 4 are the core team and Numbers 5 and 6 are the soloists. Marine Corps pilots fly “Fat Albert” the C-130T Hercules. If you’ve never seen Fat Albert do a JATO (Jet-Assisted Take Off), you would never believe that a big aircraft like that can take off so fast and with such a steep ascent! It’s so cool!

Practice Day 1

You can’t imagine how hard it can be to try to work with the sound of the Blue Angels overhead. Our view (since we’re on the airport) is terrific! We are right inside the “Flight Box.” This is the area of flight which is just away from the official spectator area (for safety-sake) in which all the stunts are done. Those guys just scream overhead.

Families Enjoy Practice

Last Thursday and Friday, were their practice days. Most of the photos I’ve attached to this post were taken by one of our employees (and a friend of mine), Bernadette Kearns. As you can see by one of the photos, people have their families come watch the practices. The photos were taken right from outside our hanger. What fun for everyone!

The Whole Team

If there’s ever an air show near you in which the Blue Angels will be taking part, GO! They really put on a terrific performance. It will take your breath away…I promise!

Up Next: BEAR!!!!

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Click on the title and go to the bottom left hand portion of the page. Below the “Leave a Reply” area, you will see two checkboxes. The “Notify me of new posts via email” will take you through the steps to subscribe.