Flying is such an amazing experience, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t think it’s cool on some level.
Because of this mindset I have a real passion for seeing our industry flourish — most of us do. It’s partially selfish, because if people aren’t interested in flying we shrink as a community. If we shrink too much there are obvious bad things that occur.
Many folks believe we have already started this downhill slide and that recreational aviation in the U.S. will look more like it does overseas in a few years.
I think we can all share some responsibility for growing our ranks and seeing our community prosper. One of the best — and easiest — ways to do that is to “share the magic.”
This means going out and evangelizing the virtues of flying. Let it be known that 1) it’s not impossibly expense, 2) it doesn’t require super-human skills and 3) it’s more fun than most people can imagine.
Doing this simple thing can lead people in the right direction. Their natural curiosity will take over and, if they venture close enough, they just might get hooked.
Going a step further, you can reach out directly to people within your sphere of influence and offer to “help” them explore flying. In this way you are taking the first step to mentor that person. That doesn’t mean you need to be highly experienced or some kind of expert. You might be new to flying yourself. It’s the encouragement — the nudge — that they need initially. You can be the spark that sets someone on a course that changes the rest of their life. What a powerful thing!
Jamie Beckett wrote a great article here on mentoring in December 2013. In it he drives home some of the key concepts of mentorship.
Let’s explore some simple ways to “share the magic.” I wouldn’t call it full-blown mentoring yet, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Take social media for example. It’s one of the easiest ways to reach people. If you have something great to pronounce about aviation, post it via social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and the like. In this way you are putting it out there and someone on the other end can potentially be affected.
Depending on your circumstances, this could be thousands of friends or followers. Talk about an amazing reach! If someone out there has an interest, they will like or comment on the post and that’s an opportunity to reach out and engage them.
With some refinement you can create a virtual short list of potential new pilot candidates.
If you haven’t adopted social media yet, I would suggest you let go of what’s holding you back and move into the 21st century, especially if you plan to reach anyone under 30.
Another more “traditional” method is to talk about flying with people around you. It could be as simple as mentioning it in the break room at work, or with neighbors when you are making small talk, or with relatives when you are at gatherings. Always keep in mind any social setting is an opportunity to reel someone in.
I think we have hurt ourselves with the old jokes like, “How do you know if there is a pilot at your party? Don’t worry they’ll tell you!” Unfortunately many pilots, in an effort to avoid that stereotype, have gone underground, only talking aviation with other pilots.
The bottom line is we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our flying. You can always change the subject. If they start to ask questions and they seem genuinely interested, you’ll know to keep the conversation flowing.
We have a responsibility to not only share in an effort to grow our ranks, but we are also accountable for sending the right message. You should seize every opportunity, but if you are braggadocios or overbearing you are doing more harm than good. If we don’t use a little tact, like Jamie suggests, we risk coming across as weirdos — not exactly the result we are looking for.
Also, we need to be careful we aren’t putting things out there that set the wrong example about safety and regulatory compliance. The proliferation of YouTube is great for celebrating this wonderful experience, but we should be careful of the impression we leave on our audiences (and the exposure to our tickets).
This power we have to share and mentor stands to truly change our industry and reverse the disturbing downward trend we have seen in recent decades. If only a fraction of us actively mentored someone, we have a fighting chance. I would suggest that sharing is the first step in that process. It’s an easy thing to do and you’ll get back more than you give — I promise.
So the next time you have something noteworthy to say about flying, don’t be shy about it. If we don’t promote aviation, who will?
Your first task, if you accept this challenge, is to let us know how you have shared aviation with others. Just put it in the comments below.