In the old days, the word “Contact!” was central to the process of getting things going. The pilot yelled “Contact!” The mechanic then responded in kind while laying hands on the prop. Seconds later, after a grunt, a flip of the prop, and a puff of smoke, an airplane would leap to life.
Technology has changed that process a bit. But the need to make contact is as important as ever, in whatever form it takes.
Just recently, while a significant number of my professional counterparts were in Oshkosh soaking up the ambiance of AirVenture, I was lounging lazily back in Florida. My plans had me traveling to the Northeast rather than Wisconsin, although my planned trip was scheduled for a few days after AirVenture started. The slight mismatch in timing meant that I was at my desk running through my regular routine, while so many of my peers were wandering the ramps and buildings at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH).
I was feeling a little out of it, frankly. Missing the big show always has a tendency to make me feel as if I’m a bit out of step with the rest of the world, which I very well may be. But then my phone rang and brought everything back into focus.
The call came from a friend who hails from Ohio. She was working at AirVenture and had just found the credit card of a woman who had been in her booth earlier in the day. Being an honest, honorable, upstanding young woman, she began searching for ways to identify the card’s owner and get the card back to her. After all, nobody likes losing a credit card. Especially not when they’re away from home and likely have a real need for it.
Her search led her to Facebook, which led her to me, and the realization that I have a Facebook friend with the same name as the one embossed on the credit card she was holding. And that connection led her to my contact list and a phone number that would put her in touch with the woman with the missing credit card.
Making contact with the people around us is important. Finding a way to make that contact a productive experience takes a bit of practice and a little daring sometimes, but it’s worth it.
It’s often been said that the general aviation community is a small one. That’s true for the most part. The entire U.S. pilot community is barely over half a million people. Granted, the aviation community is bigger than the pilot population alone, but the point is still valid. We are not a majority of the overall population.
That reality makes our ability to network even more important. Because while I may not know the person I need to get in touch with personally, you might. And if I know you I can make use of that contact to help me take the next step to grow my business, expand my opportunities, or just get a lost credit card back to someone who may really need it.
A few days later I found myself sitting on an Amtrak train headed from New York City into the heart of Connecticut. Somewhere between New Rochelle and Stamford, as the train waddled down the tracks at a speed Thomas Edison would have considered to be pedestrian, my phone lit up again. This time it was a mechanic at my home field calling to tell me that he’d found a Cessna 172 that would be perfect to use as the founding airplane for the flying club I’ve been working on starting up.
We talked for a few minutes and I agreed to stop in to take a peek at the Cessna when I got back to town. He may have just solved a significant problem for me – finding the right airplane, at the right price, for the job at hand.
Yep, communication is good. Networking is awesome. Making the effort to reach out and contact someone who may have the answers you need, or the equipment you’re looking for, or the ability to accomplish the goal you’ve been working toward – that’s well worth the energy it takes to push the buttons on your phone or computer keyboard.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.