Hope & Cynicism for EAA’s Learn-to-Fly Day

By Scott Spangler on April 11th, 2010

For more than two decades the GA industry and the companies that make a living from it have launched a handful of programs designed to get people who look up to act on their aviation interests. When Flight Training magazine was launched in 1989, it luckily coincided with June, the inaugural learn-to-fly month. It drew attention to the newborn publication, and there was a bump in students starts, which the magazine tracked monthly. But the results were, like similar programs that came before and after, less than anyone hoped for.

EAA-LTF Given the low response and the nationwide investment of time, effort, and money, the acquisition costs were pretty high. As any print publisher will tell you, acquisition costs that exceed subscription rates is not a winning combination, especially when the advertising dollars aren’t there to cover the difference. Seemingly ignoring the reality of today’s digital world, where content is parsed into ever narrower interest areas, many publishers keep trying to resuscitate their businesses with outdated methods. Learn to fly efforts are aviation’s version of subscription drives, and EAA is taking its turn on May 15, with International Learn-to-Fly Day.

Given the disparity between stated aspirations and actual results over the years, I cast a cynical eye on all LTF efforts, and International Learn to Fly Day was no different. I was at the EAA AirVenture 2009 press conference that announced the effort and listened to all the blue sky rhetoric. And then, like a hot air balloon launched on a fine summer’s morning, the program drifted over the AirVenture horizon, like so many of the thousands of aviation announcements made there, silent and out of sight.

Curious about its whereabouts, Google took me to its website not long ago, just before the first press release arrived in my inbox. What I learned about International Learn-to-Fly Day did not neutralize my cynicism, but it did give me a ray of hope that disparity between the acquisition investment and results would be small because they are not looking in the rearview mirror.

Rather than an expensive, full-blown national advertising campaign, EAA is, succinctly, enabling Young Eagle rallies for adults. It has provided guidelines and waivers for these adult orientation events, as well as an “EAA Event Insurance Request Form.”  Marketing materials, press releases, handouts, and other resources to help make your event a success are (as of 4.2.10) “coming soon.” But all of the LTF events are easily found on EAA’s Calendar of Events.

JetWhine_LTF-Sign Members of EAA chapters do all the  grunt work, including recruiting the participation of local flight schools,  instructors, and aviation organizations and businesses. Tailoring the LTF rally for their community, they invite their friends to spend the day at the airport, go for a flight, and maybe scarf down some burgers or brats and have some face-to-face conversations about the joy—and cost—or flying.

If the weather is good, I’m sure these LTF rallies will be well attended, and maybe one or two people at each one will, with their friends’ continuing support, start flight training. Nationwide, a few of them might actually finish training, but their numbers will not surpass three digits. And that’s okay, because in the digital world, what matters is returning to the site. If they find it worth a second and third look, eventually they’ll buy. Recreational aviation is no different. A good number of EAA chapters hold monthly events, so interested newcomers will have a reason for return visits. After that, all aviation can do is hope for the best. – Scott Spangler

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3 Responses to “Hope & Cynicism for EAA’s Learn-to-Fly Day”

  1. Where Are The Students? Is Anyone Learning To Fly? Says:

    […] recently read an interesting article on JetWhine called “Hope & Cynicism for EAA’s Learn-to-Fly Day” which discusses this issue and how the EAA is trying to […]

  2. Learn-to-Fly Day Coming to an Airport near you … I Hope - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] my buddy Scott Spangler’s somewhat guarded endorsement of the international Learn-to-Fly Day scheduled for May 15th, Im jumping on the bandwagon next […]

  3. Learn-to-Fly Day Coming to an Airport near you I Hope | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    […] my buddy Scott Spangler’s somewhat guarded endorsement of the international Learn-to-Fly Day scheduled for May 15th, Im jumping on the bandwagon next […]

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