Welcome to the second annual Best and Worst of [Insert Year Here] for the flight training industry. The 2010 blog, which you can read here, pointed to flight training dropout rates and the erroneous detention of John and Martha King as lowlights, but we saw some bright spots, too. (Hello, Young Eagles! Looks like you’re getting a shoutout this year as well.)
What did 2011 bring? Well, we didn’t see any beloved flight training figures erroneously detained, but we did see the FAA administrator abruptly leave his job following a drunk-driving arrest in early December. However, I’m not including him in the to Best of/Worst of list. You can tell me in the Comments if you think that was an error of omission.
So here we go, in no particular order.
1. The ongoing fracas at Santa Monica airport. Short version: The city council would like to close the six flight schools in operation there, citing “potential safety hazards” to the local neighborhoods, in spite of an impressive safety record. I guess the city of Santa Monica thinks pilots are hatched out of eggs or found in the cabbage patch. And hey, Santa Monica–your airport was good enough to train Greg Brady to fly. How many other airports can make that claim?
2. Another university aviation program gets the the ax. The University of Illinois’s Institute of Aviation had been turning out pilots since 1946.
3. A California flight school owner is arrested and charged with helping foreign nationals fraudulently apply for student visas to attend flight schools. Innocent until proven guilty, but are we looking at a troubling trend here? See number 4.
4. Meanwhile, the TSA is being dinged for not enforcing the Alien Flight Student Program for several months back in 2010. (The temptation here to remark that the TSA is probably busy with other matters, such as protecting the nation’s skies against grandmothers, is overwhelming. But all jokes aside, TSA, thanks for easing up on the whole patting-down-children thing.)
4. Isn’t flight training hard enough without some moron shining a laser in your eyes? (Thankfully the student in this incident had a CFI on board who was not affected.)
1. Remember that California education-reform law we cited last year that would have required flight schools to pay $5,000 in initial fees? Flight schools are now exempt.
2. Redbird Flight Simulations opens arguably the most state-of-the-art flight school ever envisioned in Texas. Data will be collected from the students who learn to fly there, and that’ll be used to create more effective training strategies.
3. With the number of female certificated pilots languishing at 6 percent of the total, women in the United States and Canada decided to do something about it. “Get women to the airport” events were held worldwide in 2010, and their organizers say they’re going to keep going for 2012. AOPA honored Mireille Goyer, creator of the international Women of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative, for her efforts.
4. The FAA publishes a change to the regulations enabling student pilots to apply for the private certificate and instrument rating concurrently, and count dual cross-country instruction flight time toward eligibility requirements for the concurrent training. This sounds like a no-brainer, and a good way to save some money in the process. It’s not for everybody–I couldn’t have pulled it off–but if you’re up to the challenge, why not?
5. EAA’s Young Eagles program makes the list for the second year in a row, this time because EAA announced at AirVenture that it would be targeting its program to get more people to continue their flight training, and possibly opening it up to older individuals (the Young Eagles cutoff is 17).
Now it’s your turn. What’d I miss, and what would you nominate?–Jill W. Tallman