Learn-to-Fly Day Coming to an Airport near you … I Hope

By Robert Mark on May 9th, 2010

LTFDDespite my buddy Scott Spangler’s somewhat guarded endorsement of the international Learn-to-Fly Day scheduled for May 15th, I’m jumping on the bandwagon next Saturday at our local flying club in Chicago. Events are taking place in 147 cities across the nation.

Based at KPWK just north of O’Hare International, the Leading Edge Flying Club is eagerly anticipating dozens of folks showing up to hear the club president and myself (I’m the training officer) tell a few juicy stories to whet the appetite of these potential pilots.

We’re also going to stuff them full of a few of the club’s famous Chicago hotdogs and let them climb all over our glass-paneled Cirrus SR-20, Diamond DA-40 and the Piper Archer and ask all the tough questions like how much, how long and whether flying is really any fun.

Most of all, we’re going to socialize with them, give them a real opportunity to meet other pilots of all categories and hopefully walk away believing they too can learn to fly. Our club has made a large investment in the social side of flying because we all believe that ability to talk to people who have walked before in a new pilot’s shoes is the missing element in keeping a new pilot’s enthusiasm soaring.

On the marketing side, I asked our club members to send Word-of-Mouth endorsements of the event to help share the enthusiasm we all feel for aviation. Asking pilots or flight instructors for help selling the idea of flying, even if we do couch it in fluffy terms like “enthusiasm for flying,” is the kind of thing that makes me worry a bit like Scott.

Let’s be serious, pilots want to fly. Instructors want to fly. But almost no one wants to sell the idea of learning to fly. We had a club instructor depart recently because we weren’t providing him with enough student leads although he never once raised a hand to help find any.

As pilots, we still seem to think that someone who is really interested inalex flying will find us, past those friendly signs on the airport fence that warn of severe Federal penalties for violating the rules. Just like the country club or the riding stables, right?

Student pilot Alex Kottoulas right after his first solo in a Cirrus SR-20

Hello … the falling student pilot start and finish numbers tell us that’s not happening. Sure the price of flying is expensive, but I believe more people quit because we make the social interactions barriers too high and folks decide to ride horses or race cars where people seem to encourage their involvement. Please folks, encourage someone on your list to attend their local Learn-to-Fly Day event. You can find them all here.

In our club, even with me shoving and pushing as best I can, the effort to convince people to simply send an e-mail to people on their own list who might have an interest in Learn-to Fly Day has not generated much in the way of results that I can measure six days out.

Perhaps folks will just show up at the last minute. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. More next week.

Rob Mark

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