“Community” is a time-honored best practice at Sporty’s Academy in Ohio. “It’s impossible to estimate how many student pilots are lost by making them feel like an intrusion into a flight school’s operations,” says Sporty’s Academy President Eric Radtke. “Instructors shouldn’t take students for granted and should welcome everyone coming to the airport into the general aviation community.”
At Sporty’s Academy at Clermont County/Sporty’s Airport in Batavia, Ohio, near Cincinnati, student pilots are embraced and welcomed as part of the airport community. Held all year long, Saturday lunch cookouts, serving free hot dogs, allow student pilots to interact with other community members on an informal basis. Customers have the opportunity to meet others pursuing a pilot certificate so they learn they’re not alone. These opportunities also allow customers to interact with other instructors and pilots who will undoubtedly provide additional inspiration and support.
Other techniques for creating a sense of community include the Sporty’s Learn to Fly blog which is updated regularly, according to company officials. As many as a half dozen flight instructors post their thoughts, opinions and experiences across a broad range of aviation topics – from training to just enjoying the benefit and freedom of a pilot’s license, officials note. Safety seminars and open houses hosted by Sporty’s are also popular events, and active participation in social media including Facebook and Twitter keep customers close to the airport at all times.
Sporty’s Academy also honors learn-to-fly milestones by presenting awards and plaques. Signage, newsletters and news releases about each student to the local media guarantee that the customers understand the importance of their remarkable accomplishments.
“Being part of the community of pilots means honoring its traditions,” says Radtke. That includes the cutting of the shirt tail after the student solos. Sporty’s goes one step further by framing that shirt tail so the student will have it as a memento forever. “The framed shirt tail closes the loop,” says Radtke “and puts our students on the same level as all other pilots.”