Why aren’t we more Hog-Wild for Flying?
What do you think of when you see the word: “Harley“? Strong images and sounds. Cemented together with the clothes, accessories, attitude and community. It’s not just transportation, it’s a package, a culture. Black leather and chrome. And it’s compelling, as evidenced by the many people, including boomers who are climbing aboard hogs and getting immersed into the club. And the image is reinforced regularly through films and television.
Are people buying this image? You bet. Even with recent slowdown in sales (attributed by some to the soft economy), motorcycles still sell, and Harley is still a strong brand. How many are selling? In 2006, Harley Davidson reported sales of over 349 thousand motorcycles, worth about $4.5 billion! Plus about a billion dollars in parts, accessories, and general merchandise. And this is one motorcycle company. Intensity. Can you feel it?
So what about flying? No, not the airlines. I mean Our kind of flying.
That’s the first hurtle. When you mention “flying”, most people just think of the airlines. Get screened, walk down a chute through a doorway into a tube with seats. Close the window shades to see the movie, or sleep. Sorry, this isn’t flying. It’s just “getting there”.
Real flying. The flight is the thing; it’s what keeps us coming back. We put up with 30+ year old planes renting for $100 per hour, worn FBOs, intense regulation, and $5+ a gallon gas, just so we get that 1.2 hour fix as PIC, with the best view around. Flying keeps me (close to) sane.
But we still (mostly) fly these old planes, from old airports, served by worn FBOs, and maybe see someone we know that day at the airport. Aircraft brokers mostly are still selling the 30-year-old planes. Most FBOs sell the pilot basics: charts, fuel, supplies, headsets, maybe a teeshirt or ballcap. Community and culture feel are rare. When was the last time you saw GA featured in a movie or television show unless it was reporting an accident, TFR violation, or silly stunt?
Our excitement for flying is stoked almost entirely from within. For a potential new pilot or owner, there isn’t that excitement, sizzle, image, to latch on to. In this sensory rich modern age, people expect to be stimulated.
What grabs you, the black leather and loud pulse of a Harley, or the faded paint and 1970s upholstery in your rental Skyhawk and local FBO?
It may seem artificial and superficial, but I think we need to bring back that excitement to flying. Barnstormers had the right idea, if a bit crude.
How do we bring back the sizzle to flying, while keeping its utility and safety? Black leather and chrome Pipers? More in Part 3. Cheers!