I recently wrote a post where I suggested it might be possible to earn a private pilot certificate for as little as $5,000. I made that suggestion for the simple reason that it’s true. It’s an option that is available to anyone who is willing to thrown off the yoke of 20th Century flight training convention and embrace the 21st Century opportunities available to them.
Understandably I received e-mail that implied that I was misleading my readers, or perhaps didn’t have complete control of my sensibilities. It was pointed out to me that the TSA is evil, the FAA is overbearing, our airports are surrounded by fences festooned with signs admonishing people to keep out, and of course the earth-shattering revelation that the costs of providing flight training for a non-profit club are the same as the costs of providing flight training for a profit driven business.
Taking all of these arguments together, weighing them carefully and establishing the totality of their obstructionist potential I say this. So what? None of that matters. None of it.
These are myths perpetuated by our inner demons. Every one of these negatives can be turned into a positive or easily mitigated – if we choose to do so. Admittedly, it is often easier to throw up our hands and admit defeat than it is to climb the muddy mountain of opposition and plant the flag of success on the summit (I do love a good visual), but it can be done and it is being done.
Perspective is a choice. We can choose to see a path to a larger more vibrant pilot population and set out to achieve that goal, or we can choose to be in the waning days of the General Aviation Era. I choose the former. In fact, I make that choice so fervently, with such optimism and hope, I cannot be swayed by mere prognostication of gloom and doom. I’ve seen the light. It’s been my pleasure to surround myself with people and institutions that have a can-do spirit and a plan to get where they’re going.
Join us, or don’t. But whatever your choice, don’t be fooled into thinking we can’t make a difference that puts more pilots in the air, more airplanes on the ramp, better educational outcomes into our schools, and more skilled individuals into the job market. We can.
The problem for many of us is that we’re human, and being human, we’re susceptible to human limitations. We have a tendency to slump into a rut while convincing ourselves we’re actually in the groove. We see the problems facing us and consider them insoluble because we can’t personally find a fix. We expect the business model we used successfully 60 years ago to remain viable regardless of changes in technology, the economy, or the desires of our customers. Essentially, we delude ourselves into failure and salve our souls with the belief that no other outcome was possible. Our failures are due to the vagaries of fate, not our own lack of vision, creativity, or flexibility.
The flip side of that scenario is the great gift some of us recognize in being human. Because, as humans we’re prone to dreams of grandeur and lives filled with the pursuit of majestic possibilities. Our own limitations are mere speed-bumps on the road of life because we know we don’t have to re-invent the wheel every generation or two. The odds are somebody already has. All we have to do is learn from their example, apply the principles they’ve pioneered for us, and reap the rewards of standing on the shoulders of others who willingly gave us a boost up to higher heights.
So let’s apply those positive attributes to the general aviation environment. Is fuel one of the factors driving your costs up? Then consider an auto-fuel STC, or a powerplant designed to run on mogas. That single change can have a profound effect on your cost of doing business.
Does the airport fence intimidate potential clients? Erect a big sign that says, “Welcome to…” and paint it up in cheerful colors with an upbeat slogan. If customers think renting is too expensive, explain how fractional ownership and flying clubs (both with an equity stake and without) work – then offer to help them find the method of accessing an airplane that works best for them.
In short, you can catch more flies with honey that you can with vinegar. Smile. Offer a warm and genuine hand-shake. Provide a level of service so high it surprises and pleases your customers and potential customers. Market to a broad audience, welcome non-traditional customers to your counter, and take the time to ask them what you can do to make them feel more comfortable while at the airport. Operate the airport as if it’s 2013, not as if it’s 1955.
The market will always be populated by those who say you can’t, no matter what field of endeavor you’re in. But history teaches us over and over again that you can, if you’re willing to really try. So do your homework, make your choices, and do your best. If you really want to succeed, you will — eventually.