Big problems require big actions. This has been AOPA’s modus operandi behind the Flight Training Initiative, an effort the association thinks is vital to the future of flight training and general aviation. Since the beginning of the project a few years ago, we have focused on how to improve the flight training experience and ensure that more student pilots are able to make it from start to finish. For decades, aviation ignored this problem, instead relying on a steady flow of prospects through the flight training door. But now that the economy has faltered, the prospects don’t come like they used to, and when someone drops out of training it is having a significant effect on the pilot population.
To try and combat the problem we and others in the industry have begun a number of programs and projects, all of which we consider to be just the beginning of the effort. Today AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller announced the newest, and most exciting related project to date–the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards. This is not just another awards show. The hope is that far from simply having a nice dinner and a few trophies, the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards will be the catalyst for significant sea change within the industry.
The awards are meant to shine a bright spotlight on the flight schools and instructors that embody the ideals laid out in AOPA’s research report into the ideal flight training experience. The research showed that successful flight schools maintain a common set of practices and values that are irrelevant of size and location. Winning schools will be chosen as a direct result of customer feedback as it relates to the criteria.
Nowhere else in the industry is there a way to objectively grade your flight school. Thus the awards not only highlight those schools that are doing well, they will also form the backbone of the industry’s most extensive source of information yet on how customers feel our flight schools are performing. To participate, simply take a survey. It only takes a few minutes, and your results will make your school eligible for an award, and contribute to changing the industry for the better.
AOPA’s hope is that as schools examine what it takes to win an award, the institutional leaders will judge their own business against the criteria, and adjust accordingly. Given that the winning criteria is a set of objective measures that is scientifically proven, in doing so there is a real chance that the school will change for the better. Clearly the student is the biggest winner in this, as flight training becomes a more professional, more predictable endevaour. Through the students, our industry will ultimately benefit as we see schools get better and better at keeping those who dream about flying in the sky.
Please take a few minutes to complete a survey. Any customer, whether student pilot or ATP, can participate.
–Ian J. Twombly