Ramper Innovations

Inspiration Often Arrives Unexpectedly

Sometimes ravens provide inspiration for new ideas.
Photo courtesy of Sitka Charters.

Inspiration Often Arrives Unexpectedly

Thoughts from Tim Fulton, Founder/CEO
Most innovation comes from identifying a need and pondering ways to fix it. This innovation was purely the result of a practical joke.

During much of my career, I worked as a ramp agent in a small fishing community in Alaska. Millions of pounds of fish left the tiny airport annually as cargo in the bellies of 737s. I loaded a good portion of it.

There is one jetway at the airport with the cargo warehouse nearby, and pallets of fish boxes were staged at the line with a forklift. It usually took only a couple of minutes, but that was long enough. At some point, a wily raven figured out that the boxes had excellent eating inside. This was fresh cold water Alaskan seafood, after all. Mr. Raven (for the purpose of this story) told his buddies, and before long, those few minutes were enough for the ravens to greedily rip holes in the boxes and steal bites of the tasty treats inside.

This meant unanticipated scheduling on the duty roster. We had to post someone on the line to keep the ravens away.

Although I wish I could say that the “Scare Raven” idea came to me immediately as a solution, that is not how it happened. There was a mechanic who, for some reason, could never be found when he was needed. On a whim, I cut out a person-shaped profile from cardboard and dressed it in his coveralls. We had great fun with it — the cutout would show up everywhere reminiscent of, “Where’s Waldo?” One day, when it leaned against a pallet of fish, we made a discovery: it kept the ravens away.

As with any innovation, it needed further refining. Scare Raven was quickly modified to 2×4 construction and mounted to a pallet. The coveralls were stuffed, and a popular costume mask was added as its head. It continued to work amazingly well for several years until an airline captain mistook it for a marshaling agent. Thankfully, damage to the aircraft was narrowly averted.

Scare Raven went into retirement based on management mandate. Fortunately, it had been long enough, so the ravens had given up and moved on to easier scavenging. As ravens are clever, we assumed it was only a matter of time before they returned to try again, and I had several ideas in mind when that happened.

Just this year, they did return. And now, there is a new contemporary Scare Raven to do the job. In thinking about the story, it reflects what we do at Ramper Innovations every day: idea, modifications, and continuing improvements to solve problems, adapt to changing needs, and provide superior outcomes.

Thanks to the inspiration provided by ravens.

“Where’s Waldo,” – credit: Martin Handford, creator

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