It seems that over the last several years we have seen a lot of discussion about the decreasing number of pilots flying in the U.S. I am sure if you spend any time at your local FBO you have noticed this too. So what’s the big deal? Why are people not flocking to flight schools for lessons? What has happened to that desire to fly like the birds?
Well, it depends on who you ask -- and be ready for a good story. The answer to the question usually touches on the economy, fuel prices, flight schools, and flight instructors. For the sake of this writing let us focus on flight schools and instructors. Now, we at Simple Flightcertainly believe that there are a lot successful flight schools and passionate flight instructors out there doing a fantastic job. A lot, yes; but not all flight schools are successful and not all flight instructors are doing a fantastic job. How, then, does every flight school and CFI, nationwide,crack-in to this secret code of success. I am not sure it is even a secret.
It seems like this day and age anyone who is not at the top of the game wants to believe the problem is caused by something beyond their control. It’s always someone else’s fault. What if, instead of blaming someone else, we all stepped back, took in a broader view, and tried to refocus on what is important and the tasks we can complete to reach not only our goals, but our customers goals? With student retention rate at an all-time low, our main focus should be the customer and providing them with the best value possible. I strongly feel that most of these issues are derived from within the source (flight school or instructor) itself and with a little guidance a complete shift of mentality could change flight training. If you see these issues in our industry as I do, you know the time to make a change is now!!
I am sure everyone has heard of the KISS or keep it simple silly (we will use silly instead of stupid) theory. Let's apply that idea within the flight training industry. Here is a list is to suggest how flight schools and CFIs (myself included) can refocus what we are doing. Basically, I’ve tried to use the basics of Business 101 to focus on retaining the customer and keeping him/her motivated to enthusiastically believe there is value to the service we are providing. If you want to build pilots, here we go!
CFI - Find the passion to help your students achieve their license in 40 hours not 80. Develop a syllabus personally for each student. It pays to keep them happy and flying or they may go buy that boat instead. What did that Fundamentals of Instructing book say? Oh, yes adjust to your students!
FBO/Flight School Owner/Management - Be a level 5 leader, plan for the future, and find the right people to put on the bus. If your employees see your passion and involvement in the program less motivation and management is needed for morale.
CFI - Learn to enjoy where you are right now and your clients will too! Yes we are all building time to move up the ladder, but don’t give that impression.
FBO/Flight School Owner/Management- First impressions are important! The dog pee stain on the carpet in the lobby, or the interior of your Cessna 152 falling apart because no one has the initiative to take action is not very inviting to new clients walking through your door (yes we have seen it).
CFI - Remember you also wear a sales hat. Help keep your work area (airplane & office) very inviting to customers. Hey, you never know the boss may notice too!
FBO/Flight School/Management - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at least a well thought out website with contact information can help prospective customers find you. Social Media has proven to be a huge marketing tool.
Simple changes of business strategy and finding the passion to help others is really the key to a successful operation. Now I agree there will always be outside forces that affect the business weather, maintenance, fuel costs to name a few. Work those hiccups into the business model. Simulator or ground instruction on weather days is one example. Think outside of the box and bring in fresh ideas from everyone that is associated within the organization. As you can see the list above which is fairly basic could go on and on. Maybe we need a gigantic suggestion box that we all could drop a note in to. Would anyone read them? What would yours say?
Hey #Avgeeks, Al here!
There is so much grey area in the most recent Flight Training Blog post from Boldmethod. Its enough to drive you crazy! Lets take a look at the scenario again:
You're a private pilot and you own an airplane. Your boss offers to pay for your fuel and tie-down on a business trip. Can you take the money? Check out the full scenario and tell us what you think.
(Tune into our LIVE discussion on SimpleFlight.net radio - Sunday, March 2nd at 8pm CST)
Scenario:You work as a salesman for an aviation parts company in Wichita, KS, and there's an upcoming sales conference that you need to attend in Dallas, TX. Another salesman for the company has a product demo at the same time in Oklahoma City, OK.
Your boss offers to cover your fuel and tie-down fees if you fly your SR-22 to the conference. He also asks you to bring the other salesman to their product demo in Oklahoma City, drop them off, and pick them up when you are done with the conference.
What do you think? Can your boss pay you to cover the fuel and tie-down?
Do you know where to look to find the answer? Finding the answer to this is a great exercise in learning where to look in the FAR’s. We commonly hear of part 91, part 61, part 135 and the list goes on (Parts 1-1399 to be exact!). Most general aviation flying happens under Parts 61 and Part 91 so its easy to quickly identify that the answer lies in one of these parts.
Here is a simple tool (which is a series of three questions) on how to figure where to look into the regulations. This tool is designed to allow you to step back from the issue and look at the core of what you are really asking yourself. Your answer to the question will be the trigger to direct you to the appropriate part. So, check out this tool to help you work through the problem.
“Is this question asking something about me being pilot in command on this flight?”
Let’s apply this to the original question again. Remember we want to step back and ask ourselves what is the question really asking? That’s when we apply the tool. Let’s try it.
“Can your boss pay you to cover the fuel and tie-down?”
If we stand back from the question and try to figure out what its really asking we can figure out where to look. Once we apply the real question to the tool on where to look in the FAR's we are set off in a good direction on finding the real advice.
The real question is asking if the pilot in command can be paid back for the fuel and other operating expenses based on having a private pilot certificate?
“Is this question asking something about me being pilot in command on this flight?”
Does this help you get a little bit closer to the answer?
Make sure to tune in at 8PM CST on Simple Flight Radio for a LIVE discussion about this with Aleks and Colin from Boldmethod. Also make sure to cast your official vote here on whether you can be reimbursed or not.
Do you remember the last time you finished writing something and something was over? I do. Like my last English final that was a 4 essay hand written final that stood between me and graduating college. How about signing a credit card reciept? At that point dinner is over and you are looking for those incredible after dinner mints that kinda melt in your mouth like powder.
Well I had the pleasure of writing a sentimental airport in somebody's logbook for the last time before the airport is closed by the city. BOOOOO!!! Where is the Dislike button?
Anyway, it was a lot of fun flying with well known aviation blogger Todd McClamroch creator and writer at MyFlightBlog.com. We had a mission to make one last trip around the pattern at the airport Todd learned to fly out of - The Blue Ash Airport (KISZ) in Cincinnati Ohio. It is always sad to see airports close, but this one is more especially hard to see go.
Blue Ash is a faded flagship of great airports. Its a stick and rudder airport. Places like PWK and TEB are great airports but, they are flashy airports, fun places to hang out, but they have shinny jets and air conditioning. Blue Ash, was a little different. A type of aviation still exsisted here that you RARELY see any more. I call it stick and rudder aviation. Regular people, flying regular airplanes for the heck of it. Grease monkey's, war heroes, young aspiring aviators pumping gas to pay for flying lessons, all sitting around and enjoying the sights, faces, and sounds of a perfect little airport. The funny thing is, this airport had heavy turbine equipment sitting on the ramp. Blue Ash is settled on a bluff in a heavy hitter industrial park. Near by are tons of manufacturing businesses all the way from Ma & Pa places up to General Electric Aircraft Engine manufacturing plant. Its location is so valuable to aviation, business aviation that is as well as the private aviators that fly out of Blue Ash.
General Aviation is broken. I have been trying to figure it out, and it is a lot of things. Blue Ash opened my eyes to another reason why. General Aviation currently is a luxury item. Municipalities see that too. General Aviation isn't being held to its highest and best use. It is a tool, a tool for the economy. The Airport Authorities have gotten lazy and not promoted the best asset of their airport to its highest and best use. Blue Ash will be a airport full of memories to be bulldozed for land development. Great, the property tax income for the new development wont do much. Maybe some slick looking buildings will stand tall in the shadows of the airport? :(
The airport is a tool for the economy, its for the other businesses to grow their businesses using aviation. Its just sad to see that the current best and highest value for the Blue Ash airport is land development, when it really can be so much more. Is it kinda weird that I shed a tear while writing this knowing a great piece of aviation history is about to finish writing its story? (Once again, I am proving that I am a nerd, but an aviation one with a heart). Once Blue Ash is done writing, it'll be all over.
RIP Blue Ash! If anybody else finds an airport where you can taxi like a zig zag through the woods, please let me know.
So to just solidify my case as being an overweight, nerd with too much time on my hands I thought I'd interject this: YouTube clips of old airline commercials. There are two types of commercials in my opinion.
1) The old clips. These clips instill a tremendous feeling of nostalgia. Enough where you want to eat a quart of Ben and Jerry's and cry your eyes out. Who am I kidding, we are pilots, we don't cry unless its the movie 16R....Shut up. Moving on, it does instill a huge sense of nostalgia. These are the Pan - Am glory days of de-regulation, nasty pilot strikes and suit spewing out of the old DC-9's filmed in the commercials. They are really special, it makes me want to fly all the airplanes in those commercials simply because I will never be able to fly them :( It is also funny to see all the retro color schemes in the cabins of the airplanes. They look like bowling shoes. You'll get to hear airlines brag about the newest member of the Jet Aged fleet and they'll explain to you their engines are the quitest around. Let me tell you, they are lying to you. The engines are louder than hell and sound like the end of the world. One of my favorite commercials is a United one when they first got DC-10's. They are giving a cabin tour of it and explaining how you can sit in the "Friendship Lounge" and enjoy Cocktails on your flight from Dulles to San Fransisco. I'll take a Tom Collins please.
2) The new clips. Inevitably you run into the modern day clips of airline commercials. I love it! I have to hand it to the airline with the animals on their tails with thinking outside of the box and personifying vertical stabilizers. Great work! On the otherhand Most of them make you want to just be a single jet setter all over the globe. How fun! They do a great job of making you want to "wrack" up miles after miles to join the highest elite tier loyalty program the airline has to offer. I would be crossing the pond every day if I could get tucked in by a Bond Girl flight attendant after clearing my martini from my first class seat. On the contrary, it makes me want to fly for their damn airline. Ahh if that was only the case, I'll take a Tom Collins please.
Do you have a favorite airline commercial?
"Dude, can you clean up my box?" Ummmm...okay. Its actually a big problem. Don't worry, its an industry buzz phrase. Its not referring to the Casa Nova Captain the morning after either. Its about always keeping the pink line in front of you. Why? Because you'll be a wondering amibia otherwise.
GPS/FMS units are only helpful for situational awareness if you keep the pink line in front of you. As soon as it is behind you, the GPS is helping you set up perfectly for messing up. What I am referring to is making sure that the Active Leg on your GPS/FMS unit is actually the leg you are on. This will involve some monitoring on your behalf. For example if you load an approach into your GPS and include all of the fixes along the approach your in great shape. That is until ATC gives you a short approach and vectors you in tight just a mile or two outside the Final Approach Fix or Point. You have to be sure to always clean up your box and activate the leg you are on. It especially on an approach to have your active leg behind you. In the case of a missed approach you will get confused and end up having to do a bunch more steps in your GPS system to figure it out.
Just remember, always keep the pink line in front of you!
I dare you to ask a crew member. Everyone of them will have an answer and their answers will be scattered all over the country. Ask them this, "Where is your favorite breakfast burrito?" Its true, every crew member has one, if they say they don't they are lying to you. If you were to ask me, I would look you square in the eye and say with out hesitation "Mesa Verde, upper level in Terminal One at Denver International Airport, get the chorizzo burrito with a side of the cilantro sour cream. It'll make your day." I don't know what it is, but every single crew member craves these breakfast burritos while on the road. Its bizarre and pretty outrageously delicious.
Looking at this phenomenon I can see three different factors why Crewmembers are addicted to these pre-made tin foil wrapped, and mostly soggy burritos.
1) Power Packed Punch - Crew members are under constant pressure. At sacrifice under this pressure is getting a well balanced meal and a scheduled break. I mean, what is OSHA for? This pressure that is aggravated by hunger. What a great combination to be cranky, blow emergency slides, and kick you off a plane for playing words with friends. So in order to tame that pressure, why not have a breakfast burrito full of carbs and protein? Its very necessary. Its kinda eating for survival. I know you have seen those survival shows on the Discovery Channel. You need to eat high calorie meals because you never know when you may eat next. Thats exactly what crew members are doing, eating for survival. Not in the wild, but in the air conditioning, just like Mother Nature intended. You never know when you will eat next.
2) Everything Else Sucks - Are you really going to go to Panda Express in LaGuardia for Pancakes and Eggs at 6:30 am for breakfast? Exactly.
3) It's Cheap - Crew members are cheap. We are cheap not because we want to but because we have to. The economics of the breakfast burrito just make sense. If you don't believe us, just ask our wallets or look up per diem rates under our union contracts.
That is all.
Where is your favorite breakfast burrito?
The Chicago Executive Airport is probably the hardest airport to find day or night. It shouldn't be that hard, but its ridiculous. I don't think I need bifocals just yet, but by golly. There are so many things you can look for like big buildings, office complexes, roads, dark spots and even O'Hare. The thing the airport is really missing is a yellow marker with a bouncing arrow over it like a directional marker in a video game. Hot pink would be okay too, but there is already a hot pink line on your GPS. Its kinda messed up, its not a small airport either, it has a big beacon, prominent control tower, and lots of lights. If you have to circle to runway 34 forget about it. Literally you can be on the downwind and loose sight of the airport. Politely we ask for the controllers to turn on the flashing lights on at the ends of the runway. When we see those, we kinda feel like the airport is saying "Okay jackass, I'm right here and now you are having me wake up the neighborhood, great thanks."
I would hate to play hide and go seek with this airport. It would win against me every single time by the slaughter rule. Its a real shame because my car is parked here! What airport is the hardest for you to find day or night? -AL
It dawned on me one evening. I remember it exactly, we were approaching Denver, the sun was pretty much set and the sky was turning beautiful colors for the second half of our flight from LAX to MKE. I had just used the lav for a potty break since there was no way my bladder could hold it for a 3.5 hour flight with "unlimited soda and water" to the crew. The flight attendants gave me a tray of warm chocolate cookies and milk to take into the cockpit for the captain and me to enjoy for the remainder of the flight. I sat back down in my chair and began to enjoy the warm cookies, cold milk not to mention the view.
It was really the cookie and pretty awesome ground speed in the high 500's knots that threw me over the edge. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that the airplane delivering this experience was a machine. It was one of the first few times that I thought of the airplane as a machine. Its kinda strange to think about it this way. You may have your own airplane, or fly a fleet of airplanes but you get to know which is your favorite and least favorite. Each airplane even though the same model all fly incredibly different from the next. Its hard not to start thinking each airplane as its own person and having its own personality. Heck, in the EMB -170 a warning message that read " APM FAIL" - Corrective Action: "DO NOT TAKEOFF." I looked up what the "APM" was and by golly, it was called the airplane personality module. The airplane had a mother board in it giving it a personality! Holy smokes! Anyway, when push comes to shove, the airplane is a machine. It can take you across the country, keep you alive, allow you to use the washroom in it, keep a beverage hot or cold for you, bake a hot cookie, connect you to wifi, xm radio, or TV, cool you down or warm you up, all while keeping you on life support in the inhabitable conditions of lack of oxygen, extreme negative temperatures 6 miles above the earth all while hurling you along at 500-600 mph. If you think about it that way its pretty nuts. The airplane is a machine, but I'd like to think otherwise - Have you ever thought of your airplane as just a machine? - AL
Another nerdy moment shines in me with trying to find the perfect flying sound track. There are so many different moods you can be while flying. Flying situations have their own moods too. Things can be relaxing, beautiful, stressful, scary, happy, sad, intense and everything in between. When I am flying, I think of what I am doing as a movie. Movies have sound tracks in them. The sound track is just as important to the movie as what you are seeing visually. There is a constant exciting struggle for me finding the perfect song to match my flying mood. When they are meshed together, no doubt, you'll get goosebumps! It's so awesome. One of my favorite memories flying was flying from New England to the Mid Atlantic. The person I was flying with and I had been working on hitting our take off roll exactly to a moment in a song so that the engines were producing max power just as the song started to explode. The result was unbelievable. Getting jammed back into your seat by powerful engines, an awesome song really kicking it and taking off on our last leg of our trip was something else. Climbing out over New England as the sun was setting, doing a merry go round climb over some of the busiest airspace in the world and adding the fact Christmas was 2 days away was the perfect collaboration of how we felt about flying at that very moment. After the song was over, I looked over at my partner and said "Wow, that gave me goose bumps!!" I am doing a very horrible job using my words to explain this. There were so many things going in those few minutes that were absolutely perfect. It could take a life time to write about every little detail. All I am going to continue to say is that this will always be a forefront memory in my flying career. Think about your favorite songs right now and match them with some of your favorite flying memories. You'll find that there is something comforting about it. You're love of flying will increase dramatically and your desire for more will be off the charts. Below is the song that I had matched up with my flying counterpart that day. We nailed the timing with having the engines push us back into our seats for take-off just as the song goes to "JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!!" around 30-32 seconds into the song. The song is called "Just Live Your Life" By TI. What songs do you think are awesome for flying? If you can't think of any, you are lying. See this other video below too. I feel that the music in this familar tune, grabbed the exact mood of the flight that was being flown in the movie. Let me know what your favorite songs are and I'll try and incorporate them into a flying video for you. Please comment below! Enjoy! Al
Do you know a pilot that likes to brag about how quick their aviation medical takes? If you don't you can use me as an example. The quick pee in a cup, memorized visual tests, the red line always goes through note number 4....and then you're good til your next medical. In a way, pilot medicals are awesome that way. 5 minutes and a $100 later we are done. I thought this was the way to go until I recently heard a concerned aviation medical doctor give a very informative what you should know speech.
After hearing this speech it made me realize that most pilots are one sided with two documents that are so essential to our passion. Our pilot certificate and our medical. They work hand in hand, you can't use one for the other and with out them together your wings are clipped. Think about that, how much time do you spend maintaining your pilot certificate? Now, think about how much time you spend maintaining your medical, which ever class it may be. I'd put money down that you spend 15 minutes a year on your medical and the rest on your pilot certificate. I was this way.
What if something happens to your health beyond your control? Who will you be able to call? Do you know what to do with your medical? Do you know how to get it reinstated? I don't. After hearing this AME speak, I realized my priorities are out of whack, way out of whack. I am young, and invincible, until I noticed a grey hair and my receding hairline. Growing old is a must, and with that come hurdles that may abruptly stop your living or passion in aviation. It is incredibly worth while to find an AME that is 100% willing to answer your phone calls, know how to navigate the airman medical qualification division of the FAA. This is so important especially if you make your living in aviation like me. The FAA is becoming more medically conservative than ever, pretty much any condition, prescription drug or blip on your medical record is a disqualification. Sooner or later we will hit a hurdle and we will need help with this. Ask yourself is your current AME the person who will give 110% to help get your medical back if you loose it? You better believe it will be your priority one if this happens. It should be your AME's priority too, he'll have more pull in helping you than you will. With out his signature and sign off, your goose is cooked.