From April 6, 1929 Aviation magazine.
WITH the 1929 flying season at hand there is considerable speculation in some quarters as to the volume of “joy-hop” traffic that taxi-plane operators may expect this year. The great decrease in such business during the last few months of 1928 has been feared by some operators as an indication that the flying public is “fed up” on short pleasure flights and that the flying of the future is to be done principally over established airlines when time dictates that the passenger employ the fastest available transportation.
Although we may always expect a seasonal decline in pleasure flying with the approach of winter weather, the recent lull probably points beyond a normal reaction to the weather and seems to indicate that the public is through with flying just for the novelty of getting off the ground.
Thrilling flights of all sorts have kept popular interest at a fever heat for the last two years with the result that thousands of people have taken short flights for no good reason at all except a natural curiosity to find out what it was all about. The airplane has now become so commonplace, however, that this sort of passenger traffic cannot be expected to continue. No one pays good money these days to climb in an automobile and ride around the block just for the fun of it.
But there are millions of people who every day use taxicabs, rented autos, or established bus lines because they want to go somewhere or see something. This seems to be the phase upon which the operation of aircraft is entering. For every passenger who a year ago took an airplane ride for the thrill of “first time up,” there are probably at least 10 who this year will ride for reasons of sane pleasure, scenic enjoyment, social desirability, or business necessity.
Of course we will have “first timers” as long as there are 2,000,000 new Americans born every year, but most of these youngsters will probably be getting their first ride in connection with aerial picnics of Sunday School classes, or some equally prosaic introduction.
The point is that the operation of aircraft is no longer a romantic adventure and the small operators of the future must adopt the most modern and constructive methods of doing business. If aviation is to enjoy a continued growth and prosperity it seems imperative that all taxi-plane operators should recognize this situation and make every effort to face the 1929 flying season with a well thought out program for stimulating and serving every legitimate source of traffic.
|A Standard Air Lines Fokker “Universal” in flight over Los Angeles.|
In the past almost every convert of flying has taken his first ride in a small taxi-plane and thereafter has become a prospective flying student, aircraft purchaser, or transport airline patron. There is every reason to believe that intensive promotion of pleasure and scenic flights will bring hitherto unheard of profits to the small operators and will make possible the continued rapid growth of the entire industry.
There are a great many established aircraft operators in Southern California and the resultant competition has brought rapid development of traffic promotion methods. While these methods are not necessarily superior to those employed elsewhere it is hoped that an analysis of them will prove valuable to taxi-plane operators generally.
One of the most commendable features of operations conducted in this territory is that the operators have formed a co-operative organization know as the California Aircraft Operator’s Association, and through this medium they unite to advertise aviation and encourage flying generally. Further than this they maintain a central office through which all business is cleared so that a charter customer, for instance, who finds a particular operator unable to serve him for some reason or other, is referred to the central office and from that point is placed in touch with a member operator who can give the service required.
Another factor in the success of the California Aircraft Operator’s Association is that each member has sought to specialize in a type of traffic not handled by any other operator. This method gives each operator a legitimate phase of traffic promotion without encroaching too severely on some neighboring operator. For instance one operator will concentrate on traffic from commercial organizations, another seeks only Eastern tourists, another goes out after women’s club and social organizations, a fourth specializes on flights for school children and high school flying club members.
The result has been a greater total volume of business and a certain degree of prosperity for all of the associated operators. Within the Association, regular meetings are held and problems are placed before all the members for solution. This has brought better publicity, closer co-operation with the city, state, and national officials who may have any connection with the operation of aircraft; better methods of handling field traffic, and many other very real and valuable improvements in business methods.
Of particular significance is the fact that aerial stunts, performed to attract crowds to the airports, have been almost universally abandoned in Southern California. The most popular flying fields and the ones in this district that are doing the greatest volume of business are those who were the first to ban parachute jumping and violent stunting over their fields. While these exhibitions undoubtedly have a place in connection with specially arranged programs, not intended to boost passenger flights, they should certainly be abandoned as a method of traffic promotion.
|Stunt flying to attract crowds has been mostly abandoned. They do not boost passenger flight traffic.|
No other form of transportation depends for its traffic on a scheme for attracting huge crowds to the main terminal, the plan universally employed being that of going direct to the group who should be interested in traveling by the system in question. This is the technique now being used by aircraft operators of this territory. Each operator analyzes his available sources of traffic and then finds some method of appealing directly to those sources.
It is, of course, not always possible to accurately forecast either the type or the volume of traffic which a given operator may anticipate. It should be possible, however, for any operator to investigate all of the sources of traffic in his locality, equip himself for the particular class of passengers which seems to promise the greatest volume of traffic, organize his flying service to particularly appeal to this class, and then develop specialized methods of advertising which will reach the desired group, or groups, with the least possible waste.
Particularly should it be possible for an operator with one or two seasons of flying experience behind him to review the type of passengers who have brought the greatest volume of profit, and in the future to concentrate on the phase of flying which will further encourage this profitable traffic.
Southern California is particularly fortunate in having a great many different sources of short-hop traffic. Foremost of these are the thousands of tourists who annually visit the West. Then the great oil boom in the southern part of the state has brought a flood of traffic from persons who are interested in the oil well situation and wish to fly over the territory for a comprehensive view of those sections under development.
Still another profitable class of traffic has been from the real estate operators and prospective purchasers, thousands of whom have been flown over subdivisions or real estate developments. These groups are not representative of what other operators throughout the country should expect in the way of traffic, but they do serve to illustrate that each particular section may have sources of traffic peculiar to that locality, and which the aircraft operator can cultivate with profit.
While week-end and holiday pleasure seekers will probably always assure a reasonable business for one or two days of the week, it is the consistent volume of traffic maintained throughout the seven-day period that gives the operator his profit and it is here that group analysis is of the greatest help. Women’s clubs and societies, sales organizations, chamber of commerce groups, gymnasium clubs, student groups and student aviation clubs, groups of factory employees, tourists, and many other classes of people may be induced to fly during week days, and in very considerable numbers.
|As the demand for thrill-seeking flights are reduced, sight-seeing takes their place.|
Dycer’s Airport, for instance, has developed a steady volume of passengers from among men’s and women’s gymnasium classes, and from ladies’ societies of various sorts. Although this airport is located several miles farther from downtown Los Angeles than a number of others, representatives of the Company go directly to the people whose patronage is sought, arrange for a group flight on a given date and if necessary arrange for the transportation, thus assuring that these people will drive the extra miles to the airport which had the enterprise to seek out its patrons.
Another significant example of group analysis is reported by P. M. Goddard, of the Palo Alto School of Aviation, Waco dealer located on the campus of the Stanford University in the central part of the state. Mr. Goddard saw no reason why moonlight flights should not appeal to young college students and arranged for such a service at slightly higher rates. He reports that the success of this innovation has been nothing short of remarkable and there seems no good reason why college students everywhere should not be offered such an aid to romance.
A special flight for whole families has proved a happy thought for the Culver City Airport, west of Los Angeles. This field is located in a quiet neighborhood but one characterized by a great many wealthy families. By encouraging entire families to take scenic trips together, a steady and profitable source of traffic has been developed. Buhl Airsedan planes provide the luxurious cabins which especially appeal to this class and the novelty of the service has proved almost self advertising, each family seeming to sell its neighbor on the idea.
Another service which offers the greatest possibilities to taxi-plane operators everywhere has been developed by the Tanner Motor Livery Co. In this case an analysis of tourist traffic led the Tanner Motor Livery to add an Air Livery service to the parlor car and limousine service which has been provided Eastern tourists for a number of years. The Tanner Motor Livery operates 20 deluxe parlor cars over eight regular scenic routes, and 200 limousines with chauffeurs who drive those customers who seek a more exclusive mode of sightseeing. Two of the parlor car routes include. Clover Field, Santa Monica, in their itinerary. The Air Livery therefore was established at Clover Field with two Stinson cabin planes as initial equipment and a combination bus and cabin plane tour was advertised.
|Passengers on one of Tanner Motor Tours combined ground and air scenic trips about to embark in a plane at Clover Field, Santa Monica.|
The traffic has been sufficient to warrant doubling the number of cabin planes used, within the first six months of operation. Several buses are operated over the two tours which pass Clover Field. These arrive at intervals of 15 or 20 min. and thus permit a steady volume of air traffic throughout the afternoon and on every day of the week. Those passengers who do not take the flight are shown about the field by a guide. Passengers on other divisions of the Tanner Motor Tours are told about the combination bus and air tour and many are thus induced to take advantage of it. Chauffeurs of the 200 limousines are also given a commission for all passengers that they bring to the field and much traffic has resulted from this source.
The logical development of the above service would seem to be for every operator who can, to make arrangements with sightseeing bus companies to bring their passengers to the field for a scenic air tour, a fair commission being paid to the bus operator. Limousine and taxicab operators could also be induced to bring passengers to the airport if they received a commission on all passengers so obtained.
Some local operators are finding hunting and fishing club members a good source of traffic in season. It is not necessary to provide as luxurious a cabin plane for this service as the exclusive tourist traffic demands but the equipment must be able to get in and out of small fields at high altitudes in order to reach the mountain resorts to which the club members desire access.
The Al Ebrite Aero Corp., Long Beach, is located near a very considerable colony of retired business men who live at the beach for purposes of health and recreation and are willing to pay a premium for rapid transportation to the mountain resorts. This trade has been greatly increased by the Ebrite Co., through the purchase of an American Albatross eight place cabin monoplane. It is not particularly difficult to arrange for good landing fields close to mountain resorts in most parts of the country and this class of traffic will probably experience a most satisfactory growth in the near future.
|The American “Albatross” eight-passenger cabin monoplane operated by Ebrite Aero Corporation, Long Beach, for charter work.|
It is not always possible for an operator to get the inside track on business and civic groups, but if any good approach can be arranged it is almost sure to be profitable. The American Aircraft Corporation of Los Angeles is particularly fortunate in this respect in that the president of the company, Theodore T. Hull, is also a vice-president of one of the leading downtown banks and is, in addition, a prominent attorney. Through his many associates he has been able to encourage flying among business executives and various business groups. This type of traffic usually results in much valuable publicity also.
A very profitable source of business has been developed by the Aero Corporation of California directly as a result of analyzing the passenger field. This company found that no one operator was specializing in flights for student groups, and thereafter devoted considerable attention to the development of such traffic. Representatives of the company were sent to all the high schools of the city to assist in forming high school aviation clubs and the students were invited to the flying field and shown through the shops and hangars on special days. On these days student prices were in vogue and the result proved to be an enormous volume of traffic from this source. The lower prices were compensated for by the fact that the passengers were so small that three could normally be carried in a two-passenger cockpit. Of course it is necessary to have these students bring notes from their parents unless accompanied by a responsible adult. Any good three place plane is ideal for this traffic as the younger people do not object to wind or noise, but on the contrary rather enjoy it.
One kick-back of the student rides which should interest every operator is that almost every student who had taken a flight at the reduced rate returned shortly with a companion, or with parents or relatives whom he had induced to fly at the regular rates.
It may be that an operator will be limited as to his traffic by the type of equipment which he has available. On the other hand it is essential that both ground and flying equipment, and personnel, should be carefully selected and organized to serve the class of patrons whose business is sought. There are now on the market, open planes of one to five passenger capacity and closed planes of from one to perhaps 20 passenger capacity. These planes vary widely in performance and equipment and an operator should therefore be quite sure of the demands which will be made upon his plane before any considerable purchase is made.
|A charter party about to leave the field of American Aircraft Corporation in a Fairchild cabin monoplane.|
Students, week-end pleasure seekers, and many people of moderate means may be perfectly satisfied with the light open plane. On the other hand it is not good business to expect wealthy business men or tourists to cramp themselves into an open plane when we have cabin planes of the most luxurious sort now available.
Field equipment and the air trip itself should also be given considerable thought. Some fields may prosper without spending much money on landscaping, passenger waiting rooms, and other field improvements; but in general the field where as much attention is given to keeping the ground equipment presentable as is given to the selection and maintenance of the flying equipment, will prove the most popular.
Still again, it may be that some operators can profitably continue operations for an indefinite period without offering anything more than a “ride in an airplane” but for the most part it is the operators who develop and exploit scenic routes over particularly attractive portions of the landscape, who will enjoy the most profitable trade. Circle tours, beach trips, flights over nearby mountains, deserts, or towns, all should be laid out on maps of the locality, assigned a definite flying time and price per passenger, and then be advertised to prospective passengers.
An excellent example of how it is possible to build a steady and profitable traffic chiefly by so organizing both equipment and flying service, is found in the history of the American Aircraft Corporation. This company bettered a good field by complete grading, a heavy sowing of grass, and provision of an underground sprinkling system, thus insuring a completely dust free runway.
Attractive individual hangars, a show hangar, restaurant, public rest rooms, ticket office and administration building were all painted white with blue trimmings. The entrance from the main highway is well drained and inviting in any weather, while whitewashed stone borders and decorative lawns complete a picture which has proved attractive.
This public interest is capitalized at American Airport by giving the most complete personal service to customers. Entertainment is provided spectators by a loudspeaker system which broadcasts radio music along a half mile front. Pilots and field attendants are picked for their ability to please the public, in addition to the ordinary requirements, and each customer is treated as though he were being conducted on a personally conducted tour.
Assistance is given in donning helmets and goggles, and passengers are helped in and out of the planes by attendants. During the flight, every attempt is made to give a smooth ride without quick zooms or sharp banks and the pilot occasionally throttles the engine while he explains points of interest in the scenery. Another service which is proving extremely popular is the practice of sending planes up in formations, two or more taking off and flying together.
|Four Waco biplanes in formation over the American Aircraft Corporation field at Los Angeles, Calif. Flights of this type are a regular feature of the week-end flying program presented there.|
The American Aircraft Corporation has arranged many special trips and trained the pilots to fly certain routes over beaches, mountains, Hollywood moving picture studios, various oil fields, and other points of interest. Night flights and moonlight rides are also regularly conducted with excellent results. The result of this complete personal service to the passengers has been a consistent repeat ride business and the development of a clientele of customers who make regular use of the profitable charter service.
The Harry Sperl Airdrome, adjoining American Field on the north, is also a good example of a field where the public is attracted because of special attention to the architecture of the field buildings, which in this case are of unique oriental structure. Lincoln Air Lines, north of the Sperl field, has installed a large and well kept lawn between the takeoff apron and the spectator area, thus increasing the spectator interest by eliminating dust and making the field pleasant to look upon.
Excellent use of the radio broadcast loudspeaker system is made by Roger’s Airport, adjoining American Field on the south. Here the loudspeakers are strung out for more than half a mile and a field attendant gives regular sales talks over them between programs of radio music. This employment of loudspeakers seems to have many merits, for it helps to drown the noise of the planes, makes it possible to page any employee, pilot, or customer who may be at some distance from the administration building, keeps the crowd amused, and gives the operator a chance to talk directly and at some length with an audience of several hundred people who are in a receptive mood. It will probably prove a profitable investment for almost any operator to install such a system.
That planes should be kept clean and should be displayed neatly on the field is almost an axiom of taxi-plane operation. An airplane laundry rack developed by the Aero Corporation of California has made it possible to quickly wash an entire airplane and put it back on the line. Every plane operated by this company is so washed at regular intervals, and the resultant impression upon the general public is that the planes are all brand new and in the most perfect condition, which in fact they are, but it would not be apparent if they were covered with grease and mud.
|An original wash rack for planes, which was devised by Walter Hamilton, vice-president of Aero Corporation of California.|
Other companies who have made a wide appeal by preparing a number of optional scenic tours include the California Aerial Transport Co., and the Mutual Aircraft Corporation. The former company has arranged a 100 mi. circle tour of the Los Angeles area and by concentrating on this one trip has been able to build up a very good volume of traffic. Of course there are other trips offered, as well.
The Mutual Aircraft Corporation, through its operation of a night. express route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, has gained much valuable information on night flying and has ample night flying equipment available. Short night flights have therefore been inaugurated by this company with very considerable success. It is interesting to observe here that whereas a year ago there was not a regular night service offered anywhere on the coast, now there are many such, and almost every operator will do night flying if requested. With better field lighting equipment and the increased use of lights on planes, this class of pleasure flying may well become one of the leading sources of business.
Although such large operators as the Western Air Express and Maddux Air Lines are not directly comparable to the average airport conducting a joy hop and charter service, nevertheless these two companies have developed a type of service which many smaller operators might well copy. Western Air Express arranges for round trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with one way by air and the other by ocean steamer; while Maddux Air Lines provides such a service except that the return trip is made over a scenic bus line. In either case the round trip fare is lower than the corresponding two one-way fares.
There seems to be a field here for the development of short airplane flights to resorts at lakes, rivers, mountains or ocean; the passenger flying out and returning at his leisure by means of surface transportation. Although such service enters the realm of regular transport operation, still it can hardly be classed with the larger companies operating big planes over long distances, and will probably become a regular phase of taxi-plane operation in the future.
Certainly it would be to the advantage of the aircraft operator if such a service might be advertised and arranged for through the ticket agencies of railways, bus lines, steamer lines, and electric car systems. It is apparent that future development of taxi-plane traffic will depend largely upon better personal service, more complete planning of routes and schedules, and a very high degree of field organization and equipment selection.
Having organized for a selected type of traffic there still remains the problem of how best to advertise the service offered. Probably every operator in the Southern California area now advertises flights from a scenic, social, educational, or business viewpoint. Thrill or novelty are not even considered. Prospects are sold on the desirability of viewing mountains, orchards, harbors, oil fields, industrial districts, etc., from the air. Constant emphasis is placed on the fact that an airplane can go further in less time than any other form of sight-seeing vehicle, and that the visibility in all directions is multiplied as though one were on a very high mountain peak.
Last, but by no means least, a comparison is made between the dusty, dirty, heated motor bus or auto, with its inescapable traffic delays and dangers; and the airplane riding smoothly and luxuriously through the clean blue sky above a scenic fairyland of changing panorama.
In getting this message over to the public it is necessary to adapt the type of advertising to the group which is being particularly appealed to. A field located on a leading boulevard can afford extensive loudspeaker systems, large and attractive advertising signs on the property, illustrated folders for distribution among visitors, and a direct salesman to mingle with the visitors and sell them tickets while they are in a buying mood.
On the other hand a more isolated field may resort to direct mail advertising to select groups, advertising over the radio, in the newspapers, at neighborhood theatres, or indirect advertising gained through the services of a publicity man or by showing favors to newspaper men in return for stories. In general, it seems true that the operator gaining the most favorable publicity enjoys the greatest volume of patronage.
|Some typical advertisements of California air taxi and transport operators. Note that the thrill and the novelty of flying are not emphasized, but that the advertising features the speed and comfort of the plane.|
Of course no form of advertising eliminates the necessity of personal contact. The final ticket sale, and in most cases the final decision to fly at all, must be the result of direct personal selling. For this reason it is necessary for the operator or his representatives to constantly contact business groups, give talks before luncheon clubs, student organizations, and in some cases, conduct an almost house to house canvass of people whom he has reason to believe should be customers of his.
The Aero Corporation of California has done much of the direct personal contact work through Fred Hattoom, advertising manager, as well as other members of the company who give after dinner talks and welcome any opportunity to speak to any group on the subject of aviation. Mr. Hattoom has devoted much time to visiting student aero clubs, helping to organize them, and arranging special events or flights for them, and has found this one of the most valuable forms of direct advertising.
With regard to the placing of traffic solicitors out on the line of spectators, this practice is now followed by almost all operators in this territory. Records of the Aero Corp. show that after placing two good solicitors on the line a little more than a year ago, business increased more than 700 per cent within four months. Much the same results are reported by Rogers Airport; Don Cardiff, Waco dealer at Bakersfield, and several other leading operators. It is essential that these men who come in contact with the spectators should be polite and affable and should rather attempt to sell the prospect on aviation in general than to high pressure him into a flight against his will.
An excellent form of indirect advertising is employed by the Eddie Martin Airport, Santa Ana. Once a year, an aerial breakfast is held, at this field, which is attended by aviation celebrities from all over the state. At the same time, civic leaders from surrounding towns fly to the function and much favorable publicity is thus created. Then at regular intervals during the year this field arranges special flights for chambers of commerce from the surrounding towns. The flight is given at greatly reduced rates and brings no direct profit, but the resulting publicity through the newspapers, and the prestige attaching to flying leading business men, has proved an excellent way of increasing traffic.
Since much of the American Aircraft Corporation’s business comes as a result of repeat rides, this company goes to great length to provide every passenger with further information about the field and the services offered. Several well illustrated folders have been prepared and are given to each passenger. In addition there are attractive signs on the sides of the hangars telling of other scenic flights.
|The shops and hangars of Aero Corporation of California and Standard Air Lines.|
Then in the waiting room there are many photos of American Aircraft planes and pilots, both on the ground and in the air, and aerial views are displayed of points of interest seen by passengers on the various scenic tours. This direct appeal to customers is comparatively cheap advertising and brings a steady flow of profitable repeats.
Sometimes clever publicity stunts can be arranged at very little expense. For instance, the Aero Corporation of California has on several occasions supplied ushers of downtown Los Angeles theatres with complete aviation togs for wear during the showing of an air picture. In return, the theatre permits signs in the foyer telling the public the name of the aviation company supplying the equipment, and of even greater value has been the fact that the coveralls worn by the ushers carry in large letters the name of the flying company supplying them.
Still another form of theatre advertising used with success by the Aero Corporation has been the planning of an Aero Corporation night about once a month at certain neighborhood theatres. Ten free tickets for air rides may be given in return for permission to show a film depicting activities at the field. Not only does the publicity bring many patrons but each free ticket usually brings a pay passenger along.
Direct newspaper advertising has been used with good results by the American Aircraft Corporation; the Associated Aircraft Corp., American Eagle distributors; and some others. Where this newspaper advertising is employed, it is essential that some particular service be stressed and the ad seems most productive when placed on either the travel page or the sport page of the paper.
In general, it is probably necessary to advertise aviation more than any other service or commodity offered the public. This is in spite of the almost unlimited publicity which the industry has received. The answer is that the average man is not used to buying air transportation and inherently rebels against it. In finally overcoming this natural reluctance to do business, there seems to be no form of advertising which can equal direct personal contact.
The above methods of traffic promotion represent some of the best efforts of an area which is now enjoying a greater per capita air travel than any other section of the world. Nevertheless, it is certain that in analyzing traffic sources, organizing to serve special types of traffic, and advertising the services offered, the aircraft operator can learn much from long established transportation companies who have faced these problems in the past.
Methods in the aircraft operating industry are still very sketchy and the operator who can best apply to air travel the lessons which have been learned on the ground will undoubtedly forge ahead.