Energize the base – Part 2

This is part 2 of a two-part series from Bob Hepp, the owner of Aviation Adventures, winner of a 2012 Flight Training Excellence Award, and the 2012 Student’s Choice Award.

The flight training industry is starting to catch on to a concept the recreational Scuba diving industry has known for years–organizing and executing group fly-outs can be big for business, both in terms of immediate and long-term business. These are all trips we have done in the past, and continue to do now:

Hudson River Excursion – We depart our Washington, D.C., Metro airports to meet at Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM) for a pilot prebrief. We depart Monmouth in single file, 1100’, and 110 KIAS for Apple intersection. No matter how many times you make this trip, it never fails to amaze all on board. Sights include Flushing Bay, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, the East River, the USS Intrepid with the Concorde and the Space Shuttle, the incomparable Manhattan skyline now complete with the Freedom Tower, Central Park, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Airport, and the George Washington Bridge…all from 1,100 feet! Some recommendations: Be sure all pilots complete the NYC Exclusion Zone course at www.faasafety.gov, check NOTAMs for sporting events and other events that establish TFRs in the Exclusion Zone, ensure there is a New York Terminal Area chart in each aircraft, as instructions and reporting points for the Hudson River trip are on the back side.

Oshkosh – The mecca of general aviation. This is the eighth year we have made the pilgrimage. The past four years we have joined with a group of Israeli pilots who rent our airplanes and hire our instructors for the trip. The trip departs the Washington, D.C., area on Sunday morning and proceeds to Dayton, Ohio, where the group tours the Air Force Museum. Monday morning we depart early, stop for fuel, then fly up the Chicago shoreline beneath the Bravo airspace to rendezvous at Dodge County Airport (KUNU). There we check the OSH ATIS and do a final brief before departing in line for the Oshkosh arrival procedure. The remainder of Mon, Tues and Wed are spent experiencing the greatest aviation event on earth. Thursday morning brings an early launch, back down the Chicago shoreline, then across the southern shore of Lake Erie to a few turns around Niagara Falls and an overnight in Niagara, New York. Friday morning we head south and do the Hudson River Tour on the way back home.

Tangier Island – One of the local gems in the Washington, D.C., area is Tangier Island (KTGI). Tangier is the southernmost Virginia island in the Chesapeake Bay. From spring through fall it has a population of about 900 and is an active crabbing island. Early inhabitants of the island were British sailors wounded in the attack on Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Tangier Island is the only place on earth that Elizabethan English is still spoken, and most of the island residents still bear one of the four last names from the wounded sailors. Hilda Crocket’s Chesapeake House will serve you a memorable family-style meal of local fare. Tangier is small enough that you can walk the entire island in about 45 minutes. A trip to Tangier Island is like leaving the country without needing your passport.

Ski Trips – Once a year, usually in January, we do a fly-out trip to a local ski area with a nearby airport. The Wisp Ski Resort and the Garrett County Airport (4G4) in western Maryland have been our choices for the past several years. An early morning departure and a mid-afternoon return give us about four to five hours on the slopes. The Garrett County Transit system will shuttle your group to and from the slopes in a 15-passenger van for a few dollars a rider. Every inauguration day most government employees are off, so we depart Washington before the airspace closure, ski all day, and return after the airspace re-opens.

Fly and Float – The summer-time flying adventure is flying to an airport close to a canoe livery. We use the Front Royal Airport (KFRR) and the Shenandoah Canoe Company gladly picks us up, outfits us with canoes, kayaks, or rafts and drops us upriver into the beautifully placid Shenandoah River. After a lunch stop at the Shenandoah Canoe company snack trailer, we are back on the river for a few more hours of relaxation before being met at a takeout point and returned to the airport.

Amusement Park Trip – It is no small secret that most pilots are adrenalin junkies. No better way to feed that craving than a visit to Cedar Point, Ohio, the roller-coaster capital of the world. The Sandusky Airport is unfortunately scheduled to close this winter, but the Port Clinton Airport (KPCW) is about the same distance from the park. Be sure to experience the Top Fuel Dragster–zero to your hair straight back in milliseconds, then straight up, straight down with a 270 degree twist and done in less than 18 seconds.

Motorcycle Ride – We discovered that a great number of pilots are also bikers. We have heard that is because there are two types of people, those that enjoy operating in three dimensions and those that don’t. An organized ride to a good restaurant along a good route is always fun. We have done these rides together with a fly-out to a restaurant near an airfield.

Does your school do similar trips? Share them in the comments section.

Energize the base – Part 1

This is part 1 of a two-part series from Bob Hepp, the owner of Aviation Adventures, winner of a 2012 Flight Training Excellence Award, and the 2012 Student’s Choice Award.

All flight school and flying club operators are interested in increasing the flying activity at their organization. There are many ways to do that. The most difficult and expensive way is to spend precious marketing dollars on advertising, or spend time and dollars to participate in local open houses and airshows. The easiest and most effective way is to energize your base.

During every election cycle we hear we hear more and more about the political parties energizing their bases in support of their slate of candidates. That is the process of reaching out to their established supporters – the base – to contribute money and time to effectively influence the undecided voters. Every flight school and club has a similar base of pilots and students flying with them. Students are usually singularly focused on completing their next rating. Most of the other pilots are looking for something to do with their pilot certificate, or are in search of the next aviation challenge. Offering classes, seminars and fly-out trips fills that need for your base. It costs a school next to nothing to reach out to their base via e-mail to promote these activities. Classes are pure profit for the school and the instructor. Below is a list of classes, seminars and trips that have proven very popular at our school.

Rusty Pilot Seminar – Our first Rusty Pilot Seminar quickly filled to capacity. The 4-hour session focuses on weather, FARs, airspace, and aeromedical subjects. Attendees are given credit for the oral portion of a flight review. They are also encouraged to schedule the flight portion of their flight review that afternoon or soon after. Attendees include pilots who have been away from flying for a while, flying pilots looking to brush up on certain areas or prep for a flight review, and private students preparing for an upcoming checkride. We are discussing bringing in a medical examiner to conduct on-site medical exams to make it truly one stop shopping for rusty pilots getting back in the air.

Meet the Examiners Seminar – This idea came from AOPA’s study into the ideal flight training experience and has been off-the-scale popular. We bring in all of the local designated pilot examiners to offer pilots with upcoming checkrides the opportunity to meet all of the local examiners and ask them any question in a non-pressure environment. The examiners take about 10 minutes each to give a small presentation on a relevant topic of their choice, then field questions from the audience. The last half of the evening is a wide open forum for questions from the audience. This gives pilot applicants the opportunity to interview the available examiners and come away with tips and recommendations for a successful checkride.  It also gives the examiners the opportunity to distribute their contact information. Our examiners have arranged for Wings credit through the FAAST program. Attendees include pilots preparing for checkrides, pilots interested in pursuing professional development and Wings credit, and even examiners from other districts interested in establishing a similar program. There is no fee for this seminar and some of the local flight schools have provided light refreshments.

Right Seat Class – This class is for the non-flying significant other. There are three objectives to this class: 1. Present sufficient aerodynamic theory, system redundancy information, and ATC communication information to calm the nervous passenger, 2.Provide an overview of what the pilot is doing during different phases of flight and what the right seater could do to help out, and 3. Emergency action training so the non-pilot can get the airplane safely on the ground in the case of pilot medical incapacitation. Attendees with a particular interested in further emergency training are encouraged to schedule time with an instructor to practice tuning radios, making a specialized Mayday call, and guiding the plane to a safe approach and landing.

High Altitude Class – This class covers the topics identified in FAR 61.31(g)(1) and a few more. Attendees receive an endorsement for the ground portion of the high altitude endorsement. If your school has access to an aircraft certified for a flight above FL250, a quick out and back hop to altitude with a discussion of normal and emergency pressurization operations will complete the entire endorsement. If you have an altitude chamber locally, you may be able to arrange a “ride” in the chamber.

Specialty Aircraft Classes – These classes provide your base with an option to get up to speed on a new aircraft or system and are less expensive than one-on-one instruction. Examples include Garmin G1000, complex and high performance, multiengine, tailwheel, or any of the high flying single engine aircraft. Each aircraft manufacturer has a training program for flight instructors that provide them with excellent training materials. We encourage pilots to have some fun on their next flight review and get a tailwheel, high performance or complex endorsement, a Cessna Corvalis TT checkout, or add a multiengine rating.

Knowledge Exam Prep Seminar – From time to time we have a cluster of students who have completed the computer-based instruction course for the Private, Instrument or Commercial Knowledge Exam and need a little polish and a confidence boost to take the test. This is a lower cost option for them than one-on-one instruction and is the push they need to get the knowledge exam behind them.

Next time I’ll cover the absolute best thing you can do to show your students the joy of flying – fly-out trips.

-Bob Hepp, owner of Aviation Adventures