Quiet CEO interviewed by The New York Times

Perfect Soundtrack for a Hard Landing

by Bruce Welty
November 26, 2012

I’VE always been nuts about flying. Even now, despite my millions of miles in the air and more than 25 years of international business travel, I still love it. Most of my business travel involves meeting with our clients, and since we are a growing company in the field of using robotic technology to help fill online orders, I travel all the time.

My father took me on my first flight in a Piper Cub in the 1960s. It was a bright red taildragger. I imagined I was a young Red Baron. My first commercial flight was on a Boeing 707 when my family moved from Minnesota to Massachusetts back in 1972. I was thrilled at the power-up of takeoff.

After college, I studied for my own pilot’s license in a Piper Tomahawk. I found out then that unfortunately my love of flying and my ability to fly were not in perfect alignment. My instructor told me I had “ground shyness,” which translates to fear of the ground. It was a healthy fear perhaps, but it made it difficult to land the plane, which is pretty important when you’re a pilot.

He also said that I had a bit of “attitude shyness,” which is a fear of flying other than straight and level. He found that out after we deliberately stalled the plane into a spin. I told him, “Let’s never do that again.” But recently, I flew a Boeing 747 simulator, which is so realistic that pilots are allowed to accumulate simulator flight time as real flight hours. I did land successfully.

I know that professional pilots are very well trained. And after thousands of landings in my traveling career, I had few if any memorable experiences, until recently. I was flying in an Airbus A320, a workhorse kind of plane. The seats were six across, and I was sitting in coach. We were flying from Madrid to A Coruña, which is in the northwest corner of Spain. At the time, it was experiencing some bad weather, with high winds and rain.

As we were making our final approach, there was this really sweeping, dramatic orchestral music playing over the speakers. As the tension in the music built with accelerating downward arpeggios, you know, like in a movie when the music lets you know the monster is coming or the bad guy is right around the corner, we started buffeting around violently. It was like we were in some disaster, horror or war movie and were synchronized to the soundtrack.

I looked at the Spanish woman next to me in the middle seat and she was consoling her young daughter, who was absolutely terrified. I tried to smile at her, but we were all obviously very uncomfortable. The music was still blaring, building tension perfectly, as the bucking of the airplane got worse. The music wasn’t making our nerves any better.

Finally, we could see the ground and we could see that the plane was going to hit hard. The music stopped for a moment, and then we hit the tarmac with a loud boom. The plane rolled for a little while and then slowed. The music came back on. It was clear then that the music had reached its climax and it too had slowed to a final coda.

Just as the plane veered off the runway, the music faded out for good. By this time, the entire plane had arrived at the same conclusion about the music. I know it was purely coincidental, but still very weird.

The mother and her young daughter looked at me, relieved. This was a landing no one on the plane would ever forget. Our flight had a soundtrack, and it was perfectly written.

About Quiet Logistics
Quiet Logistics is the eCommerce fulfillment provider of choice for premium fashion and apparel brands and e-tailers. Quiet combines best-in-class technology with a deep understanding of brand care to deliver an exceptional and highly personalized customer experience for its clients. www.quietlogistics.com