Millennials And The Future Of Work

Back in April, we were part of a panel discussion at the World Aviation Training Symposium (WATS) discussing the future of aviation and how we need to transform our messaging as an industry to appeal to Generation Y (Millenials). The driving force behind the need to change the way we sell ourselves is due to the shift in values between generations. What Gen Yer’s value in work and life is drastically different from what Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s value.  As an industry we have not done a great job appealing to those new values.  

You can view our presentation from WATS here.

I came across this presentation today by one of our vendors and wanted to share it because it reinforces much of what we discussed at WATS this past year.  

Social Media and Student Recruitment

If you are reading this post, it’s a pretty safe bet you have at least some degree of internet savvy. In our plugged-in, online, web-based, 21st century society, I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet the cyber world gains a bit more of your attention with each passing year. As the internet continues to dominate new areas of our lives, you may have wondered about the role social media and student recruitment can have on your business.

Whether you’re a Facebook ninja or you prefer to stick to the relatively archaic email staple, you’re doubtlessly aware of the explosive growth of social media in recent years. These days, it seems the whole world is using Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and every other program that lets the masses post messages for anyone and everyone. Besides connecting the globe in real time, these programs are priceless tools for finding and tracking viable flight training candidates. By combining social media with student recruitment, you can generate qualified leads much cheaper and more efficiently than through the recruiting methods of yesteryear.

DIRECT MAIL

If you’ve previously sent out mailers in hopes of churning up business, you know to expect minuscule returns for your efforts. Do a web search and you’ll see many figures claiming direct mail averages a lower return than social media techniques.

Besides these dismal expectations, you also have the expense of printing and mailing all those flyers and postcards. Additionally, once you send out direct mailings, it’s anyone’s guess as to how effective they are with any given recipient. Since direct mail is often referred to as junk mail, a huge percentage of your mass mailing efforts probably go straight to the circular file.

COLD CALLING

Calling potential students allows you to better gauge each person’s interest, though the process can be time consuming and still may not generate the results you’re after. In our era of the National Do Not Call Registry and with the word telemarketer as despised as any, placing unexpected calls could leave the opposite impression of what you intend.  In addition, instructors or low-level employees are often the ones tasked with making such calls. Many receive little or no training on sales calls and hate placing them. As a result, it’s not surprising that they often fail to upsell most prospects.

WEB-BASED MARKETING

Now consider the possibilities of social media and student recruitment. What happens whenever you post a Tweet, blog, e-newsletter, YouTube video, or any other form of online communication? You probably net a few likes, comments, followers, or requests for information. The advantage here is that it becomes much easier to track your viewers, allowing you to better gauge who might be worth pursuing. If you’re receiving a number of hits from any particular person, this individual is expressing at least some interest in the products and services you’re offering. Such followers cease to be mere cold calls, and instead become warm (possibly hot) prospects. With a verifiable level of interest, your likelihood of converting such followers to clients is much more favorable than through traditional recruitment methods. 

For the budget-conscious, how much does it cost you to send out an e-newsletter, Tweet, mailing-list message, or any other form of electronic correspondence? That’s right; printing and mailing costs are non-existent for social media. Regardless of how many recipients actually read the content, your cost per person is nothing except your time. On top of that, you’re not restricted by geographical or supply limitations, but can instead reach an unlimited number of people regardless of where they may be.

One of my favorite aspects of blending social media and student recruitment is the non-invasive nature with which I’m able to reach out to prospects. I don’t have to worry about interrupting anyone’s dinner, getting the phone slammed on me, or putting someone in an uncomfortable position. Every recipient can choose when and if to read my message, and whether or not to act on my offer(s). It also saves me loads of time, knowing that with the click of a button I’ve reached the same number of people it would otherwise take me hours to contact by phone.

If you aren’t already doing so, consider the advantages that combining social media and student recruitment can bring to your business: non-existent marketing costs, easily track qualified leads, reach numerous people with a single click, and increase your customer conversion rate. Few other changes to your operating practices could potentially bring new customers to your door while also increasing the efficiency by which you reach them.

Four Aviation Membership Programs Worth Joining

Those of you new to aviation might be wondering about some aviation membership programs that are worth pursuing. You’re in luck. Aviation has no shortage of fine associations that support a variety of worthwhile causes. Regardless of your specific passion(s), you’re bound to find an organization or two that satisfies your interests.

The sheer number of aviation membership programs makes highlighting each of them beyond the scope of this post. Instead, we’ll look at four of the most well-known and far-reaching associations, as well as the unique features of each.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)

The granddaddy of aviation membership programs, AOPA boasts around 400,000 members, more than half of the US pilot population. One of AOPA’s numerous missions is maintaining the freedom of aviation that pilots in this country are so fortunate to enjoy. The organization is constantly going to bat for general aviation (GA) on Capitol Hill and is extremely resilient when political maneuvering attempts to impose cumbersome restrictions on GA. AOPA was especially helpful following 9/11 and the security restrictions that shut down US airspace.

In addition to its political prowess, AOPA has developed a host of products and services that improve the safety and affordability of flying. Take a quick visit to their website and you’ll see the wealth of free training courses, info, and pilot assistance services available 24/7. On top of that, AOPA puts out three top-notch magazines every month, Pilot MagazineTurbine Pilot Magazineand Flight Training Magazine.

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)

The Experimental Aircraft Association is extremely popular with the homebuilder crowd, and for good reason. EAA chapters are scattered throughout the country, where they remain active arranging events like pancake breakfasts, poker runs, airshows, and several other varieties of aviation fraternization. The group also introduces children to GA by providing free flights through its Young Eagles program. To date, volunteer pilots have exposed over 1 million youth to the marvels of aviation.

EAA is no doubt best known for its annual mega gathering in Oshkosh, Wisconsin known as EAA AirVenture, or simply “Oshkosh.” This aviation super event is the one place where the who’s who of the aviation world are guaranteed to gather year after year. In fact, during the weeklong event, which takes place in late July/early August, the throngs of attendees make Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport the busiest aerodrome in the world. This event is so important that aviation manufacturers continually debut their new products here, and representatives of all other aviation membership programs are guaranteed to be on hand. No doubt about it, EAA knows how to throw a party!

Women in Aviation International (WAI)

As the name implies, WAI caters to the female members of the aviation community. The group encourages women to pursue aviation activities, both for entertainment and employment purposes. WAI sponsors and participates in several events throughout the year and even offers scholarship opportunities. Despite the name, men are welcome (and encouraged) to take part in the association’s cause.

National Business Aviation Association

Unlike the previous aviation membership programs, NBAA is geared specifically toward business organizations. The group works to facilitate the use of GA aircraft to allow companies to thrive. NBAA claims over 9,000 members, more than 100 products & services, and the world’s largest civil aviation trade show (NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention). Membership options are pricey, but the level of support and service provided can easily make the dues a worthwhile investment. Any companies curious as to how aviation can improve their bottom line should give NBAA a serious look.

Whether you prefer seaplanes, helicopters, gliders, or balloons, aviation membership programs are available to provide the flying, fellowship, and fraternization of your choice. To increase your circle of aviation buddies, check out the associations above, head to your local airport, or search the web for the aviation arena that strikes your fancy. Aviation is a close-knit community, and industry associations are a great way to connect with others who share your passion. 

Econ 101: A Flight Instructor Shortage Is The Best Thing For Aviation

Guest Post By, Stephen Lewis, aka "The Write Flier." A pilot since 1998, Steve holds two degrees in aviation and has worked as both a flight instructor and a regional airline pilot. Steve can be reached through his website, Writeflier.com.

In the cyclical nature that is the aviation industry, followers are generally accustomed to hearing about two recurring scenarios: 1. an airline hiring boom, or 2. a widespread industry layoff. Not surprisingly, such events spawn lesser-lamented developments; these being a flight instructor shortage or super saturation of the CFI community. While talk of a flight instructor shortage generates complaints from time to time, such occurrences are probably the best thing for the overall viability of the aviation industry.

Unless you’re brand new to aviation, you’re probably well aware that flight instructors for the most part are atrociously underpaid. True, there are the Rod Machados and John & Martha Kings of the world who seem to do okay, but such is not the case for the vast majority of practicing CFIs. Whether a given instructor teaches as a labor of love or as a means to an end on his/her way to the right seat of a regional, many CFIs need a second job just to keep the lights on.

A Personal Example

I’ve personally worked two CFI jobs; one under Part 61 for an FBO and the other at a Part 141 school. Neither offered any type of base pay, health insurance, or general assistance in helping me survive financially. At one company, the owners even tried to avoid paying us for our mandatory office hours (when a CFI needed to be present to answer any instruction-related questions from prospective clients). Their justification was that we should be thankful just to have the job and that, by some rite of passage; it was our duty as CFIs to allow ourselves to be financially exploited.

And Again

Sadly, my other CFI position was little better. This company charged customers a respectable $37.50 per hour of flight or ground instruction, of which the instructors were offered a paltry $13. I was able to dicker my way up to $14/hour, but not without serious resistance from the boss. Bear in mind I was not a green instructor. All full-time CFIs at our company were CFIIs/MEIs with prior instructional experience. However, due to the economic effects on the aviation industry, loads of qualified applicants were waiting in the wings to work for peanuts.

Econ 101

In both cases, my tenure as a CFI coincided with industry-wide furloughs and airline hiring stagnation. As a result, the nation’s supply of CFIs seeking employment skyrocketed. If you have even the slightest notion of the Law of Supply and Demand, you’re aware that an influx of prospective employees into the market works to drive down the wages flight schools can get by paying their CFIs. By contrast, a serious flight instructor shortage would provide practicing instructors a degree of bargaining power to demand adequate compensation.

A Perfect World

Try to imagine an aviation industry subject to a severe, persistent flight instructor shortage with no end in sight. Envision throngs of eager student pilots beating down the doors for someone to teach them to fly. With only a select group of able and willing CFIs, flight training firms would be forced to raise the rates they paid to instructors. Who knows? Perhaps a few companies might even offer benefits to entice their teachers to stick around.

Taking it a step further, imagine if CFIs were able to leverage their shameful $12,000/year compensation to the neighborhood of $30,000-35,000. Think what that would do to the regionals! With CFIs netting their due, many airline-bound pilots would take a serious look before pursuing a $19,000/year position in the right seat of an RJ. To fill their ranks, the airlines would then have to at least match what CFIs were earning. See where this is going? A severe flight instructor shortage would mean an industry-wide raise for pilots. While aviation managers might scoff at such a notion, it’s well past time CFIs and regional pilots were paid their worth.

If you follow my logic, present and future pro aviators should rejoice when they hear of a possible flight instructor shortage. Fewer CFIs, Econ 101, an industry-wide pay raise, what’s not to like? As the backbone of the entire industry, we owe it to our instructors to see they’re adequately compensated for their efforts. 

The Experience of Flight Training: Transferable Skills For Any Career

Many students and aviator hopefuls go through the rigors of flight training and become a pilot because they have long been intrigued with the idea of flying. It is exciting, fun, cool… they develop a passion for soaring high above the ground where the rest of us live out our daily lives. If you have been around aviation for more than a day or two, you will probably agree that there is no shortage of people talking about the passion of aviators. One thing that is rarely talked about however, is the skills acquired while going through the flight training experience, whether that be at a four year institution or at the local flight school at a nearby airport. 

If you are a pilot you will probably agree that the top five skills acquired by most individuals that go through flight training is some variation of the following (as eluded to in an earlier blog post and proven through a survey of 300 pilots and student pilots)

The value of these skills goes beyond just highlighting them on a resume, but is in your ability to articulate their value above that of just a “fluff skill.” When you go through an undergraduate or graduate program you learn these skills in the classroom. You are taught through textbooks and classroom lectures how to problem solve, multi-task etc. What you don’t get is the experience of using those skills in a practical situation. This is what I call a “fluff skill” – skills you learn but have very little real world experience applying. As a pilot you learn these exact skills “on-the-fly” in a practical situation, forcing you to learn and apply them immediately.  

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not discrediting anyone’s education or degree, I just want to point out the validity and usefulness of the skill set a student pilot acquires by going through the flight training process. 

Irregardless of your aspirations as a pilot, whether they are to follow a career path into the world of commercial/business aviation or to just become a weekend warrior, the skills you gain become extremely valuable life skills. Clearly if you follow the aviation career track these skills are directly applicable to your future employment. However, if you are seeking employment in the business world, a trade, or really any other capacity your pilot skills can still be put to immediate use. Think of it this way, how many jobs have your either applied to or hired for in the past that have had at least three of the above skills posted as a requirement? 

If you are a pilot the challenge is no longer proving you have the skills, the challenge is articulating your ability to execute on those skills proven by past experience.  

Visualize this, you have two job candidates in front of you that both graduated from highly respected institutions with a near identical GPA. When asked the question, “Why do you think you fit this position?” one articulates their ability to meet the required skill set through their learning’s as a pilot, sighting different experiences they have been in while flying an airplane; i.e. a situation where they were 3,500 feet up and had to adjust a flight plan mid flight to navigate around a nasty storm front or a time when their multi-tasking was put to the test through an experience they had inside the cockpit of an aircraft.

The second candidate is able to articulate their skill set through class work and group projects they had done with their peers, perhaps referring to a time when they didn’t get a long with their classmate or had a slacker in the group they had to manage... 

I may be over simplifying but a major issue in today’s hiring market for fresh graduates is their unpreparedness for the real world due to a lack of practical experience. Arguably, flight training gives you not only the skill set but also that experience.

Helping Aviation High School Recruit Next Gen. Pilots

300 eager students and parents crowd a small auditorium tucked away in the Museum of Flight in Greater Seattle Washington. The ACE club, a career experience organization part of the Highline Aviation High School, partnered up with the museum to host a student and parent education forum for 7th and 8th graders. The forum brought together a group of mentors including pilots, engineers and educators to speak with the students and parents about the benefits of attending Aviation High School (AHS).

Throughout the forum speakers including former Alaska Airlines Captain John Sluys and former AABI President Peter Morton spoke to the auditorium about the benefits of pursuing a career in aviation. Brown’s research showcasing the return on investment a career pilot can expect to receive on their education was featured in the presentation to help future aviators and their parents fully understand the investment in an education in aviation.

ABOUT THE AVIATION HIGH SCHOOL

Now going on their ninth year educating students in Greater Seattle, AHS was started out of necessity to increase student's test scores in STEM related verticals. Reba Gilman, Principal of AHS, is a strong believer in experiential learning and is the mind behind their prolific model.

Every student at AHS is first assigned a mentor in a field that they are interested in; pilot, engineer, air traffic controller. The mentors provide students with guidance while they are at AHS and on into the future acting as sounding board for ideas and as an advisor on career path decisions. Each student is then required to complete an internship in a field of their interest before graduating senior year.

Gilman’s students work with companies like Boeing, Luma Technologies, and the FAA and have proven their ability to contribute in the real world at a young age, working side by side with college level interns. Aside from just providing students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in school, the AHS internship program gives students the chance to experience a career of their choosing before making a decision on a collegiate field of study. For many students including Jake Wagner (meet Jake), a senior at AHS, the internship program solidifies their decision to pursue a career in aviation.

To date AHS’s experiential learning curriculum has been very successful increasing student's test scores and better preparing them for college. Graduates from AHS have gone on to pursue degrees at Harvard, MIT, ERAU and Columbia and have exceeded National SAT scores by an average of 15%.

Using Flight Training To Help At Risk Youth

Jon Feinman, 28, is on mission to improve the lives of at risk youth in Greater Boston. Feinman a former nationally ranked weightlifter has found a way to take something he is passionate about and leverage it to change the future for teenagers in Boston.

His experiences with some of the deadliest gangs in the world provide learning’s that are applicable to aviation and the impact we as an industry are trying to have on the youth in our
society.

WHAT DOES FEINMAN DO?

Feinman, and his nonprofit organization InnerCity Weightlifting, is on a mission to reduce violence and promote professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. His organization works with teens from some of the most dangerous gangs in greater Boston, including MS-13s, Bloods and Latin Kings. Feinman and his team of trainers focus on teaching kids between the ages of 12 to 22 the basics of Olympic lifting.

WHY START A GYM?

According to a Boston Globe Interview, “I did Athletes in Service to America. Through that I worked with East Boston kids in MS-13 – on of the world’s deadliest gangs. I was trying to get them involved in after-school projects. A week later they would be back on the streets…I saw what these kids were going through and it didn’t feel right.”

SO HOW IS WEIGHTLIFTING DIFFERENT FROM OTHER AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS?

According to Jon, with the kids in his program, violence tends to be a self-esteem issue. When they start lifting more weight, their self-esteem goes up and gives them the confidence to say no to abuse. No longer do they feel the need to fight to prove themselves.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE HAVING AN IMPACT ON THESE KIDS?

"One day I had two Bloods, one former MS-13 and one former 18th Street gang member all working out together. A lot of them had prior history. I was on high alert. But they just came in, lifted and started talking by the end of the workout." Many of Feinman’s students come all the way through his program and become certified trainers that now work at InnerCity, training the next generation of youth.

WHAT HAS MADE INNERCITY SUCCESSFUL?

When I spoke with Jon, he told me two things. It is about the positive community he has created inside the walls of his gym, and the devoted staff he has committed to his students. Without those two pieces, InnerCity would not have nearly the impact it does. Jon hopes to take the success he has had in Boston and replicate it in other cities across the country. “We want to grow this to another City Year or Big Brothers Big Sisters. We’ll grow until crime rates drop, graduation rates are up and students are going to college.”

SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH AVIATION?

I look at the example of Feinman and the success he has had creating a true socially impactful business and ask, why can’t we do this with aviation? Can’t flight training be another tool or mechanism to achieve similar goals? Take the high school graduation rate in urban areas for example. Based on a study reported by the New York Times, graduation rates in the 50 largest cities in the U.S. is only 53%. Who is to say, aviation can’t help impact that rate by bringing aviation to the cities?

One thought is to take aviation simulation into the school systems or urban centers and provide students with and opportunity to learn how to fly through a full program offering. Through the process of simulator training, students would learn a new set of skills they may have never been exposed to before due to the environment they grow up in. Students would become more confident about themselves and their ability to be successful, whether that be in school or in life. A program focused on the inner city could also expose a range of kids to aviation who have never had the opportunity before. It could prove to be not only a program with a positive social impact but also a step towards introducing a new market to the world of aviation.

Showing Your Piston Engine A Little TLC

Whether you’re a piston airplane owner or strictly a renter pilot, you have a vested interest in making sure the engine(s) of the plane(s) you fly perform as advertised. While the odds are that your powerplant(s) will function flawlessly, there are several steps you can take to further safeguard the health of your piston engine. Besides contributing to safety, such practices can help lower your maintenance bills and prolong the service life of your powerplant.

SMOOTH POWER CHANGES

Smooth inputs are about much more than just providing your passengers with a comfortable ride. A piston engine is loaded with moving parts, and any abrupt power changes can potentially throw these components out of whack. One of the possible consequences of rough operation is that you’ll dislodge the crankshaft’s counterweights, which is known as detuning. Detuning can lead to other possible component failures (discussed here), all of which are expensive to repair and could compromise flight safety. By employing smooth inputs, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of mechanical failure of your piston engine. 

GRADUAL POWER REDUCTIONS

In addition to smooth power changes, piston engine pilots should take measures to make their power reductions in gradual increments. This is important to reduce the possibility of shock cooling the cylinders, which is most likely to occur during descent. When descending, less power is required than for cruise, so pilots typically reduce power in this stage. As power decreases, engine temperatures drop as well. Additionally, the descent angle results in increased airflow into the cowling, which further lowers the engine temperature.

In science class, you probably learned that many substances (particularly metals) expand with temperature increases and constrict as temperature drops. In a metal-heavy piston engine, abrupt temperature changes lead to expansion and retraction of several components. If these temperature swings occur too suddenly or too often, engine parts could expand/contract outside of their tolerance limits. As you can imagine, this is a situation you’ll want to avoid. When you fly, try to plan your descents so as to avoid making considerable power reductions in a short period of time.

AVOID OVERHEATING

Just as shock cooling is undesirable, you’ll also want to protect your piston engine from overheat situations. The most likely conditions to cause engine overheating occur under the high power, high angle of attack (AOA) configurations characteristic of takeoff and climb. Chief among your heat-related concerns is detonation, which is the explosive combustion of fuel in the cylinder. Excessive temperatures could also lead to preignition, which results from lingering hot spots in the cylinder that cause the fuel/air mixture to ignite prematurely in the four-stroke cycle. Either situation will likely cause engine roughness and possible damage to cylinder components.

To avoid heat-related problems, your best bet is to reduce your climb angle. Besides being easier on the engine, a shallower deck angle gives you better visibility and a quicker groundspeed. If practical, reduce the power setting to a more moderate level. When practicing high power, high AOA maneuvers like power on stalls and slow flight, enrichen the mixture to provide additional engine cooling. These practices are very easy to implement and can significantly reduce the engine’s operating temperatures.

In aviation, a little planning can pay big dividends in the life expectancy and overall health of your piston engine. With minor, easy-to-apply changes, you can profoundly reduce the chances of premature component wear or other unexpected surprises. Though already highly reliable and built for the rigors of flight, your engine can always benefit from a little TLC. 

How to Become a Pilot: 4 Questions Every Prospective Aviator Should Ask

Virtually everyone who’s ever seen an aircraft fly overhead has probably wondered just how to
become a pilot. Sadly, only a minuscule slice of the population ever pursues an answer to that question. In addition, an extremely high percentage of flight training prospects quit without obtaining a license. Why the high dropout rate? One opinion is that many of them dive into training without fully understanding the commitment necessary to earn their wings.

So, want to know how to become a pilot and succeed where so many others fail? The secret can be summed up in one word: planning. Before you can hope to succeed, you need to understand what you’re up against. To do this, you need to ask the right questions before beginning your quest for a pilot certificate.

WHAT IS MY ULTIMATE FLYING GOAL?

All pilot licenses are not created equal. The different levels of certification have different knowledge standards, operating privileges, and experience requirements. Depending on your personal goals, just how you pursue your training could vary drastically from the next person. A fair-weather weekend warrior has vastly different priorities than the hopeful who dreams of captaining an international wide-body. Rather than simply asking how to become a pilot, you should ponder “What’s the best path for me to become a pilot?” Answering this question early on is important, as it will likely shape the structure of your flight training.

DO I HAVE ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS THAT MIGHT PRECLUDE MY FLYING?

Commanding an aircraft is not akin to driving a car. Aviators are subject to a laundry list of physiological standards and medication restrictions. In fact, the FAA has an entire regulatory section that deals exclusively with pilot medical standards (14 CFR Part 67). The higher the certificate level (i.e. Airline Transport Pilot), the stricter the medical standards. If you dream of one day earning a living as a professional pilot, do yourself a favor and research your medical eligibility before committing time and money towards airline-oriented flight training.

Even if you have a condition that prevents your eligibility for some classes of medical certification, it doesn’t mean you can’t earn a pilot certificate. A few years ago, the FAA created a whole new class of pilot certificate (Sport Pilot) that allows pilots to self-certify their medical fitness. That’s right, no medical exam necessary. Sound too good to be true? There are a few catches, but nothing that will likely be a problem if you handle the process correctly. A good source of info is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which maintains an outstanding website of all things aviation. Instead of just asking how to become a pilot, seek to determine “What level(s) of pilot certification am I medically eligible to earn?”

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Price is probably the biggest reason so many pilot hopefuls abandon their training. Most know to ask for a price quote, but many blindly adhere to a stated figure, unwilling to accept a given quote as an approximate number. In truth, it is very difficult to tell exactly how much it will cost to earn a pilot certificate. Too many variables come into play that make accurately foretelling the exact cost a challenging feat. However, many pricing options and learning strategies (to be discussed in separate posts) can allow pilots to control and reduce their training expenditures. Even still, such strategies are only effective if pilots ask themselves “What’s a reasonable range I can expect to spend to earn my pilot certificate? How can I lower that number? What happens if my training costs exceed that figure?” 

WHERE CAN I GET MORE VALUABLE INFORMATION?

One of the more valuable cache of flight training information is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). This organization has loads of free info and strategic advice to help you achieve your pilot’s license. Additionally, you can get a student pilot membership (including a six-month subscription to their Flight Training magazine) absolutely free! If you’re interested in learning how to become a pilot, AOPA is a good place to start your search for information.

Earning a pilot certificate is a formidable challenge.  Despite the setbacks that often doom flight trainees, you can surmount any obstacles you’ll encounter with an appropriate degree of preparation. With adequate planning and a commitment to training, you’re fully capable of joining the elite ranks of the pilot community. 

The Sequestration of Aviation: A Boon to the Flight Training Industry?

With the dreaded sequester set to take effect today, many Americans are understandably concerned about the effects the looming financial cuts will have on many aspects of the nation’s security and well-being. For those of you who follow aviation, you’ve probably heard dire reports about the impact more than $600 million in FAA budget reductions will have on the country’s aerospace system. Lately, national news programs have been reporting that, should sequestration come to pass, Uncle Sam would be forced to furlough air traffic controllers, shutter control towers, and take other measures that would result in contraction of the national airspace system. Should these forecasts bear fruit, is it possible the flight-training industry could actually benefit?

THE SILVER LINING

As a glass-half-full kind of guy, I try to find a positive aspect in every negative news story. While the government and the airlines might suffer from sequestration, I believe the general aviation (GA) industry, particularly the flight-training segment, has a golden opportunity to thrive as a result of the sequester. If handled properly, the fiscal crisis could be just the shot in the arm to reinvigorate GA.

 

FUTURE PRO PILOTS

While the FAA might need to make cuts here and there, commercial air travel is certainly not going away. Rather than focus exclusively on sequestration, let’s look a bit further down the road. Current legislation requires airline pilots to hang it up at age 65. In the coming years, more and more Baby Boomers will be hitting that milestone and vacating the cockpit. For professional aviation to continue, the industry will need a steady supply of younger pilots to fill the ranks. Where will these professionals come from?

Years ago, the majority of airline pilots came from the military. Over time, the percentage of civilian-trained pilots has grown and surpassed the military supply chain. If sequestration forecasts hold true, the demand for civilian fliers should continue to grow. Half the planned budget cuts are scheduled to come from defense spending, which is forecast to mean a military budget reduction of $50 billion each year for the next decade. In preparation for this financial setback, the military has already announced plans to significantly curtail its flying ops. The Air Force foresees reducing flying hours by 20%, while the Navy expects to shut down four air wings. With fewer military pilots, that means civilian aviators are essential to the future of the airlines. For flight schools, the sequester could potentially lead to a strong increase in demand for civilian flight training.

AN ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

One of the best ways to avoid the worst of a possible sequester is simply to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit. Though government is typically slow to react to drastic developments, private enterprise is much more adept at adjusting to economic and sociopolitical changes. Case in point, look at government vs. private shipping options. The Post Office has been bleeding billions for several years now. Even with regular price increases, the agency is unable to keep its financial head above water. In contrast, UPS plugs ahead with nary a worry. When fuel prices threatened UPS’s bottom line, the company redesigned its route structure to eliminate unnecessary left turns. It even trains employees on how to walk on icy steps & sidewalks to reduce delays and injuries during the busy holiday season. Through a little innovation, the brown company has removed obstacles while the postal service remains perennially plagued.

In many ways, entrepreneurialism has a natural tendency to filter out inefficiencies and streamline operating practices; a trait that can potentially have a huge impact on the flight-training industry. Despite forecasts of gloom for the entirety of aviation, opportunity is everywhere. Sequestration might be the perfect stimulus to take your operation to the next level.

DEBUNKING SOME MYTHS

While certain aspects of a government sequester will trickle down to GA, the impact will likely be much smaller than many naysayers are predicting. Think about it. Let’s take a quick look at some of your students’ needs.

NEED:

  • Medical certificate
  •  Flight train materials
  •  FAA written exam(s)
  •  FAA Checkride(s)
  •  Aircraft to fly

PROVIDERS:

  • Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs)
  • Jeppesen, ASA, Sporty's
  • LaserGrade, CATS
  • Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs)
  • Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Diamond

Notice that all the providers are private entities? That’s right. Despite the strong FAA oversight of GA, many aspects of the industry still operate almost exclusively through private enterprise. Look at your weather briefings. The FAA has outsourced Flight Service duties to Lockheed-Martin and has utilized DUAT/DUATS providers for over two decades. Though a slowdown in some areas is inevitable, much of the GA experience will continue to function relatively unaffected. Rather than accept defeat, take advantage of GA’s benefits and point out its conveniences to potential customers.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

If you’ve read a few reports on sequestration’s potential effects on GA, you’ve invariably noticed a few obstacles that will hinder many flight-training operations. While such barriers won’t all be easy to circumvent, with a little adjustment many flight schools and FBOs can continue with business as usual. Below are a few examples.

Problem:  My airport’s tower will reduce hours or close completely.
Solution: Many GA businesses operate full-time from uncontrolled fields. For towered schools and FBOs, the sequester could give your customers plenty of practice with uncontrolled airport operations.

Problem: Fewer controllers mean fewer ATC services (flight following, traffic reports, etc.), which will reduce safety.
Solution: Several modern GA aircraft are equipped to provide for many of these needs without ATC assistance. These days, new planes come outfitted with GPS, transponders, ELTs, TCAS, BRS aircraft parachutes, and full glass cockpits. In the event that ATC assistance is required, all emergency aircraft will be given priority, regardless of demands on the system.

Problem: FAA staffing cuts will delay the issuance time of pilot certificates.
Solution: After passing a checkride, each airman’s temporary certificate is valid for a full 120 days. If you’re nearing the 120-day mark and still haven’t received your permanent certificate, your DPE can issue a new temporary. With a simple phone call, you can be good to go for another 120 days. In addition, the FAA’s automation of much of the certification process has helped reduce the issuance delays of old.

In recent years, many Americans have preached that Uncle Sam is too big and the country needs a smaller government. With sequestration set to hit close to midnight tonight, a smaller government could lead to big business for enterprising flight-training providers. By touting GA and the benefits of private aviation, the nation’s flight schools and FBOs could stem the declining pilot population and help revitalize GA. Now might be the perfect time for flight trainers to grab the bull by the horns and watch business soar.