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Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Yesterday an unusual event took place. Boeing, specifically the Boeing 787 program VP Mike Sinnet and Test Pilot Heather Ross hosted a live interactive webcast.  I was lucky enough to catch about 45 minutes of the event.

I had received an invitation for the program the day before. It was an unrestricted log in and listen type format with Twitter serving as the medium for submitting questions. In a word, it was fascinating. It said a lot about the kind of company Boeing is.

Questions came from aeronautical engineers, business flyers, wannabe pilots and folks who were just curious about some aspect of the 787.  The subjects covered myriad topics from flying in general to specifics about the battery fix put into place by the folks at Boeing.

The 787 program is groundbreaking in so many ways; I guess it should not be a surprise that Boeing would turn to an event like this to open up the lines of communication between itself and the flying public. This is telling in that it supports the idea that Boeing knows who their customer really is. In case you are confused by that statement, let me clue you in. Boeing’s customer is the flying public far more so than the various airlines flying their equipment.

The airline/passenger relationship is totally different from the airframe manufacturer/passenger relationship is. This is not just some high level marketing concept, it is a very real dynamic that has profound effects on the actions all of us involved in the business of air travel.

Airlines select airplanes because they meet some performance criteria in terms of capacity, speed and fuel economy. They look at their mission as one of moving 50, 100 or 600 passengers between point A and point B. They will select and buy the aircraft that handles that job in the most economic fashion.

Airline passengers choose airlines because they offer flights to places they want to get to on a schedule that is convenient to them. Many times, passengers have a choice. That means the passenger will be comparing other factors in order to make a decision. One of those will be the equipment used for the flight.

As a business flyer, this factor is important to me. When I traveled frequently, it was very important to me. I was much less concerned about the paint scheme and logo on the skin of the airplane than I was about what type of airplane it was to begin with.

One of the things Boeing does very well is to bring the passenger into the concept development phase of a new airplane. Then, again and again at each design stage, throughout the development of that aircraft the passenger is consulted. The passenger is part of the design group.

Additionally, Boeing understands that all passengers are not alike, a great example of this is found in the design of the 777. The overhead compartments can be easily reached by persons of short stature.

When the plane is rolled out, takes to the air and finally enters into revenue generating service, everyone has a little stake in that airplane. People want it to do well because in part it is “their” airplane.

During the discussion yesterday, it was apparent that Boeing has earned a huge amount of respect and trust from the flying public. Both Mr. Sinnet and Ms. Ross were clearly excited about a chance to talk with people about their product. The Q&A was not all softball either. But, it was clear these guys knew their stuff. I had the feeling they had picked the right people to handle this event. Both of them made a point of stating how much they loved their jobs and being a part of Boeing.

When was the last time you heard a corporate apologist gush about how much they loved working for their company?

Hats off to Boeing for getting this right!

Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

When I was about six years old my dad bought a power lawn mower. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. My dad explained to me that one day, I would be able to use the lawn mower and that mowing the lawn would become my responsibility. I was so excited!

Until then, I had to wait. I was given the not so glamorous job of “picking up sticks” as a sort of apprentice level job. Picking up sticks pretty much sucks compared to walking around behind the bright red Toro as it growled and spit out grass clippings on the circuits around the grounds of our palatial estate.

Finally, at some point, I would guess maybe I was ten or eleven, dad told me I was at last big enough to handle the big, now not so shiny, Toro.

I think the feeling of excitement about actually handling the big red machine by myself lasted about twenty minutes. By the second or third time I mowed the lawn, I realized that the thing was a big con job. Mowing the lawn wasn’t fun or cool, it was work. I had been lured into taking a job by promises of glory and wealth and found only boredom and frustration.

The reality of lawn mowing was hard to start machinery, cleaning air filters, adding oil, adding gasoline and pushing the contraption around the yard as the hot sun beat down on my poor little spoiled self. I remember one time attempting to start the machine 104 times before my dad relented and took it in for service.

But, being good son, I did my chores like countless other kids. I grumbled, but mowed.

The worst time in my lawn mowing experience came one summer when I took a job mowing lawns for the Columbia Public School System. Most of my crew was made up of kids I went to high school with or my then current classmates at Mizzou. By the end of the summer, our lawn crew had accomplished the following:

  • wrecked two ½ ton pick trucks
  • destroyed one riding lawn mower (somehow it ran through the front doors of Frederick Douglas School)
  • decapitated one push mower with an out of control riding lawnmower
  • Destroyed too many flower beds and other ornamental plants to recall

For the of rest my life, I have hated the notion of “mowing the lawn” and all its associated activities. I have nightmares and flashbacks from that summer. I’m sure I could benefit from counseling.

Now, decades later, I find I might, at last be able to enjoy mowing the lawn again.

Last weekend, during a brief hiatus from the two month-long drizzle season we call Spring here in Northern Kentucky, my fifteen year old rusted out, broken down, piece of junk lawn mower finally died. The pull-cord snapped one final time; there was simply not enough cord left for yet another square knot to reconnect the cord to the lawn mower.

Reluctantly, I began looking online at lawnmowers at Lowe’s and Home Depot. It was all very depressing. I hate spending money on things that aren’t fun. Then, I saw something intriguing; electric lawnmowers.

All the electric lawn mowers I’d seen in the past were useless. Their fifty foot cords and underpowered motors were a certain recipe for frustration and aggravation. Plus, they just weren’t manly! People would make fun of me I was sure. The only people who used these things were nerds with yards smaller than the average welcome mat.

But, looking online I found something new and different. Electric lawn mowers that were cordless. Lawn mowers that used batteries.

Wow! That’s what I call liberating! No trips to the gas station, so filing the spark plug, no squirting starter fluid into the cylinder, no more cleaning air filters and no more guessing if the damn thing needed oil or not.

But, I was skeptical. How long would the thing run between charges? How much power did it have? Could it handle the jungle of broadleaf weeds that passes for a lawn at my home?

I decided I had nothing to lose, pick one, read the reviews and if no one is hating on that model, buy it.

I selected a model from Greenworks. This mower has a 19” cutting swath and it is powered by a 40 volt Lithium-Ion battery. (Just like the 787!) This particular model comes with two separate battery packs and a charging station. This is important because you can store the lawn mower any where you want and keep the batteries and charging station inside your home.

Greenworks Electric Lawn Mower

Greenworks Cordless Electric Lawn Mower

My lawn mower was delivered on Sunday by Lowe’s and unfortunately the drizzle had started again, so mowing was not going to happen that weekend. I opened up the box and assembled the mower per the instructions included in the box. This took no more than twenty minutes tops.

Next, I set up the charger and placed one of the two included battery packs in the charging cradle. Within one hour, the battery pack was ready to go.

Monday was a total wash out, so I came home from work and watched the grass grow even higher.

Tuesday brought a partly cloudy afternoon, so by the time I got home, the grass was still pretty damp, but I figured if I didn’t mow now, I would need a tractor and Bush-hog.

I rolled the mower out the front door, inserted the battery pack, inserted the safety key and turned the big bright green machine on. What a wonderful surprise, the mower powered right up and I started mowing. After about thirty minutes, I was done.

Greenworks 40V 19" Mower

Greenworks 40V 19″ Mower

The lawnmower was fantastic! It effortlessly handled the 10” tall grass and clover. It was every bit as good as any gasoline powered mower. The first battery pack was still going strong when I finished. So my fear of not being able to complete the job without a re-charge was totally unjustified.

As a push around mower the Greenworks has the added advantage of being on the light weight side compared to gasoline powered machines. But, I would add that the mower is heavy enough to not bounce over rough ground. It keeps the mower at the proper mowing height. But, it is also light weight enough to push and pull with one hand.

The height adjustment is very easy to use. A single lever adjusts the height of the whole mower. You do not have to mess with raising a lowering each wheel be itself.

Electrics are not for everyone. If you have a huge yard, the technology may not be ready for you. But, I did actually see a cordless, battery powered riding mower, so you may want to give the technology a look anyhow.

Greenworks 40V Lithium-Ion Battery Pak

Greenworks 40V Lithium-Ion Battery Pak

Count me as one satisfied customer. I would recommend this product to anyone looking for an alternative to smelly, expensive, time consumptive gasoline powered mowers.

Lawn mowing may be fun again after all! Without a doubt it is less of a hassle.

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