Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation

By Scott Spangler on November 19th, 2008

CPC-logoCessna recently lifted the lid on its next generation flight training program. After military and airline training programs have proven the efficacy of scenario-based training for decades, Cessna is finally bringing it to general aviation.

JetWhine_Cessna SkyCatcher Working in partnership with the aviation education pros at King Schools, Cessna is building a curriculum that will take new pilots from a sport pilot certificate in the glass-cockpit 162 SkyCatcher to the private pilot and beyond in the glass-cockpit 172 Skyhawk.

Naturally, Cessna’s new training program will be web-based, with such nifty features as course management and a logbook. It will be available later next year, when the 162 shows up on the flightlines of the roughly 300 Cessna Pilot Centers.

This new training system is great news, something GA has needed for years. But no one has yet spoken about the key ingredient: selling aviation to those who the industry hopes will become the next generation of pilots. 

JetWhine_Cessna SkyCatcher_Glass Cockpit It’ll take more than glass cockpits and cool websites that facilitate training and flight planning. If aviation hopes to have any degree of success with the next-gen, it must never forget that this  crowd grew up with the Internet, and is defined by it. In other words, its members are used to being a niche of one–and they have a short attention span.

Reaching this body of consumers is going to take something American business, especially aviation business,  isn’t good at: making a dedicated commitment to a realistic and focused long-term plan–and sticking to it.

Being realistic means finally giving up the serial short-term fantasy of infinite growth bubbling ever upward from finite resources (our current economic woes is a wake-up call from this dream). This includes the idea of a mass market and big numbers. That died in the 1990s when Web 1.0 let consumers have it their way.

The capabilities of Web 2.0 have completed the dissection of the mass market into niches. Aviation is a niche, and a shrinking one, which means pilots are leaving it for other niches that offer more for their time and money.

Or maybe the other niches are just shinier and have captured their attention for a brief moment. Either way, this reality summarizes the challenge facing any recruiting effort. If that weren’t enough, aviation must overcome another challenge: time. Even with sport pilot, learning to fly still takes  a lot more time than most people are willing to invest in anything–except their job.

Other  niches hungry for newcomers must deal with double challenges, and the US military comes to mind. It quickly learned the lesson that what worked in the past will not work today, let alone tomorrow. In aviation’s case, it will be interesting to see what the marketing experts come up with. — Scott Spangler

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4 Responses to “Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation”

  1. Eric Says:

    Finally. The existing CMM system needs replacement SO badly, and the King Schools courses are wildly outdated (1999, 2000). I cannot wait for the new system to go online, even if CPCs are unlikely to start taking delivery of their Skycatchers anytime soon.

  2. Training & Technology’s Transitions - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] As a Cessna dealer and service center, becoming a Cessna Pilot Center was the logical first step in setting up a flight school, said JA Air President Brad Zeman. It will be among the first to deliver the CPC’s 21st century training curriculum for initial, recurrent, and advanced training, starting with the sport pilot certificate and supported by the latest computer-based ground schooling. (See Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation.) […]

  3. Ground School Delivers Consistent Quality - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] gave us a preview a little more than a year ago (see Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation), but based on the online demo, the company heeded an essential aphorism of success: under promise […]

  4. Ground School Delivers Consistent Quality | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    […] gave us a preview a little more than a year ago (see Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation), but based on the online demo, the company heeded an essential aphorism of success: under promise […]

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