“We have several things in development that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet,” but as part of those efforts Cessna is revitalizing its CPC network and “looking at every element of what we do and how that addresses the demographic we’d like to bring into flying.”
That demographic includes people that general aviation has not traditionally approached before, like professional women. One key to reaching these new audiences, Boatman says, will be to reach beyond the traditional motivations of aviation as a heroic adventure or an effective business tool (both still valid) and sell “flying as a path to personal growth and challenge.”
If anyone has a chance of success it’s Cessna. It has the knowledge, experience, and wherewithal to create and deliver a targeted nationwide effort to recruit new pilots. Equally important, with its nationwide network of nearly 300 CPCs, it can deliver on the promises made.
The personalities of flight schools and FBOs are as diverse as the independent businesses that offer training. CPCs are also independent businesses, but they sign a mutually beneficial agreement with Cessna, Boatman says. “Through that agreement we ask some things of them, and they get some things from us.”
What they get, among other things, are the nationwide marketing effort that recruits new students and a ready-made training curriculum that includes computer-based instruction, which includes general knowledge and flight lesson previews.
What CPCs give is a universal standard of customer service and training that delivers on the promises made by the marketing program. What sustains the relationship is the ability of either party to end it, with 30-days written notice, if one party feels the other is not living up to the terms of the agreement, Boatman says.
Sport pilot is an important part of Cessna’s efforts, and CPCs will offer training for this certificate. “We’re in the process of developing a curriculum that will address that,” she says. This work, along with the recruiting efforts now in development, are working alongside the certification of the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, which is scheduled to earn approval as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft next year.
The CPC’s flying classroom for students seeking their sport pilot or private pilot certificate, the 162 also addresses another important factor: cost. “It lowers the cost of entry, both for our flight schools, which is critical, and for the customers by bringing down the rental and fuel costs.”
“We’ve been proving over the past 10 years that putting new aircraft on a flight school’s flight line will definitely help the business,” says Boatman. That help is bringing new people in the door, people “who may not be familiar with aviation, who may not have the ability to get over certain barriers and preconceptions. We know that a 35-year-old trainer can be a perfectly safe and wonderful airplane, but to a newcomer it takes a leap of faith.” A new fuel-efficient aircraft, with modern technology “gives them a visual impression of greater safety and confidence and that [learning to fly] is a smart decision.”
For the sake of aviation’s future, let’s hope so. — Scott Spangler