Archive for November, 2009

Calling all kids…Hello?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Ray Larner of Lapeer Pilot Center in Lapeer, Mich., just posed an interesting question on the phone. I promised I would put it in our blog and see what happens. How do we light a fire under kids ages five to 20? “We are really, really, letting future generations down,” Larner said. He got into aviation, and chose to enter the U.S. Air Force, because of Sky King, Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, and all World War II aces. “It was a romantic time in aviation.” Now his granddaughter is determined to make it into the U.S. Air Force Academy. Why? Because Ray is around airplanes all the time, and her father encourages her to become a pilot. But what about the rest? I mentioned the EAA Young Eagles program which strikes at the heart of his question. The Young Eagles plan was to fly a million youngsters (they got 1.5 million and counting). He knows about that and thinks we need something more. What would that be? You can reach him through his Web site or just post something here and he will respond.

Black Friday: Is that an airplane in my mall?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

It’s been a bad year for aviation, and I’ve seen more news items about flight schools going under than I’d care to share. But I’m also seeing some that are digging in and going out for customers.

One school, in Maryland, is negotiating with a mall to position an aircraft outside a large department store during the holiday shopping rush. They’ll staff the airplane in the hopes of attracting potential pilots among the throngs. Another FBO is doing the same thing at an upscale mall in Texas, and just today a news release crossed my inbox in which Air Orlando said it’s going to position a Remos GX inside the Florida Mall Wednesday night so that it’ll be sitting pretty in time for Black Friday shoppers. (With its folding wings, the Remos makes this kind of display setup pretty smooth.)

And a brand-new flight school owner is using a pricing scheme for flight instruction and aircraft rental that he says gives customers a “round number” so that they can more adequately budget their training expenses, just as they would for a fitness membership or a car payment. Tim Poole, who recently opened GT Aviation at Potomac Airfield in the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone, calls it a kind of a “club” format. A monthly fee purchases five hours per month, or one lesson per week; a higher fee bumps that up to 10 hours, or two lessons per week.

What do you think of these ideas? What else could flight schools be doing to attract customers?

Skywriters and banner-towers, meet your competition

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The Washington Post’s TV columnist, Lisa DeMoraes, was patting herself on the back last month after ABC canceled plans to promote its new television series, “V,” by hiring skywriting airplanes to fly over 26 landmarks–among them the Statue of Liberty and Santa Monica Pier–in 15 cities in a four-day stretch. (Presumably the skywriters would etch the skies with “V,” or “We Are Of Peace,” or whatever the show’s slogan is. I haven’t watched it.) (And no, they weren’t going to fly in Washington, D.C.)

DeMoraes basically called the promotional campaign hypocritical in light of parent company Disney’s recently announced plans to cut its fuel emissions in half by 2012. According to her calculations–she said she sought the help of various “aviation pundits”–the stunt would have used around 400 gallons of fuel containing around 800 grams of lead and around three tons of CO2, among other pollutants, if each event took about one hour of flying time.

Good news for Ms. DeMoraes and ABC: A company at a German trade show figured out how to tie banner ads on flies and released them at the show. Here’s a video. No carbon emissions! Just lots of really tired flies. 

How to discourage a potential student

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Eric Brown of the Tampa area has always wanted to fly, so he accumulated the money and went to the nearest airport. He told the school he could afford to fly one time a week and the school told him he had to fly at least two times, preferably three. He found such a schedule would exceed the budget he had, and interfere with his job of traveling to represent an Idaho company called Scentsy . Also, that seemed like a grueling schedule and he wanted flying to be fun. So he left, thinking that was the last word. I told him that when I learned to fly, I could afford one lesson per week. I also told him about the sport pilot option that can be done in a third of the time and half the cost, but he has a baby on the way now and that will occupy the bank account. I also suggested he ask the school for names of competitors, and maybe the school will get the message. I won’t name the school, but pilots there glide above clear water and are very close to St. Petersburg when they do.

Bahamian chocks of my own!

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Poor me, I never win anything…sniff, sniff. So imagine my surprise when the Bahamas Tourist Office (BTO) held an impromptu ceremony and gave me some very special chocks. The BTO has been promoting its new “Gateway FBOs,” which are at select airports in Florida. The Gateway FBOs are set up to provide all sorts of helpul advice and hand-holding for those launching for the Bahamas.

As part of this promotion, TBO has made loads of chocks bearing the BTO name, plus the names of the Gateway FBOs.

But wait, there’s more. Students in the Bahamas have given a special touch to a select few chocks: They’ve painted Bahamian-themed scenes on them.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive one such set of chocks from the artist herself! At the BTO booth, tenth-grader Rhudi Kerr gave her “The Swimming Pigs” chocks. (Seems that pigs on Big Major Cay are wont to swim in the ocean.) So Rhudi painted her chocks with a pair of piglets making their way in those famed turquoise Bahamian waters. What a prize! Thanks for the chocks, Rhudi and the BTO! I promise I’ll give them their well-earned place of honor.

Happy birthday, Mama Bird!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

i’ll be in Florida all this week, scurrying around AOPA Summit, but I can’t let Nov. 4 slip by without wishing many happy returns to Evelyn “Mama Bird” Johnson, who turns 100. Johnson’s incredible career as a flight instructor and designated pilot examiner are detailed in Mike Collins’ article; he also profiled her for the November 1999 AOPA Pilot. Then and now, Mama Bird retains one of the fattest logbooks you’re likely to come across. Her 57,635.4 flight hours make her the highest-time female pilot and the highest-time living pilot in the Guiness Book of World Records.

I have just one “Mama Bird” story: Johnson was a featured speaker at a Women in Aviation conference several years ago. In a soft Southern accent–she was born in Kentucky and lives in Tennessee–she recalled just how she came to be a pilot. Her husband was serving in the military during World War II. Left on her own, she was looking for an activity to fill her quiet days. Should she try tennis? Golf? She saw an advertisement that read, “Learn to Fly” and said, “I believe I’ll do that.” What began as a whim became a career that influenced thousands of pilots. Happy birthday, Mama Bird!