Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"The Sonic Boom Salesman" Flies Again!

One of the greatest thrills I’ve had so far in the 21st century was the day I blasted off the runway at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland in an F-16 Viper along with the pilot-in-command, Brigadier General David Wherley.

The flight included a supersonic run twenty-five miles off the Maryland coast with speed building to Mach 1.5, one and a half times the speed of sound (1000 + MPH). Aerobatics followed that with aileron rolls, barrel rolls and a loop. The flight was topped off with a high performance vertical climb.

It was quite a ride and given as an orientation for the two half-day programs I presented for the Washington, DC Air National Guard the day prior. The morning program was Leadership When the Heat's On for officers and non-commissioned officers. Then in the afternoon I presented to the recruiters my There Are No Limits program.

Breaking the sound barrier was not new for me. I have broken the barrier almost 2000 times in various high performance fighters I flew in the Air Force, which included the 1200-MPH "Voodoo." In lay terms that's twenty miles per minute or one mile every three seconds!

At those speeds you can break plenty of windows and knock off great chunks of plaster. That's how I picked up the nickname, "The Sonic Boom Salesman." I went out to the communities hard hit by these "booms" and spoke to the hostile, upset civilian audiences. My speech title back in those years was "Better Boomed than Bombed"––a hard hitting speech!

And, yes, I can handle any audience you put in front of me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Butt Snappers

After speaking ten years of my life flying supersonic at twice the speed of sound a major problem was solved by the Air Force. To this day I think it has some real cross over value to the business world.

As jet fighters were being introduced to the Air Force, a problem arose with ejection seats. Jets flew faster and higher than their propeller predecessors and pilot ejection, in cases of emergency, became a more sophisticated and dangerous predicament. Ejection seats were separated from the cockpit by an explosive charge equal to a 35mm artillery shell to insure that the pilot cleared the aircraft before the parachute deployed.

The pilot simply needed to roll forward out of the seat once clear of the aircraft and the parachute would be free to open. parachute would be free to open. Unfortunately, a common problem started to pop up (no pun intended) in some ejections. Some pilots would pull up both arm rests exposing the ejection seat triggers and squeeze them detonating the explosive that launched the pilot and seat 150 to 175 feet above the aircraft.

Then, instead of letting go, some pilots kept a death grip on the seat handles, reluctant to separate themselves from the last tangible piece of the airplane that had, until then, always been a safe place. As long as the pilot remained in the ejection seat, the parachute remained trapped against the seat back, unable to open. Striking the ground at 200 miles per hour, still sitting in an ejection seat with an unopened parachute will ruin your whole day!

The Air Force went back to the ejection seat manufacturers with the problem and the government contractors returned with a solution. The new design called for a 2-inch webbed strap that attached to the front edge of the seat, under the pilot and behind him, and attached to an electronic take-up reel behind the headrest. Two seconds after ejection, the electronic take-up reel would immediately take up the slack, forcing the pilot forward out of the seat thus freeing the parachute to open. The pilot was “butt-snapped “ to safety.

A body in motion tends to remain in motion and a body at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an external force. Dr. Alexis Carrel used this definition of inertia in a sentence:

Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia.

In a seminar, I once quoted Dr. Carrel and gave a lengthy dissertation on the role of external forces to overcoming inertia. After I had finished, one of those in attendance came up to me and winked.

“I know what you’re trying to say about overcoming inertia,” the man said. “What you mean to say is that we need butt snappers on every chair around the office.”

A butt-snapper, as he described it, is something akin to a spring-loaded whoopee cushion. The bottom line is that, when detonated, it launches your rear end out of the chair. So, if words like external forces overcoming inertia leave you uninspired, think about what butt snappers on everyone’s chairs would do to productivity around the office. Think about how much a butt snapper on your own chair would do for your personal productivity.

Excerpted from Danny Cox's book, Seize the Day: 7 Steps to Achieving the Extraordinary in an Ordinary World.