LOS ANGELES TIMES ARTICLE ABOUT
THE TWA MUSEUM


To our friends and readers;

On March 27, 2017 an article appeared in the online edition of the Los Angeles Times, titled: "A tribute to TWA, a dead airline, features flight attendant uniforms, planes and a voodoo doll". If you have not yet seen the article, we suggest you read it first and then return to this page to read our response.

(http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-twa-museum-20170327-story.html)

Following is the response by our museum's Board of Directors to Nigel Duara (writer of the article) and Marc Duvoisin (Managing Editor, Los Angeles Times). 


April 2, 2017

Dear Mr. Duara;
(copy to Mr. Marc Duvoisin, Managing Editor)


On behalf of staff, volunteers, patrons, supporters and friends of the TWA Museum, we, the museum's Board of Directors feel obligated to respond to your article that appeared in the March 27, 2017 issue of the online edition of the Los Angeles Times, entitled: "A tribute to TWA, a dead airline, features flight attendant uniforms, planes and a voodoo doll".

We take strong objection to the many inaccuracies that appeared in this article and the tone that you displayed throughout. We'll start right at the opening paragraph of the article, which featured your commentary about one of our volunteers, Mr. Art Lujin.  Your description of Art's career with TWA was incorrect. To the best of our knowledge, no employee in the 75-year history of TWA ever held the title of "air traffic control manager", as you stated. To correct you, Mr. Lujin began his career with TWA as an electrical and avionics engineer. He later was promoted to engineering management and served a number of years in TWA's aircraft acceptance division, providing technical analyses of aircraft TWA considered for purchase. Art is an outstanding spokesman for our museum and believes he clearly described his career to the group you were with. He's not at all sure why you assigned him such a title. He also would like to remind you that he told you he retired from TWA in 1997. Your narrative that he "lost his job" when American bought TWA in 2001, was incorrect and was insulting to Art..

In general, we have no disagreement with your assessment of the airline's historical management difficulties, especially during and immediately following the ownership of Carl Icahn. It indeed was a difficult time. However, after Mr. Icahn's exit, many TWA personnel remained with the airline, determined to come through the difficulties Mr. Icahn left in his wake. Throughout the years following (including the two bankruptcies you cited), TWA employees persevered, never losing sight of the obligations of safety and service to their customers. Several employees served on company-wide improvement committees during this time and in 1994, many voluntarily agreed to help subsidize the company's leasing of the aircraft you curiously described as a "relic from the old days" (we'll have more to say about that airplane later). We wish you would have taken the time to better define this era in TWA's history, instead of portraying TWA's last five years as little more than "limping along". During that five year period, TWA won two J.D. Power awards for excellence (1998 and 1999). The awards are displayed in our museum. We assume you didn't see them.

In addition to inaccuracies concerning Mr. Lujin, you also did a disservice to the home of our museum. The "lonely airfield" you described has a name: the Kansas City Wheeler Downtown Airport, owned and operated by the City of Kansas City, Missouri. Its control tower (staffed by FAA air traffic controllers) operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. In 2016, it handled a total of 70,603 aircraft arrivals and departures. The FAA classifies our airport as a "reliever" airport, which is just below the classification of "primary" airport. To give you additional perspective, we compared our airport to a similar reliever airport near the offices of the Los Angeles Times. For this purpose, we identified the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. You and employees at the Times may be familiar with it. It's not that far away. In 2016, that airport handled 88,210 arrivals and departures. Statistically speaking, our "lonely airfield" handled 80% of the activity of the Santa Monica Municipal airport. We think you can agree that the figures from both airports are impressive and also think you get the point. All the information we just cited is in the public domain and easy to find. We're at a loss to understand how you arrived at such a completely inaccurate characterization.

We agree with your basic premise that much work was necessary to ensure the advancement of the rights of female flight attendants. However, we're not so sure we agree with your contention that TWA and the airline industry notably lagged behind other industries and social institutions in achieving these changes. We trust you based that conclusion on more than what you gathered just from selected museum documents we display. In presenting the history of TWA's flight attendants, our variety of exhibits are intended to show an objective and well-rounded description of these employees and the work they performed. It's all important. In your article, you devoted five sentences of copy to the issue of flight attendant weight requirements, three sentences of copy to their uniform styles and zero sentences of copy to the important work they performed, insuring the safety of TWA's passengers and serving as TWA's most important public representatives. We assume you consulted our website while researching your story, so maybe you missed the link to our blog. We invite you to read our blog's article about the history of TWA's flight attendants. As was the case in your article, our blog article talks about the cultural evolution of the profession and we talk about the uniforms, but we also balance it with other information, including what we mentioned above. We hope you and others who read your article will read our article as well.

We'd like to now provide correction and clarification concerning the TWA "Wings of Pride" airplane located at our museum. It's the one you referred to as a "still and lonesome crimson Boeing 737-800, a relic from the old days". Actually, the aircraft is a McDonnell Douglas MD-83. We believe you are instead referring to the American Airlines Boeing 737-800 that currently flies in their active fleet. That aircraft is painted in a TWA livery, as a tribute to the heritage of TWA. Art Lujin pointed out this and many other details, when he took you and your group to tour our MD-83. To reacquaint you with some of the details Art shared with you, our MD-83 was flown by TWA from 1994 to 2001 and then by American (upon their acquisition of TWA in 2001) until they retired it in 2013. Then, a local non-profit group (and friend of our museum) bought it, made it airworthy, had it meticulously repainted to its original TWA appearance and flew it to our museum in 2015. This group (TriStar History and Preservation) partners with us not only to display the aircraft, but to use it to familiarize and encourage young people to consider careers in aerospace, engineering and science. Their mission is also an important part of ours. It's beyond our understanding how you distilled any bits or pieces of this information into a description of  a "still and lonesome relic" On our blog we did a two-part article on the history of this airplane and the tremendous amount of time, expense and true dedication it took its owners to renovate it and fly it to our museum. The two articles print out to eighteen pages. If you have not done so, we think its worth the time to read it.

We also wanted to make you aware that we are not located in southern Kansas City (as you claim) but are just north of the Missouri River. In northern Kansas City. You must have also missed some of the road signs for our museum, as there are more than just the one you saw. In fact, there are several as you approach the airport from north or south. We occupy several rooms on the east side of our building's first floor. This historic building served as TWA's first headquarters, filling that role throughout the 1930s, 40s and part of the 50s. We are proud to be in this building, which is a living history of TWA. "Out of the way" is an interesting term you used to describe its location. The primary tenant of our building is one of the largest private fixed-base airport service providers in the world and the building itself sits just a few hundred feet from the outer taxiway at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. Like any continuously growing museum, we'd like (and have recently constructed) more space to display our ever-expanding collection, however, contrary to your observation, we don't feel "hemmed in".

Finally, characterizing us as "stubborn like the company it chronicles" (which you gave as a rather strange justification for our "out of the way" location), didn't sit well with us or our members and patrons who support our efforts. What disturbed us to our core, however, was your portraying our city, museum and airport as TWA's  "graveyard". In fact, you used the word twice in the article. We and these institutions are proud of our mutual association to the history of TWA. At our museum specifically, we strive to present an interesting and enjoyable experience, as our visitors learn of TWA's significant contributions to commercial aviation and the city we call home. That is our mission and it can be found in literature readily available in our museum or on our website. We don't know if you read it. If you did, you should have mentioned at least some of it. We are privileged to keep this history alive. Please take careful note of the last word in the previous sentence.

In closing, you should know the fallout from your article has resulted in numerous emails and phone calls from concerned friends, patrons and former TWA employees. We generally go through the litany of issues stated above. To be honest with you, having such conversations does nothing to make any of us feel better, but we feel a deep sense of obligation to deal with it. It is for that reason that your article and this letter will be posted on our website and blog. We will also announce this to our members, patrons and the sizable group of former TWA employees and their families, who consider us an important part of their lives. We'll also get word out to our followers on Twitter and Facebook. While the size of our audience is small in comparison to the readership of the Los Angeles Times, it's the best way we know to defend our image, which has been shaken by your article. We believe the thousands of readers of our website, newsletter and blog should always receive information that is accurate and truthful. We only wish you would have exercised the same consideration for your readers.


The Board of Directors, TWA Museum, Kansas City, MO.
Pamela Blaschum, Director
Karen Holden Young
Ann Noland
Nancy Sitzmann
Mary Ellen Miller
John Mays
Chris Funk
Christopher Nold
Alice Wasko
TWA Museum at 10 Richards Road
10 Richards Road
Kansas City, MO 64116