At AOPA’s Homecoming Fly-in on June 6, I ran into John Rathmell. John coordinates U.S. sales, demonstration flights, and deliveries for Bristell Aircraft.
John’s also a marketing guy, and there hasn’t been a time when we’ve talked that he doesn’t have several irons in the fire to promote aviation. Today was no exception.
He pulled a coin out of his pocket and presented it to me. “That’s yours,” he said. On one side of the coin is the Bristell logo. On the other side is “PLC—GPA—DF GAP.” These stand for “personal limitations checklist,” “ground proximity awareness training,” and “defined go-around.” (This is part of a structured training program that Bristell includes with every aircraft delivery. It was developed by Louis Mancuso, president of Bristell USA, owner of Mid Island Air Service, longtime CFI, and father of airshow pilot Mike Mancuso.)
Challenge coins are a big tradition among military folks, John said. If you present a challenge coin to a military person and he or she doesn’t have one at hand, that person has to buy you a drink—or so I’m told. A tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire when soldiers were presented with coins to recognize their achievements, challenge coins today are carried not only by members of the military, but also Civil Air Patrol cadets, Eagle Scouts, the NFL, NASCAR, and the World Series of Poker, among others. Police, fire departments, and fraternal organizations are known to have them as well.
John pointed out that one side of the coin is blank. “That’s the best part,” he said. After the client completes the Bristell program, he said, “we engrave the coin with a call sign that we come up with.” It seemed like a cool and fun way to recognize a customer’s achievement while signaling that he or she has become part of a special group within aviation.
The challenge coin is meant to be a morale-booster, and apparently it works—and for a concept first dreamt up thousands of years ago, that’s pretty impressive.
A challenge coin custom designed for your flight school could be a fun, relatively low-cost way to reward your student pilots for all of their hard work. It could be another way to make your clients feel connected to the aviation community. It could even be used to recognize your employees for their achievements. A quick glance at a custom challenge coin website indicated prices start at $4.87 per coin for a 50-coin order, with volume discounts for bigger orders.
Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.