This article was originally going to be a review of the Aimsworth F-16 control
knob set. That offering is definitely one that will afford the Viper cockpit
builder a world of relief from tedious carving, not to mention the ugliness
that making molds and casting resin parts can be. My order for the set was
placed with ViperPits, the independent distributor of Aimsworth products in the
United States. However, as will oft happen with grand plans, things went
Given the circumstances, this article is primarily aimed at the North American
'pit builder. However, there are lessons to be learned here that can apply to
almost any vendor for the very unique consumer that is the cockpit builder.
When I placed the order, I simply went through the straightforward purchasing
procedure offered on the ViperPits.com website. I received an email
acknowledgement at the email address I provided, and began my wait in eager
anticipation. Unfortunately, to make a long story short, after a two week
wait, the parts didn't arrive, and my email interaction with ViperPits as a
concerned customer began. This concern escalated after almost a month of
waiting, and suffice it to say that there followed an email exchange wherein
much angst and learning occurred. But this isn't a soap opera, so the juicy
stuff stops here. Sorry about that!
To my knowledge, all Aimsworth products are manufactured in Thailand. This
means that the resupply chain is a long one, and to keep costs down, the most
economical means of transportation must be used. Surface freight from the
other side of the planet can take over four weeks. The alternative, air parcel
shipment, is prohibitively expensive. At $117.30, the price for the knob set
is not exactly pocket change, so anything to keep that price within reach of
the cockpit building hobbyist is reasonable and desireable.
When I placed my order, the knob set was not in stock. In fact, it hadn't even
been cast. That sort of thing is not unusual for a niche product in a very
niche market. To add more intrigue, there was a production delay in Thailand.
Mix that with the aforementioned shipping timeframe and you get the makings of
a significant expectation shortfall.
One gets used to getting parcels rapidly these days within the US, since so
much commerce has gone online. Consumer demand has provided a lot of stimulus
to a wide variety of delivery couriers, and their efficiency is astounding.
The result, of course, is a mindset that says if I place an order, I will
likely have it soon. However, when dealing with a vendor that is supplying
things to a niche market, and with as unique a supply source as ViperPits
enjoys, that mindset is out of place.
When that mindset ran into the production and shipment reality associated with
the product I ordered, the result was unpleasant. Bug on the windshield
unpleasant. Fortunately, that can easily be avoided.
I would recommend doing business with ViperPits. Chris Mihok, the proprieter,
is one of *us,* and a lucky fellow that can combine his aviation and computer
passions into a small but profitable enterprise. Despite having gone through
an unpleasant situation with this customer, we managed to end up on common
ground in the end.
A bit of consumer strategy is called for when ordering, though, and this can
help one avoid the situation I wandered into. I would recommend verifying that
stock is on hand in the US before placing an order. I would also recommend
inquiring as to the shipping costs and timing of your prospective order. That
functionality is not part of the website at present, and shipping costs will
not appear on your acknowledgment email. In my case, an extra $10 was appended
to the purchase price, a fairly typical amount. On the other hand, if product
is out of stock, backordered, etc., gently persist in getting the best time
estimate that you can for it's arrival in the states, and therefore to you.
That may not always be possible, or even accurate given the vagaries of global
surface transport, but it's important to avoid leaving the issue vague. When
you have that qualified estimate, you can assess at that time whether or not
you want to place your order immediately.
These recommendations should help establish a reasonable expectation, and it
opens the lines of communications as well in a proactive manner. Always a good
thing, and it keeps things in a positive light.
Is all of this mere common sense? Maybe. Were my expectations unreasonable?
Maybe. I can assure you that at the outset I didn't think so. But this was a
terrific learning experience nevertheless, and hopefully it will enable other
'pit builders to avoid unpleasantness.
With new code being added to Falcon 4.0 again, the future is terrific for the
F-16 cockpit builder. There are several great vendors, and ViperPits should
certainly be one that you consider.