Posts Tagged ‘student pilots’

Cross-marketing flying

Monday, March 10th, 2014

scuba divingI recently touched on the topic of marketing yourself as a CFI. I say “touched” because a 900- word blog simply cannot do the topic justice. Books have been written about it—books geared toward the CFI, no less, and they had far more than 900 words.

But I do want to touch on the concept of cross-marketing. As I mentioned previously, general aviation has not historically done well with marketing efforts, especially flight schools. They tend to rely on walk-ins, word-of-mouth, and website hits. Not many take advantage of cross-marketing with other activities that attract the same demographic as pilots.

The most obvious market is scuba diving. Diving tends to attract relatively well-to-do individuals looking to fulfill “bucket list” goals, or those who are interested in living life from a different perspective. Flying and diving have much in common: Both are three-dimensional activities; both require analysis and planning; both require some specialized equipment; both require a disciplined approach toward safety; and both are best when shared with others. In fact, diving is a highly social activity, much more so than flying is.

Research has shown that as many as 70 percent of pilots are also scuba divers. Note that I did not say that 70 percent of divers are pilots. However, the immediate use of that information is obvious: Divers are a market just waiting to be exploited by you, the instructor-to-be of a bunch of future pilots.

Unlike flying, diving is an industry that is unregulated by the government. It’s largely self-regulated, and there are numerous dive training agencies. The heavy hitter, though, is the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI). Chances are that your local shop is a PADI facility, and if it isn’t, it probably has at least one PADI-certified instructor. PADI is a marketing machine.

As a CFI, you can—and should—try to establish a relationship with your local dive shop. Talk about forming a partnership that might consist of promoting each other’s businesses via brochures or sharing links on each other’s websites. Establish a referral system that provides an incentive for old customers to bring in new customers to either business. If you are not a certified diver, consider becoming one. Even if you are not interested, learn what is required to become a diver, and learn the basics of the training system in use at your local dive shop, be it PADI, NAUI, SSI, et cetera. Understanding the lingo and the training platforms will help you when it comes to talking to potential diving pilots.

Flying and diving are both travel activities. One way to promote both at the same time would be to establish a “flying diving vacation,” such as a trip to a beach that is also a diving hot-spot. Locations like the Gulf Shores, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Catalina Island, or even Mexico offer much for divers, non-divers, and pilots. A GA pilot can’t fly for pay, but the divers in the airplane can contribute to the cost of the flight by paying for some of the fuel. For divers who have not been exposed to general aviation, it may be a great way to introduce them to the fun and flexibility offered by general aviation airplanes. You and your new dive-shop partner can heavily promote a trip like this. The dive shop can also promote various diving events that will take place once you actually hit the water (with your scuba gear, that is).

This is just one avenue of cross-promotional marketing. There are others, and some will be local to where you live. So, “dive right in,” and start tapping into revenue “pools” that already exist.—Chip Wright

Why we need GIFT

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

GIFT1 Tamara and CatherineThis week my Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up with many smiling faces of ladies learning to fly, or getting back into flying. That’s because the skies of Vernon, Texas, are filled with the Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) participants.

I went out to GIFT last year and spent a couple days with the GIFT gang, led by designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer; her daughter, Tamara Griffith, a CFI; and granddaughter Amanda Griffith—who, at age 18, had just become a CFI. Here’s the complete article.

Briefly summarized, Mary wants to create more women pilots, and she does that by conducting a free week of flight instruction for women, aimed at helping them get over hurdles, or make them more comfortable with notion of flying. Here’s a video of the 2012 event.

Some people periodically question why we need programs like GIFT that are aimed at getting more women to fly; or Girls With Wings, which strives to introduce girls to flight at a young age; or the global Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, which seeks to celebrate women in aviation while introducing women to the opportunities that aviation offers.

Their arguments generally run along these lines: Women aren’t being held back from flying, so why should a special effort be made to include them?

The best counter-argument to that likely comes in the form of a survey of airline travelers conducted in the United Kingdom, published this week in the U.K. Telegraph. The survey found that 51 percent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to trust a female pilot. The survey polled nearly 2,400 survey respondents, all of whom had taken a flight in the previous year, according to an article in the Telegraph.

It would be easy to say that the British survey respondents are harboring some stereotypes, or that perhaps they just are a little off-base in what they want from an airline crew. (A survey conducted in 2012 among 1,000 British travelers found that a majority of respondents prefer their airline pilots have a Home Counties accent—I’m not sure what that is—and they found Cockney and midlands accents least reassuring. But I digress.)

I’d like to think that a survey of 2,400 U.S. travelers would be a little more progressive in their responses–but I can’t say for certain that they would be. Women make up just 6 percent of the U.S. pilot population and represent 5 percent of airline cockpit crews. So, until such time as the sight of a woman in an airline uniform is as unremarkable as the sight of a woman in a doctor’s white coat or any other professional occupation, I will say that we need female-centric programs like GIFT (and GWW, and WOAW, and the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation International…).—Jill W. Tallman

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The August “Since You Asked” poll: Where’s your hand?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Many student pilots are mystified when something their flight instructor has taught them is overruled by another flight instructor or a designated pilot examiner.

Such was the case in the August 2012 edition of Rod Machado’s “Since You Asked?” No Name Please (there are a lot of people with that monicker who write in to Rod, it seems) recounted that another CFI at his airport insists that a pilot flying have his hand on the throttle pretty much at all times and “goes bonkers” if he catches someone removing a hand from the throttle during final approach–no matter if a trim or flap adjustment is needed. He’s even been known not to sign off a pilot for a checkout if that hand comes off the throttle.

We asked digital readers to finish this sentence: “On takeoff or on final approach, the hand that’s not on the yoke is…”

The vast majority (94 percent of you) said their hand is on the throttle, but “I will take it off to adjust flaps or trim.”

The remainder (6 percent) said they keep that hand on the the throttle, “and it stays there.” Nobody admitted to keeping that hand in their lap.

Rod’s position is that while it’s reasonable to instruct student pilots to keep their hand on the throttle during takeoff or landing, but there’s no good reason whatsoever that a student pilot–or any other pilot–not be permitted to take his or her hand off the throttle to “do his cockpit business.” Those of us who fly airplanes with non-electric trim are thankful.–Jill W. Tallman

“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Catching up with…True Course Flight School

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Just about 18 months ago, I interviewed Jeff Vandeyacht, the proud new owner of True Course Flight School at Oswego County Airport in Fulton, N.Y., for a brief article in the March 2011 issue of Flight Training. At a time when flight training seemed to be hemorraghing student pilots (and we’re not in the clear yet), Jeff had decided to purchase the flight school at his home airport when he found out that the owner was planning to shut it down and retire to Texas.

How’s the flight school doing? I checked in with Jeff this week on a whim, and he quickly got back to me. “We’re doing pretty well,” he reports. True Course has a Cessna 150 and a 172 on the line, as well as a Socata Trinidad on leaseback, which is used for commercial and complex/high-performance training. A tailwheel aircraft is the next planned acquisition.

Jeff hired a retired military pilot who is a part-time instructor, and he has been looking for a full-time CFI for months. “We’re busy enough that a person could make a fair living,” he says. (So, CFIs, if you’re looking for a change of venue, please give Jeff a call. Click here for the website.) Four or five students are preparing to take their private pilot checkrides in the next month.

Jeff went into this with the desire to provide quality training as well as a learning atmosphere where students can feel connected and excited about their progress. He regularly posts students’ accomplishments on a Facebook page, along with photos like the one you see here of Kevin Todd earlier this month. And yes, solo students get their very own T-shirt to commemorate the great day.

Shortly after Jeff got back to me, a prospect came in to True Course Flight School. After a tour, a review of the aircraft and the syllabus, “he’s all in and he starts his training tomorrow,” Jeff reported. “I think you’re bringing me luck!” Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that the prospect liked what he saw–a flight school whose owner is knowledgeable about business and good customer service, as well as someone who can help him make his aviation dream a reality.—Jill W. Tallman

Moms, flying, and flying moms

Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Mother’s Day is coming up. I don’t know how many readers had supportive moms when they were learning to fly, but if you did, be thankful. She probably had to deal with some fear and anxiety whenever you were 5,500 feet in the air with no parachute.
 
Director of eMedia Alyssa Miller (left) and her mom, Pam Miller

As a parent of two teenagers, I vividly recall those days when my daughter was learning to drive. I put as much of it on my husband as I could, but eventually I had to climb into the right seat with her. I’d have to clench my hands together, else I’d be twisting my fingers into knots, and she would see that from the corner of her eye and know what I was communicating to her. When she began driving by herself, I’d curl up in my armchair and pray.

 
Now imagine a parent whose child is learning to operate a vehicle that not only moves in three axes, but also can’t be pulled over to the side of the road if something happens. It’s a wonder any teenager gets to take flying lessons!
 
Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and his mom, Wilma Melville

Those who do largely seem to come from flying families. Their moms and dads are as familiar with flying as the rest of us are with driving cars. Their parents understand the safety issues behind operating an airplane; they know about limiting risk. They know what it means when an aircraft stalls, and they recognize that little airplanes do not fall out of the sky if the engine stops. They know that pilots train for emergencies and practice for those situations a lot.

 But your mom–if she is not already a pilot or a right-seater–might not know these things. Why not teach her sometime? Tell her what you would tell anybody who is not a pilot: that flying has risks, but you are learning how to manage those risks. Tell her that accident statistics show that when you’re flying with a flight instructor, you’re much less likely to be involved in an accident. (The 2010 Nall Report will back you up.) Tell her you want to be the safest pilot that ever was.

It might not keep Mom from curling up into a ball whenever you’re in the air, but it might help her to understand a bit more about your passion for flying. And who knows, when the time comes and you have your pilot certificate, she might be willing to take a flight with you and find out for herself what all the fuss is about. And that will be a great day indeed.–Jill W. Tallman

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