The Competition

I was scared to death of the local competition. Whenever I heard that a new plane was being sold locally, I knew immediately that my business future was certainly over.

Most of the time I was wrong and the new plane sales fizzled rapidly as the newest entry found out that training, repairs, and flying ability all factored in.

When the Rotec came to Morganfield, KY, just south of me but across the Ohio River, I felt they would certainly take over the market. Although the price was about a thousand dollars less than the same model Quicksilver, the quality of the parts, the assembly, the lack of training, the lack of parts, etc. created an almost laughable situation at times.

For example... Two of my good customers flew from Henderson, KY, to the Morganfield airport just to see the competition. They saw some pretty sails and some rather enthusiastic by-standers. When they landed, the by-standers immediately rushed to their planes for a good look since they were actually flying.

The Rotec people were busy taxiing up and down the runway, apparently testing the steering or perhaps breaking in the engines. My friends patiently talked to the by-standers about the Quicksilvers they were flying. One had a pretty black weight-shift Double Quick and the other had an MX. They asked the people if the Rotecs had flown any that day and the response was "no, not today, or even at all".

Moving over to the Rotec Rallye for a closer look, they observed the mechanics twisting on the carb knobs, changing the belt tension, fiddling with the clutch, etc. but still no flying. After about a half hour, they finally were asked if they might assist in determining why the Rallye wouldn't get off the ground. It made rather strange noises at higher throttle settings and had the Rotec mechanic totally baffled. "The prop is on backwards", said one of my friends. "What, it can't be. I'm a pilot and I know which way a prop goes !"

This response was followed by some quick glances at the Quicksilvers which actually flew. They finally realized their error. The prop was on backwards, They were used to seeing it from the front of their Cessnas, not the back as on a pusher configuration.

This realization began a whole work frenzy to get it switched to the curved side forward. But their troubles were just beginning. With the prop turned around, the plane had more than enough power to get quickly off the ground and that it did. Seemed like the person flying it had never actually been up in one though. Flew around for ten minutes with what can only be described as "darting at the runway".

The landing ended down a steep ravine. The ground control was poor with the loose strings used for control and pushing real hard on both pedals just stretched the string. The touchdown wasn't real bad but the plane darted off the runway and headed downhill towards a deep cut from erosion. Rather than stopping short, the pilot gave the plane full throttle and impacted the other side hard enough to destroy the lower portion of the plane.

Bad decision... but since they had purchased five planes to become a dealer, the available parts supply seemed ample. They fixed it and by the next day, it was ready to crash again, and again, and again....The two people involved in the dealership consisted of a GA pilot and a non-flying harware store owner. The GA pilot had refused to fly the plane letting the son of the other partner to try. He dropped out of the deal after this week of crashes.

This is how most of the dealerships went... no training, no ability, no backing by other ul-ers.

A similar situation developed from a Wizard dealer. He sold several planes but actually, he was never seen flying any of the planes. He had one he called his own but it never flew.

But he left a trail of crashed and damaged customer planes, a broken arm here and there, all because he knew so little and his customers knew even less.

The wizard situation got even funnier when the home office set up another dealer nearby, a satelite from another dealer in ILLinois. The two met at a fly-in, with the Kentucky dealer using the Illinois dealers planes to show to prospective customers.

The quicksilver flyers got a great kick out of them arguing as the two from Kentucky had their uniforms from some sort of fraternity, small fez type hats with tassles,,,,,,,,,,,!!

My only criticism of these people was that they left a trail of disillusioned people and several planes with no support, and little value in the following years.

The Star Flight dealer was a real pip. Tried to do it the right way, or so it seemed. this person ran a very large FBO at the Owensboro, KY, airport. He laid out a rigid sequence of flying lessons so that someone wanting to fly their rental plane could do so. A father/son team followed the rigorous lesson plan of several hours in a 152, five hours in the Citabria, no solo time and a written test. Their flight in the Star Flight was fun and not spectacular at all, just good fun. The FBO kept a barrel of pre-mix in the hangar and all seemed to be great at first.

Problems started when the FBO allowed his KING Air buddies and his LEARJET buddies to try the plane. They did really bad by most standards as many take-offs resulted in a slow roll into the ground at full throttle, or rather full throttle and chop the throttle and then full throttle and chop the throttle... Well, you get the p

One spectacular flight was viewed by several of my friends who were just visiting one afternoon. The FBO had instructed his newest GA buddy turned ul pilot how to avoid crashing on take-off. Well, he did get it off the ground, but never cut the throttle at all. Headed due west across the ramp area, across the taxiway, across the active runway... The rampboy grabbed his radio and told the control tower what was happening. The plane flew quite erratically about a mile to the other side of the airport and disappeared behing some trees. The FBO and the rampboy had jumped into a pick-up and were in hot pursuit when the plane magically appeared from behind the trees and headed back directly towards the FBO's office building. People in the second floor restaurant were standing looking out the window as they had heard the radio messages shutting down the active runways. As the plane neared the large hangar and office complex, the pilot appeared to crash it into the grass just before the ramp area. A full power approach with no flare is the best description anyone came up with.

He wasn't hurt but the plane was a real mess. I was approached by The Turners at Oshkosh a year later to sell the Star Flight line of ultralight. I said no as Quicksilver was more than a satisfactory group to deal with and I didn't want to dilute my business with other brands. I did ask how the group at Bull Frog Aviation at Owensboro was doing and Dick Turner replied that they hadn't sold many planes that he could remember but they were his "best parts customer in the country".

Nuff said... most had no support from the factory when it came to manuals or even any requirements other than just paying for the planes.

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