Project Police Det <DATAMASKED>
Originally published December 1997
"We’re here to help!"
Target for the Month:
Aircaft Spruce & Specialty
Date of Review: 15-16 Nov 97
This is the first of a new column to aquaint my fellow Project Police members with the various Web sites out there in cyber space. Since the Internet started it’s megaton-size explosion in ’94, the number of aviation related sites has grown immensely. It’s my job to familiarize you with some of the better sites available on your desktop. I will be searching out the nooks, crannies, and basements of the Internet to bring the latest on the really way-cool sites. No need to spend time on the fluff.
For standardization, the computer used for this effort is a 133 Pentium machine with 32MB RAM using a Rockwell 26.6 modem to access the Web through a Internet Service Provider, so performance is basically typical of the average user.
Now the review of the month:
The first target was chosen for the applicability to many of the users in the So Cal area. Many of you use Aircraft Spruce and Specialty because (1) it’s close, relatively, and (2) there’s no other supplier in the area. This review will give you some information on what A/S has done to improve their visibility to the Customer.
The A/S Web site opens with a standard home page, nice graphic and opening screen, from which the surfer can launch into the table of contents. After a short down load, the user will see the following areas of interest:
Aircraft Spruce News: The news section reflects the basic information that was published in their newsletters with information on events and a short letter from the President. This particular page advertised the move to the new location and was posted on 27 Sep. Unfortunately I viewed the site on November 16. A little updating could help.
Aircraft Spruce Around the World: Locations from around the world, but the picture of the old Fullerton warehouse is still included. I would hate to travel from Bakersfield and find the building empty. I’d be TICKED! This section reflects the points of contacts and photos for their locations worldwide. Not included on this page was the new building in Corona (however, this is located under the News section).
On-Line Catalog: This is the key to the whole enchilada! When this is full-up FMC, this electronic catalog will rock. At the time of the review, the catalog had several sections in very good shape and others that were in need of fleshing out. The basic premise is to allow the user to electronically select items and place them in the "electronic shopping cart". You then total the selections, provide payment method, and sometime in the future receive your order. All done automagically.
Composites: Has a very good selection of materials and supplies. Most of the common composite materials were covered to include Kevlar, Graphite Carbon and the usual assortment of fiberglass. foams, fillers, epoxies, tapes, special tools and even pre-fab fiberglass E-Z parts were included. Items contain the standard catalog number, which if highlighted, may be placed into the electronic shopping cart. And loaded on the electronic order form.
Spruce: This section outlines the general info pertaining to their spruce products. If you are familiar with their printed catalog, the A/S web provides the same type of general information on the products, specifications, handling techniques, etc. For spruce items, they advertise that shipment can "usually" be made with in 3 weeks. Other items available are nails/ balsa, plywood, and glues.
Metals: Only the overview to steel making was available which gave the standard info on steel production, much like the printed catalog.
Now, if you’re into fabric, there is a great selection of products available for selection. The Poly Fiber Process seems to be complete and well represented with all the materials and tools one needs to cover and aircraft. Both Polytone and Aerothane coatings are loaded in the catalog as well as Randolph. For those preferring Ceconite, these products are also represented.
Lastly, Avionics: This first items are the avionics packages available through the avionics shop at Chino airport. Apparently, most brands and models are available for selection. Graphics on the avionics are lacking so unless you know what you’re looking at, you may want to find a picture in the printed catalog.
Functionality: The catalog uses a search engine to allow the user to search on a text string for a product. It would be nice if they had a pull down list (such as the one Microsoft uses to select products through their site). I tried to select the Garmin GPS Pilot III and after several tries, resorted to "Garmin", which produced several pages of the Garmin Products.
Electronic Order Form: The Electronic Order Form provides the listing of all parts selected through he catalog and also provides a method to manually input selections. You can specify method of shipment and have an estimated shipping charge calculated. All the important information stuff is required, name, address, telephone, e-mail address, and of course, credit card number. Some folk may be skittish about trading on the web, but its no less secure than giving your credit card to the waitress at the local watering hole. Think about it. Some sites such as banking and stock trading employ various encryption devises such as Secure Socket Layering, (SSL) but A/S does not appear to employ additional electronic encryption.
Customer Service: This is the crux of the Web site. Customer Service. Hangar-Talk around the local airports seem to reflect a customer service issue with A/S; in general, the status of orders. This web function should improve Customer Service 100%. The first thing you need to do is register, a one time good deal. Allow 24 hours for their server to update your customer number for on-line statusing and you’re there! The next day just input your customer number and the database will give you the status of outstanding orders. Unfortunately, I did not have any orders to status, but I did register without a problem.
Sportair Builders Workshops: This page provides hyperlinks to the Sportair Builders Workshops as well as schedules.
Sport Aircraft and General Aviation Directory: Good selection of other sites, for manufacturers, unofficial builder-sponsored sites, aviation publications, and organizations. This is a pretty conventional listing of "Other Links" that are found on many aviation Web sites.
Aviation Events Calendar: The events calendar was in need of some work. The last event listed was 23-25 October 97 and was last updated on January 31 1997. Seems the calendar of events should have a continuously updated one-year calendar.
Mailing List: Finally, the mailing list provides a the customer a method to get on the A/S mailing list. ‘Nuff said.
Overall, this is a very good site with functionality, not just a static site for information. Graphics are kept to a minimum to allow for quicker downloads and faster transactions. Text is easy to read with colors that don’t distract.
Electronic Commerce is just becoming a major player in the economy and will rapidly expand. Many organizations are attempting to find uses for the new technology that the Web offers, with some companies having little success. However, Aircraft Spruce seems to have found a method to advertise their presence, and improve that all-important customer relation rating.
Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 31 July 1998