It’s more than just an image problem

Imagine that you and your significant other go shopping in a pricey store that’s known for its exclusive clientèle. Think Rodeo Drive, maybe. Walking through the door is a little exciting, if not slightly intimidating, but you make it past security and find yourself on the inside. It isn’t long before you realize that you’re out of your element, but not so far out that you can’t get by without bringing undue attention to yourself. So you persevere. You hang in there, trying on a high-end suit or two, gawking at the jewelry that cost more than your house, and you find yourself seriously considering signing up for a store account because it all looks so alluring and exciting.

Then you notice the door you came in through. It comes to your attention that seven, maybe even eight, of the customers who are leaving are dissatisfied. Most of them weren’t able to purchase what they came in for – but their wallets are a bit lighter nonetheless. There is grumbling, discontent, and a clear consensus that the service they were offered was nowhere near what they were expecting – especially for these prices.

Welcome to the wonderful world of General Aviation. That’s exactly how the public at large see us – as opportunistic, less than professional hobbyists who take our customers for a ride – both literally and figuratively.

No business that allows 70–80% of its customers to leave feeling poorly served is going to thrive in the long run. We are that business. Admittedly we bristle at the accusation, but if the shoe fits…

I experienced the slimy underside of GA myself when I first began taking lessons more than two decades ago. I’ve personally witnessed, and paid for, lousy instruction from unprofessional and somewhat unscrupulous instructors who worked for schools that turn a blind eye to the fact that their students are quitting more often than they’re achieving their goals. I stuck it out and eventually found success. Most of our customers don’t do that. They quit, and they’re not shy about telling their friends and neighbors why they quit. It’s not a pretty picture we’re painting. No it’s not.

This brings to mind my friend Tim Preston. Tim and his wife Peggy operate a Piper Cub and a Stearman from right here in central Florida. Like so many speciality businesses, they’ve moved around a bit, sometimes finding green pastures, and sometimes not. But through it all they have made a solid career out of providing excellent customer service, at a reasonable price, to customers who feel well served and speak well of them.

Saturday I watched Tim pre-flighting the Stearman while I was eating lunch on the porch of the airport restaurant. He was getting ready to fly with a woman who came all the way from Sweden to log some type specific time, and have an experience she would remember forever. Peggy took photos for posterity, the woman’s significant other did, too. Heck, the woman even went so far as to wear a video camera mounted to her head so that she could immortalize the experience of flying with Tim, in an open cockpit biplane, over the lush green landscape of Florida.

The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that woman took away from her airport experience will make her a stalwart supporter of GA for all time. The same would be true for almost anyone who had a similar experience.

There’s a lesson in that for the rest of us. If we ramp up our level of service and increase our acceptance of honest professionalism — even while maintaining a sense of fun and unabashed enjoyment in our vocation and our avocation — we can swing a significant number of our customers and observers into the satisfied column, and do a great service to general aviation’s future in the process.

Or we can keep on doing what we’ve been doing for the past 20 or 30 years. Then again, that hasn’t been working out all that well for us, has it?

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.

Comments

  1. Dcperi says

    I AM that frustrated disillusioned student, who has been passed around to 4 different instructors in 14 months and spent $10,000 on airplane rental and instructor fees.  I have 55 hours and I am nowhere NEAR ready for a checkride. My instructors were:
    1. A guy who was using his CFI to build hours so he could apply for an airline job, and as soon as hired, he was GONE
    2. A guy who is a commercial pilot and canceled about 1/3 of my lessons with him at the last minute because he had a commercial job come up and “hey, the pay is so much better.”
    3. A retired lawyer who canceled all my lessons for two weeks on no notice because he was headed out to Vegas for his nephew’s bachelor party, and while out there got  wind of a Cessna 152 in Washington State which he went up to buy and fly cross-country to Florida.  This one yelled at me in the cockpit, every lesson, until I was terrified to even touch any of the controls.
    4. An older man with poor hearing and balance, who made me fly 15 hours of traffic pattern (in addition to the 25 hours I already had) before he soloed me.  Then, after two solos, we went cross-country together on a cold day. I landed long on both runways, and he told me I couldn’t solo any more but needed to do MORE pattern work, and he was sorry it had been 6 months before I’d done anything but traffic patterns but he couldn’t control what my prior instructors had done.

    When I first walked into the flight school, the school sold me the King/Cessna curriculum and video class for $350 as a prerequisite for “enrolling”.  I conscientiously began to work my way through the curriculum, only to find that NONE of my instructors used the curriculum or was familiar in it in any way, much less had a logon to check my progress or test scores.

    Instructor number 4 told me I needed to take my knowledge test. I reminded him that I had passed it with an 82 the week before I started with him and he said, “Well, I can’t remember every detail of your flight training!”

    There is NO curriculum, NO syllabus, NO structure, and NO accountability. Pilots use checklists for everything, right? So why don’t these bozo instructors have a simple checklist of skills for each student to master?  That each student can see and know where he or she stands? Each new guy has taken my logbook and spent about 1 minute leafing through it before handing it back.  That was the extent of reviewing my prior training.

    Yes, flight training is expensive. Before I started, I asked the manager of the school how expensive, and he estimated $7,500 .  I can accept that, since I’m 50, I might take longer than the average student, so I budgeted $12,000. But now, $10,000 later, I am about to decide to QUIT, not because of the money per se, but because I can’t see what I am getting for my money at all, and I can tell that another $2,000 is unlikely to get me any closer to my checkride.

  2. says

    I started an aviation/simulator business recently and I have had a chance to speak with many flight schools recently as well as since 1973 when I started flying.

    I am not saying I have all the answers because I do not but some solutions are completely or partially ignored:

    As mentioned, customer service (see ftpros.com and tailwheelsetc.com). They treat their students right and recognize the value of the experience.

    Flight simulators can cut the cost of VFR and IFR training dramatically. Every maneuver should be done in a simumator first at 50% of the cost of a plane. Do you think if you fly a traffic pattern or do a stall 20 times in an hour versus 2 that you may get a better feel for it and save money.

    Flight schools should hire experienced instructors only or have an intense mentoring program for new instructors that make it clear that the student comes first and not the logging of hours.

    Incentize the instructor to do the right job. Low pass rate means less dollars in their pocket. Give them more money foir various performance metrics.

    Use their strengths to market to people who want to fly but do not understand the real issues once (as mentioned above) they walk through the “rodeo drive” type atmosphere.

    There are a small number of professional, friendly schools out there who do it right. That does not mean that they don’t have a truck load of learning regarding training and customer satisfaction but some are more willing to listen than others.

  3. says

    In my opinion, this is a tired notion – lack of professionalism at flight schools is driving customers away from general aviation. I’ve been hearing it as long as I have been in aviation. This position is often the loudest from people who are not in the flight training business. AOPA talks about all kinds of surveys they’ve done that show people don’t care how much it costs to learn to fly, they just want professionalism, nice facilities/equipment, etc. – that’s easy to put on a survey, but not reality. The reality is much different. It costs a lot of money to get a PPL- always has, and probably always will. We should stop promoting the false premise that if we were only more professional (such a vague claim anyway), people would flock to flight schools. It’s a fallacy that only perpetuates the real challenges our industry faces. It’s all about economics – demand for flight training is low even in the best of times, airplanes are expensive to own and maintain, risk/liability is high, turn-over for instructors is high, and customers are demanding. I owned/ran a flight school for 5 years, and I don’t recall one customer ever telling me that he/she would pay more money if we we’re just more professional. The opposite is true; customers (regardless of their socioeconomic class) want more for less. The other point worth noting is that in any industry there are varying levels of quality of the product, i.e. McDonalds or Ruth’s Chris. Flight Training is the same and based on my experience often the busiest schools on an airport are the ones that offer the cheapest rates – not always true of course, but very common. I think consumers understand this. If they are unhappy with the service they receive, and they are serious about flight training, they will seek a school which offers a better product, and often one exists. I don’t think consumer behavior works like this – have one bad experience in an industry, base opinion of that entire industry on that one experience, and then vow to never return to that industry. GA & flight training, no doubt, need to improve quality of service and “professionalism”, we need to be more creative and do everything we can to attract and retain more people/pilots. But, continually pointing the finger at such general ideas like, “lack of professionalism” is useless, and will do nothing to grow our industry or address the real challenges.

  4. Joe Antonucci says

    To improve Pilot Training and produce good pilots why dont you produce an approved manual to give to all of the instructors to use in training new pilots. In my time I have encountered some not so good instructors and some good instructors. By haveing the best training for all to use you could improve the new pilots that are produced.

  5. Jay says

    People want something for nothing all too often. They want instructors to be magically more “professional” without upsetting the status quo or current structure of aviation. This isn’t the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, or even the 90s anymore where someone can go to work at a regional airline for a year and then find themselves in the right seat of a 727. How is it that the CFI somehow became or started as the “bottom” of the structure? What other industries take the least experienced and proficient people and put them in charge of training newcommers? It’s like having privates that have just graduated basic training train the new class of incomming soldiers, sheer lunacy IMO. The entire way of thinking though is that a CFI job is usually a “temporary job” just to build hours and then move on (see above), and as long as that is how the FBO an employers treat it, they are going to get poor professionalism. I don’t want CFIs earning 60+K a year being lazy and treating students poorly, I want them to EARN it, but my god people, CFIs fly airplanes and have a huge responsibility. Lets treat them as if that actually means something (and hold them to high standards at the same time).

    Although you have some good suggestions, not everyone will be able to find “a CFI not tied to an FBO”. Things need to change.

    As far as getting your certs and ratings with low hours, congrats! I think FAA requirements are woefully inadequate and standards are poorly upheld in 61/141, but that doesn’t mean there are some good ones out there doing their job.

  6. Jay says

    I also agree with the comment about low-time pilots acting as flight instructors. It’s the blind leading the blind. What can we do about it?

  7. Victor says

    To Jay: I guess what I mean by “be more professional” must be answered with another question: “What is a professional?” – The answer to that question changes with professions. With General Aviation, talking explicitly about instructors, being professional is less about making a good wage and more about teaching successfully. You don’t have to make a 6 digit income to want to succeed at your job (talk to any airline pilot) – The answer isn’t to pay the Instructors more (though I definatley believe they should make more, that wouldn’t make them more professional), the answer is to instill the values of being a good teacher. Any instructors knows going into the profession that they aren’t going to become rich. It’s a given. You’re dealing with an expensive endeavour funded, usually, by the pocketbook of the consumer. There’s very little margin for profit because the endeavour is so expensive to begin with.

    Another poster brought up an excellent point. the qualifications for being a CFI, CFII, MEI or what-have-you are very thin. Instructors at more flight schools DO know that they are there as a stepping stone to a larger career, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be concentrating on the job at hand. Right now, they are a CFI. Their job is to turn out competent pilots that won’t kill themselves (or anyone else) while they become proficient. That means not only teaching good aviation, but teaching limitations – to both a new pilots skill and the aircraft they are flying.

    Being professional doesn’t require a huge salary. It requires a commitment to the job you have… and I think you will find that with just about any profession.

    My answer to the problem was simple. Find a flight instructor that wasn’t tied to an FBO and wasn’t trying to make a living as an instructor. My instructor is a full-time charge nurse at a hospital. She is a flight instructor on the side, and she is VERY good. She’s not looking to become an airline pilot. She’s not looking to milk me for every penny. She wants to make sure her students are safe aviators and good stewards of the skies. She also flies a LOT every week. There is no shortage of students and she makes great money at $35/hour of flight time. I’m very lucky in that she doesn’t charge for ground school, but she can afford to do that only because it’s not her primary vocation. She flies an older Cherokee 140 with “steam gauges” with most of her students. Not because it’s fast and flashy, but because it’s a stable platform and affordable for students at $95 an hour. (we fly a Mooney for my commercial training – thats another story altogether)

    So what do I expect? I expect CFI’s to take their job seriously. I don’t think thats too much to ask, and it shouldn’t be too much for a student to expect. Based on the other comments above, that is apparently not the case though.

    Yes, getting your license is much more expensive that when I got mine back in the early 90’s. I paid $4,000, I think, to get my PPL ticket. I took my checkride at 42 hours. FOURTY-TWO. I’ve never failed a checkride, never failed a written (I just took my commercial.. it’s included in that)… in fact, I’ve never even come CLOSE to failing. While I do feel like I am a good student, my success directly correlates with the quality of my Instructors. None of which made what we would consider a “livable wage” from flying – much less getting rich – and they’ve all moved on to fly heavy iron, with the exception of one who devloped Multiple Sclerosis and no longer flies. I currently have my private, my multi and my instrument rating… and it’s all thanks to good -professional- instructors who made a joke of a salary.

  8. says

    I’m absolutely thrilled that this blog post has generated this much conversation. Clearly there is something worth discussing here. And when there is honest, open discussion, learning takes place.

    We can fix this problem internally. And we can successfully address the cost factor associated with flight training, too. Because there are options. This is not a one-size-fits-all system, even if the Practical Test Standards may leave the impression that it is.

    Thank you to each and every one of you who made suggestions, asked questions, or just expressed justifiable frustration. Together we can, and we will correct the deficiencies of our industry. This was just a first step. There is much more to come. I hope each of you will be along for the ride and a valuable part of the team as we move toward a brighter, more productive, and more satisfying future for GA.

  9. says

    Two things make a plane fly; a pilot and his money. I personally gave up flight lessons due to the high cost. My friends wanted to learn, but couldn’t afford the premium that is plane rental, training and ownership. In short, friendly customer service would only be a nicety on the way out. By that I mean, someone telling me “thank you for spending your money with us, have a nice day” is nice, but it doesn’t quite solve the problem.

  10. Jay says

    While I agree with the comments, my question to Victor would be: “What do you expect?”. With most flight schools paying their instructors barely-livable wages, and no real steady pay/work, does anyone expect these CFIs to be professional? The job ends up being a joke as far as employee worth. The worst thing is telling someone to be “professional” without the organizational and human resource support to treat that person like a professional. There is something hugely wrong with aviation and flight training these days (maintaining “professionalism” so you can get that 20K/yr airline job?), but it won’t be solved by telling people to be more professional.

  11. says

    I understand this is a problem with many schools across the country and it is unfortunate. But with everything I have been reading over the last few months on this subject the industry is missing the major point which is cost. In many companies they try keeping the cost down but paying low wages to instructors, using older, less than appealing aircraft and maintenance shops that will do only that is required by the FAR’s.
    As a CPC I maintain 2 full time instructors using state of the art Skyhawks, (’84 with a Garmin 530W and a G1000). These people do not have aspirations to go to the airlines but to teach new folks how to fly and fly safely. All of our clientele that do not finish stop because they simple do not have the resources to continue.
    With the increasing fees that are being placed on schools, between local airport authorities raising land leases, state and federal taxes on payroll, insurance requirements, cost of maintenance and fuel, aircraft purchases and some lawyer waiting to summons you, if God forbid something were to happen, its a miracle that this industry even still exists.

  12. Edie Craddock says

    I completely agree with all of the comments and the same problems exist here in Canada. My first intro flight was with an instructor in NW Florida who was terrific and made me very enthusiastic about learning to fly. Home I came to a very large Flight school near Toronto. They succeeded in pushing me away after a year of hard work, a bad instructor and a huge bucket of money. Their attitude that is shocking and clearly do not care about my business. I have moved to a smaller facility to clean up some mistakes taught by an unprofessional instructor, complete my license and move onto much more training, aircraft ownership and hopefully find some fun in aviation. I went from a 5 minute drive to the airport to a 50 minute drive to find another facility.

    That flight school lost all future business from me, all business that might have gone to the FBO at that facility, and the potential for the Sales dept. to put me into my own plane.

    I haven’t quit, although it has been really close many times.

  13. Anthony says

    At present, I am one of those disgruntled student pilots. 10 years ago, I attempted to earn my private licenses yet gave up after a few flights when I got the impression that my interests were of little concern to my CFI & school. 9 months ago, I determined that I would try again.

    I interviewed the local school & talked with several previous students. I resumed my training with this group in Oct. of ’10. The first 1-1/2 months was going quite well and I really felt I was making alot of progress toward my goal. I was encouraged to join their flight club from the beginning, being told it would save me money, yet resisted since nothing was shown in writing & I could not see the benefit as verbally explained. I had placed my c.c. on file with them & monthly had the school charge my account for services rendered. I was still being encouraged to join this club after the 1-1/2 month honeymoon period & said I would consider it if it saved me money.

    The last 5 months have been a terrible experience. One of the trainer aircraft went down for service and was out of commission for 4 months, the only other one was out of service for 2 weeks during the same time, then unavailable for 3 additional weeks as it was booked for other purposes. Training was scheduled & canceled on several occasions by my CFI. 3 months ago, my cfi canceled a scheduled lesson and disappeared for 2 months with no explanation. He did pass me off to another instructor, as he was disappearing. That cfi offered 1 lesson, then left for 3 weeks on spring break telling me another cfi would contact me for continued lessons.

    Never heard from them again until I made a visit to my local airport after reviewing my lesson charges. I made a mistake by trusting these guys and did not look at my c.c. account charges for 4 months since my training had been put on hold by them. I was surprised at the expenses they had been charging me during this time. They had enrolled me in their flight club without my written consent & was charging me monthly dues along with their hefty initial membership fee. I requested copies of invoices from them (since none was being sent) clarifying expenses & requested a copy of the flight club rates, benefits, rules & regulations. I have received copies of invoices & a small credit for an overcharge they deemed was made in error but nothing regarding the club.

    These guys are sloppy at best & thieves at worst. I know there are alot of stresses on the GA industry & I have withheld judgement so far until I can better understand who they really are. Regardless, they tarnish the industry & I cannot understand this method of operation as I have owned & operated businesses for 25 years. My business would not last 6 months under this type of management (or lack of).

    I will complete & earn my private license but it is unlikely that it will be with this group. I just hate the hassle of finding & qualifying another school & cfi. As GA enthusiasts, we have to overcome (and drive out) such inept operators. GA deserves better & can prosper if done so in a professional, service oriented manner.

  14. Robert says

    I am one of those few that finally stuck it out to get a license after 7 instructors. I first started in 1995 and my first two instructors where more interested in logging time to get that “real” job and both bailed on me within three weeks of starting with them. Instructor number three was just the kind of person that is not suited to teach and he lasted a total of one lesson. Instructor number four was the last one the flight school had and she got me to solo but my feeling is she was more interested in seeing how long she could drag out the process and extract as much from my wallet as possible than teach me how to fly. Mercifully I needed hand surgery in 1996 so I stop flying. Fast forward to 2005 and I decided to try again and did a lot of research for an instructor and thought I found one. Guy had a gold seal rating , nationally recognized and seem to have good references. As early 2005 we made good progress but as the year went on it was plan that the instructor really would rather be writing his book that teach me. So we parted ways ………. and his book is currently available. So I found instructor 6 in early 2006 and we finally made excellent progress where I got to a point I was doing my cross country solos. By the fall of 2006 I felt I was finally getting close to getting my license. Then my employment changed and my available time to fly was just gone …………kinda hard to do anything when your working 60+ hour weeks. Finally changed jobs again in spring 2009 and went back to flying with instructor 7 and finally got my license in Sept 2009.

    14 years from start to finish …….. and people wonder why there are not more student pilots?

  15. says

    I completely agree with Victor, more pilots are geared to elitism than acceptance. I have flown many, many different types of aircraft, but on any given day you will find me in an LSA or an ultralight. Why? Because the two most enjoyable parts of any given flight for me, generally speaking, is when my wheels leave the runway or when they touch back down. That’s not to say that I can’t navigate, fly heavy’s, high performance or anything in between, but those types or aircraft give me the simplest, yet greatest joy… the shear excitement of flying.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve touched down at an airport in an LSA where I am not known, only to be received as an “outsider”, but not just any outsider….. an outsider that “dared” to land anything less than a 152….
    Unfortunately all that author, Victor, myself and to some extent Mike have identified is the condition that is promoting the death of GA. So then, if you take nothing from my post, take this: Any interest from paper planes to commercial operations should be promoted, nurtured and fostered, because it is the love, the simple excitement of aviation that anybody that ever desired to fly has shared. So share your excitement, its contagious!

    Happy Flying….

  16. Ernie Kelly says

    Come visit EAA 677 at Columbus Airport on the last Saturday of most months when our members are giving dreams away to kids during our Young Eagles rallies. No elitism here. Just aviation enthusiasts sharing their joy. We can’t control what happens in the flight training environment, but we can sure as heck open their eyes to both the joy and practicality of general aviation. So that’s what we do. Y’all come see us!

  17. Pete Belardino says

    I agree with the article and all the comments ! The entire GA community is also to blame for side stepping the cost issue ! I have 115 hours logged, was already to take my checkride, and my school closed ! A visit to the other two schools in the Rochester, NY area proved to me that flying is no longer in my budget ! It was fun but…..I need gas and food !
    Another thing I’ve noticed is all the flight magazines, of which I subscribe to, are constantly stressing the inherent dangers of flying and the reporting on the NTSB accident statistics……does anyone stress the fun and freedom of flying ? Imagine a prospective student picking up one of these mags for the first time….has to make them think twice !!! Quit pushing the doom and gloom…….start stressing the fun, freedom, and excitement that flight gives us !!!!

  18. Dave Tibbals says

    I honestly think there is something else at the heart of the problem. We in the US have the process for becoming a pilot, well, backwards. The neo-pilots are the instructors. I do not know of many other countries where the most inexperienced of the profession perform the function of training the students.

    There is a great gap between the experiences that could be related from a seasoned pilot and that of a 300 to 500 hour CFI(I). The training of rote rule compliance, mechanical flight control imputs, and limited ground school knowledge is turning the student against the system. The joy of experience, relayed by those that have “seen that” and vicarious learning from the errors made long ago is simply not there today.

    In Canada, the neophyte flyer is employable as an SIC after he/she gets the commercial instrument tickets punched. The instruction is done by more seasoned professionals and their “drop out rate” is minimal. This is accomplished by regulations on commercial night flying and dual pilot requirements in the commercial flying sector.

    Just my .02 cents worth, but I see how successful other countries are at turning out enthusiastic young professionals. The biggest difference is the experience of the CFI.

    DT

  19. Shane Gorman says

    No question this is an industry problem and the comments are certainly representative of common perspectives. I have been fortunate not to have seen much of that side of aviation in the past 40 years of flying but I know it exists. As an active CFI I am extra sensitive to the concerns and try hard to do the right thing for the student and we seem to get most of our students through the course, way more than industry averages. However, one thing that I know is not always done properly is setting expectations for a prospective student. It’s important to paint an accurate picture of time and cost to completion using national averages and not just FAA requirements, really try to understand the prospect’s motivation, get some sense of aptitude and one of the most important indicators in my opinion is their history of finishing what they start. As instructors we want students and maybe we don’t always qualify them as carefully as we should which might be one cause of a high attrition rate

  20. Miles Kimball says

    [Sorry, accidentally clicked submit! ]
    … to have only a minor impact on lift).

    People in the flight training community have known for years that contextualized, situational learning under close supervision of competent instructors (not just competent pilots) is the way to go. Unfortunately, the certification system just doesn’t support that kind of learning.

  21. Miles Kimball says

    AOPA’s recent focus groups have revealed that poor instruction is epidemic in the flight training system. As an experienced educator in a technical field in higher education, I have been appalled at the level of instruction I’ve witnessed in my own flight training and since then.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t terrific, dedicated flight instructors out there – just that they are few and far between. The flight school I trained at is run by one such person. But the reliance on time-building commercial pilots for flight instruction means that most instructors have virtually no interest in teaching, as well as little aptitude. Part of the difficulty is that the training provided to trainers through the FAA certification and testing system for CFI’s is thin, based on the same kinds of time-worn, outmoded pedagogies that characterize all of their other certifications – namely, a whole lot of memorization of decontextualized “facts,” some of which barely reached a level of certitude necessarily call them such (I’m thinking of the old saw about lift being a result of the Bernoulli effect, which has been shown time and again ).

  22. Steven Rudin says

    I remember an article in Flying Magazine which was probably written in the early 1980s about the same problem addressed in this article. A writer for the magazine went “undercover.” . He visited various flight schools posing as a prospective beginning student. He described how the welcome mat was definitely not out in many of these schools.
    The problem he was addressing was the same as the problem now:: Why are there fewer students, and why are so many students quitting before getting their license.

  23. Mike says

    I agree with the point of the article, and I agree with Victor’s comments. To Victor’s point, I have seen too many people get turned off by taking their first ride with some dope of a pilot who scares the heck out of the passenger, only to create at best someone fearful of flying “little airplanes” and at worst, an enemy of GA

    But to the main point of the blog, I think we have to figure out how to make affordable, professional training available broadly. On one hand, an individual CFI training out of his hangar in his one and only airplane, or doing all his training in the customer’s airplane (some people buy before they can fly), can and should have a professional attitude and approach. But this is very hard to teach and monitor — there are dopes in all lines of work. So then perhaps formalized flight schools are the only way to go. But then, so many have gone out of business because they run on the thinnest of margins in the best of times. How can FBOs afford to stay in the training business and offer training at an affordable cost to the student?

    This is a real conundrum that needs to be tacked at an industry level.

  24. Victor says

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying. I only wish you had touched on the elitist attitude that so many GA pilots and aircraft owners tend to fall into over this amazing privilege of flight.
    I was lucky enough to be introduced to GA by a school…a good school that, I am sad to say, is now out of business. The difficult economic times always seems take the best of our group.
    It’s not that I didn’t have the experience of the old hangar flyers in my youth. A close friend of our family was a pilot and had his own aircraft. My uncle also was a pilot. He, too, had his own aircraft. I flew with both of them. I walked away both times after being razzed and general spoken down to as a “land lubber” and almost gave up my passion for aviation.
    My initial experience behind a yoke was much like that of the woman in the Stearman in your article. The rotund flight instructor who gave me my first intro flight was hugely appreciative of a prospective student and made my first REAL flying experience unforgettable.
    That was many years ago. Now, I fly regularly but I have to deal with the elitist attitudes of those that I encounter. I’ve seen them chase away prospective pilots more times that I can count with their stupid attitudes and ridiculous jokes about non-pilots.
    I love being a pilot. I love talking about airplanes (just ask my wife), and I’m more than willing to take a non-pilot up for their first ride. I’ve even paid for it out of my own pocket a few times. I WANT them to walk away with not only a “hey, I can do this!” attitude, but with the idea that all they have to do is call up, schedule a flight, or start their training, without having to worry about being made to feel like an outsider.
    Everyone in GA knows that the number of students finishing their training is dwindling. We need to make a concerted effort to help those who want to live the dream make it come true.
    We are stewards of our passion, not an elitist group of which there is no entry. That “land lubber” you’re talking to about flying WANTS to learn to fly — help them. Don’t make them feel stupid. Remember: None of us were born with a pilot’s license. None of us were “given” a license — we all had to earn it.

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