Four years ago Sporty’s President & CEO Michael Wolf took time at year’s end to compile a list of the developing trends in general aviation. I look forward to it each year because Sporty’s probably has more contact with the spectrum of aviators, from enthusiasts and new students to veteran pleasure and professional pilots, than any other entity. And it interacts with them not just as a source of pilot supplies, but also for flight training and avionics and maintenance services.
Half of this year’s 10 trends, writes Wolf, involve the iPad in some way. It’s a MFD for ADS-B In, it sends flight plans to Garmin’s D2 smart watch, it’s replacing paper in commercial and GA cockpits, and it’s changed the contents of a pilot’s flight bag, as well as the aviation apps that run on it. One trend on the list usually deals with Sporty’s Academy, which is dedicated to flight training.
Pretty much a success from its start in the late 1980s, 2013 was no different, Wolf reports, and the academy, which educates professional as well as pleasure pilots, has concluded its busiest year ever. He attributes part of this success to airline hiring, but most of the school’s continuing success stems from its structure that is built “on a series of stepping stones like the first solo and Recreational certificate, [which] leads to more engaged students and better pilots.” This year, “our dropout rate is approaching zero.”
Since the FAA introduced it in the 1990s, the recreational pilot certificate has been the keystone to success at Sporty’s Academy. While Sporty’s embraced it, and succeeded, with a few exceptions, general aviators and the flight schools panned it. There are many reasons why, but the fundamental reason was that is was different, and people, especially those who exist in a structured activity like aviation, don’t like change. And aviation has suffered because of it.
As we march another year forward in writing the history of powered flight, it is again my hope that aviators and educators will replace their fear and dislike of change with impartial pragmatism. It’s way of thinking where you measure something not on its differences but on its potential to do something better. And if it doesn’t work, stop doing it. And if it does, build on it, adapt it to your situation and circumstances. The effort might, like it has at Sporty’s Academy, support decades of success. – Scott Spangler, Editor