Aerospace and social media have forever been intertwined, although the name has changed over time. Once known simply as "hangar talk", the conversations were probably tales of heroic flying experiences, held under open engine cowls.
Today, the hangar looks quite different. The conversation is a global, non-stop, stream of blogs, internet videos and tweets.
Some aerospace bosses, however, seem slow to realise they work in a new communications world that can't be controlled by traditional public relations.
For example, on the morning of Saturday 26 April, Boeing flew its P-8A Poseidon for the first time. Not wanting to waste big news on the weekend, Boeing issued a press release the following Monday and was last with its own news; onlookers at Renton airport broke the story, with pictures, on Twitter and the internet.
Separately, several 787 flight-test engineers calling themselves the Underground Flight Test Bloggers set about chronicling their unit's contribution to the programme. Employee blogs are often anonymous platforms for sometimes cynical criticism, but these 787 engineers openly existed to proclaim the achievements of the much-criticised programme.
Boeing clearly preferred secrecy. The blog was active for just days before being closed by its authors at the "request" of upper management.
Following the abrupt closure of the Flight Test Blogger's collaboration, Boeing - ironically by way of its own blog - blasted users of so-called social media, insisting that "a comprehensive...company view" is the only "definitive explanation of what's happening".
Boeing, and its rivals, no doubt wish the world would be satisfied with their official information, but the fact is that much of what they do is done in plain view - anybody can watch aircraft taking off - and their success or failure bears on the lives, livelihoods and imaginations of a huge and extended community of employees, local residents, customers, suppliers and enthusiasts.
Boeing and its kind may dream of some good old days when they operated behind closed doors and eventually unveiled their work to an admiring audience. But like it or not the world isn't - and never really was - like that.
To influence the hangar talk, join in. The alternative is like trying to put the landing gear down after the belly has hit the tarmac.
Aerospace and social media -- old friends
This article is taken from the Flight International leader article* (issue 5 - 11 May). It is not my writing, but reflects the thinking of the Flight Group editorial team. The article seeks to explain how social media fits into the larger world of aerospace journalism. Boeing is singled out in this article, but the comments apply generally to the industry as a whole.
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