It was week one of the COVID-19 Crisis. The world around GA Telesis and me seemed to be melting down. Like many industry veterans, I have lived through downcycles in the late 1980s and 1990s, and more recently the significant shocks brought on by 9-11, SARS, the oil crisis, and the financial crisis, but none of us were prepared for what was about to come. Every time the aviation industry heads into a down cycle, we try to revisit what happened in the last one and extrapolate to better navigate the current one.
While there are some similarities across down cycles, the main causes are ultimately different, scale and duration vary, and of course, the public reaction is totally unpredictable. However, this cycle has already proven to be unique. One-by-one airlines started to park their fleets worldwide. The skies have been empty, except for a few cargo flights that one could spot in the sky from time-to-time. Countries started to react, industries started to react, companies started to react, and people started to panic. This is definitely going to be a cycle with lasting global macro and micro implications.
While I thought I was prepared for anything, I found myself wondering how I was going to make it through the carnage without leaving a scar. Frankly, I love what I do and even after all the hardships, more so than any other time in my career, I felt overwhelmed by this one. I knew my team was looking to me for answers, but I could only go to the same sources for information that they were searching, and the available information was often broadly undefined or contradictory from hour-to-hour.
It was then, I decided to reach out to my friend and oracle to whom I have turned to over the last decade for guidance when I have felt perplexed by a situation. He has always had this magical way of getting me to say what I already felt and lay-out a plan that I already know. He reminded me that this challenge was no different than others, only the names had changed. He then pointed to one very crucial factor; everyone was looking for a pilot to fly them through the turbulence. The future would be dictated by whether I left the airplane on auto-pilot, or if I took immediate control of the yoke. He finally asked me one key question, which led to an epiphany. As the words rolled off my tongue, my oracle knew his work was done.
“In ten years, how do I want to be remembered for how I manage GA Telesis and myself through this crisis?”
It all made sense to me and I knew exactly what I had to do. This was not going to be about me; it was about the main pillar that props up GA Telesis. THIS WAS GOING TO BE ABOUT OUR PEOPLE. If I could get them on board with my plan, they would co-pilot us through the turbulence.
Three weeks later, no employee lay-offs and a gazillion positive vibes. We continue to operate on all cylinders. Now to be clear, it is like driving a Ferrari through a school zone. I have all this power and not a lot of ways to use it until the airlines start to fly again. However, there is everything to be said about having that power available when GA Telesis needs to hit the throttle. We are ready for the market when it returns, and we have a lot of pent up excitement about the horsepower and turbos available to us.
Keep the faith, keep it together, keep believing and keep leading.