Sometimes really good ideas come from very young minds. Recently a precocious 8-year old named Benjamin Jensen from Ogden, Utah watched a television program about plane disappearances, which included a segment about missing Malaysia flight MH370, and formulated a potential solution. In a letter to Delta Airlines CEO Richard H. Anderson, young Ben suggested, “We could have a system that has neon orange balloons that rise up to the surface when the plane crashes in the sea. And there would be stones at the bottom so they would stay there. The balloon wouldn’t be light enough to float up into the air, and it would have reinforced rubber to withstand a lot of pressure.”
Admittedly, my expertise in aeronautical engineering or rocket science or whatever is pretty much zilch, but Ben’s idea seems simple yet savvy. Apparently his mother, who served in the Air Force along with her husband, agreed. She helped Ben pen the letter to Delta, the family’s preferred commercial airline; the modest and endearing communication found its way to the inbox of John E. Laughter, Senior Vice President of Safety, Security, and Compliance. He took the time to respond saying that he liked the idea, and noted that he has his own 8-year old son.
“…I work with many Delta people, The Federal Aviation Administration, and airplane manufacturers to solve problems such as airline tracking in an emergency. There are lots of experts thinking about ideas just like you sent us. I will make sure to share your plans with them!” wrote Laughter.
Laughter’s letter came with a slew of Delta swag, like model airplanes that were promptly assembled by the talented young airplane enthusiast, and some branded pens, pencils and brochures. Probably to the dismay of his parents there was no mention of frequent flyer miles or permanent elite status, which is really too bad because they deserve kudos (if not monetary compensation) in this situation. For the most part, it’s all too easy for overworked and under-slept parents to merely congratulate their children on a thoughtful idea, or even to dismiss creativity as frivolous, and then move on. But regardless of whether a child’s ideas have any wings (ha), we need to remember to encourage kids to explore them further, and to seek out the opinion of someone who might have the power to bring a concept to life. It’s the sort of parenting habit that will inspire kids like Ben to keep innovating, someday to the benefit of all of us.