AIN Blog: A Tale of Two Industries

 - January 20, 2012, 1:01 PM

I recently attended the SHOT Show (shooting, hunting and outdoor trades) in Las Vegas. It is the world’s largest gathering of shooters, hunters, law enforcement, military special operations and other shooting-related industries. This year’s show attracted more than 1,600 exhibitors and 60,000 people from all over the world.

Talk about politically incorrect groups! The SHOT show, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has to be right up there at the top of the list, perhaps just under the National Rifle Association. Yet you couldn’t meet a nicer, friendlier or more supportive group of people.

The NRA, NSSF and other special-interest groups support one another with nary a thought of being competitive. Several times I talked with vendors about a product or service and was referred to a competitor they thought would be more in-line with what I was looking for. Not since the movie Miracle on 34 th        Street, when Macy’s referred people to Gimbels—putting customer needs ahead of their own—have I seen such cooperation and support among competitors. There is a true “all for one and one for all” spirit.

Contrast that with the maintenance industry, specifically the various organizations that put forth the notion they’re trying to represent and educate maintenance technicians. It is the most fractious, turf-protecting segment of the aviation industry I have ever encountered.

For years, through good times and bad, though mostly bad, I have been a major proponent of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association. I think Dale Forton, the current president, and John Casker, the past president, are good for the organization and moving it in the right direction. But the industry as a whole has got to get its collective act together.

The contrasts between the firearms industry and the maintenance industry are astounding, yet both have public image problems they must overcome. The one is doing an excellent job; the other is mired in the dark ages.

I expect I’ll be flooded with email from the various maintenance group leaders, pointing out how their group is the one trying to do the right thing and everyone else is in league with the devil. The truth is the maintenance groups are still at odds, still fighting turf wars, still holding out to be what’s best for the industry; and the working mechanic is paying the price.

I was recently made president of the largest gun club in the Midwest. With more than 1,300 members and 200 acres of land we have our share of problems and in-fighting. After I took office, a member asked what I planned on doing about it. Would I lay down the law?

“Kiss butt,” I replied, and I have. The outcome is that many of the complainers have begun coming together. I realized it isn’t about what we want, but what the membership needs and I conveyed that concept. So far, it’s been working very well.

So my advice to the captains of our maintenance alphabet groups is to stop talking about how important you are to the industry and how screwed up everyone else is. Your constituents are still living in a 1950s work environment. You’re fiddling while Rome burns.

It’s high time to put aside egos and come together under one umbrella. In short, stop protecting turf and start kissing a little butt.