14 November 2007

Aviation Rants

Please allow me today to be a bit pedantic. As most of you know, I enjoy aviation. I enjoy flying, I enjoy watching airplanes, I enjoy reading about airplanes (and pilots). Every once in a while, I also enjoy working around airplanes.

I was at work the other night, and as is my custom, I brought my paper work to the other facility on my way to top off my fuel truck. While over there, I noticed some pictures on the wall. Now this past summer, we have been going through a rather lengthy remodeling process, updating our FBO facility (finally). So there has been painting, repainting, remodelling of the bathrooms, new furniture, new HD Plasma widescreens (four!), new desks and workstations, and the re-organization of the work areas.

Anyway, these pictures I saw were newly hung in the newly painted and newly carpeted hallway. There were quite a few, chronicling the history of the airport, and local aviation and history. There was a boat on Reeds Lake, for instance, and a photo from the '20s displaying old hangar buildings and a ramp area.

A few of the pictures had airplanes on them, as would be expected. One was of the first furniture delivery by air from Grand Rapids, another one was some local military figures standing next to an airplane, and the third was a gentleman sitting in his aircraft, all smiles for the camera.

The pictures were nicely matted and framed, all in all a wonderful compliment to local aviation, something that should be expected when one enters a facility on an airport. At least in my mind, anyway.


But, and this is a massive but,

The captions were wrong.

I could understand this if this were, say, in a doctor's office. Or perhaps a company that was close to the airport, but not directly involved in aviation, say, the management offices of the Airport Business Park, or something like that. If Applebees opened up a neighborhood grill right next door to the airport, I would expect that the captions might not exactly be 100% correct.

But I work at the airport. My company is in the aviation industry. How did they mess this up?

In the picture of the man sitting in his cockpit, the aircraft is labeled as an Aerocoupe. First off, it's not Aerocoupe, it's Ercoupe. It is a rather unconventional spelling, and I would normally have overlooked this common error, but the name of the aircraft was painted on the side of said aircraft, plainly visible in the picture!
Now, they did get the picture from the Grand Rapids Library picture archives, and it's mislabeled there as well...but still...with all of our combined experience with aviation, there has to be somebody that knows this stuff?? Surely I can't be the only one?? Even if the person doing this project hasn't spent their whole lives around aviation, did they even look at the picture??

The next picture I take issue with for a couple of reasons. First off, consistency. If you are going to specifically name one aircraft, you probably should attempt to specifically name all the aircraft. The caption on this picture read "Miss Grand Rapids". It was billed as the first shipment by air of furniture from Grand Rapids. This picture was also taken from the library archives, although this picture was labeled in more detail in the archives than on the caption. In the archives, it was labeled as a Ford-Stout monoplane. I could have handled that in the caption.

However, in my life-long continuing quest to put too much effort into trivial circumstances, I did a quick Internet search for Ford produced aircraft. It took less than five minutes for me to find the answer I was looking for. William B. Stout designed and built the aircraft in 1924, and called it the 2-AT (it was his second design for Air Transport). The United States Postal Service purchased two of them for airmail routes. Four of them were purchased by the Ford Motor Company for private company use. In 1925, Ford Motor Company purchased Stout's company, and continued to build the aircraft as Ford-Stout 2-AT, which they also called the "Tin Goose", and sometimes "Air Pullman".
The second reason I took issue with this picture is the fact that it is celebrating the cargo in the caption, not the aircraft. I should mention that the cargo and circumstances of the flight are, again, clearly visible on a banner in the foreground of the picture. This is just a minor quibble, and again, I feel like the point of the picture is the airplane, not the cargo. The cargo, and the circumstances, are integral to the moment, and therefore the picture, but give due credit to the reason the picture is important to us at the airport.

The last picture is labeled simply as a "Training Plane". There are two men standing in front of it, in military uniform. This caption I take issue with because, again, it is not consistent. Let's try to properly name all aircraft, not just the one that is grossly misspelled. The aircraft pictured is, in my mind, one of the most important aircraft of the 20th century.
And it's darned close to the number one spot in that list. The aircraft is a Boeing PT-17 Stearman. Again, can we look at the picture? The name is listed right on the aircraft, clearly visible in the picture. And when you take the time to list by name the two majors standing in front of the plane, why not take the time to properly name the aircraft, which is, again, the reason the picture is important (or should be) to us at the airport.

For those of us who work in aviation, it is not simply something that is neat to watch every once in a while. We make our living by aviation. Aviation is the reason that we have jobs, and those jobs are the reason we can afford housing, health care, transportation, and entertainment. For someone to not take even a passing interest in this demeans the whole process.

We say that we strive for perfection in our customer service, in our professionalism, and our work ethic. My company is big into customer service. How professional would it be for one of our customers to walk by those pictures and read the captions, misspellings and omitted details?

My guess is that he would maybe think twice about letting us service his aircraft. If they don't care about those pictures, do they really care about my airplane out on the ramp?

My rant is over. Until someone mentions Hollywood...

Oh, and before I forget, even though they are watermarked, these pictures are property of the Grand Rapids Public Library. Just in case somebody wants to get me in trouble.



Archane said...

I can give you one possible reason why the captions are incomplete and/or wrong, even though it's still not a good reason: It's possible that the GR Public Library doesn't have final rights to the pictures, and that they have the right to distribute, but not to alter, which means that without the proper permissions and fees they (and the airport) can't crop, change or edit either the photos or the captions. Either way, it may be worth bringing to someone's attention.

(2nd cousin) Kim

The Wingnut said...

Hmmm....That is a point. From the way they had the pictures displayed on the library's website though, it seemed to me that whomever was in charge of the project at my company simply ordered the pictures, and then did the matting and framing separately, not through the library. There were differences in the captions between the library and the captions on our hung pictures, just enough to make me think that whomever did it simply copied some of what they read on the library's website to create their own caption. And didn't bother trying to figure out what they were actually copying.

oh well...