While Greg Lane and I were shooting a video on the Waco Classic for tomorrow's Sun 'n Fun coverage today, I got into a conversation with Wayne Fischer from Mooney. Fischer has been in the airplane sales business forever and has seen more downturns than most of us have seen birthdays.
But with experience comes wisdom and he told me he's wondering if the current downturn hasor maybe shouldreset the clock on the standard business model for aircraft makers. "I think it's time we think about having sales drive production rather the other way around," he says.
This is a good point and it's not the first time the concept has been advanced in one form or another. All businesses are cyclic to some degree, but aircraft manufacturing is downright bi-polar. It tends to boom along in high gear and bypass the trail-off stage into full nosedown pitchover, only to recover and repeat the cycle.
Fischer thinks maybe a more sane model would envision airplanes not being build until they're actually ordered. Heretofore, the factories have tended to base their economics on a certain presumably profitable output and then flog the sales and marketing department to move the merchandise.
It reminds of a story former Lycoming prez Phil Boob told me once about his days as a sales exec at Piper. In one of the countless downturns, the frustrated CEO asked, "You mean in the entire world, we can't sell just one Cheyenne?" The answer was a timid yes.
I don't know if such a re-tooling can work or not. Those of us not in the arena can make great sport of telling other people how to run their business or their industry. But Fischer knows the business and the industry. His idea rings true to me.