Blog about aviation & marketing

Discover Flying – and the Cessna 150 – Part I By Rod Beck

Flight Training 1 Comment

The Cessna 150, which was ?born? in 1959, could possibly be the ONE light aircraft that introduced flying to more than 1,000,000 student pilots worldwide during it 18 year run, with the exception of its ?sister, the ?172?, is a classic example of ?strategic marketing? and staying power if there ever was one. Read More

A Discovery Flight – Now what?

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Recently I have been trying to get the organization Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to recognize a vacuum of leadership in the flight training schools, and that this is the fundamental problem with private pilot completions.   AOPA has identified the low student start to private pilot completion, something in the order of a 93% washout rate, and believes the problem is with the CFI not being professional.  The investigation into the source may be true regarding the professionalism being a problem, but that isn?t the sole reason for the low completion rate.  In fact, the real reason for not finishing a pilot course is the flight school that is not managed as a business, because the ownership is most often left without a mentor to show how to develop a flight school business.

In reality, CFI?s through the ages have only been serious about one thing, and that was to fly enough to get experience and move on to a better job, higher performance airplane, with the idea that it would pay a lot more.  This is nothing new, but the CFI needs to be managed just like any other industry needs to make sure business is conducted in a professional manner, and the title for a CFI really should be an account manager/flight instructor.  Since we have determined that new student pilot prospects have done their research on the Internet, most (97% +) understand the cost going into the training, but we still have this problem of retaining the student through completion of the course.  Now why is that?  It?s because the flight school operator falls short in general operating/business practices, not because they aren?t creative and intelligent people, but because we shortcut the fundamental side of doing business.

Obviously we need to ensure that the CFI is professional at all times, and that is to help the CFI understand their role better, and how it benefits the CFI.  Don?t assume the CFI knows the more they enhance the student pilots experience, the benefit is obviously a more consistent flying student, which results in a steadier income.  Don?t believe me, work with 100% commissioned car salespeople for a while, you will realize that money is the only real motivator, but it still doesn?t answer the big picture.  By measuring the CFI?s performance with regards to private pilot starts, frequency of flights with these students, and completion of course objectives I.E. solo, cross country, and completion, you can always critique the CFI and show areas that need improvement, and where they are doing a good job.

The magic and key of being a good CFI, was to motivate the student at ALL times, and not just assume the student was having the best time of their life on this roller coaster airplane ride.  Continued motivation for learning the next skill or event, whether it was a cross country flight, or learning about the weather and the atmosphere in which we fly.  All meaningful lessons, it kept the student captivated and curious while wanting to learn more and stay in the game.  I was speaking with Rod Beck recently http://www.aviationbiz.us about a prospect he was working with regarding flight training, and the conversation evolved about the weather being too bad for flying, so the flight school was ?closed for the day??  Why, what!@  What an opportunity to have a ground school lesson on aviation weather, VFR/IFR minimums and challenge the student to learn more about weather forecasting.  I am not sure if any of you readers recognize the truth, but people are busy in life, they have a scheduled lesson that day, and I am going to spoon feed them whatever is necessary to keep the learning process moving forward.

I think you will find the student start to completion ratio can be doubled very easily by using these basic techniques.  Now?what about management and ownership of the flight school?  Are we ready to get serious about improving our business, which means better service, high quality customers, and bringing back the enjoyment of operating a flight school?  This is one area of the aviation business that in my opinion, is subject needing the most  thought and corrective action because it is so easy to identify ways to developing business, yet the most ignored in the business.  If you are a flight school business owner that has soloed a Piper Cub, and think that the P-51 is a single engine tail-dragger and therefore no differences in airplane study is required, then you are who I am speaking to.

Lets talk a little about the ?Discovery Flight?, since Rod Beck (http://www.aviationbiz.us) and I have been wondering if we are handling this prospect correctly.  Here is what we have found ? a lot of discovery flights are given, very few new student pilots are actually learning how to fly.  Now does this really make sense?  Not really, because a discovery flight has a ?loss leader? format meaning we offer it, don?t make any money on the flight, and sometimes lose money.  The positive side is that it identifies a potential student, that perhaps has an interest and is a great way to make a contact that is interested in buying the product.  As a flight school owner, you need to track this ratio and improve the ratio IMMEDIATELY because if done correctly, you should be able to sign up at least half of the intro flights demonstration instead of the 17% average.  Obviously some of these discovery flights are given as a gift for someone who may not have any real interest in learning how to fly, so perhaps we should package the gift certificate idea a little differently.

But, the truth is that most aviation people aren?t really the ?closer? that can take action and get the private pilot course sold.  Want to know what a consultant can do for you?  Quite simply put a package together that turns the difficult part of selling the prospect, and simply make it a unique offer that  not only qualifies the candidate, but also puts the fear about the cost of learning to fly a non-issue.  Rod Beck with his own money and time, offering a flight school some creative solutions came up with this inexpensive unique offering that once you think about it, will make sense and is part of what we do.  The beauty of this flier, is that it not only allows the prospect a much higher level of ?discovery flying? by not putting all the opportunity resting on a 30 minute flight, but also to truly get the student down the road toward the private pilot ticket.  See bottom of page, it should give you some ideas of unique selling points.

These ideas with a new angle or a unique offer isn?t something that we have found too many flight schools taking advantage of.  I believe one of the reasons that flight schools struggle, is that management/ownership have a void when it comes to the learn to fly concept, and what the discovery flight was really all about.  A little history will show you how successful Cessna was in marketing ?learning how to fly?, and how Cessna sold so many Cessna 150?s and the step-up in performance to the rest of the line of airplanes.  The Cessna ?Discover Flying? program was an effective and proven step by step guide for the owner/operator, that Cessna had put their business fundamentals and success formula right in the hands of the individual.  Not only did they develop these materials, but they required the use of the procedures that were to be followed, as part of the licensing agreement.

The Cessna Pilot Center  or CPC had an outline of valuable sales tools and management of the flight school that guided the prospect from start-up to completion of the private pilot certificate.  They had the marketing materials ready to go, so that the flight school had a proven ad copy that was print ready that a flight school could place in the newspaper and it was tested, and produced results.  In addition, Cessna taught the owner operator ?word tracks? and special promotions that would bring new students to the door.  After the student was at the door, the sales kit was available that featured learning materials specifically designed for the exact airplane the student was going to learn to fly in.  Wonder why they did that?  After the ?Discovery Flight?, they used the private pilot kit to sell the rest of the lessons by offering it, and scheduling another lesson shortly after the intro flight.  Instead of saying something about ? talk to you later, thanks for stopping. The transition was easy while the prospect was excited about the experience of flight, the kit was sold while the student was given their first reading assignment and had the E6B ?whizwheel? to play with that evening!

And that is the void we face right now, the formula and step by step  guidance that was a proven method for producing a prospect into a private pilot.  I have wondered about the franchise concept for flight schools as a way to build the ?discover flying? entry for private pilot candidates.  I think there are a lot of good reasons that it would work, mainly that the advertising copy would be ready to go and it would be a co-op system to encourage advertising the product.  In addition, think about the customer if you branded the product to Quality, Safety, Customer Service, and Identity across the network of flight schools.  I think it would eliminate a lot of inconsistencies in the training, and the skills of private pilots obtaining their license.  I know it is a different program, but I live not too far away from the University of North Dakota, and they teach college level pilot training to future airline and corporate pilots.  The quality of training is outstanding?because they have a great curriculum that guarantees a top level of performance.  In addition, UND is not the least expensive way to this career path, but because the product is that good, people are willing to pay for the ratings in a location that doesn?t offer the nicest climate in the world.

For more on the franchise concept of flight schools, see the link below.

http://http://webhostingbysageowl.com/get-aviation.com/blog/airplanes-business-use-productivity/the-franchise-flight-school-is-it-the-answer-to-general-aviation

http://www.aopa.org/

http://aviation.und.edu/

Rod Beck’s example for a flyer.  Unfortunately the photos are not able to be used exactly as the flyer was made, but you get the point.

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The Beech King Air ? 47 Years and Counting! (By Rod Beck)

They say ?timing is everything? and that certainly holds true for the King Air which began ?life? a little over 47 years ago! The mid 60?s were a time for the ?birth? of many of the early corporate jets; The Jet Star, Sabre liner, Jet Commander and the Lear family beginning with the ?23? model in 1965.  Although the Jet Star and Sabreliner were originally designed for the US Air Force, Lockheed and North American immediately jumped into the ?civilian? market with minimal modifications to each aircraft ? an ?instant? cabin class corporate jet! Read More