AOPA names Best Flight School, Instructor and President’s Choice Award Winners

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) recognized the top flight instructor and flight school during its Aviation Summit 2013 when its Center to Advance the Pilot Community issued its best flight instruction awards based on a poll of more than 3,300 flight students. One individual was separately honored with the President’s Choice Award.

The 2013 winner of Best Flight School is San Carlos Flight Center in San Carlos, Calif. The 2013 winner of Best Flight Instructor is Conor Dancy of Leesburg, Va., and the winner of the President’s Choice Award is Bob Hepp, owner of Aviation Adventures Flight School in Virginia.

The best flight school and best flight instructor award recipients were chosen from the results of the 2013 Flight Training Excellence Poll. The Poll is based on AOPA’s extensive research into the optimal flight training experience and focuses on four key factors: Educational quality; customer focus; community and information sharing.

The Flight Training Excellence Poll is conducted using an online survey process that contains several measures designed to ensure fairness, according to AOPA officials. Each individual can review up to one flight school and one flight instructor per year. In all, 3,375 individuals completed the poll in 2013, resulting in reviews of 508 different flight schools and 956 different flight instructors.

San Carlos Flight Center and owner Dan Dyer are heavily engaged at their airport and within the local community. From staging frequent fly-out events to fun and educational seminars – including a recent gathering titled, “So I’m married to a pilot” — San Carlos makes it a priority to not only get students through flight training, but to make sure they are a part of a community.

Comments from those who gave San Carlos favorable ratings in the Flight Training Excellence Poll included:

  • “I knew from the minute I walked in that SCFC was different and BETTER. A culture of professionalism and safety is demonstrated by everyone from the owner down to the member services staff”.
  • “Other schools I’ve found you have to join the ‘good ole boys’ club’, but everyone has always been welcomed at San Carlos Flight Center, equally.”

Conor Dancy is an assistant chief instructor at Aviation Adventures at Leesburg, VA (JYO). He drew rave reviews from students of all ages:

  • “Extremely passionate about flying! The first time I met Conor was during my [intro] flight and I had never seen anyone as passionate about anything in my life.”
  • “I chose Conor for two reasons. The first was that I noticed that many of the other (and even more experienced) instructors came to him for guidance/advice on aviation matters. The made it obvious to me that he was knowledgeable in the aviation field, and since I had NO flying experience, I wanted the top guy in the organization to train me. The second reason that I chose Conor was that I noticed his schedule was more busy…. That indicated to me that the students were satisfied with him as well.”
  • “Conor is always learning and accomplishing flight goals like his students. On the day of my checkride, Conor was completing his MEI checkride too!”

The recipient of the AOPA President’s Choice Award is chosen by AOPA’s president from the pool of candidates submitted through the Flight Training Excellence Poll. The award recognizes significant and innovative contributions to the flight training community by a flight school, group, or individual.

Hepp won this year’s award because of the work he has done to give back to the flight training community, according to AOPA officials. Bob runs a successful fight school with three locations, and he does so with a generous community spirit, the association’s officials noted. “Bob has literally shared many parts of his “playbook” with the flight training community so that others schools can move towards growth, prosperity and flight training success,” AOPA officials said.

“We believe that Bob’s actions are key to an important shift for our industry and community — that it is okay to share knowledge, ideas and best practices,” said Adam Smith, senior vice president of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community. “We are happy to acknowledge Bob’s leadership with this award, and we hope that his actions inspire others to pay it forward.”

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