The Passing of a Good Man

America West

jeffI just found out this morning that Jeff McClelland, a former executive at America West and now US Airways, passed away yesterday. His battle with cancer was a tough one. Every time it seemed like he had beaten it, it would come back once again. He was only 47.

I first met Jeff when I was in college. He was with Northwest Airlines at the time, and he came and spoke with our class one day. I remember being very impressed with him from the beginning.
Jeff started with America West as the Senior VP of Operations just before I arrived in 1999. When I started as an eager analyst, I decided to contact him to reintroduce myself. He instantly remembered me and was very friendly throughout my time there. I was always appreciative that he was willing to listen to a very opinionated young punk analyst.
When I left for business school at Jeff’s alma mater, he was there to offer his congratulations. And when I finished school, he helped arrange interviews in the operations area so I could possibly return to the airline. I may not have decided to head back to America West, but people like Jeff made that a much more difficult decision.
I hadn’t been in touch with Jeff recently, but I had heard from others about his continuing struggles with cancer. It’s a sad day for me and for everyone I know at US Airways, especially the former America West employees who knew him best.
US Airways has certainly shown their appreciation for Jeff. They have announced they will rename the flight operations center the The Jeffrey D. McClelland Flight Center. In addition, they will be setting up a scholarship fund in his name. I know that Jeff meant a lot to the company, so it’s nice to see they’ve found a very appropriate way to show their gratitude for him.

I know that Jeff’s passing doesn’t directly impact most customers, but it has more of an impact than you think. Jeff was one of the key architects behind America West’s operational turnaround in 2000/2001. Were it not for him, people would probably still remember America West today as America Worst.

Here is the full text of the email that was sent out to all US Airways/America West employees this morning:

In Memory: Jeffrey D. McClelland
Sept. 11, 2006

It is with heavy hearts that we announce Executive Vice President and Chief Administration Officer Jeff McClelland passed away Sunday, September 10, 2006. Please keep Jeff’s family, which includes wife Lori and their four sons, in your thoughts and prayers.

Jeff, who was 47, was diagnosed with cancer about four years ago. Since that time, he underwent several operations and rounds of chemotherapy. His experiences in fighting colon cancer were chronicled in the Arizona Republic in July 2005 and October 2005; Jeff’s grace and strength inspired others fighting similar battles.

CEO Doug Parker, who worked with Jeff for over 18 years, said, “Words can’t describe the sadness we feel from losing not only an extremely talented executive but a close confidante and a great friend. Jeff’s contributions, which are too numerous to list, went well beyond any job title. He brought insight, depth and vision to our airline and he did so with an unparalleled work ethic and the utmost
integrity. He was the embodiment of leadership by example, setting a standard
that drove those of us who worked with him to be better executives and better

“Jeff dealt with this disease the same way he approached every other challenge; with resolve and a quiet determination. He never complained or asked for help, choosing instead to keep his battle private while continuing to come to work and contribute well beyond what any reasonable person would expect.

“In the near future, we plan to re-dedicate the PHX flight center as the Jeffrey D. McClelland Flight Center. This is one small way to honor Jeff’s life and his love of aviation while giving our team a continuous reminder of the standard he set for us. For employees wishing to honor Jeff, we’ll also establish the McClelland Scholarships within the US Airways Education Foundation. We will miss our friend, but we will not forget him or the lessons he taught us.”

Jeff’s History
Jeff began his aviation career as a U.S. Navy pilot. After earning his MBA from Stanford, he transitioned into commercial aviation by taking a position with American Airlines. After three years, he moved to Northwest Airlines, where he worked for nearly a decade in senior management. At Northwest, Jeff held a variety of operations and finance positions. When he left Northwest, he was senior vice president/controller for the airline.

In 1999, Jeff arrived at America West. He came into the airline as senior vice president, operations and was responsible for technical operations. Jeff led the remarkable operational turnaround of America West in 2000 and, in 2001, he was named executive vice president and chief operating officer. He led the airline’s operational recovery after Sept. 11, 2001.

Jeff played an integral role in developing the America West/US Airways merger and, following the September 2005 merger announcement; Jeff assumed a new position as executive vice president/chief administration officer. In this role, he oversaw finance, legal affairs, human resources, labor relations properties and facilities. He also oversaw the new airline’s wholly owned subsidiary operations.

Doug said, “Part of Jeff’s legacy is the great people that he led and mentored. While we cannot replace Jeff, we anticipate his responsibilities will be capably handled
by dividing them among members of our current executive team.”

The Jeffrey D. McClelland Flight Center
As Doug announced, there will be a company-wide dedication of the flight center that will be named after Jeff.

A McClelland Scholarship fund will also be established within the framework of the US Airways Education Foundation. Details will be forthcoming and communicated as soon as they’re determined. Jeff appreciated the numerous cards and letters he received over the past four years as he battled this disease. Many employees recently signed a giant “You Make US Fly” poster, and Jeff was visibly moved when the poster was presented to him.

Private services for the family will be held in Wisconsin. A tribute to honor Jeff’s life and legacy will be planned for Jeff’s Phoenix “family” at a later date and details will be communicated once those are known. In the meantime, please keep Jeff’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

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2 comments on “The Passing of a Good Man

  1. Thank you for your kind words about Jeff. He was, as you said, a very good man and a man who truly loved his work. He will be missed by many people, especially his loving family.
    Lori McClelland

  2. Jeff was a P3 pilot in VP50 at NAS Moffett Fld in California in the early 1980’s. I had the pleasure of flying with him and getting to know him and Lori at that time. He was an exceptional pilot, consummate crew member, and simply a fine person. When we learned he had been accepted by Stanford’s MBA program, it was easy to foresee that Jeff would go far and do well. I think of Jeff and and his family often. He was truly a gift to us all.

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