Dan Johnson, president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, is an expert on Light Sport Aircraft.
No, this is not about an established flight school operation. Nor is it about a university training program, or some government flight training facility. I’m simply impressed that Charles Stites and his Able Flight nonprofit organization have brought so many new pilots into the fold. For this alone, he deserves applause. Add that he exclusively helps pilots with disabilities and you have something noteworthy.
Here’s a contrast: At the AOPA Aviation Summit the main topic of discussion was how to reverse the depressing 70% drop-out rate of flight school students. On the other side of the compass, “Able Flight achieves a very impressive completion rate of at least 72% for recipients of its full scholarships,”
revealed Stites, who founded the organization in 2006. “We’ve awarded a total of 30 scholarships as of September, and 24 are full scholarships that can lead to a license. Of those, 14 are already licensed pilots, three are in training, three are yet to begin, and only four have dropped out.”
How does Able Flight do it? “It’s not that their training is easier,” explained Stites. “If anything, it’s more physically demanding for a paraplegic or a person who has lost a limb. Our students never get a break meeting the same Sport Pilot Practical Test Standards that all applicants must complete.”
To some extent, the Able Flight advantage is matter of personnel management.
“Able Flight student pilots know they are being matched with good flight instructors at schools that care about their success.” In addition, Able Flight has assembled a cadre of people students can ask for extra assistance. “In short, each student is backed by people who want them to succeed.”
Now, is that so hard? Evidently it is or we would not have a 70% drop-out rate at conventional flight schools. Kudos to Stites and his backers, but most of the credit stays with instructors who care and highly motivated students, who repeatedly prove that someone with sufficient determination can accomplish almost anything.
For more on LSAs: ByDanJohnson.com