If public schools had a drop-out rate of 70 to 80%, the outcry would be deafening. Yet that is what America’s flight schools overall face, and is a significant contributing factor to why the pilot population continues its downward trend, according to officials at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
“The past 20-plus years have been filled with dozens of well-intentioned attempts to increase the pilot population by enticing more people to try flying,” said Craig Fuller, president and CEO. “Some have worked better than others, but none was the silver bullet people hoped to find. So AOPA, through the AOPA Foundation, is reopening and reframing the discussion of how to build the pilot population, focusing on helping existing student pilots succeed.”
AOPA has commissioned a research study to model the flight training process and identify the key factors that affect student retention. The study involves both quantitative and qualitative research, using surveys and focus groups with student pilots (including those who have quit training), certificated pilots, flight instructors, and flight school operators, to help identify why so many students give up on the dream.
AOPA will present the study’s findings to experts and stakeholders from throughout the flight training industry – from the FAA to course content developers to aircraft and simulator manufacturers to the people on the flight lines doing the actual training – at a daylong Flight Training Summit, presented by AOPA’s Flight Training magazine, at next month’s AOPA Aviation Summit in Long Beach, Calif. The Flight Training Summit is anticipated to be the first in a series of ongoing meetings and discussions with the industry to discuss what the findings mean and how to overcome the barriers that they identify.
The public, both in the exhibit hall and online, will get to hear the findings as well as initial results from the Flight Training Summit during the opening day keynote presentation at the AOPA Aviation Summit on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif. (All three days’ keynotes will be streamed live beginning at 9 a.m. Pacific time/Noon Eastern time on AOPA Live.)
This new approach attempts to fix the badly leaking pipeline that refills the pool of pilots, AOPA officials said, noting it differs from previous efforts in a number of ways:
- The research will provide detailed, objective data, rather than relying on old assumptions to try to formulate new solutions.
- Instead of trying to entice new people to try flying, this effort focuses on keeping people engaged who have already proven their strong interest by starting training.
- It actively engages the broadest possible spectrum of GA stakeholders to gather information and ultimately to implement solutions.
- It focuses on what works. Solutions have to function in the real world – a world where weather can bring training to a halt and aircraft go down for maintenance.
The study and subsequent meetings are intended as a first step in a long-term process to develop a new flight training paradigm – one that can increase the chances of helping someone who has the aspiration to experience the freedom to fly become a pilot.
Meetings and discussions will continue beyond the AOPA Aviation Summit, into 2011 and perhaps beyond. All along the way, AOPA will share what is learned with the industry – especially the flight schools and instructors – with the goal of helping more student pilots navigate successfully to their pilot certificates.
“I am encouraged as we do the work necessary to develop well-researched and well-thought-out solutions,” concluded Fuller, “because we find people and organizations across the country that are dedicated to successfully growing the pilot population.”
For more information: AOPA.org