Fixing Flight Training: What You Can Do Now!

By Scott Spangler on December 2nd, 2010

JetWhine_LTF-SignIn the overwhelming number of comments to last week’s Aviation Has the CFIs it Deserves, pilots, instructors, and flight school owners clearly confirmed the veracity of AOPA’s survey that identified the leading causes of aviation’s 80-percent dropout rate. You can file the majority of their shared experiences under poor educational quality, poor customer focus, poor information sharing, and (just once) poor community.

The pressing question now, however, is: What are we going to do about this, who is going to do it, and when are we going to take action? Timing is critical because this may well be our last chance to give aviation a future. As the American plutocracy soaks up what remains of the income the rest of us still earn, the pool of potential pilots with the resources to see training through to certification continues to evaporate. Our only hope is to seal every leak in the sustaining pilot pipeline.

Acting on its survey results, AOPA’s first step will be giving new life to Flight School Business News (aka FSBN, pronounced fizz-bin). AOPA Publications is now evaluating its medium and content, said Jennifer Storm, director of public relations and leader of AOPA’s Flight Training Student Retention Initiative. (She is uniquely qualified, an active CFI with a master’s degree in education, majoring in instructional design and online learning.) Right now it seems the publication will be digital and descriptive, with face-to-face forums at major aviation events.

For the unfamiliar, FSBN was conceived in the early 1990s, when we at Flight Training magazine realized that flight school operators were pilots with insufficient knowledge of essential business practices. We attempted to fill in the blanks with prescriptive how-to articles and descriptive snapshots of other school’s successful practices in a monthly 8-to-16 page newsletter. It was well received by the 1,000 or schools that received it, but given the dropout rate and AOPA survey results, it would safe to assume that few schools acted on the information it provided.

FSBN succumbed shortly after AOPA bought Flight Training in 1999. As one of my editorial offspring, I’m thrilled that it is rejoining the fight. But, as its past performance suggests, we cannot rely on it or any other “mass market” effort. Each of us—that means you, dear reader—have to make a sustained individual effort to effect change from the inside out and bottom up. Whether you are a pilot, instructor, or school owner, you need to stand up, speak up—and act to make sure every student who starts training finishes training.

iepFolderHow you do this depends on the situation and circumstances you face. There is no universal panacea, but there is a tool from the other side of the airport fence that might help. It’s called the Individual Education Plan, or IEP. It is designed to meet the unique educational needs of a single student. Fundamentally, it is a contract between the school/teacher and student/parents that covers every aspect of their respective educational responsibilities.

In public school, IEPs are generally reserved for students suffering some physical, emotional, or educational disability. By law, schools must lead their creation. That is not aviation’s problem, so there is no reason why a student, instructor, or flight school operator could not initiate the creation a flight training individual education plan, an FT-IEP that would clearly spell out the responsibilities of each party—and the consequences of not meeting them—as they work together on a specific plan to achieve the stated goal: a pilot’s certificate.

This requires work. But isn’t the future of aviation worth the effort? Missing here are members of that prospective pilot pool. If you deem this idea worthy, pass it along to all who mention a passing interest in learning to fly. It is important that they know about the challenges they face, so an off-putting surprise won’t scare them off. And they need to know what they can do to alleviate those problems, such as devoting a day to the creation of a binding FT-IEP. I’ll delve into the specifics in my next post. – Scott Spangler


Related Posts:

57 Responses to “Fixing Flight Training: What You Can Do Now!”

  1. AFP Says:

    This is a great idea. I think a lot of pilots go into flight training with either no expectations or unrealistic expectations. I know I sure did!

  2. Shannan Landreth Says:

    I still firmly believe that until the cost of owning/operating an airplane drops a considerable amount, we will continue to see general aviation suffer. It does not matter how good the instructors and flight schools are, if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. My wife and I are in what I would call the “upper middle class” bracket. I just received my PPL and would love to purchase an airplane but of course a new one is out of the question and even a good 20-30 year old one is still very expensive to purchase and operate and I am not sure I can justify spending that amount of money on a “hobby”.

  3. Todd D Says:

    Good points, but let us not forget that some people need to be “washed out.” Piloting an airplane is not for everyone, and not everyone is made for piloting an airplane. The goal of effective training is to help instructors, students, and examiners make the right calls — including not flying.

  4. Scott Spangler Says:

    Todd, you’re right, not everyone is meant to be a pilot. With a performance-based training program, the education plan not only gives the passing performance parameters but also the options available when the student cannot meet them. These, too, are spelled out in advance, so there are no last-minute “surprises” in training.

  5. rp Says:

    I was an FBO and ran a successful flight school 8 years…there are lots of problems with flight training from regulations, to operations to insurance, but what is needed is good instructors. There is lots of talent out there, but very few that are willing to assume the liability that goes along with the job..and once they sign the log book, they are on the hook. Until that’s figured out, the instructor pool will be very small, and the instruction not as good as it could be..

  6. Richard Hornsby Says:

    Todd ~

    While generally speaking you’re right, this isn’t SEAL training. 80% of the small fraction of people who try to fly don’t have the aptitude seems a little high. However, I agree w/ your basic premise that the number will never be 0, and it would be unrealistic to expect so.

    I was called for this survey and tried to explain some of my concerns about training – including a near total lack of involvement from the flight school/FBO. They didn’t treat their instructors very well, and there was never any “community” that I could tell. I liked my instructor, but when he was the only person on the ramp when I finished my first solo I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I didn’t expect a party, but that seems like a pretty big deal and not something that happens every day.

    As for the AOPA side of it, I thought I had a local mentor through the AOPA program, but nothing ever came of that.

    In the end, I was running out of money for training and the economy was starting to tank – flight lessons were an optional expense and something had to give.

    I understand the idea that if a person wants something bad enough they’ll find a way to make it happen, no matter what or how others act. A little bit of encouragement, support from the flight school operators could have gone a long ways. The line guys were always very helpful and very polite whenever I needed anything. Beyond that, the management basically just took our money and did nothing else to encourage or even ask students how things were going. I’m not kidding – I can’t think of once when anyone above the line guys ever stopped me and asked how the lessons were going, how far along I was, how did I like the instructor, how did the written go, etc.

    These are all things that only cost a few minutes of time, but the folks running the place just seemed to care less.

    I would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested more about my own specific experience – obviously everyone’s is different.

  7. Tom Says:

    I founded a flight school in 2004 specifically because there were no options for quality flight instruction and aircraft rental (frankly, I couldnt have asked for an industry where the competitors were any weaker). Although I have never been an instructor, I am an experienced entrepreneur, I have been a pilot since 1983, I understood the problem from the CUSTOMERS perspective, and I was able to identify and create a solution. I sought the counsel of owners of regional flight school owners with excellent reputations, and I unashamedly stole every good idea they had (with attribution, of course!). Result: We ran every competitor out of business except for one, and provided instructional clients (not students) and renters an option for exceptional aircraft, flight instructors and curriculum.

    The key industry problem, in my opinion, is the low barrier for entry to open a flight school. Anybody with an instructor rating and access to an old beater can call himself a flight school, and many do. Our instructors have endless stories about what they see in our competitors student pilots, simply because they arent told any differently (like taking friends along during solo cross country flights). Because non-pilots dont know the difference, they receive horrible instruction in dangerous aircraft, thinking that this is the way its supposed to be.

    If thats our competition, bring it on, because thats to my interest. Unfortunately, it isnt in the interest of our industry, our profession, nor the public we seek to serve.

  8. Carlton Melvin Says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but we must realize that the economy is the ‘unusual suspect’–and flight training is not exempted. When things come down to butter vs flight training, the butter trumps every time.
    Aviation fuel costs are headed toward the moon, as is costs associated with aircraft rental/ownership.As the dollar loses its value we will see the results of inflated costs.

    Yes- a dismal outlook.

    And believe me–we ain’t seen nothing yet!

  9. John Craparo Says:

    The problem is much more basic than trying to implement an IEP. First the motivation of each student must be understood. Next, does the student have the resources to complete their training?

    Remember, we are not talking about attraction, we are talking about retention. If the first two indicate that the student is qualified we must look at the schools/instructors.

    The flight school must be examined. Do they know how to retain these motivated and financially able students? Attitudes and equipment at the school will bring these people back. This is not compulsory education. Instructors and school owners should go through a process of peer review to determine operational fitness. Peers should come from other highly rated programs… not within the same operation or the FAA.

    Keep it simple. Let’s look at the Instructor, School and Equipment… an ISE Peer Review.

  10. Bob Fry Says:

    Funny you should mention the American plutocracy. I fully agree with that broader perspective, but 97% of pilots are solid conservative, tea-party card-carrying members who reliably vote for big-business representatives. Not that liberals are much better. Nobody is looking out for the middle-class anymore who is able and inclined to fly our little planes.

  11. DC Says:

    As an older student (43)I finished up my PPL 04/2010 and would agree the cost are pretty expensive. But we all know that going in. I almost quit on serveral occassions. The primary factor for that decision was Stall’s and Stall Recovery to early in the formal (part 141) training syllabus.

    After 10hrs I had to change instructor’s (scheduling conflict). That was the best thing that happened My new instructor (20,000hr part 61) was more mature (retired), patient, not training to build time but training to teach you to fly and fly safely. He ask “what was my biggest hang-up” I stated STALL’S. He said “don’t worry I do those last”. I just want you to just get comfortable,have fun and learn to fly”.

    That is what I done from that day forward I found money where ever I could to complete my training every chance I could.

    After a excellent explanation of stall/stall recovery the fear was gone, because I new what was going to happen (TALK TO THE STUDENT!!) talking and explaining is what make’s a Good Instructor (I.E. ground School) after that Stalls were a piece of cake.

    I then found my real problem was steep bank turns.(No Fear just proper understanding of what was taking place)

    The Staff, Management and Instructor’s at INDY AERO were very supportive. Thank You Very Much for Changing My Life. Special shout out to Instructor’s (TED MATHEWS, Bob Wilkerson, Neal McConochie)

  12. Dennis Says:

    I just read the discussion with interest. There are a lot of good points raised.

    The money issue is a huge barrier, but most students have assessed the cost and are prepared for it.

    I liked the comments about management interest in the ‘customer’.

    I’ve been flying since 1978. I have a commercial ticket with SMELS, IFR, and love flying, but I’ve never been interested in becoming a CFI. The responsibility is great and the pay is poor.

    I’ve been involved in managing a medium sized flying club for many years. We’ve gone from 18 airplanes down to 5 right now, and over those years I’ve seen a lot of flight training in our club, and talked with a lot of students and pilots. I’ve been an AOPA Mentor. We do give our students recognition for reaching certain levels (shirt hanging in the office after solo, newsletter congratulations at each step, etc.).

    What I have seen over the years is that the CFI’s at FBO’s are for the most part just instructing to build time to further their ultimate goal of flying for an airline or corporation. I’ve talked with students who have had more than 2 CFI’s at FBO’s, and don’t get treated like customers at FBO’s. Having a CFI change means going back over old ground to affirm the student meets the newer CFI’s standards, etc. Students often get cancelled at the last minute so the CFI can fly the charter that popped up. There are other reasons as well.

    Our club has 5 instructors. Two of them are new, but three have been instructing for many years. Once they start with a student they finish with a student. We’ve had very little fall out.

    My experience as an AOPA Mentor was discouraging. My pilot got to a point of taking the written, and dropped out. All my communication with him indicated he needed to save money for his kids college, and he’d return. That was years ago, and he never flew again. I don’t think money was the issue. I think it was the pilot knowledge he couldn’t digest.

    I’ve noticed that pilots drop out over the pilot knowledge barrier (written) and the other barrier is the solo flight. If they get through those steps they’ll get their license as a rule.

    I think those are my input into student drop out issues.

    The other issue is a lack of students. It’s money. Expense of getting the license, and maintaining it. It used to be economical to fly cross country, but no more. Airline deregulation has hurt GA by making airline travel inexpensive. The other issue is that the FAA is loving us to death.

  13. Ellexis Says:

    Every since I can remember, flying was something I knew I had to do. My interest in aviation was innate and the older I became, the more intense that interest became. This was well before the Internet and all the media resources we have today.. my first Intro-ride / lesson was in the summer of 1972. My first instructor was killed in an crash with another student. From there I began taking lessons at another FBO who was a Cessna dealer. The instructors came and went as advancement opportunities came their way, and it was so disheartening. Finding the right instructor was work! In spite of this, I pressed on, hitting the books and reading everything I could get my hands on. When it came time for my FAA exams, both written and the check ride, I passed them both with flying colors (pun intended). I still love flying (and AFF Skydiving) and can’t imagine life without it. I believe their are many factors in retaining student pilots from dropping out, and I’m all for this effort!

  14. Bill Billet Says:

    I received my pilots license in Dec.1960.. In Eureka, calif. on the beach from a great (old) instructor.. he helped us start a flying club of 10 of us, and a 19(sumpthin)AeroncA CHAMP. The weather in Eureka, at that time (still is) usually foggy and wet..We all got lessons every day it was flying weather.. most of the time.. His wife ran a small restaurant on the field, and the ten of us students ate there every day we were learning to fly.. it was very reasonable.. and we all could afford it.. i got my ticket in about 8 or 9 weeks, and it was the happiest day of my life.. fifty yrs, with AOPA had 4 or 5 aircraft, and now own 1 1966 cessna 182 with only 2000 hrs. on it and i put on 0ver 90 of them. Base at Renton Field have been here for about 24 years or so..Now, with ins. tie down, fuel maintenance, annuals etc. etc. i have it for sale..don’t fly that much anymore and it is very expensive to keep up…right now, it is to expensive for me to keep on flying, but i have had my time and it is time to give up a good friend..and i allready miss it…i can see where the new trainees, will be paying a lot more with the rules, regs. and all the expense in owning an aircraft, but i can tell you, IT IS WORTH THE ENJOYMENT IT WILL BRING You… you cannot imagine until you get up in the air and see what God looks at..I have had my pleasure and it is time i am giving it up.. Good luck to my fellow pilots and stay safe…

  15. Brandon Says:

    My experience almost had me hang it up a few times. I went through three instructors and almost made it a fourth. The instructors were always rushed to get to their next appointment or were late for mine, once we almost crashed, and several times i had to turn around a go home because my instructor never showed up. The final straw on that instructor was when we got lost flying in the mountains on my very first cross-country.
    This was not all at the same flight school either. I agree with all the reasons that have been stated here, but in my opinion the instructors need to step it up a notch.
    each instructor had a COMPLETELY different way of landing a plane. i finally decided I’d just go with the one in the book during my check-ride.
    The cost to fly as a hobby is outrageous, but if you want it bad enough you’ll figure it out, lord knows i did…it cost almost $14,000 by the time i found an instructor who cared.
    Everybody has a different experience yes, but i will say i have met a lot of pilots and it seems their stories have a lot of the same characteristics as mine and everyone elses when it comes to training.
    I had hoped to get my instrument by now, but with what it cost to get my PPL i have only been up twice since i received it.
    …and i agree, flying is not and never will be for everyone; i had a lot of fears to get over myself!

  16. Rand Vollmer Says:

    Bad economy and costly aircraft, insurance, storage, maintenance, and fuel makes this a tough business. One approach may be to use one of the new LSA motor gliders – three models are currently approved S-LSA, and more are on the way. Operating costs are low in part because engine is off during 30-50% of flight time. FAA minimum hour requirements for a private pilot glider rating is just 10 hours. Students can solo at 14, and glider pilots need no medical. Even though most students will take more than ten hours to be ready for their check ride, cost will average less than a third of the standard PPL rating; and two thirds of hours required for the PPL may be flown in the glider. Test, Lambada, and Phoenix are approved now, and Pipistrel has several models which will make superb trainers upon S-LSA approval prior to the Sebring show next month.

  17. Nick Frisch Says:

    I’m with Tom and John.

    The AOPA puts out some really exceptional quality training programs.

    Why not “Managing the Customer Experience” training for aviation professionals? We can teach CFI’s and school operators the kinds of people skills that can make training fun without compromising safety.

    Find operators, instructors and customers from schools that have established a successful formula, and “steal their best ideas” (with attribution, of course!), then put them into a “best practices” program that can be delivered on line.

    Sign schools up with a mentor to monitor the use of the program and serve as sounding board.

    Have “peer review” audits that shed light on what is working and what is not.

    Some of the challenge is finding money for this, but it is likely that there will be friends of aviation willing to support these efforts, if there is a commitment to it.

    When we talk about reducing cost, we often talk about the hourly cost of an airplane and instructor. What we don’t discuss is the license that takes 70 hours instead of 40. In my opinion, getting the times down will contribute to retention.

    There is a sticky wicket here. Fewer hours means fewer instructor revenue dollars and fewer airplane hours for the school unless the school is a highly successful marketer.

    I’m a fan of using simulation in training. Desk-top or more advanced, simulation is a way to ensure that the client understands and can perform tasks prior to getting into an airplane.

    I’d like to see the FAA recognize simulator training in pilot and instructor credentials more generously. After some years of training pilots in both sims and airplanes, I believe I learned more giving sim instruction than I did giving flight instruction. Sims save money and enhance instruction.

    When there is a financial incentive to “milk” the client, some schools will do so. I’m not sure how to fix that, it is a school and instructor attitude thing.

  18. Scott Spangler Says:

    So we don’t repeat ourselves again, how about we leave the cost of flying out of this discussion. We all know it is too expensive, but the the discussion here is about retention, keeping those who have already started training (and thereby likely have the resources to see it through) from dropping out.

    John makes a good point about a peer review of instructors, schools, and equipment, but it will honestly never get off the ground because who is going to do it? Yeah, we can get the industry together and have a bunch of meetings, and as it has in the past, the parties involved will be unable to reach a consensus, and nothing will happen.

    No, if we’re going to change the course of aviation’s future, it is going to take individual action. We need more businessmen like Tom soughtout good school practices he wanted to emulate, and ended up putting the less professional schools out of business. That’s whats going to make a difference.

    Someone said we needed to assess a student’s motivations, but that is impossible until they know what is involved in becoming a pilot. And spelling out all of those details should be a part of the FT-IEP.

    In short, students don’t know what they don’t know, so it is up to all of us to provide that information to anyone expressing interest in learing to fly, and to connect them with the top quality schools and instructors who can make sure they finish what they start.

  19. @williamAirways Says:

    I think it’s important to keep the AOPA “study” in perspective. Their study indicate that cost isn’t really an issue. And I agree with this in the context of the study. In generic terms, it means that when you’re studying the people who are/were already committed to flight training, they probably already have the discretionary or disposable income to pay for flight training. The rest of the country, however, seem to be suffering from unemployment, low wages, and credit crisis; not to mention foreclosures and monthly bills that include basic survival necessities. I’m QUITE SURE this study didn’t take into account the 340+ million citizens of this country. And I’m QUITE SURE that this study only took a microscopic sample of the aviation community. Therefore, let’s not take this AOPA study with blinders on. It’s ONE study. Any good scientist will tell you that ONE study is simply insufficient to draw any reasonable or reliable conclusions from.

    That said, the microscope that everyone seem to be focusing on is the small population of people who can actually afford flight training. And we already see that even in this population group, there isn’t a lot of bites. And those who do take the bait often fall off the hook. Has anyone ever considered the legitimacy of the interviewee responses? A disgruntled student can make up any excuse except for his/her own shortcomings, and quite frankly, the CFI is an easy target to drop the spotlight on. I’ve heard all sorts of excuses from “I don’t have time to study” to “this particular airplane’s rudder feels tighter than the other and might be the cause of why I can’t land”. This all eventually translates to “the instructor sucks”. Really? Get real. It’s human nature to blame someone else for our shortcomings, and while I’m sure there are cases where the CFI is the problem, I question the whole blame game to the instructors from these 80%. Once again, it comes back to AOPA’s study is simply ONE study, not gospel.

    Todd D. is correct in saying that not everyone is cut out to be a pilot. We as a society need to get away from this “if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything” crap. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, lawyer, or a pilot. Some are cut out for all three. Some are cut out for none of the three. You may have the money, but you may not have the aptitude. If you’re a trust fund baby without a brain, well, this isn’t going to work for you. Becoming a pilot takes a tremendous amount of STEM:


    Without any of these items, the student is destined to fail. As an instructor, I’m not going to baby my students. If they’re not adult enough to have STEM, they’re not adult enough to be flying. Sorry. This isn’t learning to become a bartender or a SCUBA diver. Being a pilot is serious business, and we already have enough in our ranks who think flying is a joke as it is (see NTSB accident reports for this year for starters if you don’t believe me). An instructor-student relationship is a two-way street. Both have to bring to the table their best for a successful outcome.

    No doubt there are many facets to the “problem” but attacking it with a one-size fits all approach is just asking for failure. I suggest that we refine this “80% drop out” problem to more specific, addressable problems. For starters, the following are issues (and not in any particular order of priority and/or weight):

    – aircraft rental costs
    – instructional costs
    – instructor quality
    – lack of a training standardization for students
    – student expectations (fantasy vs. reality)
    – landing fees

    I personally believe that cost is a major factor, just like Shannan Landreth and Carlton Melvin. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that flight activity decreased year over year during the harsh economic years vs. those when the economy was booming. As mentioned before, the AOPA study addresses the tiny percentage of people who have the money for flight training, while the rest of the country can only approach flight training if their financial stars and planets align correctly. And then, there is the population that falls under the poverty line or the low to middle class who will NEVER be able to afford flight training, period. So yes, cost is a factor, outside of the AOPA’s study bubble.

    So my question is this: are we trying to solve the problems within this AOPA bubble, or are we trying to solve the problem outside of this bubble? Let’s define the problem further and address them one at a time.

    I like the IEP idea, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing as instructors as per the Fundamentals of Instruction?

  20. Larry Tarr Says:

    It takes a lot of money to learn how to fly and then continue doing it after passing a check ride. The working middle class simply does not have the financial resources to make it happen. These are the people who comprise most of the general population. One instructor told me that he never successfully signed up anyone who drove to his FBO in a minivan because that means there is a family to support, and the thousands of dollars for flight training and aircraft rental just aren’t there.

    The talk in these articles has been centering upon KEEPING students after they sign up. There is little emphasis on the huge number of POTENTIAL students who experience sticker shock during their initial visit and never return. I have been told by more than one CFI that the latter number far exceeds the count of students who begin training and then drop out. And let’s remember that the polls driving these discussions are submitted primarily by pilots who were not frightened away by the cost of aviation, so their answers naturally come from a different perspective.

    At my day job, I work with a guy who took flying lessons in the 1970’s and “almost” finished his training. He got married and his new wife had no plans to fly in a small plane, so he quit. He speaks longingly about how he paid 15 to 20 dollars for an hour of training that included rental. Ironically, many FBO’s now charge $100+ per hour (plus a fuel surcharge!) to rent out the same 1970’s-vintage aircraft, and more than a few of those machines are downright scary to fly.

    We cannot stop the steady decline of our pilot population when aircraft rental and/or ownership costs are so high. The price of fuel is obscene and only exacerbates the problem. FBO’s need to make a profit, but numerous pilots and would-be pilots give up because they can’t afford to fly. It’s a vicious economic circle. Quite frankly, I do not envision any kind of solution.

  21. Larry Tarr Says:

    Scott, I saw your last post after I submitted my comments, so please pardon the subject matter of my post. Nevertheless, I still maintain that cost is a huge factor in retention of pilots. Flying is a fun but expensive hobby for many participants and a good number of them will leave when the economics don’t make sense for them any more.

  22. Jake Roth Says:

    I find this all so interesting about retaining clients. Aviation is great, brother and son involved, I want to be involved in the training schools. Currently work with race driver schools providing on board cameras as a driver training tool. Does this happen at all with flight schools? Would it work-help the school and the student? Looking to work with a flight school in my area.(Madison, WI) Am willing to do this for free. Just looking to get research out of the experiences. Could use two cameras, or even four. Where is best to place a camera in the cockpit? If this works so well for driving, why not flying? Sure would appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

  23. Richard Hornsby Says:

    > on board cameras

    Jake ~ I personally mulled over this idea several times during my training, and when I pick it back up I might again.

    Very similar to the race car idea (did you shift at the right place, did you apex turn 3, why were you loose coming out of 4, etc) a cockpit mounted camera with a few of the position of the yoke and the 6 pack would be an excellent training tool that I would have absolutely gotten a lot out of.

    There is a reason they do an extremely detailed post-flight debrief with military pilots using flight data and sometimes camera footage. It makes for better aviators.

  24. Scott Spangler Says:

    Complaining about the high cost of flying will do nothing to change it. But, by addressing the problems of aviation education, we can influence what they will be in the future.

    By reducing the dropout rate we slow the declining pilot popluation, giving aviation a greater voice and, equally important, more customers, which will slow increases through economies of scale.

    Insurance is a significant part of the bill paid by schools, pilots, and aircraft owners. Better training that makes pilots–and their operations–safer will help hold the line on these costs.

    It seems to me that, given the challenges facing aviation today, it is in our best interests to invest our effort in affecting those aspects of a complex problem that we actually have some control over. In other words, making training more effective and efficient.

    Saying that flying is expensive changes nothing, but if Tom shared some of the things he learned from successul schools to make his school a success could be acted on by other schools and instructors who would like to duplicate his success. Again, it all comes down to individual action, not waiting for someone else to do it for us.

  25. Arthur Barrington Says:

    I agree 100% with Mr Landreth in that the General Aviation industry has priced itself out of reach to many of the small percentage of people who persevere and commit to obtaining their PPL. I am an 800ish hr instrument rated pilot who has averaged only 15 to 20 hrs a year the last 2 to 3 years. For myself, 6hrs a month was a good number to maintain the proficiency level I was comfortable at, which equates to $800 to $900 per month at current rates in my area. 10 years ago & prior I was logging 100 hrs per year avg and could still meet all my other financial obligations. Those obligations are now much less yet the flying budget is stretched tighter than ever. $100.00 hamburgers would be a bargain these days, they’re more like $200.00 present day. Unless this industry works at cutting costs and implementing strategies to become more efficient, more and more people will decide it is not financially feasible to continue committing resources to an industry that consumes at an ever increasing rate while the return is ever diminishing. Nothing will ever match the thrill of being PIC and flying off to our next destination, but most of us have our limits as to what we can commit financially to accomplish this.

  26. John Lewis Says:

    I agree with Scott that insurance is an issue under-reported in the AOPA study and in most discussions of the problem; not just the cost of it, but the availability of liability coverage which can protect the older, upper-middle-income student against the risk of losing house and retirement savings. 100k per injured party and a 1 mill max for renters is way below what many of these people have on their car/umbrella insurance.
    I know of one active pilot and one very interested prospect who stopped flying because of this.

  27. Gene Thompson Says:

    I earned my PPL at 49 10 years and have since gotten my Instrument Rating. I found both to be expensive however even more frustrating was the general disorganization and lack of customer support.

    Go to any flight school and ask what are the steps, the costs and the materials required and any list will be missing something major. It’s like talking to used car salesmen. They assume we understand insurance, medicals, etc. Even once you have the PPL then there are insurance minimum requirements,rental minimum requirements, minimum rental times,

    Finally the rental fleet is low quality in general.

  28. bkindred Says:

    students get frustrated and quit for a number of reasons but principal among them is that their instructors, as a whole, have very little idea of what they’re doing. as an instrument instructor, i spent most of my time teaching students how to FLY AN AIRPLANE! their primary instructors never got around to that and instrument instruction is predicated on one having such knowledge. the typical instrument student i’ve had has little if any concept of attitude flying. how can we teach folks to do something with instruments they never learned to do with their eyeballs? how such instructors, much less their students, ever get through the vetting process remains a mystery to me. the system is broken. i recently watched a II take a first-hour instrument student out to FLY APPROACHES!

    the root of the problem lies squarely in the lap of instructors and the inadequacy of THEIR instruction. we can quibble about the symptoms or address the real problem.

  29. Dave Says:

    In my opinion, if we’re talking about recreational flying, becoming a pilot is all about the passion to fly. Those will find a way, no matter money or an instructor or school. The survey indicates an 80% dropout rate, and the leading causes are instructors and schools? The 20% are the ones with the passion to learn to fly, and nothing stood in their way. I’ve pursued graduate degrees and my PPL, and never did something like ‘not getting my way’ ever stand in my way.

    The industry may need inprovement, but I can think of hundreds of industries that do, but their dropout rates haven’t suddenly fallen off the map like aviation’s has. Blaming instructors and schools is lame. These potential students didn’t have it in them to finish what they started, so they began looking for excuses as soon as the going got tough.

    And I don’t know why costs are the boogieman here. Arthur B. is spot on in my opinion. It’s purdy up there and neat to fly for breakfast using a few hours up on the Hobbs and paying for the meal. For this last time I did that for 279 dollars, I could have taken the mini-motorhome with the family to the Grand Canyon (210 miles rt) had housing all weekend, brought the telescope, eaten 9 times, and paid for all fuel, fees and expenses and still had 150 dollars left over.

    This passion to fly is more often than not, extremely individual. When reality hits the freshly minted pilot that he/she is going to be going it alone up there 90% of the time, costs become THE primary condition whether to forge on or not in my opinion.

  30. Marie Campbell Says:

    I feel that alot of the problems with student retention and pilots not completing their training is based on the lack if integrety of flight schools, the FAA and instructors.

    The flight schools are trying to be competitive and so they quote unrealisted costs for the rating using the FAA minimums of 40 hours. Who gets their rating in this day and age in complex airspace in 40 hours? I have even seen a Part 141 flight school base the cost to get a private pilot license on 35 hours. The price looks good but how dishonest is that.

    Next is the FAA. How often have we requested that they increase the minimum hours required to get a rating? They have some lame excuse to keep the mins at 40 hours so the student thinks that if it takes him longer than that the flight school is extending the training to make more money. That sets up a “lack of trust” issue. Also, the FAA approves Part 141 syllabii that indicate a skill can be taught in a spacific time frame that is totally unrealistic so that the time required to get the rating is totally unrealistic. Ask any flight school using a 141 syllabus if it can be completed in 35 hours. We need truth in training from the FAA who is suppose to be the leader and set the example.

    I remember a flight instructor during the winter months getting a check for $350.00. Most instructors get paid by the hobbs meter, not for preflight or any other time. They do charge for pre and post but if they are lucky they get $12 to $15 per hour. Some schools give the senior instructors more but not the young CFI’s. With those wages there is not much motivation or feeling of respect or honor for the pilot.

    If we are honest and operate with integrity and represent the true cost of flight training we may not have as many students who start but if they know what to expect we will have qualifed students that will complete their training.

  31. Brandon Says:

    did i mention that my first 3 lessons were at night?!? Yep, that’s what i said, got the log book to prove it! I thought it was odd but figured my instructor knew what he was doing.

    It’s the instruction and schools. If a student starts, I mean, actually starts flight school and has bought the books and a headset then he/she was prepared for what flight school costs.

    Now, i also agree that the flight schools tell you 35-40 hrs. is doable, so, once you think you have the money and get started you quickly find out that you are paying your instructor to go site seeing…then it hits you: “this is gonna cost me more than i thought”.
    I think a lot of these people end up in the 80%

  32. David Scott Says:

    If the metric is 80% drop, perhaps it can improve if we insist we give no first lessons to anyone who does not pay the 8k up front first before going.

    Eliminate the many who just start a few lessons to feel out whether they would ever enjoy the many continuous ongoing work hours required for flying and you may improve the metric percentage, but lose completely the intent of increasing more interest in flying.

    Pick a better metric, like perhaps the number of instructors required (exist) for the pilot population of today.

    Does one really improve the image of aviation if you sell aviation like luxury cars, taking all suspecting interested ones as money givers for the cause ? Perhaps it has really already enacted itself, negatively keeping real completion interest from happening.

    My two pennies –

    David Scott 02 Dec 2010

  33. Richard Hornsby Says:

    > These potential students didnt have it in them to finish what they
    > started, so they began looking for excuses as soon as the going got
    > tough.

    Full disclosure: I’m “one of those” students.

    Have you talked to students who have told you this, or are you just pulling it out of your butt? Not everyone learns like you do, Dave. There are students reading this who go “wow, if I have a legit complaint about something, are pilots really that much of jerks that instead of providing guidance, mentoring and instruction through the inevitable difficulties all they have to say is ‘you’re a baby, go away'”?

    I’m going to repeat what I said earlier: this isn’t SEAL training. If you want to keep the pilot population diminishing to people who are just like you, then keep up the attitude. Passion for flying, like anything else, can be squashed — especially for folks who are already on the edge for financial, poor/lack of mentoring, etc reasons. They might have gone on to be great pilots and wonderful advocates for general aviation – which benefits the entire GA community – except someone like you came along and kicked them while they were down.

  34. kenn conrad Says:

    the survey is one thing,but i will bet dollars to donuts that very little exit interviews were ever done to permit a more specific reason for the dropouts. without data in this area any remedies would be speculative.

  35. Scott Spangler Says:

    That’s probably a safe bet, Kenn. And it highlights one of the shortcomings of the industry. But if it had done exit interviews, and acted on what it learned, most likely we would not be dealing with the problems we are not disucssing. Still, AOPA employed a professional survey outfit that sampled all aspects of the flight training cycle, so I trust its results. Certainly it is not perfect, nothing is, but it is better information than we’ve had in the past.

  36. Rodger Says:

    I’ve read all of the comments with interest, since I’m curently halfway through my Instrument rating at a part 141 Flight School. It took me a long time to get through my PPL, mainly due to doing my training at 2 different locations (due to business considerations). One school had far better aircraft with excellent avionics, and the other school, although cheaper-by-the-hour rentals, had old and weary airplanes. I could have finished sooner–or actually with less expense–had I simply stuck with the better and more expensive airplanes. I flew with a total of 5 different instructors, and finally just sticking with one got me through. Yeah, it cost me lots of $$$, but in hindsight it made me a lots better pilot with experience in 5 different airplanes of 3 different models (Cessna 152, Cessna 172N, and Cessna 172S). Some of the better airplanes were Garmin 530W equipped, while the “cheapies” didn’t even have onboard transponders. Now that I have had my PPL for nearing 2 years, it doesn’t matter which airplane I fly–I’m equally comfortable in any of the trainers.

    For purposes of this discussion, I think it unfair to target the CFIs doing the training; a lot has to do with quality of aircraft and associated expense. Also “dragging things out” is a CYA move these days, simply due to liability issues.

  37. Paul H. Bartnek Says:

    I learned to fly in 1949. Then the cost for the Private and Commercial tickets was around $2,000. including ground school. As I see its the way to lower the dropout rate is to replace all the high cost training aircraft with Aeronca’s, Ercoupes, Piper’s, Ect. We all know what that will do to the cost. And bring back the flying clubs The FBO. also needs to lower the % cost assigned to the Flight Department. I know the problem can be solved as I was in the FBO business for 45 plus years. So, lets do it.

  38. @williamAirways Says:

    Mr. Spangler,

    “Complaining about the high cost of flying will do nothing to change it.”

    “Saying that flying is expensive changes nothing…”

    And dismissing the FACT that flight training is costly is ignoring one of the core problems at hand. Your suggestions of effective and efficient training is only ONE factor in pilot retention. To think that by fixing flight instruction will effect lower insurance costs and better pilots is only PART of the solution, not the whole. Your adoption of AOPA’s SINGLE study makes me think you are being paid by AOPA to propagate the questionable scope and legitimacy of this study.

    I am however, interested in your thoughts on the following excerpt e-mail that I received from a flight school today:

    “…we are forced to increase our rate to compensate for increasing operational cost. The new rates are as follows, Archer regular rate: $150/hr Archer Block rate: $140/hr Members rate will remain the same: $130/hr. membership fee will go down from $399 to $349 for first year. After first year its going to be $50 a month to continue your membership.”

    You read that correctly. $150/hour for a 1978 vintage Archer II with all the trimmings of that era plus a GNS430. Add the $50/hour for the flight instructor and you’re looking at $200/hour. Let’s take the national average of 70 hours for private pilot completion. My public math says that’s $14,000. That doesn’t include flight gear, landing fees, renter insurance, books, charts, headset, and oh, the examiner fee of $350-400. Really? Are we really going to argue that cost is not a factor and that it’s because flight instructors are failing the students is the primary reason?

    I don’t mean no disrespect here, but I find it appalling and surprising that you don’t think cost is even a consideration.

    Ms. Campbell,

    I too agree that flight schools who advertise 40 hours to completion of the private pilot certificate is shady unless they specifically mention that the national average is around 70 hours. I’ve been told that one of the reasons why the 40 hour requirement hasn’t changed to a higher value is because AOPA bitched and moaned about how higher hours would cause less folks to be interested. After all, AOPA is nothing without more students/pilots and they are very much in the game of getting membership numbers up. My recycle bin is full of renewal notices, which I will no doubt continue to get long after I drop them next year.

  39. Robert T Says:

    Good points Brandon and Richard Hornsby. If people who want to fly for recreation don’t enjoy their training or feel progress is being made, they will spend their money on other expensive hobbies like boats or RVs. Flying with friends(who share in the cost) really helps reduce the cost of flying. During training students can also fly together and share an instructor. Training efficiently also reduces cost. I have to agree with Scott Spangler cost just isn’t the big reason for stopping training but it is the easiest excuse.

  40. Robert T Says:

    One more thing, my wife and I have an agreement; when she gets her hair done(cut and colored) I get to rent a plane and fly for an hour, the price is the same.

  41. Scott Spangler Says:

    William, I’m not dismissing or ignoring the high cost of flying. My point is that there is nothing we can do to change it, and if we invest our time on something over which we have no control, we’ll make no progress. So why not invest our effort in something we can control, like making flight training better? Yes, it is only part of the solution, but isn’t a partial solution better than no improvement at all?

    I don’t mean to rant and rave, but what is most distressing about this discussion about the high cost of flying is that it has been a constant for the last 20 years, and the only thing that has changed is that flying continues to get more expensive and the overall quality of training remains mediocre, 8 of 10 people who start training never finish, and the pilot population continues to shrink.

    The note of increasing costs for an old airplane at a flight school seems about right. Gas, oil, insurance, maintenance (especially on an old airplane) isn’t cheap. Do I like it, no. Imagine what it would cost if they paid A&P mechanics made what the technicians that fix my car get paid. And insurance? What should we expect from a segment of the population that runs out of gas, pushes the weather, and makes less than stellar decisions, especially when maneuvering close to the ground.

    If I may continue my rant, which is not directed at you, but at all of us in aviation. We all whine and complain like some external entity is picking on us with high prices and all related ills, and yet all we now suffer is self inflicted, the result of our actions, or lack of them. The good news that because we created our problems, it is up to us to fix them. And it’s going to take work, because there is no magic wand to wave that will instantly resolve problems that have been fermenting for decades.

  42. bkindred Says:

    i agree with most of your points concerning the cost of flying but i still feel you’re missing the point. learning to fly has always been expensive, and yet the market has always been there. it is dismissive to say that people don’t see a flying education through anymore because it costs too much. motivated, intelligent, and financially capable students quit all the time because of the frustrations imposed on them by poorly trained instructors.

  43. @williamAirways Says:

    Mr. Spangler,

    I see your point now and where you’re coming. Thank you for the clarification. I think having quality instructors is an important step toward solving more than just student pilot retention. I’ve always been frustrated to receive students whom after a single lesson with me, tell me that their previous instructor(s) never taught them anything as detailed as I have. I’m also frustrated with private pilots who think they know everything under the sun and when I fly with them, has no respect or basic pilot discipline to use a check list, or hold to their expected standards at their certificate level, not to mention the clear lack of proficiency in emergency and abnormal procedures. And the sheer lack of aeronautical decision making skills is just stunning. I think the problem with education is two fold: the instructor has to be knowledgeable and skilled at instructing…but the other side of the coin is that the student need to be willing to accept instruction and be willing to learn. The blame can’t be laid on just flight instructors. Students are part of the problem. I don’t care how good of an instructor you are, if your student is not putting in the effort and studying, it’s not going to happen. You can lead a horse to water…

    On a side note, I have issue with the AOPA “study” because it’s misleading. According to the FAA statistics for 2009, there were 72,280 student pilots. The AOPA study sampled 1000 people that is comprised of not just student pilots, therefore, their sampling pool is literally a drop in the bucket. Even if all 1000 respondents were students, that represent 1.3% of the total student population. Are we really going to take this study seriously based on such a tiny sampling in a SINGLE study?

    I think we need to figure out a way to lower the cost of flight training, as part of the solution. I have to disagree with you with respect to your statement that cost is a factor that we can’t change or control. I think we can absolutely change this. I think it’ll mean the end of flight schools as we know it today but that may be the paradigm shift that is required if we want aviation to be more affordable and approachable by more people. A possible solution? Flying clubs. Unlike a flight school which has a significant overhead, a flying club is about flying. I think in concert with quality instructors and a lower cost to flying, you’ll have a potentially winning combination. Of course, this means that a standardized document must be created, vetted, and field tested to assure success. A mismanaged flying club will end the same way a mismanaged flight school. Fortunately, there are enough flying clubs out there with enough real world experiences to contribute toward this end.


  44. Rodger Says:

    I’m not so sure that it’s poorly trained instructors, but there IS a certain profit motive involved for the instructors/flight schools to prolong training as much as possible. So…instead of either 35 or 40 hours of required flight training, I’ve been told by MY instructors that a realistic assessment is now 75-80 hours before they get signed of for a check ride. I took longer than that since I was training in 2 different locations: one location had C-152’s and the other had C-172’s. It always took me a flight or 2 when changing over to become reaccustomed to the flight characteristics of the bird at hand. So—every time I went to my job in Oregon, it took me conservatively 2 hours to regain the flight competency at school I just left. In all, I suspect that it cost me an additional $2500-$3000 to split my training that way. I really trained TWICE, once in C-152’s and again in C-172’s. The upside is that I feel comfortable in EITHER aircraft, and transition to flying a faster and much more competent C-172 RG to get my complex endorsement was a piece of cake and took only 3-4 hours.

    If what we are all striving to do, is become safer and skilled pilots, the additional training time should not ba a factor.

    My biggest complaint is flying really old training aircraft for high dollars per Hobbs hour.

  45. Sue R Says:

    1. Like it or not, COST is not an excuse, it is a FACT and in this financial climate, Cost cannot help but eliminate many who aspire to fly … Furthermore, it is not clearly pointed out that Cost continues long after the acquisition of the license because practice, practice, practice in order to remain current is a necessity for flying Safety…
    2. The next big factor is ATTITUDE … which none of these surveys have seriously touched upon. Attitude is very pertinent since it is an individuals personal attitude that will carry them through when they inevitably bump into the reality of just how much dedication and personal self discipline is required to get through the learning curve challenges – and Persist despite the 70+ flying hours (40 is certainly not realistic) that are a reality of aspiring to a license – be it for enjoyment or an eventual career.
    3. And the learning curve and costs do not end with the acquisition of a license, which is essentially just permission to fly alone or take passengers. Anyone who thinks they know it all just because they have their piece of paper is someone who should not be up there!
    4. INSTRUCTION is a fact of Flying and presents one of the largest challenges and sources of difficulty and confusion for many beginner students … especially those who start out suffering some degree of fear, or who do not have the personal fortitude to overcome the added multitude of ongoing organizational fluctuations of necessity associated with the existing learning environment. Fortitude must come from within (pertains to Attitude) with or without mentors and despite the difficulties encountered … for fortitude lends to Persistence without which most will quit … no matter their gender.
    5. For any individual contemplating the flying profession, most go in knowing that the pay is going to be poor for an extended period of time, but especially in the beginning, and that they will have to do whatever they have to do on breadline wages in order to even get to the stage of an interview for an airline job. So when you compare a pilots potential level of remuneration against other professions that require a similar level of expertise and lengthy, ongoing training, most Pilots pay is definitely out of synch and not commensurate with the responsibility attached to it, be they transporting 2 or 200 passengers. Not exactly a glowing recommendation for the industry let alone an encouraging scenario for the average young person to take up flying as a profession.
    The conclusion is that flying is definitely not, and never will be, for everyone, that most who do succeed is because their personal love of flight got them over the obstacles. However, some meaningful upgrades to the overall Industrys image, from entry on up, might make the Instruction level more realistic and bring the professions expertise level more in line with other peer industries … thus more attractive to, and able to hold on to, more potential pilot candidates.

  46. Scott Spangler Says:

    This may be semantics, but most instructors are not poorly training, they are under trained for the position the hold in aviation.

    Simply put, flight instrutors are trained and tested as pilots, not teachers. Yeah, they take a test on the fundamentals of instruction, but few do more with that inforamtion than carry in short-term memory to the testing center.

    As several have mentioned above, there are a number of organizations, like AOPA and Cessna Pilot Centers, that offer training to CFIs to get them up to speed on providing good customer service. I’m sure a few flight schools have their own teacher training program new-hire CFIs must pass before they can inflict learning on students.

    William, I agree that the small survey sample might not be as good as one with more participants. But here’s the thing: Before this survey, all we had was anectoal guesses and conjecture based on subjective experience. It has taken 20 years or so to get this quantitative and qualitative data that shows that all of aviation’s dropout problems are not all about the money.

    To be blunt, aviation has been sitting on its thumb for about a half century, complaining about this and that and squandering untold millions in programs to bring new pilots into the fold. They have all done poorly because they were based on the pilot’s point of view, not a student’s.

    Once these programs delivered delivered eager prospective students to the doors of local flight schools, they saw their promises fulfilled. As the many comments to this post and my last one have shown, the schools didn’t, and still don’t, deliver on the promist of flight.

    Some will eagerly blame the schools, because pointing fingers takes less effort than making positive changes. I blame the aviation industry for doing the job halfway. Investing in plans that get students to the door and go no further is no different than planning a cross-country flight with no fuel stops past the point of no return.

    I agree totally with a the need for a paradigm shift, and for that to happen is going to take individual action, effort and a conscious decision to do something different that will change the future, not rehash what has always been.

  47. Richard Hornsby Says:

    > To be blunt, aviation has been sitting on its thumb for about a half
    > century, complaining about this and that and squandering untold
    > millions in programs to bring new pilots into the fold. They have all
    > done poorly because they were based on the pilots point of view, not a > students.

    This is one of the few honestly introspective comments so far. I’m sitting here as a student reading all of this, and all of these pilots are bitching about this or that – a few even bashing the students themselves. There is plenty of blame to go around – including under-motivated students. I’m sorry, but some of you are part of the problem, and you don’t even see it. Scott is exactly right. Too many pilots have apparently completely forgotten what it was like to be a student. They’ve forgotten the wonder, the fears, and maybe things were different “back then” at flight schools, I don’t know.

    You want to harp on the CFIs for being lousy teachers — you’re not helping and while I have respect for the CFIs in this thread, for the rest of you – I wouldn’t want most of you for an instructor because you’re so wrapped up in your own certificate you’re not even listening to yourself. Keep scratching your head wondering why students are walking away at an astounding 80% rate.

  48. Rich Bates Says:

    Scott,based on my experience you are right about flight instructors being tested as pilots. Although my CFI oral exam was about 7 hours long, it was similar to my commercial exam, with the exception of one 20 minute lesson and Fundaments of Instruction-type questions. My big book of lesson plans went largely unused. The flight portion of the exam was also similar to the commercial, except that I had to talk my way through everything.
    The comment about the Fudamentals of Instruction (FOI) is probably correct in most cases. The FOI is good information, but my experience suggests that new CFI’s are left on their own to figure out how to apply it. I just did things the way my instructors did until I developed my own way. Part of that development has been to read books by successful instructors like Kershner, Machado, McMahon, Trescott, etc., which has been helpful and informative, but it’s not the same as experiencing that kind of instruction.
    So, perhaps new flight instructors need better training and mentors just as much as pilots-in-training. Instructor organizations like NAFI and SAFE are trying to address this, but they will need the support of the aviation community as a whole to make it work. Maybe this is one piece of the paradigm shift you mention.

  49. Robert T Says:

    Sure there are bad students, but there are too many examples of students saying I was going to quit until one instructor made it all happen.

    Cost for sure effects some from even starting to learn to fly but we are talking about the ones that started and then dropped out.

    It was my third instructor and my friends eighth instructor before quality instruction was found.

    Good instructors are probably reading all these posts; but just like the safety seminars that Air Safety Foundation puts on, the unsafe pilots or in this case the CFI’s that need improvement, don’t take part.

  50. Rodger Says:

    Something that no one else has mentioned here is: inadequate preparation PRIOR to entry into the programs. The educational system in the USA has really declined in the math/science areas, and many prospective pilots don’t have the necessary math skills to handle navigation and weight balance calculations without some additional remedial work, coaching, or extra help. This also puts an additional burden on CFI’s to get students through the programs.

    As Sue R stated above, the cost of flight training is a FACT. And the upward spiraling costs of extra ground training for those inadequately prepared is to say the least, discouraging. There needs to be a much more realistic cost estimate given before starting for an individual.

    Another problem unstated here is the disparity of ages; frequently the CFI’s are younger than the students. This makes the traditional “mentor” image difficult to maintain.

  51. Rob Mark Says:

    One of the constants in the educational experience – or any other – is that when teachers are simply stopping by until they find that first REAL job, someone suffers.

    Certainly the flight school customers suffer when they’re hustled around from one teacher to another. Right now that’s not as much of an issue because hiring has not really begun again in earnest, but it’s coming.

    Instructor professionalism suffers too but only a few CFIs seem to be paying enough attention to notice

    Someone said earlier that opening a flight school is easy with low barriers to entry. But what really knocked my socks off was the insight that most of the competing flight schools are so poor that a good one has a real opportunity to succeed.

    If that’s true then why do so many still do such a lousy job?

    Much of the constant failure – despite Scott’s point about places like Cessna focusing on added sales training for CFIs – is that some of these people really stink at running a business.

    I just wish they didn’t give so much of the rest of the industry a black eye with their customer apathy.

    Let’s not forget though that customers also need to step up to the plate and say, “I’m sorry. But for what I’m paying this is simply not a great value,” when that’s the case.

    Rob Mark,

  52. Rand Vollmer Says:

    Flight Schools should offer Private Pilot Glider Rating using modern motor gliders in order to reduce time and cost for students attaining that first pilot rating. Student pilots often run out of passion or money before attaining the PPL, or even the Sport Pilot rating. Prices of new motor gliders with simple glass panels, BRS, and even autopilots are comparable to other LSA aircraft; while operating costs are lower because much of a student’s flight time is built with the engine off. While it is extremely rare for a student to be ready for check ride at the FAA minimum 10 hours of flight time, a new student with average aptitude, willing to do the homework, who flies for an hour, 5-6 days a week will have their rating in less than a month, at 1/3 the cost of a typical PPL rating. (Glider hrs can be used for 2/3 of flt rqts for PPL rating)

  53. Don Higgins CFII/MELI Says:

    I agree with many of the comments that cost is a big negative. Airports often add to the cost and do not appear to care what it does to the sutdent/flight school base. Example The Louisville Regional Airport Authority and its license requirement, insurance requirements, Its very high fuel tax and tanking fees, hangar rents. Etc. Etc.

    I have spoken to pilots at airport around Louisville Bowman Field and find that they go to these outlying airport because the costs at Bowman are too high. Note the are pilots flying into the area in their own aircraft. Yet Bowman is still too expensive for them.


    Don Higgins

  54. Tom Says:

    I 100% agree with Richard Hornsby who says it’s the lack of “community” that results in non-motivated students. In any other sport, or hobby, you would find more involvement, events, etc. The FBO’s should figure this out. To have the only person showing up for your solo after all that work is rediculous!

  55. Fixing Flight Training: the FT-IEP - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] Aviation buzz and bold opinion « Previous Post […]

  56. You Want to Learn to Fly. But… Part 1 | Says:

    […] instructor/flight school industry and again in December about what might be done in light of the flight training survey results. As of this writing, his first article has 100 comments and the second has 50. Clearly this […]

  57. Steve Farmer Says:

    Cost is not the issue if you’re willing to put in the time to research for 141 schools that offer funding! Georgia Aviation, now affiliated and renamed Middle Georgia College Aviation Campus, offer government funding for your certificates and ratings through the Pell Grant. I don’t know of more flight school programs that offer such assistance but an idea such as this may help those who are willing to attend and sacrifice time to their dreams. Do others exist?

    In addition, there is not much incentive for flight instructors to remain at a school without looking ahead for a bigger and better job in the industry. The fact is that a low time pilot has no other choice but to instruct! So, how can we solve this problem of lousy pay for doing a job that not many of us want to do?

    Besides the rare CFI that acually enjoys passing on knowledge and skill to those he/she comes into contact with, most CFI’s are merely going through the motions…Why? There’s no incentive! It’s just a time builder to get them where they want to go. So, we must create reasons for the instructor to not only stay, but to improve the quality of their instruction! Only 70% of what is taught is actually retained by the student. If the now instructor doesn’t continue to gain knowledge by his own means, he/she will only pass on a mere 70% of his/her 70% of knowledge, and so on! There must be more incentive to grow our knowledge in order to save aviation and it’s reputation as the safest way to travel!

    I impose, and am presently working out the kinks of such an idea, that offering instructors that show exemplary growth and apply that knowledge to building better pilots be rewarded with real world experiance and flight time, with an option to be paid more! With a partnership with a non-profit charitable orginization that provides relief missions to suffering people and communities, a flight school could offer said incentives to candidates whom show such an effort.

    We have to remember that flying is a privledge! Not everyone can handle the responsibility of having someones life in their hands. We must know when to cut the chord and recommend to some that a career or hobby change may be the best path. We must hold ourselves accountable for the quality of instruction that we provide to students that, one day, may be ferrying us home to see our loved ones.

    Straighten up and fly right!

Subscribe without commenting