Supersonic Sales Call
If you want a customer to spend $10 billion on your jet fighters, you gotta bust some Mach.
- By Jorge and Karen Escalona
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
(Page 5 of 5)
Not so in Traven’s world. “There’s a relevance for every maneuver I do, and that’s to display the capabilities of the plane to the military operational pilot and senior decision makers.”
Still, he says, part of his job is to go “beyond extremes, so that the end-user, when he needs it, can push within a window of safety. We don’t fly up to the ‘edge,’ we go over the cliff. We then come back and we draw a line in the sand for others that says, ‘Cliff here.’ ”
The gee-whiz factor of a public display is undeniably important. Says Dave Desmond, another Boeing test pilot, “The international airshow scene caters to two fronts: the public that attends to enjoy the thrill and the noise, but who probably doesn’t fully appreciate the significance of the maneuvering dynamics, and the potential customer, who is keenly assessing the capabilities being displayed.”
“You want to be able to win the hearts and minds of your customer and the public, and there can’t be room for any disappointment,” says Craig Penrice, a former Eurofighter test pilot. “You can’t replace the moment.” He learned that lesson just before a flight at a foreign airshow when a problem arose with an inertial system that helps control the airplane’s attitude. “From the marketing standpoint, there was an expectation level [to take off], but I had to cancel the flight,” says Penrice. The company eventually made the sale, but “we learned to always bring two airplanes.”
With multiple airplanes on hand, the six companies and their pilots, ready for business, head to India. There they’ll light the afterburners and trace out their Power Point presentations in the sky, and hope to win a few hearts, a few minds, and all the dollars.
Jorge and Karen Escalona wrote “Lockheed’s Missing Link” (June/July 2008).