Growing up on a farm in north-central Minnesota, my family put a lot of trust in agricultural aircraft. We relied on a crop duster to spray fertilizer and pesticide and keep our kidney beans healthy and growing. Now, as a speaker and consultant, my company relies on the aviation industry to fly me back and forth across the country to keep our promises. Many weeks, I’m in an airplane every day, and it’s easy to take for granted all of the moving parts that make it happen.
Like any business activity or relationship, the aviation industry is built on trust. But, there are few industries where the value of trust is so taken for granted when things are going well and so magnified when danger is felt. We drive up to our local hub, as a plane shoots over our roof at 200 miles per hour, type our most important personal information into a machine, hand our bags over to someone we’ve never met, routinely pass our belongings through security where we hope all passengers potential weapons are confiscated, find the gate that was printed on our ticket, sit down on our flotation device, blast off into the sky in a metal cylinder, float through lightning storms, and hurl back at the ground. Our business travel or vacation trip sounds absurd when stated like this.
We take it all for granted when everything goes smoothly, thanks to the laws of physics and trust. But, the minute our stomachs rise and fall during turbulence, we remember how much trust we have in our pilots, the airplane’s safety designs, air traffic control’s technology to communicate from the ground, and a thousand other components. Perhaps the greatest proof is the 30% demand reduction after the 9/11 attacks. Consumers responded to the breach of trust with fear and decided to drive or stay home as alternatives to their next trip.
Any industry, business, or person will experience a shock period after a major breach of trust, but it was dramatic to aviation because of the magnitude of trust’s importance for success. The industry relies heavily on steadying their consumer’s emotions, and it goes great lengths to make that happen. Just think of one repercussion of 9/11 to understand – heightened security. Aviation had to respond to the breach of trust by increasing security personnel, procedures, and technology, and now more hassle is spread out to the entire industry, including us, as passengers. Air transit is the pinnacle of the industry, but it sits on an extensive foundation of moving parts and trust relationships. Many, like me, rely on them to run their businesses, and we all entrust the stability of our economy to them.