Sporty’s Trend Report

At the end of every year, the folks at Sporty’s detail the trends for the past year. They call 2011 the year of the iPad — again.

“2011 is the Year of the iPad — again,” says President Michael Wolf. “We could probably stop right here as that just about sums it up. But, seriously, this year was when pilots of all types, from those flying Cubs to those flying Gulfstreams, took up the tablet. And moving map displays with external GPS made them more powerful than ever.”

But Wolf warns that it’s not time to hold the funeral for paper charts yet. “Many pilots remain belt-and-suspenders guys,” he said. “Even dyed-in-the-wool iPad lovers often have a nagging insecurity that, once airborne, they want that paper backup.

“Same thing with dedicated aviation GPSs,” he continues. “They ain’t dead yet. Case in point: the Garmin 796 with its stunning 3D vision. What a hit!”

Flight simulators come to primary training: Long used for instrument or type-specific training, flight sims are now being used in primary training, he notes. “Whether for fuel costs, maximizing training dollars or superior yet affordable technology, sims and new pilots go together. Students will spend lots of time in simulators in the years ahead. Sporty’s is on trend with a new guide which shows students how to integrate Flight Sim X into Sporty’s award-winning video course — truly affordable simulation for everyone. On the higher end, Sporty’s Academy is partnering with Frasca Simulators to explore new and innovative flight training products.”

Move over Steven Spielberg. Everyone’s a movie-maker these days for family, friends, and YouTube — pilots especially. Cockpit video cameras have gone from a curiosity to a must-have gadget, complete with HD video, cockpit audio and GPS. Inflight video is also useful for training, aerobatics or just as a digital logbook/scrapbook.

Flight training puts the “custom” in customer. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to training — the retired business exec wants a different experience than the airline-bound teenager. But the trend has gone beyond that. This past year, Sporty’s has offered very successful “finish up” courses for pilots who could never quite reach the goal, whether for a private license or to finish that instrument rating. New pilots want to train with glass panels, too. That makes Sporty’s new Skycatchers even more popular as training platforms, Wolf said.

Online seminars increase. A few years back, who had even heard of a webinar? Now, with more to learn than ever (apps, glass panels, latest gadgets), customers like webinars. You can learn without even leaving home and webinars are archived for future viewing. And it’s free! Sporty’s webinar on flying with the iPad is a huge hit, he noted.

We need more pilots — and we’re working on it as a community. AOPA turned its attention to student pilot retention. EAA continues its Young Eagles program, now enhanced by Sporty’s Next Step, further enhanced with a partnership with Aviation Exploring and Young Eagles. EAA’s pilot outreach is soon to be expanded into attracting older individuals who now (finally) have the time and money to learn to fly, and Sporty’s will be involved in that program too.

“We’re all working together for the good of the pilot community,” he said. “At Sporty’s, our modular approach to flight training continues to support excellent retention rates and better customer experiences. Getting everybody to solo is critical — that’s why Sporty’s launched a new course which guides pilots to that step.”

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