Flight – Part 2: The Bear and the Windy City

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In 1926 the Woods family entered the aviation business. By 1929, the Woods’ Arrow Aircraft and Motor Corp. was a world’s leading aircraft producer. Pace Woods must have been about 30 when he was doing the initial marketing of his family’s airplanes, and Chicago would have been ripe with clients for plucking.

Built in Lincoln and selling to the whole country, Woods decided that a bear would accompany him on his maiden flight to the Windy City. Maybe because the bear is a symbol of the city of Chicago, or perhaps it was simply because the sight of a small bear can be delightful. At any rate the pilot, the young Woods, and the young bear would fly and descend together, alighting in the landing field among hundreds of Chicagoans gathered to see the machine and the animal.

The bear tactic combined the kind of fun and audacity that the family would mix together to put their positive touch on all endeavors. But this was surely at least a somewhat complicated plan – arranging for a crowd in Chicago to meet the arrival of your company’s new product (A Glistening Arrow Sport Airplane!), printing fliers, obtaining a bear, etc.

Not everything can be considered, and in the wide world of unintended consequences, calculating for the effects of altitude pressure on the ears of a young bear did not get on the marketing plan. As the anecdote goes, they got the bear loaded in the plane and everything was fine for takeoff and during the flight. When they began to descend, the bear became restless and then agitated, breaking its restraints. When the airplane landed and came to a stop, the bear was able to let itself out of its seat and climb down off the wing. It promptly relieved itself in front of the crowd.

Some bears are more delightful than others, and some marketing plans are better than others.

Next: Flight – Part three: The Crash
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