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

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