Aircraft industry databases... books or websites?
John Routledge talks about the world of aviation industry directory publishing. Many aviation "wanna be" directories have come and gone. Learn how certain smart aviation directory publishers have embraced the internet and utilised fast changing search technology to the benefit of the aviation aerospace community at: http://www.aviation-database.com
The pace of change has been breathtaking. "Aero Index" started 11 years ago as a reference book and quickly established itself as a standard work of reference for the aircraft, airline, avionics and MRO maintenance repair and overhaul industries. Airline buyers, aircraft designers, spares and parts buyers, vendors and dealers all used it to source the nuts and bolts of aircraft. Nothing more than a list of contact names and addresses of suppliers and subcontractors, in both alphabetical order and classified order (by product or service), its currency was its accuracy and its comprehensiveness. Convenience for AOG services was also an asset.
For a "global" industry, the challenge back then was to produce a European directory that was so good, it would have worldwide appeal... worldwide content was impossible to contain within the one volume, without bursting the binding (too much information, too difficult to research and keep up-to-date). Airbus, however, was now established as a European aircraft manufacturer to rival Boeing, so there was a demand for accurate databases of European suppliers.
Aircraft manufacturers prior to this period had been decreasing in number and those that were most successful were beginning to use computer technology to "manage" supplier bases... increased emphasis on competitiveness leading to tighter and tighter constriction of the industry and its sub-contractors, both civil and military, fixed wing and rotary.
The pace of change again meant that Aero Index, the book, would never on its own entirely achieve its goal of being the preferred source of information for every single aspect of the industry, the world wide web was now beginning to be a worthy competitive source of the same information.
www.aviation-database.com was established to make the content of the directory available free of charge on the web, no membership, no subscription. Like all media, advertising revenue would continue to be the key to a profitable business model. The sales story was strong... advert in the book, repeated on the web and hotlinked direct to the advertiser's own website. There were also no geographical restrictions on the web, much better for a global industry in an era where the world was looking increasingly small. It would also come to provide us with a valuable tool for compiling and maintaining our data.
The nature of web searching was, however, different. The key to acceptance as a website would hinge on adapting the directory's content to reflect the kind of phrases that would be used by millions of people worldwide daily in the major search engines, google yahoo msn and wanadoo.
A category of spares and parts would now be too general, people would specify an airframe or at least an aircraft manufacturer's name ... "spares and parts boeing" or "spares and parts airbus"... "spares and parts c130"...
"Engine spares and parts" would become "engine spares and parts P&WC" or "engine spares and parts cfm56".
"Helicopter spares and parts" would become "Helicopter spares and parts Bell Eurocopter or Sikorsky".
New scope too for AGSE or GSE, aircraft ground support equipment, a whole industry in itself... professional services like personnel, technical staff, avionics engineers, executive search, MRO personnel.... searching for agents and distributors by brand name or by the manufacturer represented.
How could FBOs or MRO facilities wanting to provide "one-stop shop" services fail to see the benefits of such information when pressed for time? The challenge now was to use the search engines as the marketing tool for the business, to ensure prominence in the commonest searches so that http://www.aviation-database.com and sister sites would be saved to "favourites" all over the world , a process of creating awareness, of education.
The next chapter in this story we know already, making the electronic directory fully portable on cd-rom.. but what of the future? ... Palm-top computers fully equipped to surf the web, giving us the opportunity to provide information instantly to the boardroom table or the meeting room, wherever that might be....developing the technical content of the database to allow the researcher to search by part number?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Routledge is Managing Director of information publishers, AERO INDEX LTD.Formerly Business Development Manager at Sells Publications Ltd., he has developed his own company, founded in 1993, to take the time-honoured concept of the business directory into the "information age". The company is now publishing comprehensive directories on the world wide web.