For the community and by the community, Learning Curve seeks to bring flight school owners and operators, and the businesses that support them, together for the open sharing of knowledge. Whether it be a story of success at your school or where you see the future of flight training headed, share it with your peers. Submit a blog entry by clicking on the link above, or comment often on other blogs to add to the conversation.

Where are the instructors?

No matter where in aviation you look, it seems the hot topic is making new pilots. Or that the pilot population is aging. We, as pilots, need to hurry up and make more before our airports all disappear.

I own a small flight school in Massachusetts called FCA Flight Center operating out of Fitchburg (KFIT). For us, the problem surely isn’t new students, it’s getting CFIs to train them. There seems to be a larger hole in CFI ranks than in students. I’ve searched high and low all over the Internet with no luck, including a website designated for CFIs to job search. We currently have six part-time instructors. Nonetheless, we do not have any working three days per week. The planes sit on the ground on beautiful flying days.

As far as I’ve researched, we’re the highest paying flight school in the area for CFIs. The camaraderie here is great. The competition is friendly. When the instructors aren’t flying with students, they fly together out for dinner or currency.

We also have a thriving active pilot’s association on the field with more than 120 members. The Fitchburg Pilots Association EAA chapter 1415 has monthly meetings with anywhere from 50 to 200 attendees. CFIs and pilots here have no trouble making friends.

Once the CFI issue has been solved and flight training is being provided properly, we have two items left I can see to bring GA over the top. First would be to provide help to all airports to have a thriving pilot’s association. We need leaders to bring them together. That’s when pilots fly more and fly safe. Next would be marketing. General aviation fails tremendously in this area. Just try telling someone not in aviation you’re going to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a week in July and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the best kept secret in the world. Boats, motorcycles, and even gun clubs market themselves better than we do. It’s about time we ask our friends like Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman to help us market GA to the general public.

Charley Valera, owner FCA Flight Center

Schools must innovate to survive

Redstone College, which has become known for its airframe and powerplant and advanced electronics technology (avionics) programs, is currently working hard to make significant improvements to its course content, instructional tools, equipment and methodologies in order to better prepare students for the complexities of the field in the 21st century. The school is constantly working with the FAA to make sure the education students are receiving in the airframe and powerplant degree program is in compliance with the latest technology and regulations.

One of the major areas in which Redstone has strived for improvement is its class and curriculum organization. One of the problems they have faced is that the teaching of turbine engines and their systems had become fractured, with a basic class on turbine engine theory followed by multiple classes on a variety of systems. Redstone asked the FAA to approve a reorganization of the material so the theory class was more comprehensive and cohesive, while the study of various systems was combined and taught as a single follow-up class. The FAA approved the change, which ensured a firm foundation in theory and made the connection between various turbine systems clearer. The result has been that students have shown a dramatic increase in their understanding of the complexity of turbine systems.

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Four tips to increase student retention

Ever since I began flight training in 2008, the same question regularly comes up around the airport. “Why aren’t more people coming out to learn to fly?” Given that I was still early in my lessons when first confronted with this industry-wide dilemma, I was baffled–learning to fly was simply the greatest life experience (and investment) possible. I was living my dream for what amounted to the cost of a short-term car payment (more on that later). So, why didn’t others feel the same way?

I started digging into this issue when soon enough my own “plight of flight” set in. Weather started hampering my schedule, and with a three-hour round-trip drive to the airport only to find upon arrival that crosswinds now exceeded the Thorpedo’s limitations, the process quickly grew old. If it were not for the great relationship with my CFI and genuine enjoyment drawn from every lesson (even those on the ground), Mother Nature combined with what soon became one mechanical obstacle after another surely would have shooed me away.

Now, five years later with close to 100 aviation lectures under my belt, I realize that cost itself is not the barrier, but rather, value determines commitment. “How much am I willing to pay to live my dream?” In other words, if it costs me $6,000 to get my sport pilot certificate (and that is what I paid), it is only expensive if I am having a lousy time. If the experience is great, it’s a bargain.

So, what are some things the flight training industry (and pilot community in general) can do to stop losing eight of every 10 students? Here are four ideas:

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A new approach to FIRCs

Flying self-selects fabulous people. It is easy to become fond of them. They are competent, committed and persistent. You already know this because you work with these folks all the time. My wife, Martha, and I became especially aware of how wonderful pilots are, and fond of them, during the decade or so that we traveled around the country teaching ground schools. It was also during that decade that we learned how vulnerable these special people are to the risks associated with flying.

We taught relatively large numbers, and it was not uncommon for us to return to a city in two months and learn that someone we had just taught was already dead from an airplane crash. I can name dozens. These were not foolhardy people. They just didn’t understand the risks they were taking. In each case the death was considered a local tragedy. These people make fabulous obituaries.

It points out there is such a strong need to help pilots gain insights that will save their lives. This is why I have come to so be deeply saddened by the lost opportunity represented by Flight Instructor Refresher Courses that cover all over again the same things we instructors all learned when we were training to become private pilots. Covering things like thrust, drag, lift, and weight has little or no effect on our ability to teach pilots things that will determine whether they and their passengers live or die.

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Help your students live their dream

As research shows, one of the top reasons given by students for not enrolling in flight training is cost. While we can debate whether this reasoning is monetary or perceived value, at the end of the day the fact remains that whether or not one has the money, training seems expensive if the experience falls short of expectations.


I participate in many discussions on this issue and believe the long-term solution to this problem is for the training industry to learn to consistently create value for students–a return on investment in the form of a great experience. Only then will living the dream be worth it, irrespective of price. However, this is not an overnight solution, so it is necessary to find immediate ways to combat the perceived price barrier.


Sennheiser S1 Aviation Headsets has just launched a scholarship program called “Live Your Dream.” Any flight student has a chance to win $1,500 towards training. Essentially, both the flight school and student register at Then, each student submits his story via text or video entry, telling why he wants to become a pilot (there are previous entries posted on the site to offer inspiration). Each month, a panel will select one entry and award the scholarship, which is payable directly to the flight school to help fund the winning student’s tuition. This really is a great program, and the reasons are plentiful.


First, the money. While $1,500 doesn’t cover all the training, Sennheiser and its partners are enabling courtships between students and flight schools. The largest barrier to entry is eliminated, and if the flight school creates a great experience, the student will find the remaining tuition to continue–as we know, people generally find the money for what they really want (the annual Hawaii golf trip or spring break in Cancun pales in comparison to living a dream!).


Second, Sennheiser has partnered with a number of companies such as iFlight Planner, Saitek, and others to add even more value to the program. These partners offer additional prizes and product support to the winning students and their schools. More and more companies are jumping on board as the program gains awareness.


Third, the benefits go further because in addition to enabling a new student, Sennheiser sends a “Live Your Dream” ambassador (such as myself or the phenomenal aerobatic act, The Aerostars) to your school to host an award ceremony as well as give a motivational presentation to your students and potential students from the local community. Moreover, the ambassadors come armed with solid marketing expertise to help flight schools grow their bottom line.


“Live Your Dream” positively impacts your students, local community, and business.  Moreover, it helps grow aviation–one of humanity’s greatest achievements upon which modern day society depends. I hope many students and flights schools will take advantage of this program, and I also hope that a multitude of aviation companies will support it. It’s in everyone’s interest to grow the pilot population, from the kid who dreams of flight, to the business man who relies on the airlines, to the impoverished family in need of medical attention, and of course all the businesses that contribute to and benefit from these aspects. No one is immune to aviation, so check out and help turn dreams into reality while also having a positive impact on your business and the aviation industry as a whole.

–Ravi, Sennheiser ambassador, musician, and aviation motivational speaker

Using an old concept with new twists to increase rentals

We’ve been working on a way to help pilots fly more, help flight schools and FBOs that rent aircraft book more revenue, and get more great rental customers. OpenAirplane will make it easy to find, book, fly, and pay for aircraft rental online or with a mobile device. Last week we started giving the world a peek at what our team has been quietly working on for eight months.

The team behind OpenAirplane started with the hypothesis that if together we reduced the hassle in renting airplanes, all our pilot certificates would become much more valuable. We imagined flying on the airlines from Chicago to Miami, easily booking the same make / model we fly at home, learning about local procedures on our own time, and then showing up to be handed the keys and clipboard to fly down to The Keys for lunch. We imagined renting an airplane like we rent cars. We imagined doing a checkout locally, then using that credential around the country without having to invest half a day and hundreds of dollars in checking out, yet again, every time.

Ninety-six percent of pilots we surveyed told us they would fly more when away from home, if the process was simpler. Fifty-one percent said it was the complicated checkout that kept them away. Twenty-eight percent said it was just too hard to find an airplane. How often would we rent cars if we were required to take the kid from behind the car rental counter around the parking lot three times before we got the keys? We see the hassle in renting airplanes today eroding everybody’s business.

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Where are the instructors?

When we talk about flight training, we typically talk about how many people are trying to learn, earn certificates and ratings, or even how many “dropped out” and didn’t finish. We assume there will be enough flight instructors to train anyone who wants to learn. But this may not always be the case.

Jonathon Freyeand I recently co-authored a white-paper specifically discussing “Flight Training Capacity in the Context of Recent Legislation.” The goal was to provide an examination of the impacts of reduced training capacity and the declining rates of airmen certification. What we found worried us. I then spent some time last week at the Embry-Riddle University hosted National Training Aircraft Symposium in Daytona Beach, a two-day conference of aviation educators (mostly collegiate), training industry organizations, and airline representatives. I came home even more worried.

Our capacity to train pilots relative to the demand that is forecast is in question. It is even more troubling if we consider the potential of proposed rulemaking that the FAA has issued in response to law that was made by Congress requiring additional training, and a minimum of 1500 hours for those in professional pilot positions (airlines, charter, and fractional ownership aircraft operations). We have talked about pilot shortage possibilities for years, and it has been a “cry-wolf” kind of situation, but I think we are going to have some real pilot shortage problems in the near future. The propsed regulations will fundamentally change the types and quantity of training that universities, colleges, local FBOs, and academies, are going to need to provide to graduate or create a pilot qualified for a professional pilot job.

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Aopa x DressHead Full Length Halter Dress

Aopa x DressHead Full Length Halter Dress – Navy Blue / Narrow Neckband

If you want a breezy summer dress for a formal occasion or gathering such as a graduation or wedding, this Aopa x full length navy blue dress is the best choice. A narrow neckband stretches between the shoulders in the front and an open back enhances your shoulders and accentuates your own lines. Soft gathers fill the lower portion of this high quality dress as it wraps softly around your body with style. For cooler evenings or nights, wear this dress with a light jacket or knitted shrug, sweater or cardigan and pair it with a comfortable sandal or heel. Show off your neck with a pulled up hairstyle and navy earrings that match this great dress. We use only a high-quality matching zipper. This dress is one size fits all. For this dress size, bust measures 90 to 120 cm, waist is 70 to 80 cm, and the overall length is 135 cm.

Sporty’s, Frasca partner to learn more about sim training

Sporty’s took delivery of a Frasca Mentor Advanced Aviation Training Device in December, as part of a collaboration with Frasca International, Inc., to develop training products that leverage the flight training expertise of Sporty’s and the flight simulation expertise of Frasca. The ultimate goal of the partnership will be to create training materials, course content, and programs to enhance the learning experience through the efficient integration of flight simulation in basic flight training.

Frasca’s research in the use of simulation in basic flight training goes back more than 40 years to studies conducted in cooperation with Purdue University in an effort to improve the flight training experience. Sporty’s use of Frasca simulation dates back more than 20 years, when the Frasca Model 142 was integrated into curriculum used as part of the University’s of Cincinnati’s Professional Pilot Training Program. The advancements in simulation technology and visual systems, along with the amazing capability of modern devices, have made it possible to renew our efforts at utilizing simulation to its maximum potential.

The first step in this partnership is for students at Sporty’s to begin utilizing the Frasca Mentor Cessna 172S Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD) flight simulator. The Mentor features a 200-degree visual system and Frasca’s TruVision technology.

TruVision provides worldwide visuals, including more than 20,000 runways, coastlines, rivers, roads, and more, allowing the pilot to fly anywhere in the world. In addition, the Mentor at Sporty’s comes with detailed satellite imagery within 150 miles of the Sporty’s/Clermont County Airport (I69). This visual enhancement allows for realistic, scenario-based training, meaningful VFR cross-country flying, and even ground-reference maneuvers. Continue reading

Anyone order sim training?

We at Holladay Aviation offer a unique service designed to help pilots throughout the Washington, D.C., area save time and money on initial and recurrent flight training. Our Mobile Flight Simulator (aka “The Sim-Mobile”) is an FAA-approved Elite PI-135 Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD) that we’ve installed in our Honda Odyssey minivan. Our unique system allows us to bring the benefits of flight simulation directly to the customer, anywhere, anytime.

With the economy continuing its slow-flight holding pattern at the start of 2011, my flight training hours were at all-time low since I began teaching in 2005. My husband, Dana Holladay, and I began to look for ways that we could diversify our services and better serve our customer base here in the Washington, D.C. area.

The inspiration for what would become the Sim-Mobile came from Dana’s travels around town for his full-time job in the restaurant business. Dana, who is also a CFI, noticed an increasing number and variety of mobile service providers: dog groomers, veterinarians, auto detailers, massage therapists, even dentists. He came home one day and asked me what I thought about creating a mobile flight simulator business, and it didn’t take us long to decide to go for it.

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