Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Taking Aviation to New Heights

Taking Aviation to New Heights: A Biography of Pierre Jeanniot

Jacqueline Cardinal
Laurent Lapierre
Translated by Donald Winkler
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 410
  • Book Info
    Taking Aviation to New Heights
    Book Description:

    To chart the inspiring journey of Pierre Jeanniot is to trace the remarkable development of the air transport industry. In his youth, Jeanniot survived the bombing of Rome, the occupation of France, and was a witness to the Resistance in the Jura Mountains. In 1963, after the Sainte-Thérèse air tragedy and the threat of finding himself jobless, Jeanniot was inspired to create the famous Black Box, which has since become a pillar of aviation security. Under his direction, Air Canada chose the Airbus rather than the Boeing to renew its fleet, in the midst of a highly visible political crisis. Against all odds, Jeanniot also orchestrated the successful privatization of the airline. His visionary speech at Amman, delivered when he was at the helm of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), laid out modern aviation's most urgent priorities regarding accident prevention, protection of the environment, and technological progress. A master of logistics, he successfully negotiated the impasse in the skies following the September 11 terrorist attacks and handled the many complications that came in their wake.

    Pierre Jeanniot's influence has been felt far beyond the aviation world. His longstanding desire to facilitate access to higher learning led him to participate actively in the founding of the Université du Québec. A skilled diplomat, he also helped to resolve political problems in Iran, Libya, North Korea, and the Middle East.Taking Aviation to New Heightsis the story of a great leader who has left an indelible mark on his milieu. He has truly piloted aviation to new heights.

    eISBN: 978-0-7766-3047-2
    Subjects: History, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jacqueline Cardinal and Laurent Lapierre
  4. List of Boxes
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Who Is Pierre Jeanniot?
    (pp. 1-6)
    Jacqueline CaLapdinal and Laurent Lapierre

    In 2007, air canada celebrated its seventieth anniversary. A notable achievement, if we think of the “Québécair, Transworld, Northeast, Eastern, Western, pis Pan American” that Robert Charlebois rolled off his tongue in the 1960s songLindbergh, and that have all since disappeared. Since its plucky beginnings in 1937 as Trans-Canada Airlines (tca), this Canadian aviation company has evolved into one of the rare enterprises of its kind to have endured for more than seven decades, against all odds. If its aircraft have crossed oceans, skies and continents for such a long period of time, it means that its management was...

  6. Part I Gaston and Renée (1914–1934)

    • 1 Baptism by Fire
      (pp. 9-12)

      At the age of 23, his life was all mapped out. Like his father and grandfather before him, Gaston Jeanniot would be stationmaster at Houdelaincourt, a small village in southwestern Lorraine, from where he could make out the nearby hills of Alsace, where the wine and the days flowed smoothly, despite the Occupation. But on the morning of August 3, 1914, his future took a sharp turn.

      Two days earlier, on August 1, France, believing war to be imminent, had issued an official notice of general mobilization, “barring unfitness for duty,”² for all male citizens between the ages of twenty...

    • 2 The Boches Are Coming!
      (pp. 13-18)

      At the age of 23, her life was all mapped out. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Renée Rameaux would marry a young man from a good family, if possible a prominent citizen of Lons-le-Saulnier or Besançon, two important centres in her native Franche-Comté. She had just completed her normal school and was to teach in the Department of Jura or Bourgogne while awaiting the proper suitor with whom she would live out her life and have children. But on the morning of August 3, 1912, she made her decision: her life would unfold differently.

      Renée Rameaux had an...

    • 3 A Train for Addis Ababa
      (pp. 19-28)

      It had already been several weeks since Renée Jeanniot had returned to her apartment over the railroad station in Addis Ababa. She had resumed her daily routine in the Ethiopian capital, a city that seemed to enjoy eternal spring. She was also back with her husband, her bedroom, her books, her easel, her piano and those responsible for taking care of the household. Once more she breathed in the scents of Addis Ababa, whose humid warmth, spicy fragrance and eucalyptus perfume all mingled within a pale bluish mist. Not far off was the surrounding countryside, where the principal ethnic groups,...

  7. Part II Making the Best of Things (1935–1945)

    • 4 My Father, the Hero
      (pp. 31-38)

      From october 1935 until May 1936, Ethopia was a theatre of war—a war that would change the course of its history, and the destiny of the Jeanniot family. Benito Mussolini had been in power in Rome since 1922, and he wanted to give Italy the status of a colonial power like England and France. Il Duce was no longer satisfied with the harsh landscapes of Eritrea, arid Somalia and a few holdings in Libya, the only colonies Italy could boast of possessing. He wanted more, much more. He envisioned an East African Italian empire, running from Somalia in the...

    • 5 Rome: Run for Your Life!
      (pp. 39-45)

      The village schoolmistress in Lombard took her courage in both hands. Again and again, she had to pay a visit to Madame Jeanniot to complain about her son’s behaviour in class. This was not a lady to be taken lightly, given her demeanour, her name (a Rameaux by birth) and her culture. The teacher knew that the child no longer had a father, but all the same, his mother had to do something to help her control him.

      In school little Pierre was boisterous. Although he was exceptionally gifted (he had learned to read in record time), in class he...

    • 6 Woolen Pants and Wooden Shoes
      (pp. 46-53)

      The year 1943 marked a turning point in the Second World War, as the Allied forces got the upper hand over the Germany-Italy-Japan axis. After hard-fought battles in North Africa, where the Germans, poorly supported by the Italian and Vichy armies, suffered a decisive reverse vis-à-vis the British, the Americans and the Free French Forces, the prospect of large-scale landings on the Sicilian and French coasts had become very real. But for those living in Lombard there was no sign of any of this. On the contrary, living conditions had continued to worsen, and the German occupation, now covering all...

    • 7 News from Christine
      (pp. 54-59)

      As soon as her mother and brother made their departure in June 1943, Christine Jeanniot began preparations for her own move. Franco, her husband, was a fighter squadron commander. He had been transferred to Sardinia, and in a few days the family would leave for Cagliari, the island’s administrative centre. It was the site of one of the principal bases of military operations for Italian and German aviation, its coasts less than 160 kilometres from North Africa. As Rome was being bombed more and more frequently, the young woman felt that it would be best to leave the capital and...

    • 8 Between Patton and de Lattre de Tassigny
      (pp. 60-67)

      The year 1944 was a difficult one for the French population, at the end of its tether after four long years of war and occupation. In Lombard, Renée Jeanniot felt deeply for her daughter, who had suffered so greatly during the summer of 1943. Now she was remarried, with a Canadian who had taken her under his wing, along with her three children. He would doubtless take her to live with him in his own country one day, an eventuality that neither one nor the other would ever have envisaged a few months earlier.

      Unlike most of her countrymen, who...

  8. Part III Destination Montreal (1946–1954)

    • 9 Fate or Chance?
      (pp. 71-86)

      Germany’s surrender, signed on May 9, 1945, altered very little in Lombard’s day-to-day life. For some years to come, it was just as difficult for Renée Jeanniot to acquire basic foodstuffs such as milk, butter or cream other than by approaching the region’s farmers directly. When she wanted eggs or vegetables, she could always count on the grey chicken in the barn behind the house, or the little garden nearby. As for sugar and meat, she made do with the ration coupons still distributed by the government, as they had been during the worst of the war. Pierre Jeanniot, for...

    • 10 A Sign from Heaven
      (pp. 87-95)

      By dint of sending her mother letters and photos of her five little girls, including the most recent, who had just made her appearance under Canadian skies, Christine Jeanniot had finally convinced her to make the long journey: to leave Lombard and cross the ocean by plane to the New World, a continent she only knew from books.

      Renée Jeanniot was game, despite her doubts about these “acres of snow,” to quote Voltaire’s reductive characterization of Canada in the eighteenth century. The plane trip frightened her somewhat, but she had met other challenges in the course of her life. She...

    • 11 The Rebellion
      (pp. 96-108)

      All through 1948, Pierre Jeanniot continued to work weekends at the Dominion Store, while attending the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce school during the week. He was able to put in more hours when the number of customers increased. On the Saint-Jean-Baptiste holiday, for example, sales went up, and they needed more packagers and delivery boys. During busy periods the merchants raised their prices, which could vary considerably from one establishment to another.

      One fine summer day, at the end of the afternoon, Pierre Jeanniot was busy sticking price tags on tin cans before arranging them on the shelves. At the end of the...

    • 12 Necessary Conditions
      (pp. 109-118)

      In september 1951, Pierre Jeanniot put an end to his career as a porter at the Laurentian Hotel. Before embarking on his search for more serious permanent employment, he thought it would be pleasant to mark the event by organizing a camping trip in the Laurentians with his friends. As he had saved some money over the summer, and he had no urgent need to find work, he could permit himself a few weeks of holiday before getting back into harness.

      They were three, who planned to spend an entire week in the Laurentians, on the shores of Lake l’Achigan,...

  9. Part IV The Black Box (1955–1967)

    • 13 Slamming the Door
      (pp. 121-128)

      At the age of 22, his life was not all planned out in his head, although he felt strongly drawn to the sciences. Unlike his father and his paternal grandfather, he would not be an employee of the French railroad. Pierre Jean Jeanniot would be an electronics engineer in the field of aviation, and in Canada. Nothing to do with trains, railway lines or stations, even less with the railway workers and switchmen in an outmoded world of work.

      Of course, aviation is a means of transport that links widely separated countries on the planet, as once did the train,...

    • 14 Trans-Canada Airlines
      (pp. 129-140)

      The day after this impulsive gesture, Pierre Jeanniot went to the Unemployment Insurance Office▪ to consult the list of available positions. He was not overly concerned. Somewhere in Montreal a business in the aviation sector had to be in search of a workforce specialized in electronics. The last entry in the day’s listing read as follows: “Seek an electric or electronics technician for the Quality Control Division of Airline Operations. Contact Trans-Canada Airlines.”

      He noted the address and phone number, and made an appointment. The need was urgent: he was invited for an interview the following day. Pierre Jeanniot had...

    • 15 The Tragedy of Sainte-Thérèse
      (pp. 141-147)

      It was the last Friday in November, 1963. The night was dark. A dense, heavy rain was pounding the runway tarmac, penetrating the shroud of woolly fog. At 6:33 p.m., a dc-8f,▪ which had taken off from Dorval four minutes earlier, crashed with 118 people on board into a wooded area near the village of Sainte-Thérèse, thirty kilometres northwest of Montreal.

      The policeman René Poirier, of the Sûreté du Québec, was first on the scene. At 7:00 p.m., as he was beginning his patrol of the Laurentian Autoroute, he received an urgent call from his dispatcher: he was to proceed...

    • 16 The Inventor of the ‘Black Box’
      (pp. 148-154)

      As of the end of the 1950s, there existed in the United States a small flight recorder that noted, on an aluminum band with a metal stylus, six simple parameters: time, speed, direction, angle, internal pressure and altitude. In 1958, tca installed a version of this recorder in its dc-8 Vanguards.

      This measuring apparatus was of no use for plane accidents, and for good reason. In almost every case, the tapes on which the data was stored were either destroyed or rendered unreadable because the instrument could not stand up to the force of the impact, to fire damage or...

    • 17 My Cabin at Lake McCaskill
      (pp. 155-159)

      He parked his Renault Dauphine in a clearing among the trees, at the end of the jobbers’▪ dirt road. A hundred metres farther on by foot, it was waiting for him, there, in all its wild splendour. Two kilometres long and one kilometre wide, Lake McCaskill formed almost a perfect oval in the Upper Laurentians, just north of Mont Tremblant Park. Along its length, the perspective seemed endless. Pushing aside a branch with its tender green buds, he glimpsed a flat expanse of water. A deerfly, skimming the water at low altitude, made a move in his direction. An unwise...

    • 18 The Canadian Operations Research Society
      (pp. 160-166)

      By inviting pierre jeanniot to join the Canadian Society for Operations Research, Peter Sandiford had wanted to provide the group with the point of view of a practitioner to act as a counterweight to the tendency of certain members to reduce the new discipline to a purely theoretical exercise, cut off from its applications to real life in business. Most were academics, keen on mathematics, who could in their debates be bewitched by the beauty of a helicoidal curve or a matter of mathematical optimization, rather than by solutions to real problems. With examples drawn from the aviation industry, Pierre...

  10. Part V On the Way Up in Air Canada (1968–1983)

    • 19 A Revolution: l’Université du Québec
      (pp. 169-179)

      Some will be surprised that in the midst of a promising career in the aeronautics field, Pierre Jeanniot found himself among the creators of the Université du Québec (the University of Quebec), an institution to which he has remained deeply attached. In order to understand the importance and the meaning of his major contribution to the Quebec university community, we must see it in its historical perspective.

      On September 7, 1959, the premier of Quebec, Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis, died. He had dominated the political world of ‘his’ province for almost twenty years. On the following September 11, his chosen...

    • 20 Chaos
      (pp. 180-189)

      As soon as he set foot in Air Canada after having spent a year at the Université du Québec, Pierre Jeanniot saw that the restructuring recommended by the McKinsey experts had not only transformed the company’s entire structure, but had also disrupted the mentalities and the culture of the government corporation.

      Already, the arrival of a francophone as chairman of the board had upset much of the upper management, but now the divisions, the directorships, the vice-presidencies, the groups and sub-groups were being reconceived from top to bottom. Some positions were redefined, others abolished and new ones created, without anyone...

    • 21 Linguistic Turmoil
      (pp. 190-203)

      Once back on his feet, Pierre Jeanniot wanted to go even further in bringing new technology into Air Canada. All through the whirlwind of reorganizing computer services and the tasks surrounding strategic planning, he never lost sight of his favourite child: the electronic reservations system. After several months of experimentation with the new Univac 1110 computer, more powerful than the previous model (1108), Reservec 11 was now ready, both in computer and material terms. At the beginning of the 1970s, aside from American Airlines and, more timidly, Air France, Air Canada was the only airline company in the world to...

    • 22 Goings-on Behind the Scenes
      (pp. 204-214)

      In 1978, claude taylor, who had full power as president of Air Canada, undertook a second hierarchical restructuring of upper management. The retirement of his vice-president of operations and services, Maurice D’Amours, gave him that opportunity. As well as appointing a successor, he took the opportunity to choose the five vice-presidents who would henceforth make up his new management committee. Not only was Pierre Jeanniot not named to the post left vacant by Maurice D’Amours, but he was not admitted to the inner sanctum of the five elect. He took the news as two slaps in the face.

      He had...

    • 23 Taschereau, Mackasey, Taschereau, Amyot and … One Other
      (pp. 215-224)

      This triumvirate, put in place early in 1979, was not really that. As executive vice-president of marketing, planning and development, Pierre Jeanniot had a preeminent role compared to the two others. He had complete responsibility for defining the company’s strategy and managing the programs that would implement it. John McGill retained the post he had been given about a year earlier as the executive responsible for the five regions, replacing Maurice D’Amours.

      The affiliates remained under the direction of Pierre Jeanniot, who had inherited themin extremisduring the last restructuring. It will be remembered that this ‘consolation prize’ was...

    • 24 Open Skies
      (pp. 225-232)

      At first it was hardly noticeable. Then, little by little, things changed. The most discerning, alerted by certain premonitory signs, observed that during the 1970s the airline industry was undergoing a radical transformation all over the world. In a few years, in a few months, tomorrow perhaps, civil aviation would no longer be conducted as it had been since the end of the Second World War.

      The Chicago Convention, signed on December 7, 1944,35was still in force, but its application had been modified where the stated ‘freedoms’36were concerned. Countries had begun allowing more and more ‘fifth freedoms,’ which...

  11. Part VI President and ceo of Air Canada (1984–1990)

    • 25 The Battle for Asia
      (pp. 235-244)

      Among the horde of competitors Pierre Jeanniot had to face, one stood out. Since the founding of Air Canada (under the name Trans-Canada Airlines) in 1937,37Canadian Pacific Airlines (cp Air) had not hesitated to block his route. From the time of its founding in 1942, the private company, now based in Vancouver, fought bitterly with Air Canada over the most profitable routes, constantly complaining that the Canadian government was prejudiced in favour of the ‘national’ carrier, Air Canada.

      With global deregulation, the context changed, the world opened up; and may the best man win! The air war between the...

    • 26 Boeing or Airbus?
      (pp. 245-258)

      In 1979 the air canada fleet was showing signs of fatigue. Many aircraft were more than twenty years old. With the globalization of airline activities in the offing, Pierre Jeanniot, who was then first vice-president of marketing and planning, had to look ahead at how Air Canada could technically and effectively be offering long-haul flights three or four years later. He felt that because the company was semi-public, this decision, which would involve costs close to a billion dollars, had to follow from a rigorous and transparent process. He still remembered the popular uprising and the student demonstrations in 1963,...

    • 27 The Smoke Extinguisher
      (pp. 259-268)

      When he walked into his office in the morning, Pierre Jeanniot sometimes asked his secretary if the Queen was in a good mood, throwing a furtive glance at the framed document over his desk. There one could read that Pierre Jeanniot had been named president of Air Canada by the Privy Council at the “good pleasure of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.” He liked to remind himself that from one day to the next the ‘Queen’ could divest him of his job with the snap of a finger, something that did not concern him overmuch.

      Without being omnipresent, government interference...

    • 28 Privatization Curtailed
      (pp. 269-282)

      Because each individual embodies certain basic values, the role assumed by a president and ceo varies from one individual to another. That of Pierre Jeanniot is strategic in nature. For him, to be ceo consists in having an overall perspective on the industry within which a company evolves, and in having a clear idea of how that company must position itself to be among the most successful, arming itself with the best possible resources so that it may reach the goals it has fixed for itself given its strengths, its weaknesses and the contextual changes it sees on the horizon....

  12. Part VII Director General and ceo of iata (1992–2002)

    • 29 Through the Front Door
      (pp. 285-293)

      Comfortably stretched out on his deck chair, facing the sea, Pierre Jeanniot was sipping the last bottle of rosé wine his cousin Jean Bourdy had sent him from Jura for the holidays. With a lazy eye, he followed the long ochre rays of a dying sun slanting across the Florida beach that zigzagged all the way to the Keys. At this end of happy hour in January 1992, he was savouring the gentle golden dusk before confronting, the next day, the white snows of Montreal, where his Jinmag clients were waiting for him. In twelve hours he would board the...

    • 30 Ready About
      (pp. 294-307)

      Files under his arms, Pierre Jeanniot waited patiently at the door of China’s Transport Ministry, accompanied by his petite interpreter, dressed in black. He had planned this meeting for a long time, seeing there his chance to bring into iata the many airlines proliferating in the Middle Kingdom, like buzzing bees yearning for nectar. Despite his predecessor’s best efforts, iata had never succeeded in setting up shop there. This was his opportunity to sell the idea and to open a breach in the Chinese ‘wall.’

      A few months earlier, there had been an air crash in the Manchurian mountains. The...

    • 31 The Amman Speech
      (pp. 308-324)

      On november 3, 1997, Jordan’s minister of transport greeted Pierre Jeanniot in person as he disembarked from his plane, with all the protocol reserved for highly placed diplomats. The fifty-third General Assembly of iata members was taking place that year in Amman, Jordan’s capital. It was, in fact, in the Levantine country that the director general and ceo of the organization had chosen to announce his ambitious, three-part program.56

      What no one knew, yet, was that in this place and under official auspices, Pierre Jeanniot was about to attack, no holds barred, the great taboo of civil aviation at that...

    • 32 Kim Jong-il, Gaddafi, Arafat and … the Others
      (pp. 325-339)

      During the 1990s, China was not the only Asian country whose airline industry was thriving. The entire Asia-Pacific region was opening to the world, and many carriers sought to establish new links between Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as to cities in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and even the Philippines and Indonesia. The same trend could be observed between North and South America. In both hemispheres, the corridors over Europe, the Middle East, the Atlantic, the Pacific and the North Pole were able to absorb the flow of flights, but everywhere a major problem of congestion in the...

    • 33 Waiting for y2k
      (pp. 340-358)

      Accompanied by his wife, Marcia, Pierre Jeanniot waited impatiently for the flight attendant to unseal the hermetic door of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that had brought them from Geneva to Addis Ababa. A trip without turbulence, so far. On this hot and humid day of August 3, 1996, the director general of iata was beginning his first official visit to Ethiopia at the express invitation of the president of the national airline.

      Pierre Jeanniot had some trouble containing his emotions. He had never been back to the country of his early childhood, the land his family had fled upon the...

  13. Part VIII 9/11 and Its Aftermath

    • 34 September 11, 2001
      (pp. 361-376)

      Geneva, 2:38 p.m., September 11, 2001. It was a Tuesday. The breeze drifting through the half-open window foretold, with its sudden freshness, the end of the Swiss summer. Pierre Jeanniot peered over his reading glasses and gazed outside. Sitting at his work table, he paused in the preparations for his next meeting with the representatives of Eurocontrol.▪ On the agenda: the decongestion of European skies.

      One of the problems that had struck him since his arrival at iata in 1992 was to what degree, in Europe, the division of airspace still showed traces of the First World War. Although the...

    • 35 “I’m Coming Back to Montreal”
      (pp. 377-386)

      Chance had it that Pierre Jeanniot was still at the helm of iata as one millennium passed to the next (y2k), and when the September 11 tragedy, sadly inaugurating the twenty-first century, took place. His faultless handling of these two pivotal events attracted a great deal of media attention and helped him to consolidate iata’s position as a key organization among important international decision makers.

      If this occurred to such acclaim at that moment in time, it is because iata, in ten years, had acquired the political stature and influence its director general and ceo had envisaged for it from...

    • 36 “The Master of the Skies”
      (pp. 387-394)

      “We are all americans.” Echoing the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!” pronounced by President John F. Kennedy before the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1963, Jean-Marie Colombani made this the title of hisLe Mondeeditorial of September 13, 2001, and it was a passionate declaration. With this historical paraphrase he gave vivid expression to the spontaneous indignation aroused by the murderous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s innocent victims, who died tragically without knowing what had happened to them. Everywhere in the Western world, Americans were the beneficiaries of a surge of immediate sympathy, which gradually mutated into...

  14. The Authors
    (pp. 395-396)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 397-399)