Aircraft Scheduling By Voice Mail

by Pat Chowning
Flying Magazine Review - April 1994

My misguided initial impression of scheduling by voice mail using your telephone pushbuttons was, "Voice mail is like bad breath, fleas on your dog, or corrosion in your wings, no one likes it but It keeps spreading." Even the FM in Oklahoma City forces you to listen lo a menu and press appropriate buttons to get any information. The last time I tried it, I gave up after running up my phone bill, pushing the wrong buttons, and never talking to a live human being.

But this scheme makes sense. Atter analyzing what I disliked about voice mail, I concluded that I hated the increased long distance charges, the waiting for menu descriptions, the ambiguous menu descriptions (which allows you to make the wrong choice and forces you to start over) and the lack of human attention. Ron Wilder, of Wilder Engineering, developer of the computer controlled aircraft scheduler named FSS, has recognizedthese oblections and minimized and eliminated them. His intent was to allow accurate and easy scheduling of aircraft by partnerships, clubs, rental and school aircraft.

The problem of scheduling the old-fashioned way - that is, the writing in a large book - is that someone can come later and bump you by erasing your schedule. Normal scheduling requires talking to a receptionist who may get other calls and who may have to search the schedule, taking your time while costing the operator a salary. Many operations don't work 24 hours a day. FSS eliminates that problem.

To schedule an aircraft, you dial a local number, listen to the menu only if you want to (after you have done it once or twice you can instantly punch in your selections without listening), punch in the date and time you want the airplane, the N number, and your aircraft is reserved. Your actual efforts are dialing the number, punching your PIN number then #-1-1-04-01-1000-1100-12345 results in scheduling N12345 on April 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in about 30 seconds total and you are never put on hold or transferred to another person.

Wilder didn't stop at only the ability to schedule. You can obtain information about operations, listen to ATIS, leave and receive rnessages, post something to a bulletin board, and a host of other features; or obtain help at any time by punching 0. The user can obtain reports of his activity.

Some entrepreneur types have purchased the system and then signed up partnerships, flight schools, and rental clubs at $25 per club per month.

Potential customers can test the system by calling 775-829-9991 and being assigned a test PIN number. I have to admit that it is certainly easy and the least obnoxious voice rnall that I have been subjected to - and even beats many a phone receptionist.

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