AOPA sees General Aviation as an eco-system, with each part in some way dependent on the other parts. All need to thrive in order for the whole to thrive.
Unlike many other sectors that support the UK economy, General Aviation must be one of the most diverse. However, it all falls apart if there are no trained Pilots to fly the aircraft.
We are currently facing a demand for new Commercial Pilots. Of course not all Student Pilots want an Airline or Commercial Piloting career, with many happy to stay as Private Pilots and fly for their own needs. The business outlook should be positive, with an opportunity to invest in and modernise the GA training fleet and businesses.
GA is also AOPA's business, albeit from a different perspective. We see our role as supporting an energetic and successful GA sector in the UK and beyond. We can help you promote and grow your business and develop a social side to your business, give you the opportunity to work with us and suggest ways to make flying more attractive.
GA is in competition with all the other leisure sectors vying for business and disposable income, and is especially bad at attracting young people into GA from School, College and University.
But the UK Training industry can let GA down badly, with poor facilities, shabby aircraft and little more than a conveyor belt attitude, with no culture to support the Pilots that you have trained, and taken £10 k or more from, for their flying careers. Out of the door and forgotten.
Each potential Pilot who walks through the door of a Flight Training Organisation should be cherished for the whole of their flying career, commercial or otherwise.
Unless your business is only dependent on Business aviation, taking in already trained Pilots, and/or providing Commercial Support services, then good Training Facilities are key to GA. Private Pilots are the ones that you need to really nurture and help to have a long flying career as they will be buying your services, as long as they feel that flying is value for money and stacks up against other leisure activities, e.g boating, cars, adventure holidays, while they have spare cash.
So when a potential *Customer, walks through your doors is it a nice experience? Are they walking into chaos, in a run down building with absolutely no-one taking an interest?
That does seem to be too frequently the case.
*NOTE Customer, not Student. Even if they start training as a Student, they are still a Customer!
This is your very first, and possibly only, chance to make a catch! Be honest, how would you rate yourself?
ALL your staff should be trained to have a "front of house" role and be able to engage with potential customers. They should know your business and be able to answer the most likely questions. They should know where all your literature is, perhaps have a small ordered presentation pack - not be shoved a handful of untidy leaflets.
Now that you have engaged with your potential customer, impressed them with your welcome and club facilities you now take them to see the fleet. Is that going to dampen their spirit?
Unfortunately, a large part of the UK training fleet is less than inviting and probably several decades older than the younger Pilot to be. The instrument panel may well look like it is steam driven and the seats and paintwork have seen much better days. Unless of course your new customer is looking for the grunge effect, this is likely to put them off flying.
However, just because the aircraft are vintage models, they can still be presented well, and made to look inviting and more modern than they are.
They are likely to be much more robust than the lighter two seat aircraft increasingly dominating the owner and group market, so it is understandable that they form the main part of the UK training fleet.
Some training facilities have invested in modern 2 and 4 seat aircraft for later stages of training, when pilot handling skills should be kinder on the air-frame. Running costs can be much lower than the traditional Cessna and Piper fleets.
There are continuing threats to GA from over-regulation. It is here that AOPA does its most valuable work, where we oppose unfit and unecessary regulation affecting your business and support sensible regulation which benefits GA as a whole.
Sometimes though, we see derogations introduce rapidly by the CAA that is applicable to the UK only, but can have an impact on business governed by EASA Regulation.
We have seen ab-initio training being possible from unlicensed airfields and now increasing pressure to allow permit aircraft to be used for ab-initio training for PPL, at much lower operating costs than the EASA fleet and licensed Airfields.
If this helps to grow GA then that is good, but existing businesses providing NPPL, LAPL and PPL training need to keep a very close eye on developments and consider your business model. How are you going to adapt if your supply of Students dries up because they can train more cheaply elsewhere? What is your selling point going to be?
The level of marketing at most Training Organisations, generally speaking, is very poor. The reasons vary, but mainly it stems from lack of understanding. It is also believed that it costs a lot of money, which it can do, and this will be wasted if the wrong channel is used for the target audience. Many Training Organisations place adverts in aviation magazines, such as Pilot or Flyer. But, are these magazines the ones that potential new Pilots pick up to find out where to learn to fly? Especially younger generations who are more likely to be using mobile devices and online channels, though with this audience some School visits may be worth considering, or attend Career days.
There are three main markets:
- Those people who have decided from a prior point in their life that they would one day learn to fly, or have decided on flying as a career.
- Those people who have already obtained their PPLs and want to go on and get higher level ratings and fly more complex aircraft. Some will buy and aircraft, or share, and some will hire.
- Those people who are yet to decide they would like to learn to fly, a potentially huge market if you can capture their attention.
Groups (a) and (b) are likely to walk through your door without seeing any adverts. However, the biggest potential market is (c) and you will need to make the effort to convince them that they really do want to learn to fly.
You don't necessarily need to advertise individually. If there are several businesses on an Airfield you could all contribute to a single advert promoting the Airfield and all its businesses and share the cost - even if you are in competition with each other.
Do you keep in touch with your Students after they have obtained their licence, regardless of whether or not they remain club members or hire your aircraft?
If not you are missing an opportunity to offer them:
- Training for additional Ratings
- Advanced PPL courses (if you do them?)
- Aerobatics Rating
- Differences Training
- Biennial Flight with an Instructor
- Invitation to Evening or Airfield/Club Events
The chances are high that you don't not keep in touch, even though it is so simple to maintain mailing lists and use electronic media such as MailChimp, which can be free to use. Also, anyone can unsubscribed if they don't want you to communicate with them.
Thriving Flight training businesses often have an active Social Flying Club, with regular meetings and flying events. Perhaps even a themed meal night, to involve the Restaurant/Cafe.
All bring potential new business and keep you as a focal point for the Pilots, and guests, who might join in. Some guests may take up flying, or lapsed pilots might renew their licence.
If you are really supportive of establishing and maintaining a social Flying Club you will probably find that there are plenty of volunteers from your members or airfield users to form a committee and run the club with minimal input from you.
Don't restrict access to your members only, open your Social Flying Club to all airfield users, perhaps offer Social (non-flying) membership at a reasonable price for admittance and to keep them informed with newsletters.
If your accommodation is unsuitable for meetings and presentations, perhaps there is other accommodation available on the Airfield or at a local Pub.
Add to your Social Flying Club:
Locally managed AOPA Wings Scheme - potential to sell more Instructor Time, Aircraft Hire and recruit new flying members.
Locally Managed AOPA Mentor Scheme Framework - supports the Wings scheme, encourages more flying, potential to sell more more Instructor Time, Aircraft Hire and recruit new flying members.
If you are interested in Wings and Mentor Schemes please email email@example.com with details.
MAKE YOUR TRAINING ORGANISATION THE CENTRE OF ACTIVITY ON YOUR AIRFIELD.
If people see your business is buzzing with acitvity they will be drawn to you!
Don't forget, as an AOPA member you can invite us to attend your event if appropriate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with details and we will see if we can fit in with your plans.
As an AOPA Corporate member we will promote your business on our website and annually in our printed Flight Directory within the AOPA Magazine. This is provided free of charge as part of your membership.
How you promote your business through these channels is up to you, but it is fair to say that very few Corporate members take any interest in their entries.
A lost marketing opportunity! You are not making the most of your AOPA Membership.
Take a look at your entry on this website and let us know if anything needs to change. Email: email@example.com