Why Hype Has No Place in Flying
If you’ve been around aviation for a while, you know that there are a few famous cases of airplanes so profoundly hyped that even if there had been any substance to their manufacturers’ overinflated claims, nobody would have believed it.
The case of the Eclipse 500 stands out in recent years, though it’s hardly alone. In this case, the details are so well known it hardly bears repeating, but here goes: The airplane was going to cost less than a million dollars (less than $900,000, in fact), it was going to be built in batches of a couple of thousand a year, and it was going to spawn a new worldwide on-demand charter network that would revolutionize aviation as we know it. It was all nonsense, of course, but the airplane, despite some grueling development issues, really was what the company said it would be, that is, a much more expensive version of what it said it would be. The sad part was, the airplane got lost in the hype.
There are other examples that might predate you. The homebuilt “supersonic” Bede 10 jet which luckily never went anywhere, though it and a close derivative, suffered tragic fatal crashes. Jim Bede showed up at Oshkosh in the mid-1990s with another project, the BD-12, a single engine pusher constructed using modern automotive techniques, including extensive injection molding, except that it never happened, not even close. But listening to the hype, you’d have believed that this new model was going to revolutionize the industry. Maybe Bede believed the hype. My guess is that he did. The project is still ongoing, sort of.
The thing about hype is that it doesn’t have to be associated with a fake product, a bad product or one that won’t come to pass. It’s just that all of those products need the hype, so when a new airplane shows up that’s surrounded by hyperbole, my spidey sense immediately starts to tingle, and it’s then up to the hype-creators to prove that they’re not scam artists.
It’s not just me, either. Pilots in general and Flying readers specifically are among the best-educated consumers in any industry that I know. When marketers overpromise, we know they’re overpromising. That’s why the likes of Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Embraer, Cirrus, Diamond and others all strive to underpromise and over-deliver. And they all consistently do just that. The result of that kind of marketing — which is the opposite of hype — is that the consumer believes the message, and not just this time but the next time and the time after that too. It’s the difference between a company that's in it for the long run and one that’s in it for short-term gain.
In the final accounting, flying is all about the cold hard truth. The difference between how much range an airplane has in real life and how much it has in the brochure can be the difference between landing at an airport and near one.
That’s why there’s such a thing as a POH: because the facts matter. In aviation, they matter ultimately. That's why hype is the enemy.
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