Reasons for Hope

June 8, 1999

Reasons For Hope

By Ralph Hood

june 1999

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he's insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught aviation management for Southern Illinois University. He currently serves as National CFI Marketing Mentor for AOPA's Project Pilot Instructor Program. He can be reached at [email protected]

The state of the industry certainly seems great to those of us who remember the early ’80s. Back then the industry fit Will Rogers' depression era evaluation of the country.

"The country," Will said on national radio, "is prosperous as a whole, but how much prosperity is there in a hole?" (Will was imitating President Calvin Coolidge, and many people thought it really was Coolidge. Later, Mrs. Coolidge told Rogers that she could have done a better imitation. Rogers said "Maybe so, but look what you had to put up with to learn it.")

The big question about state of the industry, of course, is how does our future look. My prognostications about the future are taken seriously only by those who don't remember my past predictions. I am, after all, the fellow who foresaw the failure of the Lear, the Cessna Citation, and the Caravan. I am also the fellow who quit a safe job with a Piper Distributor in order to become a retail aircraft salesperson in late 1978. New aircraft sales dropped 78.5% in five years, and I was definitely a participant.

But, being wrong about the past has never dampened my conviction that I am right about the future. So here we go ...

I am inclined to think the industry's future looks bright if only because so many smart people are throwing money at it. From transport aircraft manufacturers down to the smallest kitplane supplier, the bean counters are betting big bucks on us. What's even more amazing, Airbus and Boeing both hawked GA aircraft at NBAA . Think of it — a Boeing business jet! And when Warren Buffet buys in, folks, can there be any real doubt that we dwell in the valley by the still waters?

Another thing. I am truly impressed with the younger generation of aviation. I just spoke at the annual meeting of National Intercollegiate Flying Association. Talk about a group of winners. They were 20 or 21, and made me feel like a neophyte in the business.

Everywhere I look, it seems to me that our current and future managers are more educated and more directed than their predecessors. We are not only attracting more money from smarter investors, we are also attracting a good group of young folks who want to invest their lives in aviation.

Colleges and universities offering aviation management seem to be thriving, and an aggressive group of young Turks is evident at aviation trade shows. They know there's a future, and they want their share of it. (Watch out for a 15-year old kid from Georgia named Jamail Larkins. He's been working our shows since he was 13, he already has big-name corporate sponsors, and he has an aviation supply store on the web. We're gonna hear from that kid.)

The state of the industry? Looks good to me. Of course, considering my record, my enthusiasm may scare you to death.