Scariest thing in the world to a passenger
“BUT PATRICK,” you feverishly type in the comments of this blog, “STATISTICS FOR OVER HALF A CENTURY HAVE PROVEN THAT GA IS SAFER THAN ANY OTHER FORM OF PERSONAL TRAVEL!”
Its not about the actual safety record of general aviation aircraft, its the PERCEPTION of safety. Why do we assume that people can override thousands of years of honed evolutionary traits that have developed the practical fear of falling just like that?
“SEE THE STATS PROVE THAT IF YOU FLY WITH ME YOU PROBABLY WON’T DIE! LET’S GO FLYING!”
Commerical air travel has evolved to the level of use today because it focused on making the passengers FEEL SAFER. This involved practical safety measures (need examples), but a lot I believe had to do with the perception of safety. Jets were installed so airplanes could fly above turbulence, Flight attendants were registered nurses (to alleviate the passenger’s fear of being trapped in a tube in the sky while having a heart attack and no one to offer medical aid), aircraft seats double as floatation devices.
All of these innovations were messages to passengers saying “We care about how safe you feel, don’t be afraid, come fly with us!” They didn’t just tell passengers it was safer, they worked hard to demonstrate to passengers that it was. It still took a couple of decades, but eventually passengers finally relented and BOOM! Commercial aviation exploded and killed off its main competitor in long distance travel, the passenger train.
BIG JET = SAFE
This strategy has worked so well most people have it hardwired into their brains BIG JET = SAFE. This has worked so well it’s sort of come round to bite the airlines in the ass regarding regional carriers and turboprops. Ask a non-pilot relative or friend who has done some moderate air travel in the last few years, they will undoubtedly tell you how much they loath getting on a Dash 10.
Not a "real" airplane
WHY IN THE HELL DO I HAVE TO RID IN THIS LITTLE PUDDLE-JUMPER INSTEAD OF A REAL PLANE? WHAT ARE THOSE SPINNING THINGS UNDER THE WINGS? WHAT IS THIS, 1930? MAN IT’D BE REALLY EMBARRASING TO DIE IN THIS PIECE OF CRAP!
So what can GA as an industry, specifically aircraft manufacturers do to make passengers feel safer?...
Oh wait, were you expecting an answer? HA! Honestly I don’t know, if you’re expecting specific technological, marketing, or sales solution that’ll get your hot wife in the air instead with you instead of staying behind at the FBO lounge (WHERE YOU JUST KNOW THAT SOME MID-TWENTY NETJETS CITATION JOCKEY IS FLIRTING WITH HER RIGHT THIS MINUTE DAMNIT!), I don’t have it.
But a smart company would find out, because a smart aircraft company would realize that in GA we’ve just about reached an upper limit on what matters to the person in the left seat (avionics, performance, cost of ownership) and while we’ve got a person sitting on the right that we’ve completely ignored. A smart company will start take a Right Seat Design approach to building aircraft (and the company), because in the future that’s what will sell new airplanes.
I plan to start such a company.