Lessons from a NASA Rocket Scientist

By Eric Hammer – Executive Sales Director

These difficult times remind me of my time in the space program, working towards my certification as an Ascent Flight Dynamics Officer, otherwise known as Ascent FDO (pronounced “FiDO”). This position in Mission Control is the pinnacle for trajectory operations. In addition to numerous pre-launch responsibilities critical to getting the Space Shuttle off of the launch pad, which included evaluation of winds and weather at all abort landing sites to ensure a safe landing in the event of an abort, during powered flight I was tasked with continuously monitoring the ascent trajectory to ensure it was sufficient to achieve the desired orbit insertion conditions… and if I determined it was not, I had the responsibility to call for the appropriate abort scenario.

Certification at this position was the culmination of thousands of flight simulations in Mission Control that included numerous contingency scenarios, some of which even resulted in loss of crew and vehicle, all designed to create a certified flight controller who, on launch day, is fully confident of his or her abilities, and who has seen enough anomalies that he is prepared for any eventuality that could arise during an actual launch.

This training not only taught me how to be a competent Space Shuttle flight controller, but has also played a role in developing my aircraft sales skills over the last 18 years. When the unknown happens, I draw upon my experience to find a way out. When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the first thing that came to my mind… don’t panic. Observe, and learn all you can about how the market is being impacted and begin advising your clients on recommended paths forward. After all, as of mid-June, used aircraft inventories have risen less than 2% relative to this time last year, with overall used business jet inventory still below 10%. While values in the large segment of the market are seeing some substantial downward pressure, light jets thus far have not seen excessive declines.

A leading indicator for the recovery of business jet transactions is flight activity. From the June 10th issue of Aviation International News: “North American business aviation flight activity reclaimed a third of the COVID-19-induced losses last month, rising 84 percent month-over-month but still down 49.2 percent from a year ago, according to TraqPak data released today by Argus International. The company’s forecast expects more post-COVID recovery this month, predicting a 26.6 percent decline from June 2019.” Anecdotally, however, I have spoken with several management companies with fairly sizable light and midsized fleets that in fact are seeing June numbers that are close to exceeding June 2019 flight activity. Regardless of whether you are a glass half full or half empty kind of person, the volatility introduced by the pandemic, and whether or not the early signs of recovery will continue, remain to be seen. But what is certain, your experts at Elliott Jets have decades of experience in up and down markets and are here to help you with all you aircraft needs.

Whether buying or selling, let me put my unique experience to work for you as your representative in the market!

I want to be a trusted resource for you. If you’d like to discuss how I can help you sell your current aircraft quickly and for the best price this market will allow, and / or help you acquire the best valued aircraft that meets your requirements, then please contact me at ehammer@elliottjets.com or call 336.553.8888. You can also request a free valuation of your aircraft here. Make sure to sign up for more updates.

About Eric Hammer:
Prior to joining Elliott Jets, Eric was a Regional Sales Director for Embraer, responsible for all pre-owned aircraft sales into North America. In addition to his most recent position, he has led sales efforts for Atlantic Aero and Cessna. During his aircraft sales career, he has been directly responsible for the sale of more than 150 turbine-powered aircraft. Prior to selling aircraft, Eric spent 11 years as a Flight Dynamics Officer in NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston.

Eric is a retired Navy Reserve Officer and an active aviator. He is a commercial, multi-engine, instrument-rated pilot with nearly 1,500 flight hours.