It’s that time of year again! Welcome to my third annual Best and Worst list for the flight training industry. I spent a few moments reviewing the 2011 roundup (which you can read here), and boy, did we have some interesting developments. Still, 2012 is shaping up to be notable, too.
In 2012, criminals continued to use airplanes for all the wrong reasons. We lost a beloved designated pilot examiner. Santa Monica Airport’s neighbors are using increasingly inventive and unlawful ways to show how much they don’t want this airport—and its student pilots—in their backyards.
On the up side, I’m pleased to note some things that should affect the flight training industry for years to come. Some of these come out of AOPA. You may call me self-serving for including those in this list, but at least I’ve lumped them into one item.
So here are the worst and best, in no particular order. Tell me what you think I left out in the Comments section.—Jill W. Tallman
1. Santa Monica Airport makes it to the list again, this year because people are so intent on shutting down this airport–with its six flight schools–that one of them took it upon himself to scatter nails in the flight schools’ driveways to make his point (sorry). What’s next, flaming bags of dog poop on the flight school steps? (Maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas.) The Santa Monica City Council gets special recognition for considering a noise reduction plan that would have paid flight schools each time a student pilot and flight instructor took their landing practice to another airport.
2. Border patrol agents seized a flight school’s Cessna 172 after a renter pilot was arrested on suspicion of using it to smuggle illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. The owner said he wasn’t optimistic he’d ever see the airplane again, and its seizure could spell the end of his business.
3. St. Cloud University, St. Cloud, Minn., shutters its aviation program in a cost-cutting measure.
4. The U.S. Air Force told its oldest GA flying club–located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio–to hit the road. That the USAF would evict its own is a tad ironic, as is the fact that Dayton is widely considered the Birthplace of Aviation. This one’s not all bad, though; the club, 300 members strong, moved operations to a nearby GA airport and has vowed to remain active.
5. “Mama Bird” took her final flight. Evelyn Bryan Johnston, a widely loved designated pilot examiner and the grande dame of Tennessee aviation, died May 10 at the age of 102. She had logged more than 57,000 flight hours and administered more than 9,000 practical tests.
1. Persons with disabilities are learning to fly. A fantastic organization called Able Flight is helping persons with disabilities to earn their wings. The organization really took off in 2012, when it helped six men to become sport pilots through a joint program with Purdue University.
2. Women are finding out that flying is fun. There are some very determined people trying to bring more women into aviation. Last year’s list mentioned International Women of Aviation Worldwide; this year my pick is designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer of Vernon, Texas, who hosted about 40 women at a weeklong camp at her home airport (Vernon-Wilbarger County, near Wichita Falls). The Girls in Flight Training Academy participants got free housing, food, and ground school, and they paid just $50 per hour dry plus the cost of fuel to fly in a Cessna 150. The result? Five took the knowledge test, four soloed, and two got through the private pilot checkride. You’ll read more about GIFT in an upcoming issue of Flight Training magazine.
3. Apps, apps, apps! From weight and balance to flight planning to weather to making a 3D image of your 10 trips around the pattern so you can see if you’re squaring off that base leg, cool, easy-to-use, and mostly inexpensive apps for the iPad and other tablet devices exploded in 2012. Student pilots will benefit from all that technology, so long as they remember to keep their eyes outside.
4. King Schools makes its private and instrument syllabus available free to independent flight instructors. Cheers and a tip of the hat to John and Martha King, who inspired my very first best-and-worst list back in 2010. I’m glad to bring them back for a happier reason. Honorable mention: Sporty’s Flight Academy in Clermont County, Ohio, whose modular flight training program that focuses on getting student pilots to solo is showing some impressive results–how about four solos in one week?
5. AOPA’s Flight Training Retention Initiative and the newly created Center to Advance the Pilot Community have been hard at work to tackle the problem of the shrinking pilot population. Some accomplishments to date:
- Successful training programs were recognized during the first Flight Training Excellence Awards; you can read more about the people and flight schools that got special recognition here.
- The Flight Training Field Guides for instructors, flight schools, and students are now available to download in .pdf format. Click here to get yours–scroll down the page to see where the field guides can be downloaded.
- Have you noticed the series of articles on AOPA Online about successful flying clubs? Look for much more on flying clubs, including a Flying Club network that will strengthen the bonds among pilots and clubs nationwide.
- Recognizing that we shouldn’t wait until a kid turns 16 to nurture his or her interest in learning to fly, AOPA also launched AV8TRS–a completely free membership program for youths aged 13 to 18. Go here to find out more, or sign up a youngster.