During the course of my life, there have been a handful of events and opportunities that have unexpectedly become profound teachable moments. One such time was my visit to the US Aviation team at OGG in Maui, Hawaii.
How many times have I boarded a plane, squeezed my luggage into the overhead lockers, and settled into my seats, without a second thought about the team of dedicated workers who prepped that very same plane just minutes prior to boarding? These are the workers who cleaned every seat, ensured that every seat belt was in working order, wiped every tray table, arranged all the front-pocket items, and cleaned and sanitized the bathrooms from the previous flight. For me, the answer was many.
My team and I visited the US Aviation outfit at the OGG airport in Maui for the purpose of telling the stories of these tireless workers and shedding light on what happens behind the scenes at an airport. Prior to our arrival, I had no idea just how impactful these stories would be.
As soon as we landed in beautiful, sunny Maui and breathed in the salty, warm air, we could feel that it was a special place. We were greeted by Corey Brown, the Station Manager for US Aviation, and Tyrone Duncan, a Cabin Cleaner. Tyrone had recently just completed his 1,000th mission emptying the aircraft lavs, and we were there to tell his story and meet his family. His openness and outgoing personality made our job easy. We followed him to the ramp and watched him as he completed his work. Emptying waste is no glamorous job, but he laughed and joked with his colleague, Lilly. Their spiritual, positive attitude helps them start every day fresh, free of yesterday and ready to do what is needed for their team.
After each mission, the teams go back to the hanger to wait for the next plane to arrive. This is repeated 10-15 times a day, sometimes more, every single day. From what I saw, it is all done with efficiency, dedication, smiles, laughter and a Shaka, the traditional Hawaii wave. They have an incredible work ethic, are thankful to have a job, and will do their best to get their tasks done on time so that passengers can board and the plane take off without any delays. As we watched the hub of constant activity – the carts and machines coming and going, bags being loaded, food being delivered, maintenance crews moving from plane to plane, flights being refueled, and cleaners attacking their jobs – we were amazed to see each worker moving with positivity and focus.
A team that works this closely together must have a great manager, and the secret, magic sauce at US Aviation comes in the form of the fabulous Corey Brown. I find it hard to put into words how incredible this man is. As soon as a plane lands, Corey coordinates the whole ramp and cabin workforce, which is no small feat. It is a logistical dance that he maneuvers with gentle efficiency and commanding presence. His phone never stops beeping and ringing with texts and messages with various issues, delays, someone calling in sick, or a truck stalling. The list never ends.
Even during our interview, he put out several fires, but would hang up the phone and laugh, which immediately dispelled any potential stress in the room. Corey’s laugh is the most contagious I have ever heard, and it made us all laugh until we had tears in our eyes. This man is a true gem of a person and his team clearly knows it and appreciates it. They all want to work hard to make him proud and to earn his trust and praise. When asked how he commands respect from the people who work for him, his response was, “If you give respect, you get it.” To Corey, It is as simple as that.
After his shift, we met up with Corey to get to know him more on a personal level. He took us to his local hangout where we ate delicious food, told stories, and laughed some more. I looked around and saw that everyone was smiling and everyone was welcoming us as though we were guests in their homes. It is clear that this is the Maui Way, and this Aloha Spirit is something that makes them all very proud. Whether at work or at home, they work as a team, and the positive Aloha Spirit guides their every move. Corey ended our evening by comparing people to the ocean: “We are all like the ocean, just coming and going, flowing and working all together.” Lessons for us all. In a time of general uncertainty and negatively in the world, this whole visit proved to be a huge breath of warm, fresh air.
I cannot wait to see what our incredibly talented videographer, Henry Dombey, and photographer, Paul Kirchner, put together. They not only captured the true essence of these amazing people, but woke up at 5AM every morning to photograph the sunrise, and rushed back in the evening to catch the sun setting over that same beautiful ocean.
To the whole team at US Aviation: Thank you so much for taking the time in your immensely busy and stressful schedules to show us around and teach us about all the things you do every single day to ensure that any given plane takes off on time. To Tyrone Duncan and Corey Brown: Thank you for being so gracious and accommodating in allowing us to tell and share your stories. To me, you are the definition of Heroes. To Henry and Paul: Thank you for your ability to tell a story in such a natural, fluid, and meaningful way. To Hannah, aka ‘Hashtag Hannah’: Thank you for your support and never-ending positive attitude. And finally to our CEO, Doug: Thank you for trusting us with this important Springshot Mission. I feel truly lucky to have experienced the Aloha Spirit in person and I intend to keep it alive! Mahalo, Josephine.