It’s no surprise to anyone in the aviation industry to hear that the pilot population is shrinking. Sure, it’s sad – but it’s not a surprise. We all know it’s shrinking. If only there were something we could do to reverse that trend.
Good news — there is. In fact that trend can be reversed relatively easily, and reasonably quickly, too. I know that’s true because it’s happening right here in my neighborhood. With a little nudge from you and your aviation-minded friends, it could happen in your neighborhood, too.
As regular readers of this column are aware, I tend toward an almost evangelical zeal when it comes to expressing my belief that aviation is beneficial to society, and to individuals. It came as something of a surprise to my daughter’s boyfriend, however. He is not a regular reader of this column, yet I continue to treat him well anyway. Go figure.
The boyfriend is a college student who has his sights set on becoming a lawyer. That aside, he’s a decent kid. So one day, recently, as he sat on the couch in my living room, and I stretched out across an overstuffed chair, I made this comment. “You know, you really should think about learning to fly.”
Understandably, he laughed. And why not? I’m a funny guy. For all he knew I was joking with him, the old man and the young turk. But no, I told him I was serious. He should at least consider it, and maybe even do it. And here’s why: One day in the not-so-distant future he is going to complete his college education. He will walk out of a large institution of higher learning with his Juris Doctor under his arm, and march directly to a law office where he will drop off a resume for consideration.
His resume, if all goes as currently planned, will be essentially indistinguishable from the hundreds of other resumes filling desk drawers and file folders in the office. That’s good, to an extent. At least it will have missed being remarkably common to hundreds of other resumes that never made it into a desk drawer or a filing cabinet. Those that fill the wastepaper baskets of America’s law offices come from job applicants who are just as eager and hopeful, even if they are less well credentialed for the position they seek.
And that’s the point. Credentials matter, especially early in your career when you have no track record to point to. That plain vanilla resume is unlikely to rise to the top of the pile and get someone motivated to call the boyfriend in for an interview – unless he can make it stand out somehow. Being able to include the word “pilot” on your resume tends to separate you from the crowd. It’s an accomplishment that not only has practical value, but it says something about the person who carries it. And what it says is overwhelmingly positive.
I only mention this because two days later my daughter casually mentioned that her boyfriend had asked her if she knew how much it cost to become a pilot. That’s right, the idea didn’t go in one ear and out the other. It hung around for a while. He considered it, and all on his own the boyfriend began to think that maybe there was some merit to the suggestion after all.
Now if that was happening in isolation I certainly wouldn’t waste your time telling you about it. However, this idea is becoming somewhat more popular among the population I spend time with. In fact I have at this very moment eight names written on a card that’s posted to a bulletin board in my office. Each name belongs to someone who expressed serious interest in forming a flying club so they can fly more often, less expensively, and in an aircraft they have confidence in.
That’s an important tidbit of information because of the eight names on the list, only two belong to pilots. The other half dozen potential club members do not fly. They want to. In fact several have wanted to fly for some time – but they didn’t know where they could get reliable information. Every single one of those people has made it clear that they have wanted to fly for years…but their own ignorance of the process, coupled with the slack customer service offered at many flight schools and FBOs, has left them without any clear path to follow to achieve that goal. So they stopped asking. And nobody went out of their way to tell these poor potential pilots about the various options available to them. Then I opened my big mouth, and their horizons are opening up again.
The pilot population is shrinking. But it doesn’t have to be shrinking. It could be growing, like it is in my small circle of influence. Imagine what might happen in your neighborhood if you started encouraging your friends and co-workers to at least consider the option. You might be surprised to find that you know at least a handful of people who would love to learn to fly, and become dedicated members of the general aviation community – if only someone would help them get started.
If only there was someone they knew and trusted who could help them get started. Hey, that sounds an awful lot like you, doesn’t 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.
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