Many readers of this blog may be familiar with Murray Smith, editor and publisher of Professional Pilot magazine, who passed away recently at age 89. Murray was a trailblazer, a larger-than-life personality and an ad salesman from the old school (likely to greet you with a gift-wrapped necktie and a new joke). He was also someone who profoundly influenced our industry, particularly when it came to product support.
A passionate, ATP-rated pilot who for years kept a Beech Barron at Reagan National Airport, Murray launched Professional Pilot in 1967. The idea evolved from his Navy experience as a technical writer evaluating and reporting on systems such as radar and deicing equipment—the type of information he thought would be of interest to civilian pilots.
His unique insight was that the burgeoning field of corporate aviation would attract an avid and distinct readership. His personal connections with these aviators became the driving force of his magazine’s success. With stories not just about airplanes, but about the colorful people who built this segment of the industry.
Murray was a determined independent. Professional Pilot was 100 percent his and reflected his interests — the growth of corporate aviation and the professionals at its core. His covers almost always featured pilots, dispatchers and maintenance technicians.
In 1991, Professional Pilot was the first publication to launch a pilot survey on the product support of business aircraft OEMs. It’s safe to say that a few may have grumbled at the results (maybe including some of my predecessors).
Wisely, Murray invited OEM management to his humble offices in Alexandria, Virginia, and over many cups of Pyrex-brewed coffee, read every comment card submitted. Thus, began an annual pilgrimage to Alexandria. Managers soon saw the merits of collecting this customer feedback to make future product improvements — and, of spending a little time with Murray. To his credit, Murray’s surveys created accountability. Accountability that incentivized all OEMs to seek the best possible solutions for their customers.
Today, product support is integral to the aircraft sales process. It’s not enough to make a great airplane. OEMs must deliver advanced, comprehensive customer service. That’s the Dassault mantra. It’s in our DNA. And it’s why we’ve recently added service centers in many more locations around the world, so our customers will know we’re always close by.
Certainly, service organization investment would have gotten more attention over time. But it’s no exaggeration to say that Murray Smith helped it along.
Murray loved this industry. But more importantly, he loved the people of this industry, which is why he made an indelible impression on those of us at Dassault (generations of us, in fact) who got to know him.
Senior Vice President,Worldwide Falcon Customer Service & Service Center Network.