Are You Headed for a Crash Landing?
by Joe Bonura, CSP
Home Of The Brave
After watching the news recently about USAir Flight 1549 that went
down in New York's Hudson Bay, and seeing the brave and courageous
efforts of the pilot and crew, I was reminded of an incident that
happened to my daughter and me in 1994.
My daughter Ann and I attended the 1994 National Speakers Association
workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we were so excited about
the workshop that we could not stop talking about it long enough
to take a breath. We boarded Flight 632 at 6:30 PM for the short
flight from Charlotte to Louisville. We were talking so much that
we did not realize that the plane had already taken off. Because
I am a private pilot, I noticed there was something wrong because
the plane stopped climbing, and it leveled off. When I glanced at
the passengers and flight attendants, no one seemed aware of anything
unusual. The smiling flight attendants moved down the aisle taking
our drink orders and distributing peanuts. So I ignored my imagined
threat and returned to conversation with Ann. Suddenly, the pilot's
voice confirmed my concern, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are having
a problem with the landing gear. We will be back with you shortly."
The Flip Of A Switch
Aware that I knew flight jargon, Ann asked me what was happening.
I told her that it was probably an electrical failure, and they
would flip the switch a few times, and that usually took care of
it. A woman sitting across the aisle heard my comments so she asked
what was happening. When Ann told her that I was a pilot, heads
of all passengers nearby turned to my direction. I repeated to everyone
how the pilot would attempt to recycle the gear by flipping the
We Will Be Back
That explanation satisfied everyone until the pilot blared over
the PA system two minutes later, "Ladies and gentlemen, we
have tried recycling the gear several times unsuccessfully. We will
be back in a moment."
The Resident Expert
Ten people turned to me with a what-happens-now look on their faces.
Suddenly I was an expert on flight emergencies. I told them the
co-pilot would probably try to retract and extend the gear manually
as in the movie Memphis Belle. I assured them that manual extension
of the gear generally works.
Get The Adrenaline Flowing
The pilot returned to the PA system and announced, "We attempted
to operate the gear manually, and we can only get the main gear
extended. The nose gear indicator light is showing that it is not
down and locked. The flight attendants will prepare you for a crash
landing." Now I do not know about you, but I always thought
an airline would be a bit more sensitive when announcing the bad
news! I guess he wanted to get our adrenaline flowing, just in case.
Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire
The flight attendants took their practiced positions in the aisle
as their smiles faded to looks of concern. Over the years, I noticed
that whenever flight attendants gave safety instructions before
a flight, most of the passengers paid little attention. Not tonight.
Everyone's attention was focused on the attendants, even when they
reviewed the instructions for buckling and removing a seat belt.
They asked the men to remove their ties and sharp objects from their
pockets, such as pens and pencils, and they told the women to remove
their high-heeled shoes. They warned us that smoke and fire might
be a problem. They pointed out the exit locations and floor lights
leading to the doors. When they asked people, sitting in the exit
seats, if they wanted to take the exit door responsibility, all
four of them refused, but thank goodness for four big guys sitting
behind us who were willing to take their places.
A Wing And A Prayer
The pilot's voice pierced the tension that was building as he announced,
"I will do a fly-by over the tower to see if the front landing
gear is visible. While it would not guarantee that the gears locked,
it is better than no gear at all. Do not worry though, folks, I
have twenty years experience under my wing." His words had
a calming effect. I was impressed with the professionalism and sensitivity
of the flight attendants as they walked us through emergency procedures
and explained how to maintain the crash position. The lights would
be turned off two minutes before touchdown so that our eyes could
adjust to the dark. Just before they turned out the lights, I glanced
at my daughter Ann who had a tear running down her cheek. I thought
of two things: she was the young mother of my three-year-old granddaughter
who was waiting for her Mommy to return home, and she was my own
newborn baby girl, wheeled from the delivery room, with a pink ribbon
in her hair and a tear running down her cheek. As the lights went
out, we said I love you and prayed together for God's protection.
Bounce, Thud, Skip
The pilot flew past the tower. Although the gear was down, the
tower could not tell if it was locked. In an attempt to jar the
nose gear into a locked position, the pilot allowed the main landing
gear to hit the ground for the first time. The plane bounced two
feet off the ground and came back with a heavy thud. It skipped
over the runway, went down with another thud, and popped back up
again. On the third time that the main gear hit the runway, it stuck,
but the pilot held the nose gear up for what seemed like an eternity
to dissipate speed. He very cautiously, as though landing on an
eggshell, touched the nose wheel to the cement. The gear held and
the ordeal of flight 632 was over. All of the passengers and crew
gave the captain a resounding ovation from a seated position.
Be A Pro
I want to leave you with this. Customers expect your knowledge
and professionalism to match that of the pilot of Flight 632 whether
you are selling widgets or wombats. When we stepped on that plane,
just like the passengers in New York a few weeks ago, we expected
the captain and crew to know what they were doing. The captain knew
how to use the controls, but he also knew how to control his environment.
He was a problem solver, and we trusted him with our lives. The
pilot thought three-dimensionally and solved the problem.
Who Do You Trust?
When customers do business with you, they trust you with their
money. A customer depends on you to see and understand all the dimensions
of his or her investment. He expects you to take his/her investment
in your product or service to a safe and happy landing.
What must you do to be as good at what you do, as the pilot in
New York, or the pilot in this story? Figure it out, and then go
© 2009 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
To see Joe and hear one of his favorite selling tips,
follow this link to a video he created to share with folks who are
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Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
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Louisville, KY 40245
(502) 553-1746 phone
About Joe Bonura
His background is unique. Joe owned and operated
a highly successful advertising agency for 18 years. During that
time, he found his advertising campaigns were more effective when
he educated his clients in the areas of sales and service. He
conducted training seminars for his clients as added value. Word
spread that Joe was a quality speaker and more and more people
asked him to speak. The demand became so high that he sold the
agency to three of his associates to start his own speaking and
consulting company, Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
Joe is past President of the Kentucky Speakers
Association and a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a prestigious
designation earned by only 8% of the 3,600 member National Speakers
Association. Joe presently serves on the board of directors of
He is author of the audio learning systems "Three-Dimensional
Selling®" and "Turning Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Excitement®."
He is author of the book Throw the Rabbit—The Ultimate
Approach to Three-Dimensional Selling.
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