Over the weekend we learned of the tragic passing of Senator John McCain. I don’t want to make this political, so I’ll simply say that he seemed like a great guy, and my thoughts are with his family and friends. There’s enough politicizing of this going on, and I don’t want to add that.
There are lots of positive stories coming out following his passing, and there’s one that’s aviation related that I can’t help but share here. Of course this pales in comparison to some of his other life stories, but it’s quite an interesting anecdote nonetheless, and relevant to this site.
John McCain was a senator in Arizona, and like most senators, commuted back and forth between his home state and Washington DC all the time. For many years that would have required a connection, but in 2000 America West began flying nonstop between Washington Regan Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
But he refused to take that flight for many years, and rather continued to connect. Why? No, not because the ex-America West/US Airways fleet is garbage, or because he was trying to earn extra elite qualifying segments. 😉
Flights at Reagan Airport are restricted to a distance of 1,250 miles, though Congress has sporadically “exempted” certain flights from that “perimeter rule.” McCain led an effort to repeal the rule in 1999. It failed but ultimately helped lead to exemptions that included up to three daily nonstop flights on the 1,979-mile route between Washington and Phoenix.
McCain’s refusal to take the new nonstop was his way of stubbornly sticking to a vow he made in response to criticism that he only wanted the flights so he could shorten his commute.
“To John, that was such an abhorrent thing to be accused of, he just took it off the table and said, “OK, I won’t fly it,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker recalled. “I don’t think any other member (of Congress) would make that statement.”
Over the years this allegedly caused him to miss lots of major events, but on principle he stuck to it. At some point, after several years, he did begin taking the nonstop flight, at a point when he said no one noticed or cared anymore.
Interesting stuff! For what it’s worth, McCain was spot on to try and repeal the perimeter rule, in my opinion. In the early days this was added to force passengers to use other airports. For example, it was added at LaGuardia to encourage people to fly out of Kennedy in the early days. But it’s an outdated and inefficient concept, and it’s nice that exceptions have been made.
(Featured image courtesy of Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)