"Are You Headed for a Crash Landing?"

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Are You Headed for a Crash Landing?
by Joe Bonura, CSP


Home Of The Brave

After watching the news recently about USAir Flight 1549 that went down in New York's Hudson Bay, and seeing the brave and courageous efforts of the pilot and crew, I was reminded of an incident that happened to my daughter and me in 1994.

Peanuts Anyone?

My daughter Ann and I attended the 1994 National Speakers Association workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we were so excited about the workshop that we could not stop talking about it long enough to take a breath. We boarded Flight 632 at 6:30 PM for the short flight from Charlotte to Louisville. We were talking so much that we did not realize that the plane had already taken off. Because I am a private pilot, I noticed there was something wrong because the plane stopped climbing, and it leveled off. When I glanced at the passengers and flight attendants, no one seemed aware of anything unusual. The smiling flight attendants moved down the aisle taking our drink orders and distributing peanuts. So I ignored my imagined threat and returned to conversation with Ann. Suddenly, the pilot's voice confirmed my concern, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are having a problem with the landing gear. We will be back with you shortly."

The Flip Of A Switch

Aware that I knew flight jargon, Ann asked me what was happening. I told her that it was probably an electrical failure, and they would flip the switch a few times, and that usually took care of it. A woman sitting across the aisle heard my comments so she asked what was happening. When Ann told her that I was a pilot, heads of all passengers nearby turned to my direction. I repeated to everyone how the pilot would attempt to recycle the gear by flipping the switch.

We Will Be Back

That explanation satisfied everyone until the pilot blared over the PA system two minutes later, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have tried recycling the gear several times unsuccessfully. We will be back in a moment."

The Resident Expert

Ten people turned to me with a what-happens-now look on their faces. Suddenly I was an expert on flight emergencies. I told them the co-pilot would probably try to retract and extend the gear manually as in the movie Memphis Belle. I assured them that manual extension of the gear generally works.

Get The Adrenaline Flowing

The pilot returned to the PA system and announced, "We attempted to operate the gear manually, and we can only get the main gear extended. The nose gear indicator light is showing that it is not down and locked. The flight attendants will prepare you for a crash landing." Now I do not know about you, but I always thought an airline would be a bit more sensitive when announcing the bad news! I guess he wanted to get our adrenaline flowing, just in case.

Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire

The flight attendants took their practiced positions in the aisle as their smiles faded to looks of concern. Over the years, I noticed that whenever flight attendants gave safety instructions before a flight, most of the passengers paid little attention. Not tonight. Everyone's attention was focused on the attendants, even when they reviewed the instructions for buckling and removing a seat belt. They asked the men to remove their ties and sharp objects from their pockets, such as pens and pencils, and they told the women to remove their high-heeled shoes. They warned us that smoke and fire might be a problem. They pointed out the exit locations and floor lights leading to the doors. When they asked people, sitting in the exit seats, if they wanted to take the exit door responsibility, all four of them refused, but thank goodness for four big guys sitting behind us who were willing to take their places.

A Wing And A Prayer

The pilot's voice pierced the tension that was building as he announced, "I will do a fly-by over the tower to see if the front landing gear is visible. While it would not guarantee that the gears locked, it is better than no gear at all. Do not worry though, folks, I have twenty years experience under my wing." His words had a calming effect. I was impressed with the professionalism and sensitivity of the flight attendants as they walked us through emergency procedures and explained how to maintain the crash position. The lights would be turned off two minutes before touchdown so that our eyes could adjust to the dark. Just before they turned out the lights, I glanced at my daughter Ann who had a tear running down her cheek. I thought of two things: she was the young mother of my three-year-old granddaughter who was waiting for her Mommy to return home, and she was my own newborn baby girl, wheeled from the delivery room, with a pink ribbon in her hair and a tear running down her cheek. As the lights went out, we said I love you and prayed together for God's protection.

Bounce, Thud, Skip

The pilot flew past the tower. Although the gear was down, the tower could not tell if it was locked. In an attempt to jar the nose gear into a locked position, the pilot allowed the main landing gear to hit the ground for the first time. The plane bounced two feet off the ground and came back with a heavy thud. It skipped over the runway, went down with another thud, and popped back up again. On the third time that the main gear hit the runway, it stuck, but the pilot held the nose gear up for what seemed like an eternity to dissipate speed. He very cautiously, as though landing on an eggshell, touched the nose wheel to the cement. The gear held and the ordeal of flight 632 was over. All of the passengers and crew gave the captain a resounding ovation from a seated position.

Be A Pro

I want to leave you with this. Customers expect your knowledge and professionalism to match that of the pilot of Flight 632 whether you are selling widgets or wombats. When we stepped on that plane, just like the passengers in New York a few weeks ago, we expected the captain and crew to know what they were doing. The captain knew how to use the controls, but he also knew how to control his environment. He was a problem solver, and we trusted him with our lives. The pilot thought three-dimensionally and solved the problem.

Who Do You Trust?

When customers do business with you, they trust you with their money. A customer depends on you to see and understand all the dimensions of his or her investment. He expects you to take his/her investment in your product or service to a safe and happy landing.

What must you do to be as good at what you do, as the pilot in New York, or the pilot in this story? Figure it out, and then go for it.


© 2009 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

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Joe Bonura
Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
Website: www.bonura.com
407 Landis Lakes Court
Louisville, KY  40245

(502) 553-1746 phone

E-mail: joe@bonura.com

About Joe Bonura

His background is unique. Joe owned and operated a highly successful advertising agency for 18 years. During that time, he found his advertising campaigns were more effective when he educated his clients in the areas of sales and service. He conducted training seminars for his clients as added value. Word spread that Joe was a quality speaker and more and more people asked him to speak. The demand became so high that he sold the agency to three of his associates to start his own speaking and consulting company, Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

Joe is past President of the Kentucky Speakers Association and a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a prestigious designation earned by only 8% of the 3,600 member National Speakers Association. Joe presently serves on the board of directors of NSA.

He is author of the audio learning systems "Three-Dimensional Selling®" and "Turning Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Excitement®." He is author of the book Throw the Rabbit—The Ultimate Approach to Three-Dimensional Selling.




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