Exclusive interviews with contemporary newsmakers                  

Philip Bilgray

Ramp Serviceman at United Airlines, Tampa International Airport

When we think of airlines, we tend to envision the pilots and the flight crew—the personnel who do the actual flying with the passengers, and who get to do the glamorous stuff like jetting across the globe. But the ground crew, who tackle the carting, loading, and unloading of mail, freight, and baggage, the deicing of aircraft and cleaning of windshields and air-conditioning systems, who service the airlines' vehicles (among a myriad of other tasks), perform equally indispensable roles.

Photo: Marion B. DeMaria/United Airlines

Setting up a ramp before
transferring baggage

Philip Bilgray has worked as a Ramp Serviceman for United Airlines since April 15, 1986, the first of his kind. It's a physically and mentally demanding job, and not without its exciting moments. He loves his work and being part of a well-coordinated crew.

We learned about him from Robert Novak, an old family friend, who contacted us last May, with a memorable nomination message:

"Philip Bilgray is a dear friend of mine since we were children growing up in Brooklyn, New York. (We go back 48 years. Our parents have been friends since they were 6. All from Brooklyn.) Philip has always had a love for airplanes and had a dream of one day being a pilot. He had one barrier. Philip was completely deaf.

"I remember as a child how he would constantly look to the skies for the hope of seeing a plane. Something he does to this day, except now he can tell you what plane it is, what airline, and whether it is on time or not. He is amazing.

"He once wrote to Frank Borman, then CEO for Eastern Airlines, asking to fly the planes for Eastern. I remember when he received a letter back from Mr. Borman. It made his day.

"He lives and breathes the airline industry. He has worked for United Airlines for close to 25 years as the only deaf employee that works Ramp Services. He is the ideal employee. He has a work ethic like non-other. Don't believe me? Call the CEO of United who knows Philip personally. Ask his supervisors. Ask his fellow employees. Ask the people who fly out of Tampa. Everyone knows and loves Philip. He is a unique individual who has overcome obstacles to make a life for himself. He takes pride in what he does. He loves United more than anyone.

"So it is with honor and pride that I nominate Philip Bilgray for recognition in your publication. He is a personality worth highlighting. I promise."

Born deaf, Philip Bilgray was the only deaf person in his family. As his father, Seymour, told us, "Philip attended P.S. 47 [New York City's only public school for the deaf] until the 6th grade, then transferred to P.S. 204, a hearing school where he was helped with speech communication from his both teachers and fellow students. We moved to Florida in 1973 and Philip attended Driftwood Middle School and graduated from Nova High School. (He was the Varsity Basketball Manager.)"

Bilgray originally started working at Fort Lauderdale Airport with Aircraft Service International Corporation, a ground-services company contracting with United Airlines, around October 1985. Here was there around 7 months, Seymour told us. "The station supervisor noticed Philip's work ethic and attitude to his job performance and suggested he fill out a job application. His application was received with some reluctance due to his being deaf. However, Philip was flown to the Chicago home office of United Airlines for an interview and hearing evaluation by their doctors.

"He was accepted for employment with United Airlines and started working at Fort Lauderdale. (Ramp Servicemen are in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.) He then was transferred to Washington Dulles Airport [in 1986] by a recommendation from his supervisor and remained in Washington for 13 years before transferring to Tampa in May 1999, [where he's been working since]." He's been there 12 years.

Although he's United's first deaf Ramp Serviceman, he's found that being deaf is hardly a disadvantage. Since airports can be ear-splittingly noisy, Ramp Service crew typically use hand signals to communicate with each other, and Bilgray has taught his co-workers some simple sign language, making on-the-job communication even better.

As for driving a tug (the open-air carts that pull trains of stacked luggage or freight), he's especially alert, as he can't hear other tugs approaching. He's said, "With aircraft and other vehicles everywhere, making the extra effort to constantly look around ensures that I'm upholding our corporate value: Safety at all times, in all things."

He has received commendations on his above-and-beyond service. On a flight that where Bilgray was a passenger, a fellow passenger took ill, the flight attendants asked for any assistance, Philip volunteered and helped administer oxygen. Paramedics took care of the sick passenger (who wasn't in a life-threatening situation) when the plane landed. Seymour told us, "The pilot was required to file a report of the incident and that is how it became noted and a commendation was given to Philip.

During Bilgray's 9 years at Dulles, he willingly participated in the pre-holiday Christmas Fantasy Flight—a special event for terminally ill children. As Seymour explained, " They are taken aboard a plane for a simulated flight to the 'North Pole' to meet Santa Claus and are treated with gifts, etc. This is strictly on a volunteer basis by the United employees giving up their free time.

"Philip feels wonderful being a part of United Airlines. He says, 'They are the biggest and the best in the world.'"

Deaf Person of the Year
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2019
January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2018
Laurene E. Simms -  Deaf Person of Year phototab
Nadmionor Caisano phototab
Storm Smith phototab
Robb Dooling phototab
July 2019
August 2019
September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2018
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2017
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2016
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2015
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2014
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2013
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
John Yeh
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2012
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
John Yeh
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2011
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
John Yeh
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2010
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
John Yeh
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2009
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
John Yeh
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2008
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
Robert Davila
Kevin Frost
Ed Bosson
Leon Lim
John Yeh
Marlee Matin
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2007
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
Robert R. Davila
Lizzie Sorkin
E. Lynn Jacobowitz
Joey Baer
Donald Tinsley, Sr.
Howie Seago
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
Bernard Bragg
Alice Hagemeyer
Carole Lazorisak
Ben Soukup
Tony Saccente
Fred Beam

Any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you’d like to share?  Contact us at editor@deafpeople.com.
Copyright © 2007 - 2018 MSM Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved.