Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bax on Intimidating FBOs

We often talk on the podcast about the sad state of FBO marketing. About how intimidating it is to walk into your average flight operation.

Rereading one of my all-time favorite aviation writers, Gordon "Bax" Baxter, in his book "How to Fly". Bax wrote this back in 1980.

The FBO does not think of himself as an "airplane store". He usually does not advertise, promote, or even leap up and greet you at the door with a "May I help you?" He thinks of himself first as an aviator. A pilot, who is just doing all this charter flying, airplane renting and student instruction to keep him and his true love, the airplane, together at night.

He still sees himself somewhat as we first saw him when he stood up in the cockpit of that biplane and raised his goggles and grinned down at us. The message was, "If you boys are really worthy, I will let you enter into all this with me."

Although the cost is much the same, walking into the airplane store to buy flying lessons is not going to be very much like walking into the car store to buy a new Cadillac. Aside from the indifference, there is outright snobbery of the kind that smites any "new boy" at the golf pro shop or at the sailing marina. As in any other form of clubhouse snobbery the atmosphere is greatly improved if an old member of this club brings you out as a personal friend and handshakes you all around.

A thaw will begin as soon as they see that you are serious about wanting to learn how to fly. You will become a full member of this club as soon as you come in, shaking your head and laughing, from your first hour of instruction. They will be laughing with you, not at you, and you will soon sense that there is a comradely protection extended toward the student from the entire aviation community. Everything that you do as a beginner happened to us, too, and the memory stays scented green forever.

"How to Fly" by Gordon Baxter, 1981, Summit Books.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's kind of interesting how very little has changed in the almost 29 years since then.

The idea of each of us introducing outsiders who are interested in to the club is a good one as long as you are an insider there yourself. I am a pilot and there are some places where I've landed and they stare you down like you're about to rob the place when you walk in. Imagine how someone looking to learn to fly is going to feel. (Do I really want to trust my life and fork over thousands of dollars to these people?)

His point of view was and is right on target; to deal with the issue the way it is not the way we wish it were.


8:42 PM  
Blogger Rich W. said...

I hope you did not fell that way at Southern Maine Aviation.

Rich Whicker

1:39 PM  
Blogger Rich W. said...

I hope you did not feel that way at Southern Maine Aviation.

Sorry about the typo on the last comment!

Rich W.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Jack Hodgson said...

Hi Rich,

No, I don't feel that way at all about Southern Maine Aviation. In fact, on the podcast I've been saying for a couple months now how much I admire SMA.

See you soon.

-- Jack

10:39 PM  

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