Posts Tagged ‘flight instruction’

Barter website creator is now a private pilot

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Great news in a happy email from Stephanie Thoen of Aurora, Colo., today: “I am writing to let you know I completed my PPL last week with Mary [Latimer].”

Stephanie, you may recall, launched a website earlier this year that seeks to connect student pilots with CFIs who are willing to barter flight intruction in exchange for goods and services. Flight instructors can register for free at WillWorktoFly.org, whereas student pilots pay a one-time registration fee of $18.95. A portion of the fee goes toward establishing a flight training scholarship, and all registered student pilots are eligible for that scholarship, which is to be awarded monthly.

Thoen came up with the idea after falling short of funds in pursuit of her pilot certificate. (I think it’s a fabulous idea, and am half-tempted to see if I can trade my husband’s comic book collection for a commercial certificate. On second thought—scratch that; he might barter my airplane to get the comics back.) She reports that a mention in Flight Training magazine and on our website helped to boost traffic to the site, so that she will be able to offer a scholarship in June. “Any additional amount I get above and beyond…will go toward putting together a free flying camp once a year for several students,” she said.

It’s safe to say that Mary Latimer likely provided the inspiration for the free flying camp. Latimer has held free flying camps for women for three years in a row at her home airport in Vernon, Texas. I spent a few days at one of her camps in 2013, and wrote about it for the magazine. Schoen sought Mary out to finish her training.

Congratulations to new private pilot Stephanie, and kudos to Mary for inspiring others to give back to aviation.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

Marketing as a CFI

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The FAA provides CFI candidates no help in the way of marketing tips for folks looking to make a living providing flight instruction. If you are simply relying on your local flight school to do the work for you, you are making a mistake: Flight schools on the whole are some of the worst businesses that exist when it comes to properly marketing their offerings. Too many rely on walk-ins, web site hits, or word of mouth.

Further, your local flight school probably wants you to work as an independent contractor, not a full-time employee. However, even if you are an employee, the chances are you will only get paid based on billable hours. This is where you have a direct say in generating some of your own income.

Marketing can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be:

  • At a minimum, have some business cards printed up, and give each new client six or seven cards to distribute to people who may be genuinely interested in learning to fly (or getting back into flying or earning a new rating).
  • Add a signature to your email that lists your credentials.
  • Utilize Facebook and Twitter to advertise not only your services, but also the accomplishments of your clientele. To minimize the risk of inappropriate material being posted, create a business page/Twitter handle that is separate from your personal one.
  • Even if you are working for a flight school, create a simple website that gets to the heart of what you do and offer. Minimize the number of links people need to hit. Advertise what you offer (more on this in a bit). Use your website to brag about what your clientele have accomplished, complete with photos or videos of recent first solo flights, checkride completions, et cetera.
  • Direct mail is old-fashioned, but it still works. You can talk to your local post office about how to target certain ZIP codes (those with higher incomes) and send out a professional-looking flyer or brochure advertising yourself and your flight school. In fact, you should confirm that the flight school is OK with this, and if it is, ask the school to share in the expense. If it won’t, use your contact number on the brochure, not the school’s.
  • Coupons. People are suckers for coupons. Work with local businesses—hotels, grocery stores, barber shops—to place and distribute coupons for intro/sight-seeing flights. Include them in your mailers and on your Facebook page and website. Make sure you include an expiration date that is 4-6 months out. This motivates the buyer/user to come in and use it, and also protects you from spikes in fuel prices.
  • Local events. During the holiday season, set up a booth in the local mall that has a running DVD about flying and has a few ground-school kits and flyers. You will have to coordinate this to keep it staffed, and it might be expensive up front, but people love to give and receive sightseeing flights for gifts. Do the same thing at local fairs, school events, et cetera. See the note above about expiration dates (for Christmas sales, extend the expiration date to Labor Day). Keep notes on the trickle-down business you create from this.
  • What do you offer? Besides being a CFI, talk up what you can add to that. Are you an instrument instructor? Multiengine? Can you offer seaplane training or a tailwheel endorsement? Come up with a package or a series to offer for your sightseeing rides. It should include a photo of some sort or a video if you can do it safely. If you can mount a camera on the strut of a Cessna, you can offer a fantastic memory to your customer. If you can get a great aerial shot of a local landmark that you fly over routinely, you can sell the same one over and over, but personalize it with each customer’s name, date, et cetera.. They may never come back to take lessons, but they may refer people to you for training or just for more rides. Remember, you want to fly to get paid, so it doesn’t matter what you are doing to produce billable hours.

What do you want to specialize in? Are you into night cross-country flights? Some instructors don’t like missing family time at night, so maybe you can become the go-to night CFI. Or do you want to do IFR training? How about IFR training on long cross-country trips? I got several vacations from my clients when I was a full-time CFI for which I actually got paid.

There is much that you can do to market what you do and what you offer. It isn’t hard, and I have not even scratched the surface of it here. Whatever you do, keep detailed records on what works and what does not so that you don’t throw good money after bad. If you do this correctly, you will probably make more money than a regional airline first officer can dream of, and maybe as much as regional captain. If you leave to pursue a flying career elsewhere, you may find that your former employers will make a strong pitch to keep you or will offer to pay you for some of your contacts, et cetera.

Heck, you might even be able to market marketing!—Chip Wright

A GIFT in Texas

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The women you see here all have one thing in common: They want to learn to fly. (And the state trooper in the background? He’s a student pilot.) As I write this, the ladies who are attending Mary Latimer’s Girls in Flight Training Academy at Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, Texas, are hard at work, drilling through ground school, poring over sectional charts, and of course getting up in the air.

But there’s a lot more going on. There are friendships forming; the students are dealing with their concerns and fears about some aspects of flight training (stalls = yuck), and some of them are scaling mental hurdles that have prevented them from achieving their goals.

Latimer came up with the idea of an all-woman’s flight “camp” in 2011. For her first attempt (in which attendees aren’t charged for flight training, or housing, or food–only for the avgas they used), she had about 15 women. For this year’s event, which received some advance press in AOPA’s ePilot Flight Training newsletter and in Flight Training magazine, she had 40 or so sign up. That meant a scramble for enough housing, not to mention airplanes and flight instructors (who also donated their time), but if you have ever met Mary Latimer, you’d know that such minor details as not enough airplanes or instructors doesn’t phase her. She simply finds out a way to make everything work.

I spent some time with the GIFT attendees this past weekend, and I was struck by the fact that the women were so excited and so happy to be there. The perfect weather was another plus—I’m told Texas weather can be capricious this time of year, but blue skies and fairly light winds were forecast for the entire week. There was a lot of flying going on, and as soon as I get an update from Mary I’ll pass along the success stories. In the meantime, look for an article about women and flight training featuring the GIFT experience sometime in 2013.—Jill W. Tallman

CFIs: Are these students talking about you?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

This week I have the happy task of writing profiles on the three CFIs who were named Outstanding Flight Instructors in our Flight Training Excellence Awards. I can’t divulge their names just yet–you’ll find out when we make the official announcement at AOPA Summit 2012.

But I can share with you some of the glowing recommendations that their students wrote. And I challenge all flight instructors who might read this: Could these students be talking about you? If so, congratulations–you’re a winning flight instructor in my book. If not, well…maybe you have some homework to do?—Jill W. Tallman

“An exceptional instructor, who always delivers professional training, exceptional feedback, and extraordinary knowledge transfer.”

“Has exciting new ideas for teaching and brings laughter to difficult learning.”

“Is a natural flight instructor that is imaginative in finding ways to help struggling students.”

“Is very positive and there isn’t a flight that I leave not inspired … for the next lesson. [Instructor] loves to teach!”

“Dedication to students’ success and safety, knowledge in aviation, great pilot…great communication skillls, patience, always available for questions. [E]mbodies the best in flight training, [is] an example for other flight instructors.”

Trade ya!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Thanks and a tip o’ the headset to Greg Brown for this little interlude. Greg’s July Flight Training column, coming to you in magazine format sometime in late May/early June, focuses on a new private pilot who bought his own Cessna 150 to complete his training. At the end of the column, the pilot tells Greg that he traded a pickup truck to his flight instructor in exchange for instrument training.

When I read that, I thought of all the crap, er, stuff, in my home. If I could convert those goods to flight instruction I could probably get all the way to ATP, if not CFI. The comic books alone might get me a multiengine rating. (They’re my husband’s, lovingly packed in Mylar, and once upon a time he told me with a straight face that these would be like a pension. We were so young and dumb.)

I put out the question to my Twitter followers: “Pilots, have you ever bartered or exchanged goods/services for flight instruction? CFIs?” and got a few responses. Casey (@casey_a1) said he has given flight instruction in exchange for guitar lessons. Len (@ThePilotReport) said he trades flight instruction for use of owners’ aircraft and other cool toys, like boats and jet skis.

For a flight instructor tied to a Part 61 or 141 school, trade/barter likely isn’t an option. But with an independent CFI, it might very well be. What about you? Have you ever traded goods/services for flight instruction? Tell me in the comments section.—Jill Tallman