I’ve spent the past few days traveling around Texas—a big state with a substantial concentration of general aviation pilots. My latest stop was Redbird Skyport, a facility that opened just last November at San Marcos Municipal Airport between Austin and San Antonio. I really enjoyed being back at the facility I visited just a few months ago while it was still under construction.
It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about AOPA’s efforts to grow the pilot population and change the paradigm for flight training because that’s the same mission that led Jerry Gregoire and his Redbird team to dream up and build this facility.
At AOPA we want to encourage more flight schools to do what works. Our extensive research has shown us exactly what that is, and we believe that if more schools focus on the keys to success, more students will complete their flight training and we’ll ultimately have more pilots.
We’ve created the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards to spotlight the schools and instructors that do it right. (You can nominate a training program for the awards by answering a few questions at www.aopa.org/ftinitiative. )We want to share what we’ve learned and encourage more schools to adopt successful practices.
But we also hope to see innovation, and that’s where facilities like Skyport, which its developers call a training lab, comes in. Incorporating the known success factors into your school is a good place to start. But expanding on those factors with creative ways to improve the experience further is even better.
As we say at Flight Training magazine—a good pilot is always learning. And so is a good instructor, a good school, and a good association for that matter.
At Skyport the focus is on creating a new type of training experience, with heavy integration of flight simulators and a professional atmosphere to keep training fun and keep students moving forward. I was really impressed by what a difference it makes to include simulators from the very start. It clearly enhances the student experience and contributes to a very high student retention rate.
Just as we at AOPA are sharing everything we learn about the training experience, the Redbird Skyport team has pledged to share what they learn with the rest of the general aviation industry—and that’s good news for everyone.