Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Do You Want That On JPEG?

I had a typical encounter with the computer industry today. I took a photograph to the print shop and told the lady, "I need to get this photo scanned onto a floppy disk."

"Oh," she responded, "you'll have to take it back to our computer department." My heart sank. I feel about computer people the same way I feel about the FAA; I know they're here to help, but it's hard to remember sometimes.

When I told the computer lady what I wanted she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Do you want that on JPEG?"

"Ma'am, I don't even know what a JPEG is," I replied. "I want it on a floppy disk."

"Well, in order to put it on a floppy disk, I need to know if you want it on JPEG," she said. I started to give her a lesson on basic sales skills, but I decided it would be a waste of my time and hers. I let my wife, Gail, who speaks computer, straighten it out.

I was still grumbling to myself as I left the print shop - where, by the way, we do business on a regular basis. Why do they treat people that way?

All of a sudden it hit me - we do the very same thing in aviation! A customer comes in with a simple request - "I want to learn to fly." They pretty much know what they want, and they state it fairly simply - "I want to learn to fly." Thirty minutes later, they are often totally confused and rethinking the whole idea.

Think about it. In that first 30 minutes they are likely to hear enough numbers, acronyms, and new words to confuse a team of rocket scientists. We hit them with Part 141, Part 61, C-152, C-172, FARs, and unicom. We tell them they can do some of their learning on a sim, or they can do it all in a PA-28. We tell them they can get the private fairly quickly, once they get the written out of the way, and then they can carry pax wherever they want to, but only on VFR days.

Then we wonder why they have trouble making a decision about flying.

It reminds me of the time I wanted to buy a color printer. The so-called salesperson asked me if I needed a small footprint. What he meant, I found out later, was did I need a printer that didn't take up much space on the desk. I let Gail deal with him, too. Another computer retailer advertised a laptop in the newspaper. I went to see the laptop. It wouldn't work. The battery was dead. Why do you suppose they ran the ad?

Folks, perhaps computers are such hot items right now that they will sell no matter how poor the sales effort. Flight training is hot, too, but not that hot. Let's not treat customers that way. They want to fly? Hell, let's take them flying! Let's not confuse them with talk of density altitude, notams, and ASEL.

I know I've said it before, but let me say it again: They come to us with a dream. It is perhaps the most universal dream on earth - the dream of flying. It is probably the biggest dream they have, and surely it is the biggest dream that they can actually make come true. The dream itself is what's important. All the other things are just details - important details, to be sure, but still details. Let's sell the dream, not the details.

By Ralph Hood

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