From the Ice to the Sky

Meet an American Airlines pilot and former NHLer who's living his dream

June 15, 2015 in Commercial

Al Secord loves a job that brings adrenaline. For airline passengers, the thrill of a takeoff or landing just isn’t the same like it is being at the controls. The American Airlines Super 80 pilot just achieved captain status, one of many unique career highlights.

“For me, I like to get that adrenaline rush like anyone else,” Secord said. “I still get that adrenaline pumping and when you pull off a perfect landing and perfect approach, and you do everything perfect from the first time you start, to parking the brakes, it really is a great feeling.”

Secord started with American at the age of 40. Why start so late? The thrill of flight was preceded with the thrill of goals, body checks and the occasional hockey fight as a professional player in the National Hockey league.

“When my name comes across the PA system on the airplane, sometimes the people will say ‘is that Al Secord who played professional hockey?’ And the flight attendant will come up and ask, and I’ll have a nice conversation with the passengers when they get off the airplane,” Secord said. “It’s kind of cool that people still recognize the name. Hockey was a big part of my life, a lot of fun, lot of challenges, made a lot of good friends, lot of good memories”

Secord first stepped on the NHL ice in 1978 with the Boston Bruins. He rose to prominence during a stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, racking up 54 goals in the 1982-83 season. He played in two NHL All Star Games, getting to skate alongside Wayne Gretzky.

A tough player who never ducked trouble, Secord ranks in the top-50 of all time NHL penalty minute leaders and was one of the last pro players to play without wearing a helmet.

“I got the last part of the old time hockey, old time hockey players, helmetless, I think there was a lot of honor in the game, a lot of respect for each other out there, I liked that the players controlled or policed the game ourselves.” Secord said. “The competition was fierce, but when we saw somebody off the ice, everything stayed on the ice, nothing ever spilled over.”

For Secord, there are many similarities between pro hockey and flying.

“What I liked about American is the pilots. They take you under their wings, they show you the ropes and take good care of you, just like on a hockey team. This is just so much fun, so thrilling, and it’s the same concept, a team concept, I get to fly with great guys,” he said.

Flying the McDonnell Douglas-built Super 80, now part of Boeing, is a thrill for the man who wore No. 20 for most of hockey career. The pilot-centered design, which Boeing maintains in its newest generation of jets, is something that Secord appreciates. As the Super 80 nears its retirement from American’s fleet, Secord will eventually move to flying another Boeing product, the 737.

“That’s what we come here for, we want to fly airplanes and we want to do it to the best of our ability and the Boeing product gives us that. The 737 and Super 80 actually still let you feel the aircraft and make decisions.”