The True Value of Flight Training

Much has been said about the cost of flight training today and the potential return on investment on a pilot certificate. In a dynamic job market the potential pilots of the millennial generation may well wonder if there is value to pilot certification beyond the cockpit. Will the time spent becoming a pilot be worthwhile? According to our research, the answer is a resounding yes.

The Changing Job Market

Employers and workers are looking at work, success and preparedness in a whole new way. To be “future proof” today’s workers need to ensure they have core skills and abilities not just job specific training. In fact one report showed that 63% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills among job candidates. What they want are workers who can adapt, cope and roll with the punches. Skills like problem solving, communication and flexibility are key to staying ahead in today's ever more fluid marketplaces.

How Do Pilots Measure Up to the New Metrics?

Ask almost any pilot and they will tell you the lessons learned from flying an aircraft go far beyond the cockpit. The 300 pilots we surveyed heartily agreed there are broader life skills pilots learn, the top five being:

  • Self Confidence
  • Managing Uncertainty
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Adaptability

Every time a pilot flies they are using and honing these skills whether they realize it or not.  As it turns out, they are some of the same skills experts identify as crucial to success in three key business sectors.

Corporate America

In corporate America traditional rules governing hiring no longer apply.  Google, the nation’s top rated employer, now looks for key skills and talents rather than direct experience, noting in a New York Times article that “Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many non-traditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one.” A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers backs this up, reporting that 78% of employers will consider any college major pointing to communication skills, problem solving, and adaptability as key needs.


More and more entrepreneurship is seen as a key driver in the growth of a robust economy, and millennials are leading the charge.  Forbes Magazine calls them “the true entrepreneurial generation.” But is there a link between entrepreneurs and pilots? INC Magazine thinks so, noting “Entrepreneurs are a lot like pilots. They're goal-oriented and disciplined. To be effective, they must project confidence and competence at all times.” Plus the list of famous entrepreneurs is stacked with pilots:

  • Steve Wozniak co-founder of Apple
  • Michael Bloomberg founder of Bloomberg LP
  • Larry Ellison founder of Oracle

And the list goes on, underscoring the connection between pilot skills and entrepreneurial success.

Sharing Economy

Connected, tech-savvy millennials love services like Uber and they are fueling huge growth. They have embraced the concept of the sharing economy and are both using and developing new freelance services. A Bentley University study confirms that more and more millennials want to work on their own. But can they succeed? Another study by the Career Advisory Board, rated life skills such as problem solving, self confidence, and communication as equally important to technical skills in ensuring freelance success. It seems that the life skills of a pilot make those with flight training experience prime candidates to cash in on the sharing economy gold rush.

Flight Training = Life Long Success

For millennials considering flight training, there is a strong case to be made that becoming a pilot will set them up for career success even if life eventually takes them outside the cockpit. Clearly a pilot's certificate has a value that is greater and more holistic than it appears on the surface. Be sure to check out our Flying Into Your Perfect Career infographic and case study to see all the data presented in a clear and engaging way that students (and parents) can easily understand. 

Given rising costs and the pressing need to meet the pilot shortage, flight program recruiters should consider pointing out these broader benefits to potential students as a win-win in terms of career preparedness and we hope they will freel free to use our research to do so.

The True Value of Flight Training

As awesome as it is to earn your living by piloting an aircraft, it is equally awesome to know that as a pilot you have developed a set of practical and valuable skills that will always serve you well in life. Looked at from this broader perspective the true value of flight training might quite possibly be in who it helps you become rather than what it teaches you to fly.

Enabling Technology

Like many, I view technology as an enabler. It enables old, established industries and businesses to create new markets that did not exist before. The Classic example is Ford’s Model T. It was the Model T that changed the transportation market, not the automobile. Through technology (i.e. production savings), Ford was able to mass-produce the Model T and, with that, access an entirely new consumer that previously was content with horse-drawn vehicles. He democratized access to modern transportation.

In my quest to seek solutions for flight training, I find it helpful to seek ideas/examples form other industries with similar characteristics. In May, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the General Manager of the leading CATERPILLAR (CAT) dealer in North America. With $55 billion in revenue, CAT is a big company looking for every opportunity to expand and find new customer segments. The GM walked us through the grounds and showed us a variety of equipment from diggers to dozers. Truth be told, I spent my childhood working on farms that bought and sold heavy equipment as well as assembled commercial grade field mowers. The equipment on the field was a mix of factory new and customer used, all of them had a similar set of antennae and wires connected to the cockpit.

The two antennae are connected to a ‘brain’ in the back of the dozer. In each picture, the skilled operator is actually not controlling the blade or bucket. He/She is simply driving the equipment. What is happening behind the scenes is the ‘brain’ has a previously uploaded 3d plot plan of the construction site (think Matrix movie). The ‘brain’ is delivering these precision metrics coupled with gps positioning to dictate the performance of the dirt pushing or digging. Furthermore, the brain has the ability to connect with the corporate office enabling the plot plan to be adjusted in real-time (Connected Cockpit?). Despite my love for heavy equipment, I don’t know the first thing about how the construction process works. Nonetheless, I can wrap my head around how this type of technology increases precision while driving down the excess cost of ’trial and error’.

Today’s environment is forcing companies like CAT to transition from pushing product to becoming a full solutions/service provider. Historically, CAT would sell new equipment into large construction firms with substantial budgets. Clearly a good business but since the last downturn, these large customers are extending their replacement times and looking to get more out of their investment. To mitigate, CAT (under different company brands) is selling technology solutions to existing customers with older equipment as well as packaging hardware (equipment and sensors) and software (connected cockpit stuff) to provide a different tier of customer a total power by the hour solution.In the days of Ford’s Model-T, decreasing cost created a new consumer pool, for today’s consumer, you have to have a solution that either increases yield or decreases cost. Everything else is just noise.

Sustainable Fuel (And What it Could Mean for Flight Training)

With fuel prices in Europe exceeding $10 per gallon and little signs of slowing it is time to think about sustainable fuel sources and the long term impact they could have on flight training. If we (the industry) can change the way we use fuel, could we scale back the major expense of flight training, making it more cost-effective for prospective students while simultaneously increasing marginal revenue? Let’s explore.

The impact of fuel on flight training costs isn’t nominal. The latest cost of avgas is around $7/gallon and, as I mentioned, over in Europe it's up to the equivalent of about $10 USD. Just today I heard an announcement by Signature Aviation here in Bedford, MA that they'd be raisingprices to $8.80 and that's the norm, not the outlier.

Fuel comprises a huge portion of the costs involved with flight training. If we can change the fuel source we rely upon we'll have the ability to restructure the hourly costs (and marginal revenue) of an hour of flight training.

The Diesel Option

Presently, diesel is one of the only realistic options. It is a readily available and a familiar source of fuel. Many across the pond in aviation have already adopted it as an alternative to avgas,  according to Flying Magazine. While we wait for a long-term solution, diesel remains the superior option and is becoming a mainstream solution as diesel engine technology continues to improve.

Turning to Sustainable Energy

While the perfect alternative energy option has not yet been found, there are plenty of top companies experimenting with new technology.  If successful, cutting the cost of aviation fuel and finding a more sustainable option could become a true reality.

Consider these options:


Pipistrel’s Panthera Hybrid is currently in the concept stage and has been designed to be available with either an electric motor, hybrid propulsion or petrol engine. By the end of 2014 Pipistrel expects to release the first experimental aircraft for testing.

Internal Combustion Engines

We haven’t seen it in aviation yet but a group of Japan’s largest car manufacturers recently announced an alliance to create the Research Association of Automotive Internal Combustion Engines. The goal of this team is to improve fuel efficiency levels by 30% for petrol and diesel engines by 2020.

While still in the concept stage, NASA has begun testing electric powered planes with internal combustion engines hoping to cut down on fuel costs, noise, and emissions. The plane would use battery power for take-off and landing and the internal combustion engine for the duration of the flight. Initial results appear promising, and the plane is promised to “work like a Prius” but there’s still extensive research to be done before these hit the general aviation market.

Solar Power

And don’t forget about the already successful attempts at solar powered flights. The Solar Impulse 2 made its first experimental flight on June 2nd of this year. This aircraft has the ability to fly without fuel day and night and is preparing for a voyage around the globe in 2015.  

There are many opportunities on the horizon but until the pace of technology changes, only the strides made with diesel are available to todays consumer. Evens so, it’s only a matter of time before other options take off and change how we fuel, and fly, our aircraft.

Simulator Based Flight Training Programs: A Solution?

High dropout rates and low enrollment --time and again flight training programs site these as concerns. We know these challenges stem from the time required to complete flight training and the inaccessible nature of airports/aircraft.  The question we need to answer is how do we address these challenges using todays technology and enable our customers (students) to access flight training at a time convenient to them?

Apply this concept of inaccessibility to the Asian or European markets and you find many countries with large urban populations and a lack of the appropriate infrastructure; airfields. The aviation industry is growing but these obstacles in flight training make it difficult for prospective pilots to train.   

The Simulator (Sim) Solution:

In an attempt to address these barriers to entry, two innovative sim. based companies have devised alternative training plans. 

Your first question might be, why simulators? They are more accessible than a plane and can be set-up anywhere, no airport required. Logging 30 hours towards certification in a convenient place could make a drastic difference in student retention rates.   

Sim. Training Programs that Work!

What if the concept of simulator based training could be adapted further into the framework of the flight training process?

Redbird Philosophy:

 Redbird Flight Training has taken a sim. based approach to flight training meaning they established a philosophy of logging as many training hours towards certification in a simulator as possible. They postulate their philosophy asSimulator for learning — airplane for demonstrating what you learned,” a slew of flight schools have followed suit and implemented the ‘Redbird training model.’ Their newest experiment… trying to push the FAA limit on the amount of simulator hours a student can use towards their license to 30 hours (it’s currently at 18-20). More time in the simulator allows for greater skill practice and analysis, safer and more convenient training hours, and potentially a quicker path towards a pilots license.

Zulu Flight Training:

Zulu launched in the U.S. but took their model to a more receptive European market. They have franchised sim. based training into a retail business and have taken it to city centers. Seems odd? Imagine having a busy week and being able to get two or three hours of flight training in at the same place you need to go to run your errands. By providing franchised stores in urban locations they aim to take away the inaccessibility of learning to fly. Similarly, the once rural sport of golf is now being taken to the virtual, sim. based world, and brought to convenient city locations. Why drive an hour to play when the simulator-based option is a block away? The future of many businesses relies heavily on “instant accessibility”, a concept Zulu picked up and ran with.

According to the General Manager of Zulu Flight Training, Gloria Liu, “a simulator integrated curriculum with training available in a convenient location has greatly increased frequency of training for our students, and this in turn has enabled us to keep student retention rates of greater than 96%.”

Apply that theory to countries with airports few and far between and a serious solution to airport access has been discovered .By providing a more accessible option (at least for a portion of flight hours) flight schools may see a higher retention rate of students and developing nations will have the initial tools to train their pilots. Further, Zulu stresses its sole focus on sim. based training. Rather than competing with flight schools they franchised solely the sim. portion of training, leaving all aircraft training hours to the traditional flight schools.


According to Zulu’s most recent press release, “Zulu’s syllabus of 37.5 hours in the airplane and 18 to 20 hours in the sim… was recently approved under the FAA’s FITS guidance.” Could this be a step towards Redbird’s goal of 30 hours in the sim.? These programs are increasing accessibility and averaging lower drop out rates as a result. Not to mention, an hour in a sim. costs 1/3 of an hour in an aircraft. The more hours logged towards a pilot’s license in a simulator, the lower the total price of flight training becomes. If companies like Zulu and Redbird continue to push the usage of simulators they could make flight training more affordable, more enjoyable, and more accessible.

Pilot Shortage: An Update

We’ve talked a lot about the impending pilot shortage and what it means for the future of flight. But new headlines suggest that a looming pilot shortage is simply a myth. Could the argument of a pilot shortage be masking the true problem of low salary and inadequate benefits for many pilots? Let’s explore the recent headlines and try to dissect what this means for the future of aviation including what a more cost-effective solution for flight training could mean for the industry.

You may remember, many were attributing a pilot shortage to the increased (and costly) training requirements for pilots and the growing number of baby boomer pilots reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. But recently, the Air Line Pilot Association (ALPA) argued that in fact there is no pilot shortage. The problem? “there’s no shortage of pilots, only a shortage of pilots willing to fly for substandard wages and inadequate benefits.” In the article, the ALPA points to statistics that show otherwise including:

  • 72,000 pilots jobs in 2012

  • With 137,658 active pilots under the age of 65 with ATP certificates

  • An additional 105,000 pilots who could qualify for commercial certificates

One important distinction to make is the fact that ALPA is assessing regional airlines. Regional airlines typically offer lower wages and benefits, which is why many may find it difficult to attract entry-level pilots. With training requirements now at 1,500 hours (up from 250 hours previously) new pilots have had a hard time justifying low wage jobs with the increase in required flight hours.

Spirit Airlines CEO, Ben Baldanza shared with Reuters “rules on pilot experience would mainly hurt regional airlines.” He went on to state: ‘I do think it's reasonable to expect that the regional industry will get smaller, and there will be fewer airlines and fewer regional airplanes.’

Looking at the economics of the airline industry, it seems like the regional airlines are the ones that will be hit hardest. According to a recent New York Times article, which highlighted a G.A.O report, increased flight training requirements are leaving entry-level pilots more experienced. As a result, they expect higher salaries than what regional airlines can afford to offer. In turn, many regional airlines are indeed experiencing a pilot shortage forcing them to cancel flights and reduce their fleet of aircraft.

So what does this mean for the future of flight training? I believe it will be up to the aviation industry to find new and innovative solutions to lower the cost of flight training for both operators and students. These solutions will need to be cost-effective and scalable. This could be accomplished through a transition to more simulator based training, which would reduce operating costs for flight training programs. Additionally, new solutions for student financing and reductions in training costs through new and improved technology could reduce flight training costs for students. Finding more cost-effective solutions for flight training will lower the barrier of entry for prospective pilots and enable entry-level pilots with the financial flexibility they need when entering the workforce.

3 FAA Regulations That Could Use an Overhaul

At the end of last year airline passengers rejoiced as the FAA lifted a rule that banned the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet during takeoff and landing. The FAA received great criticism over the years that the rule was outdated. Many argued that cost was the reason the FAA was reluctant to go through the process of changing the regulation. This conversation led us to wonder: Are there other FAA regulations that could use an overhaul and directly affect general aviation?

While hard to pinpoint the most dreadful or outdated regulations-- thanks to the very lengthy FAA guidelines-- we got some help from the readers over at the Aircraft Journal where they left their thoughts in the comments section of this article: The Great Debate: The worst FAA regulation is…

Here are three outdated FAA regulations that could use updating:

1. 3rd Class Medical Certificate

In order to fly an aircraft solo you need to obtain a medical certificate. This is done by passing a medical exam with an FAA authorized aviation examiner. There are different classes based on the type of flying you will do but student pilots, recreational pilots, and private pilots still must receive a 3rd-class medical certificate.  

For many general aviation and private pilots this regulation is one that’s hard to understand.  Medical certificates are not required to drive yourself, friends or family in a car, which is arguably more dangerous than flying a plane. So why does the FAA regulate this for flight?

As access to flying grows there are many limitations that keeping this medical certification in its current form, bring to light. For example, you cannot operate an aircraft if you take certain medications, which is troublesome for many pilots. And while passing this medical exam may seem like more of a nuisance than a roadblock, for general aviation pilots 3rd class medical certificates act more as another layer of red tape than on added safety precaution.

State Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) agree. According to this article inGeneral Aviation News they’ve introduced a bill that seeks to abolish third-class medical certificates for pilots who fly recreationally and only require a valid driver’s license for flights meeting certain requirements.

2. Part 23 - Small Aircraft Certification Compliance

It is not surprising that the FAA regulates commercial jetliners to ensure certain equipment standards are being met. However, the same can’t be said for general aviation aircraft. With cost often being named as a barrier to entry into general aviation, small aircraft certification compliance only bolsters that argument. As it stands, small aircraft certification compliance currently prohibits aircraft owners from adding safety features without going through a prescriptive set of regulations and approvals. Further, highly specific safety objectives don’t currently cover more modern technology making the process for approvals difficult and costly for small aircraft owners.

Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs shared in this article “The current system often discourages aircraft owners from installing many of these safety enhancing devices due to costs, length of process, or simply because they are not currently allowable.”

Current compliance certification programs are costly and make it difficult for pilots and aircraft owners to install new safety enhancements because of the certification requirements. This leaves many wondering if these processes and regulations are pushing general aviation towards a slow death. Why?  Compliance regs have greatly contributed to the growing costs of general aviation. 

Luckily, changes may already be on the horizon. On July 26th, the FAA released a report by its Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rule making Committee (ARC) following an 18-month study that examined how to reform aircraft certification. The ARC recommendations are centered on making new airplanes safer, improving existing fleets, and reducing certification costs.  

3. Private Pilots Can’t Fly for Hire

There are rules and regulations around private pilots that prevent them from getting paid to fly people for hire. You can get paid to drive people down the road in a car, but not to fly people through  the air? As the airline industry grows and people’s needs change this is another rule that seems to be becoming quickly outdated.

The cost to own, operate, and maintain aircraft is extremely high and pilots in the industry are feeling its effects. If you run a flight school, are a flight instructor, or a private pilot you are likely looking for ways to maximize the return on your investments. The rule that prevents private pilots from flying for hire is hurting the industry because it puts limits on another source of income. We talked before about the sharing economy and the impact this could have on the business of flight. Will this rule prohibit the sharing economy from taking off (pun intended)? And given the growing access to flight does it make sense to update this rule and allow private pilots to fly for hire?


How to Keep a Steady Pool of Flight Instructors

Becoming a certified flight instructor traditionally has been thought of as a mandatory stop on the career path for a hopeful ATP or commercial pilot. Sure, instructing is a good way to build time, but not everyone’s goal is to become an ATP or a pilot of a commercial jetliner. Reason being, we are not all motivated by the same things. Then why isn’t flight instruction considered a more viable professional option for students coming out of flight school? Without flight instructors, there is no aviation industry much like without elementary school teachers there is no finance, medical, real estate…really any industry. Yet, when it comes to teaching, it is difficult to point to a time when teachers were in short supply. So why is it so challenging to find CFI’s?

It comes down to two things: perception and pay, and frankly, the two are intertwined. To recent graduates, flight instructing is considered a part time, low pay, low benefit position. It is something THEY HAVE to do in order to become a pilot if they want to build hours at any kind of meaningful pace.  But what if we challenged that viewpoint by changing the pay structure of a CFI?  Charley Valera, Owner of FCA Flight Center recently posted an article where he stated that he has part time flight instructors that barely fly 3 days a week, not because of a shortage of students but because of a shortage of “available” CFI’s. Why are they unavailable? Like many part-time employees, CFIs have other jobs to subsidize part time wages that require commitment to a dedicated schedule. To keep intructors at the airport, what if flight schools demanded full time commitment with full time salary employment? 

At first thought that sounds like an expensive proposition considering flight school revenue is tied directly to the number of hours aircraft are flown. Truth be told, if you’re a flight school that isn’t flying at least 50 hours per month/aircraft you’ve either got to many aircraft or need to reconsider your recruitment efforts. If that is the case then finding CFI’s should not be on the top of your list of concerns.

Even still, full salary and benefits may be too expensive of a proposition, but what about a commission-based pay structure much like that of a sales rep? In addition to some baseline salary, CFI’s would be paid a commission for every flight hour they book. This not only changes the pay structure and perception of the position but it also acts as an additional motivator to get instructors to recruit more students (which could address your 50 hours per month problem). 

There is a certain level of status that comes with having a salary versus that hourly pay. In aviation, many are motivated by their passion for flight but never consider flight training as an option because the perceived value is much lower than that of someone who is a commercial pilot. If that is the case then let’s enable pilots to feed their passion for aviation through teaching the next generation and offer a pay structure that keeps them motivated to continue on in their role as an instructor. 

Passionate people make the best teachers because they tend to care about the longevity of the industry. As one CFI put it, “As a flight instructor you do more than just teach others to fly, you are directly responsible for promoting and advancing civilian aviation. By transforming ordinary people into pilots, you are insuring the continuation of one of our nation’s greatest freedoms, flight!”

A Glimpse Into the Future of Aviation Seen at South by Southwest

Tens of thousands of the brightest minds in tech converged in Austin for the 21st Interactive SXSW Festival. Innovators and entrepreneurs gathered to review the technology of tomorrow, today.  We took a look at the agenda to see what’s on the horizon for aviation and what it could mean for the future of flight.  Here are some of the highlights:

Coming soon to Gogo: In-air texting on your smartphone

Gogo has become an in-house name for frequent travelers, who rely on Gogo’s service for in-flight WiFi and television programs.  Gogo has transformed the in-flight flying experience for passengers looking to stay connected at 30,000 feet in the air.  At SXSW Gogo tested their Gogo Text & Talk service, which will allow passengers to take advantage of text and talk services in-flight. 

Early reviews were positive with one reviewer sharing, “The quality of the connection is surprisingly decent... A friend I talked to said it sounded like I was in a car, not an airplane moving at 500 miles-per-hour. And any trouble I had hearing was because the plane was noisy and my ears got clogged.”

American Airlines Hackathon

American Airlines hosted a hackathon at this year’s SXSW, inviting outside developers to code to its API for the first time, in a competition to create the best travel app.  The winning app, AirPing provides travelers live updates on flight schedules and delays while also providing airlines with real-time information about its passengers. 

The Future of Biometrics

Biometrics, refers to the identification of humans by their characteristics or traits, and has been gaining a lot of attention for what it can do as a form of identification and access control.  One session at SXSW, led by Skooks Pong, VP of Technology, for Synapse Product Development explored the role biometrics can play in providing vital insights. He gave an example of how biometrics could be used in flight: “Imagine sitting on a plane when your smartwatch, using biosensors, registers a decrease of glucose, signaling a drop in your blood sugar. The flight attendant is alerted and you are given water and a snack.” 

These are just a few aviation highlights from this year’s SXSW conference. If one theme emerged it was the convergence of using real-time data and analytics in conjunction with mobile devices to improve the travel experience for passengers. And while the parallels of what these innovations mean to your flight training program may not be immediate they are important to consider. 

There is a role for mobile and real-time analytics in aviation and it’s not just for passengers. 

Think about the applications real-time analytics could have for fleet operators; real time cost analysis on aircraft, dynamic pricing based on weather conditions and aircraft utilization, insights into fleet performance focused on maximizing revenue.  Furthermore, today’s aviation students will be a part of the always-on generation, consistently connected to their mobile devices looking for new ways to interact and learn.

The Sharing Economy and What it Could Mean for Flight Training

The sharing economy refers to economic and social systems that enable shared access to goods, services, data and talent.  The proliferation of the sharing economy has been undeniable over the last several years thanks to the Internet, social media, and mobile devices.  From cars, to homes, to farmland -- there’s been seemingly no limit to what people will share.  Coming from one of the hubs of the sharing economy (Boston), where companies like Zipcar were founded, we have long wondered when plane-sharing would be next and the impact it would have on the business of flight training.

According to this recent article from the Boston Globe a few companies have indeed tried to promote the idea of plane-sharing.  But as the article points out, the notion of sharing a private jet hasn’t seemed to resonate just yet, “if you have the wealth to fly privately, the likelihood of you wanting another person on your plane is…well…zero.”  In my opinion the sharing economy will never work for the private jet world, but for general aviation, a few new startups give me hope.

Take companies like AirPooler and OpenAirplane, both are reinventing private flight. AirPooler, which is launching in beta soon, pairs pilots with passengers who share common destinations.  Pilots split the cost of flight with their passenger and the passenger gets to hitch a ride to a destination that may not be served by the airlines. OpenAirplane allows pilots to find, book, and pay for aircraft rentals when away from their home club, all through their platform.  Perhaps these innovators will help reshape the business of flight training. 

Unlike private jet owner’s cost and access to equipment are two hurdles many flight training schools face.  Having the option to share aircraft and training equipment could help address the issus of affordable access.  Would you share your equipment with other flight academies in your area? Or with pilots looking to rent aircraft? Take OpenAirplane for example. Your flight school could benefit from their rental program. When an aircraft isn’t in use, OpenAirplane could connect you with pilots looking to rent aircraft in your area that have already gone through a check ride.  This added rental revenue could help alleviate costs and address the issue of equipment affordability. 

With the right platform the shared economy can provide access to unused capacity and create additional revenue streams for operations that historical have been challenged by low utilization. What the shared economy is really good at is connecting two parties, one with access to supply the other with access to demand.  That dynamic exists in many places in aviation beyond just flight training, but with the down economy and rising costs the ability to share could help propel new life into the business of flight training.

How do you leverage the sharing economy?  Would you like to see it become a part of your business? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

4 Ways To Damage Your Piston Aircraft

Like any engine, aircraft engines require some tender loving care to ensure longevity. When it comes to your training program you want to make sure you keep your aircraft engines in optimal shape to help preserve your investment and keep maintenance costs to a minimum. Let’s explore ways you can damage a piston aircraft engine so you’re better prepared to protect your investment:


The infamous US Airways Flight 1549 is the most notable bird-strike event to date. You may recall during takeoff the plane struck a flock of geese, lost engine power, and was forced to land in the Hudson. While bird strikes aren’t as much of an issue for piston aircraft you do still need to worry about prop strikes or hitting foreign objects other than birds on landing. Animals on the runway, tire fragments and runway debris can all cause damage to piston aircraft. Foreign object debris is an ongoing concern at airports. As a result, the FAA has
implemented a foreign object debris (FOD) management program to help make pilots more aware of these occurrences. Train your students and CFI’s on how to identify potential foreign object debris hazards at airports. If you encounter an FOD at one of the nation’s airports consider reporting it using the FAA FOD Reporting Form.


Starting a cold piston aircraft engine can cause severe damage and stress to your aircraft. A start is considered a cold start when the temperature is 0 degrees C or below. Why is a cold start bad for your engine? Aluminum pistons heat and expand twice as fast as steel cylinders. A cold start causes a lot of stress on the piston engine which can lead to compression problems and cause 500 hours of cruise wear and tear. To prevent cold engine starts consider preheating options for your aircraft. While they can be costly, over the life of the aircraft they are a valuable investment.


Don’t let your aircraft sit for long periods of time without use. Piston aircraft engines are built for-use. Not using your engine can result in corrosion damage. An idle engine can cause oil to drip off key parts and rust can form. As Flying Magazine points out; “any type of engine is designed and built to perform a specific duty cycle… an engine designed for stationary power...doesn’t need acceleration, and smooth idle is not important, but it must produce a big chunk of its rated power continuously for longer periods.” The duty cycle of a piston engine is designed for stationary power. The airplane engine is designed to run at 70 to 80% of its maximum power. By adhering to the duty cycle of your piston aircraft engine you will help maximize the lifetime value of your engine.


To help protect your piston engine your throttle management should be smooth. Rapidly heating or cooling of the engine can cause unnecessary damage. To help control your throttle, plan descents so you can gradually reduce power. Likewise, throttle management is especially important during takeoff. That sudden burst of combustion heat causes engine parts to expand at radically different rates. The resulting stress on the engine can cause a number of damages.

Properly managing your piston aircraft engine not only protects your investment but also helps to instill good habits in your student pilots. Being prepared for prop strikes, eliminating cold starts, preventing long periods of engine idle time, and educating against rapid throttle changes can all help protect your students and your aircraft.

If you have any other tips on good maintenance practices for piston engines or just have a good maintenance story, let us know below! Also, don't forget to check out our other post in this series: "4 Things To Expect As A Piston Aircraft Pilot".