Chief Pilot's Message
Loren Herren - Lherren@bridgew.edu
Make Mine "Neat", Please...
The nice thing about ordering your drink this way is that you instantly know whether you're getting what youre paying for. There has been a great deal of chatter amongst the general aviation populace about how the industry can make GA more appealing even as it becomes less affordable, how we can recruit and train more pilots, get more folks to buy more expensive airplanes and gadgets to go in them, about making flying and flight training more customer-oriented so that we have more, happier, and loyal customers who stay with us instead of going somewhere else.
More, more, more. While we're always looking for more good people, we need to remember that we're looking to attract souls who want to become pilots and/or future industry professionals and we are responsible for guarding against the desire to seek just "more, more, more" and not enough "better first, and then more of it." The bite here is that if we want GA to thrive as a profession, entry and membership cannot be entitlements. They must be earned. It's a distillation process of sorts, and there's very good reason for that.
As in any profession, some GA folks don't like to talk about this reality, feeling it is not possible (or heaven forbid, prudent) to be fair, firm, and friendly all at the same time when working with a customer. With the information age reaching adolescence, excellent customer service is too often defined as getting the customer what he/she wants, immediately, and with a smile. More, and faster. The purpose of this transaction is for the customer to feel good about the experience and therefore seek more of it. Missing the customer "feel good" target can land you on a social media website as the subject of so much (un)righteous, overblown indignation. We've seen it repeatedly in the flight training arena, but it happens everywhere.
Unfortunately, earning one's wings is hard work. Sorry, but that's the truth. Learning to fly, like learning any worthwhile pursuit, is great fun, but learning to do it well takes a great deal of real effort and desire. Sometimes it just doesn't feel good. And sometimes it shouldn't. If it always feels good, you're not working hard enough. The mind gets numb, and then the mind gets dumb, and that's no good in an airplane or anywhere else in this business. The "customer is always right" philosophy might work on occasion in other professional arenas, but we have to be very judicious with it in aviation. The customer may not know the right questions to ask, or why a particular delivery method makes sense in the bigger picture, and this can slow progress, but it should never be cause to us to skimp on quality. As the saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
We're not talking about bad coffee or late mail. We're talking about flying and working in an arena where mistakes cause real harm. The service we provide is in the form of training and education that is designed to prolong a customer's enjoyment of their aviation experience. In other words, we try to instill habits of thought and action that will allow a person to enjoy flying and stay alive while doing so. It's the sort of message that should be delivered in a positive and friendly manner, but without disguise, embellishment, or dilution. No ice, no water, not shaken or stirred, no chaser. Neat.
Bridgewater State University Aviation
Last Modified: January 17, 2012