Four years ago, Ravi the Raviator didn’t even know what CFI stood for. Now he travels the country, giving inspiration talks about how to rejuvenate aviation and increase the number of people in our community.
“It’s important to go out and fan that flame,” he said. “This is an opportunity to participate in one of humanity’s greatest achievements.”
A musician by trade — he was the guitarist for the boy band Hansen years ago and now takes his solo act on the road hundreds of days of the year — Ravi had always wanted to learn how to fly. “But like so many people, I was sitting on the fence thinking it was harder than it is and more expensive. It took somebody fanning that flame.”
That somebody was Daniel Sennheiser of the Sennheiser family, whose company manufactures equipment for the recording industry, as well as top-of-the-line headsets for aviation. “We talked music for about five minutes then we talked flying for the rest of the time,” Ravi remembered. “We found a common interest in an unexpected environment.”
Shortly after that he met a CFI — who explained to him what that was — and the two agreed on a barter: The CFI would teach him to fly and he would teach his CFI how to play the guitar.
A little thing like not knowing what CFI stands for is one of the problems that aviation faces in attracting more people, Ravi notes.
“A majority of people are interested in learning how to fly, but as an industry we do a better job of extinguishing the flame,” he said. “We put up a lot of barriers.”
Barriers like all the acronyms we use in aviation. Barriers like the fences around our airports. And perhaps the biggest barrier: People just not understanding what, exactly, general aviation is.
And while recent efforts to boost the pilot population have a “anybody can do it” theme, Ravi thinks this is a mistake.
“We need to bring back a sense of elitism to being a pilot,” he said. “It’s about creating desire. Everybody wants to be part of the elite.”
He likens it to the recent protest about the 1% on Wall Street. “We are the 1%,” he says, noting just one of 100 people are pilots. “And the rest of the 99% really want to be part of the 1%. We are an exclusive club that everybody wants to be in.”
Of course one of the first objections people raise as to why they can’t become a pilot is the cost. Ravi has a sport pilot license, which took him about six months to get. When he amortized the cost over a year, he found that he paid about $500 a month. “I pay more than that for my car,” he said. “I tell people they can live their dream for the cost of a monthly car payment.”
While cost is a barrier for many people, Ravi points to an even bigger one: Commitment. A commitment of time, a commitment to training, a commitment to professionalism, a commitment to safety.
“We don’t want to tell people ‘anybody can do this — a monkey can fly a plane,” he says. “That not the message we want to send to kids.”
The message instead is general aviation is not accessible to just anyone, just you, he said. “It’s a very subtle change.”
During his talks, Ravi points out that the skills learned to become a pilot help people in every other facet of their lives, from school work, to career, to managing money. “It makes people more aware as a human being,” he said.
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