Saturday, December 17th, 2022

How to stabilize the flight training industry

Last week I posed a question: Can pilots learning to fly for personal reasons play a role in stabilizing the cyclical flight training industry?

Here are some of the benefits that personal pilots can bring.

  1. Local pilots are not subject to the cyclical nature of airline hiring. Their economic circumstances can help to balance the training cycle that dependence on airline training can bring.
  2. Local pilots bring awareness of the airport to their friends and neighbors. They are cheap and effective marketing for your school. People who have thought about learning to fly but didn’t know where to start will be encouraged to step forward and start training.
  3. Local pilots using your airport are advocates for general aviation where you need them in your community. Stop fighting anti-airport interests who claim that general aviation is only a hobby for rich-white-men, and encourage training more local pilots who will talk up the benefits of the airport on your behalf.
  4. Local pilots use local services. Even after they complete their training and buy their own planes, their use of the airport will affect everything from decisions about FAA airport improvement grants to mechanics deciding to open a business.
  5. Local pilots need regular training. Encouraging local pilots to engage in flight reviews and instrument proficiency above the FAA minimums contributes to a safety culture at your airport, fosters community, and adds to your bottom line.
  6. Local pilots can form a pool of part-time instructors who won’t be tempted to leave when airlines lure your CFIs to the regionals. Many won’t have time to teach full-time and will stop teaching when airline hiring slows.

I am writing this on December 17th: the anniversary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight at Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk North Carolina. The Wrights’ saw their flying machine as a tool for the military and chose to keep word of their achievement quiet, not even entering production until they had a military customer.

Their big rival, Glen Curtiss saw flying very differently. Curtiss had a passion for flying and soon started a flying school in Hammondsport, New York, building airplanes and teaching people to fly recreationally.

Here’s the thing … it was Curtiss’ vision that grew general aviation in America (the Smithsonian didn’t even recognize the Wrights’ achievement until after World War 2).

Twenty five years after the Wrights’ made that first flight on December 17, 1903, the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company bought out Wright Aeronautical and became the largest aviation company in the world.

Something to think about.