Oshkosh, Sweat, and Kübler-Ross
We’re on the ground at Oshkosh, and it’s a fascinating show so far, and I’m not being clever. There’s a ton of news, lots of customers in the exhibition halls, and the tie-down areas are filling up with row upon row of gorgeous GA airplanes.
We’re also witnessing a transformation within the aviation industry, one that the movers and shakers are for the most part not even aware of themselves. Even so, they are a part of a larger movement within aviation that is very encouraging.
Here’s what it is.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross is famous for developing a description of the process people go through when they suffer loss — she focused on death and dying. Aviation’s issues are serious, but happily not terminal. In the best case scenario, and I think we might be witnessing that, the collective struggles we have been facing will lead to a better aviation world for us all.
On Monday Cessna announced a diesel powered 182. Read Steve Pope’s story on the airplane here. The new 182 is an answer to the shortcomings of the current Skylane. The new model uses Jet A instead of expensive and difficult to obtain in many places 100LL. The new model improves the fuel efficiency of the airplane’s power plant by up to 30 percent, which is an efficiency improvement that would be simply unobtainable by tweaking existing gas piston engines. The efficiency boost gives the new 182 a range of almost 1200 nautical miles at a cruise speed of better than 150 knots with typical Skylane payload and comfort. This is cool stuff.
The 182 story is just one of many we’ve already heard here, and they all have a common theme. Companies are looking at what they do with a critical eye and making themselves better. Cessna with new airplanes. Garmin with cool new ADS-B capabilities. Dynon with innovative new handheld products. It’s all about smart companies innovating during a downturn and changing the way they do business and the way they see the aviation world.
In Kübler-Ross’s stages model, the whole thing starts with denial: “The economic downturn can not be happening to us.” Then comes anger: “Darn those politicians for how much they’re screwing up the economy!” Then we see bargaining. “If we cut this program and downsize that one, then maybe everything will be okay.” Then comes depression. Luckily, we haven’t seen much of this, where companies just give up hope and stop trying hard.
Kübler-Ross saw the last stage as acceptance. For the smart, agile companies here at Oshkosh, acceptance means acceptance of responsibility for making their products better at doing what they do, better values to the customer, by offering them at better prices with more capability and new features. In aviation, this last stage is a sure sign of neither death nor dying but of long-term survival.
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