GPS Followers

Oct 12 2010 GPS Followers BY sgf-admin TAGS How the Airport Works


At eight o’clock this morning the sun burned off the morning fog on the east side of Springfield. On the west side of town if was different: a fog shroud covered the airport. Pea soup.

At the driveway of the former terminal two workers from the airport’s airfield maintenance division began the final steps of erecting four huge signs in the driveway of the airport’s former terminal….but wait. We’ve started near the end of this story. Let’s go back to May 6, 2009. That’s the day the airport’s new terminal opened…

Remember the scenario? The new terminal is not part of, or next to, the former terminal. It’s in a new location on the opposite side of the airport. The former terminal closed the evening of May 5. The new terminal opened the morning of May 6.

Before the move we identified “the new location” issue as our biggest public relations challenge. We put together an advertising plan to spread the word about the move. By the time May 6 rolled around we achieved media saturation. The advertising was everywhere. Local news organizations did an outstanding job—we received wall to wall coverage.

Well, guess what? On May 6 a bunch of people showed up at the former terminal looking for an airplane. They’re still doing it. Why? Well, at this point, 17 months after the former terminal closed, the answer largely has to do with technology, or rather, technology dependence. I’m speaking of those nifty little devices that tell you where you are by tracking your position with global positioning satellites. That’s “GPS” for short. What’s the problem with GPS? Nearly all current GPS units take people to the former terminal.

I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again, I’m astounded by the number of people who blindly follow GPS directions. They get in the car. They instruct the GPS to take them to the Springfield airport. They drive. They pass numerous state highway signs telling them the airport is another direction. They become proverbial lemmings.

To be fair, many of these GPS Followers seem to be from out of town.

Last week we got this email from a customer:

Just wanted to update you that both Mapquest and Google maps now have 2300 N. Airport Boulevard {the address of the new terminal} in their maps and give correct directions to the airport (as does a new Garmin GPS.) The satellite map still shows farmland but the map roads are now correct.

Oh yes—the matter of Mapquest and Google Maps. While the data in both has improved during the past 17 months, they still won’t necessarily take you to the new terminal. It seems to depend on how you ask for directions. Typing in our airport code “SGF” will yield a different answer than typing “Springfield-Branson National Airport.” And Google still labels the former terminal as “Terminal SGF.”

As for the Garmin GPS…that’s good news. But there are thousands upon thousands of GPS units out there containing directions to the former terminal. Those units will always have dated directions unless their owners update the software. How many GPS Followers know that they can, or should, update their software?

* * * * *

The fog has lifted, but the sun has yet to peak out. Airfield maintenance workers wrestle with the second sign that’s going up in the former terminal’s driveway. It says, “Terminal Closed. Follow Airport Signs to New Terminal" (see photo).

If that message seems condescending, consider this excerpt from a blog entry we posted in July 2009:

A week after the new terminal opened, I stood near the driveway entrance of the former terminal. The drive was block by red traffic cones. A big electronic message sign stood next to the cones. It gave directions to the new terminal. A customer pulled up in their car. They got out, moved the cones, and parked in the nearly empty parking lot. Then they walked to the front of the deserted former terminal, bags in hand, and tried to enter. The doors were locked; the customer was stunned…

Later that day I watched several people pull up in front of the former terminal. They got out of their car and, without exception, just stood there. They looked at the locked doors. They looked up and down the empty horseshoe drive. Paper blew in the driveway; everything was deserted. They had looks of disbelief. It was reminiscent of a scene from the Twilight Zone—they were the only people left after the nuclear holocaust.  Keep in mind they had just ignored an electronic message sign and had moved traffic cones so they could get in the drive…

Click to see larger version

Since we posted that a lot of things have happened at the former terminal. By May of this year the building was leased to Expedia, and the Missouri National Guard.

The white and red sign on the barricade stayed parked in the middle of the driveway (photo right) until September 1. That’s when Expedia opened shop and the former terminal became an office building. Through it all the Followers have kept coming. The Expedia reception area has a supply of handy maps. And now the driveway, of the former terminal (that became an office building), has four large signs that attempt to get the Followers back on track.

Wish us luck. It’s our last-ditch effort.


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