Business aviation has taken a beating in the past two years. While we are now seeing some signs of recovery, we must remember that those signs do not constitute prosperity. We can blame industry difficulties on the government or on the economy, but the reality is that we need to quit following the old business models. In many areas, we are doing things today just as we have for the past 30 years.
If we look to the technology sector of our economy as a possible success story to emulate, we see a constant flow of innovation in the market. Computing technology gets not only faster and more productive by the day, but it also gets cheaper. Social Technology has taken on a life of its own with changes happening faster than even the social media gurus can keep up with.
Those of us in aviation know that we cannot change or innovate as fast as the technology sector of this economy. Or can we?
When it comes to the aircraft design and regulation compliance that make our industry safer, admittedly we cannot go any faster than the government allows. New aircraft designs are also limited by the allocation of capital and have long cycles from initial investment to development to payoff. The tech sector can crank out new smart phones every six months, but we can’t just crank out new jets that fast.
Aircraft design and safety compliance timing may be out of our control, but that should not stop us from innovating.
Innovation starts with conversations. Doc Searls coined the term “the market is conversations” in his 1999 book The Cluetrain Manifesto. With consumers self-aggregating and expressing intentions online, why can’t we engage in the conversations and meet those intentions?
We need to expand our market by engaging the larger audience of travelers in conversations about the value proposition of business aviation and even leisure travel by private aircraft. It starts online these days and ultimately moves to face-to-face contact.
We also need to challenge our market and our industry to start conversations on how to deliver business aviation at a reduced cost. The solutions must come from the entire supply chain, with everyone involved in business aviation as a part of the solution.
I have yet to hear anyone say they would like to go back to riding on the airlines after experiencing travel on a private aircraft. What I have heard, hundreds of times, is that they can’t afford what we offer; so, they grudgingly go back for more of the misery of air travel by mass transit.
What are we going to do about it?