A guy in my CAP squadron who is an aerospace engineer said one time that one of the reasons why he liked hanging out with folks from the squadron is that we were all aviation enthusiasts even if we aren't all pilots. He said that he has worked at a lot of different airplane manufacturers and most of the other engineers and people that work there are not aviation enthusiasts. A structural engineer working on an airplane wing might be just as happy if it were a bridge instead. It's basically the same job. So, maybe the folks at the airplane manufacturers didn't offer people rides because most people that work there just didn't care.
I've found that to be the case as well. The first homebuilt manufacturer I worked at was a college work-study program, making fiberglass parts (ugh!). The owners were pilots and builders, but the guys I actually worked with on the shop floor certainly weren't. They thought I was nuts when I almost wet my pants when the one and only Fred Weick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Weick
) came by to visit with his family (this was about 6 months before he died). I saw a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet a legendary aircraft designer... while my co-workers saw just another old geezer interrupting their lunchtime. BTW, Fred thought the whole idea of a molded composite fuselage and parts was really great and said he wished they had been available back when he was designing! I was forever marked as a "weirdo" after that amongst my co-workers there.
At the second homebuilt company I worked at, again it was a case of the owners/management being into planes while many (not all) of the workers weren't. I'll never forget the rude comments and ridicule heaped upon me by a couple of them (pilots no less) when I asked a simple question to one of the designers of our aircraft (another aviation legend, who shall remain nameless here as I don't want to appear to malign the company) about whether he'd ever seen anyone use a certain auto-conversion on his planes. (I wasn't given the chance to find out his answer.) I learned from that and other similar encounters how exclusionary certain interest groups within aviation can be, and how much some folks in those groups really look down upon those with different interests or ideas. I'd describe some of the attitudes and comments I heard concerning other interest groups as bordering on outright hatred. Personally, I just decided that I don't have time to worry about such narrow-minded twits, and just chalk it up to personal problems with those adopting such attitudes. But I wonder how many other people have been totally turned off to (ultralights, aerobatics, gliders, gyrocopters, powered parachutes... etc.) as a result of such encounters? The thought of GA losing potential pilots due to encountering such an attitude really torques my Dzus, but all we can do is try to offer the right attitude ourselves, and hope it offsets that damage.
Then there was the clown in the Northwest who was building a Gee Bee (just to sell it) and who actually told me outright that I was an idiot for liking Pietenpols, since "the only homebuilt worth even looking at is the Cuby because you won't be able to sell anything else". The concept of building a plane you like just for the fun and enjoyment of it was completely lost on him, the resale value was all that this poor guy could understand. I truly feel sorry for this guy, especially considering that he apparently had the skills to take on these projects. There's a lot of easier ways to make money!
I also know of an aerospace composites engineer who got disciplined by the management at one of the "big three" GA manufacturers. His offense? Talking about airplanes too much!! (He quickly found a better job after that...)
The fact that these experiences stick out as odd is why I love the small aviation movement so much. Despite these exceptions, it's full of (many folks who simply love aviation and want to be involved in it in any way possible. Even though pursuing an aviation career has driven me into the poorhouse (and, lately, unemployment) it's still what I love and what I hope to stay involved in. I just wish more of the bigger aviation companies would be more supportive of the enthusiasm that lies at the heart of their business, rather than fight it or at least only begrudgingly acknowledge it. For whatever flaws EAA has, they have indeed proven over time that supporting and fostering unbridled enthusiasm for aviation in any and all forms can be a very successful business model leading to many, many new opportunities for business. I might suggest that the best aviation companies will be the ones who step back from a bean-counter driven obsession over absolute dollars in and out and realize that a truly sustainable aviation business must be based in large part upon actively supporting ALL of aviation, not just the company's particular product line, and encouraging their employees and customers to be participants, not just drones on the production line. GA is already way too small to do otherwise... and it's shrinking yearly on top of that.
Sudden thought... all the aviation personalities and companies I really respect and admire never spend time disparaging their competitors or their products, nor do they want to see others fail. I've heard many of them actually praise other companies and products, even in the course of explaining why they believe their product is better for whatever purpose it's intended. I guess it goes down to an attitude of "we're all in this together" and a basic respect for the core mentality of personal aviation. In short, they "get it"! Think about it.
Mike The Long-Winded