Munir Abuhaidar, pioneer of air freight aviation, died peacefully in his home in Millbrook, New York on October 4, surrounded by his family. He was 89.
Abuhaidar was born in Hammana, Lebanon and was a graduate of the American University of Beirut, class of 1948. Early in his career, Abuhaidar worked as a clerk at the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), but quickly rose through the ranks to become the head of transport. Abuhaidar noted that ARAMCO was struggling to provide fresh produce to Dahran-based employees. He borrowed money to charter an Avro York aircraft and hire a pilot. Abuhaidar began providing fresh produce to ARAMCO employees and a new freight airline, Trans Mediterranean Airways, was born.
From these modest beginnings, Abuhaidar grew his company into one of the Middle East's greatest business success stories. By 1975, TMA was one of the largest air freight airlines in the world, with routes to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The company transported a wide variety of freight, often specializing in challenging freight such as a lion for the London Zoo, medicines and supplies for the Red Cross, valuable racing thoroughbreds, and oil pipeline parts. TMA was the second largest employer in Lebanon at that time, with over 5000 employees. Abuhaidar, always ahead of his time, was on the leading edge of innovative business practices, providing health insurance and education benefits as well as an emphasis on the training and employment of women.
The Lebanese civil war took a huge toll on TMA. Abuhaidar tried to keep the company alive through the worst of the war, but the task proved impossible. Abuhaidar eventually moved his family to Millbrook, New York and sold the airline.
Abuhaidar was an active member of the Millbrook community for over thirty years. An avid sportsman, he loved shooting, tennis, golf, horseback riding and skiing. He was a longtime member of the Millbrook Hunt. Abuhaidar was also a strong supporter of local charities, especially local schools.
More recently, Abuhaidar helped fund a new institute at the American University Beirut (AUB) Hospital, the Abuhaidar Neuroscience Institute. He was committed to helping AUB become the premier neuroscience research and care facility in the Middle East.
Most importantly, Abuhaidar was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He loved sharing his favorite sports and activities with his children and grandchildren. His family will greatly miss his irrepressible energy and joie-de-vivre.
Abuhaidar is survived by Susan Abuhaidar, his loving wife of 52 years, and his five children, Ramzi, Nadim, Lamia, Sumaya and Walid, as well as his eight grandchildren.