Connecting Flight

Lindsey's Legacy

By Mark Dunkerley, Chief Executive Officer, Hawaiian Airlines

I was recently reminiscing about the old days at Hawaiian Airlines with someone whose service to the company goes back almost half a century. Inevitably the name Lindsey Pollock came up. Lindsey, a former vice president of marketing, was a large, warm man who even in the worst of times at the company—and there were many back then—was always willing to put his time and energy toward connecting Hawaiian with the communities we serve. His many ideas for sponsorship and service activities left a lasting legacy at the airline. Among his more novel ideas was our annual Aloha Festivals Parade float.

The float itself is a curious machine. Our ground vehicle maintenance organization, headed by Curtis Balingit, has repurposed an old wash truck as the chassis. The body and cab have been removed and the engine has been relocated to the back of the frame, where it is mounted upside down in order to propel the chassis forward. The driver, Chris Setik, sits in a sidecar welded to the frame very low to the ground. The rest of the float is then built around him, denying Chris even a cameo appearance in the parades. “The chassis looks like something out of the movie Mad Max,” says Curtis, who incidentally is Hawaiian’s 2014 employee of the year.

Over the years this chassis has carried all manner of creations: A garden scene complete with a fountain and a gazebo; diving dolphins and swimming turtles; a full-sized replica of a horse and even a replica of the voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a. As this column goes to press, community relations director Debbie Nakanelua-Richards is envisioning the theme for this September’s parade, so even I can’t spill the beans on what it will be.

Once the theme is established Debbie and a core team of six—Balingit, Setik, flight attendant Brian Sabog and maintenance employees Brian Kealoha, Tracy Tanaka and Brian Nagamine—begin building out the papier-mâché set atop the chassis. There’s far more art than science involved because no two years are alike. As Sabog says, “We’re getting really good at eyeballing.”

As parade day approaches 150 or so employees come together to lend a hand. The crowning glory of each float is its floral covering. Each flower—and there are thousands—is individually attached by volunteers who work feverishly through two days and nights leading up to parade day. Hour by hour, the bare chassis is transformed into a magnificent creation carpeted with flowers, most often mums and orchids. On occasion other materials are used to create the desired effect. The team once recycled discarded coffee grounds from our airplane galleys, gluing them onto straw flowers to simulate a lava rock wall. Rice, lentils and nori have also made guest appearances.

As dawn breaks on parade day, the float drives the five miles from our airport offices to the starting point at Kewalo Basin. Some of those who’ve worked so hard to put the float together go home to catch up on the sleep they’ve missed. Others make their way to the parade line looking forward to catching a glimpse of the float on its one and only journey down Kalākaua Avenue.

As the parade gets under way and the Hawaiian float joins the procession, the sharp-eyed will see the very last addition to the float: a bouquet of red roses. They’re the small but important gesture of thanks and remembrance for the life and work of Lindsey Pollock and for the contributions of all our airline family watching the float from afar.

From our ‘ohana to yours, enjoy your flight and mahalo for your business.