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“Aviation Business” PASSION or PROFIT – A CONFLICT OF MOTIVES?

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The title of the post is an interesting one, in that you really have to consider both of them equally important to be successful.  However, it seems more often than not, the passionate side of aviation takes precedence to the profitable side, which is why so many aviation business ventures fail.  My personal experience is that the “aviation entrepeneur” is so passionate about “airplanes/flying” that they just don’t want to accept any critical analysis to make the business profitable.  Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do at that point, except watch the business try and extend the glide w/both engines feathered, flaps up, gear up, but with 20 miles to go to the runway!

Although at times the blog may seem negative, the fact remains that many small aviation business entities are in denial that there is a problem.  However, moreso than any other small business segment that is assumed to be in business to make a profitable, aviation seems to be more caught up in the thoughts that it isn’t right to make money in this, is it?  Why that conclusion?  Because when a true evaluation of the business is looked at and realistically pieced together, nothing makes sense.  But what is really cracked, is that when you try and help the aviation entrepeneur move forward and actually build a business…NOPE, lets stop here because I have passion and that will solve the problem.  Except the books don’t look so good, so what is one to do?  The perils of being a profesional aviation consultant is one of peculiar business motives, and bewildering ways of consistent bad business behavior.

PASSION or PROFIT – A CONFLICT OF MOTIVES?   By Rod Beck

Just WHAT is it that motivates people to want to enter GA as a ?business? ? their ?passion? for flying or financial security and reward ? or both ? in that order?

Having been in GA as a business in the thriving years of the 60?s and 70?s (1966-78), when the ?recreational? segment of General Aviation was booming, it wasn?t until 1978 when I learned that my NEED for financial security far ?out weighted? my fondness, notice I used the word fondness for flying rather than passion, for I believed I didn?t have this driving ?passion? for flying; rather a desire to excel at a ?business? and aviation ? in that order.

Yes, I truly enjoyed the ?camaraderie? of fellow pilots, up to a point, but, I had interest in OTHER things; there IS life beyond the airport! And perhaps this is where I learned that I was a young ?businessman? FIRST and a pilot, incidentally, in THAT order. This ?conflict? didn?t seem to be very compatible with the airport ?gang?; WHY would anyone in aviation want to be ANYTHING other than JUST a pilot ? I was ?miscast? ? badly – fire the casting director!

After much independent research study and the equivalent of a Doctorate Thesis in Business?, I?ve concluded that: 1. Business or financially motivated and oriented people are RARELY in any aspect of the recreational segment of GA 2. On the other hand, the investment minded gravitate towards aviation ventures with MAXIMUM Return On Investment/Equity (ROI/E) and MIMIMAL risk ? hence the ?upscale? FBO enterprise rather than the higher risk of ANY business aspect of the recreational areas of GA.

Is this the REASON we don?t see business ?sense abilities? of those entering the recreational side of GA ? and in particular, the ?flight school? – the motive just isn?t financial whatsoever?

And herein lies the dichotomy; can the ?retail? recreational segment model itself with a LESS ?emotional? (business like) motivation for their existence and put the FIRST priority on PROFIT rather than PASSION?

Now here?s where this gets tricky; does the MORE business demeanor of one?s ?recreational? or smaller FBO/flight school lose its social friendly and warm camaraderie and viewed as ?sterile? and cold as a result?

One might ask then: is there a relationship between the ?attitude? of the FBO/flight school owner and the recreational aviation consumer ? I conclude, MOST diffidently!

OK ? here goes; those aviation consumer?s whose priority is the ?exchange? of aviation events and topics, are merely using aviation as a ?magnet? or social engagement ? a meeting of friends and buddies of similar interest. I?ll be careful here ? but how MUCH money are they putting into the FBO/flight schools business checking account?

Wonder why your ?not welcomed? with open arms by your FBO/flight school ? the answer probably lies in the previous paragraph ? is the wall size ?Pilots Lounge Hobbs Meter? the answer for the profit motivated FBO/flight school?

Now I would like to ?pencil this out?. The reality may seem a bit harsh to many, but the Aviation Retail Provider or ARP, my new term for the FBO, etc, will not survive without the aviation consumer $pending money for their products and services ? and in VOLUME ? not the occasional purchase of a sectional or AIM every other year ? but aircraft sales, annual inspections, fuel or upgraded training that translates into INCOME to the ARP!

Bottom line here; the aviation consumer who doesn?t support their ?ARP? is not doing the GA industry any favors ? frankly, if you?re not willing and able to financially afford flying in any capacity then you may best find another hobby ? Medicare hasn?t become ?Aviacare? ? not yet anyway!

For ?recreational aviation? to survive for the working/middle classes who feel that their being squeezed out do to shear economics, i.e. inflation, etc and high entry or lasting cost of flight training or aircraft, best band together to find communality where they can, with limited disposable income, find a cost effective solution to their plight.

One is the ?co-op? small private airpark concept, I feel this has many possibilities – but, again, it will take MONEY. Perhaps, thought done by a large volume of shareholders and memberships ? and outside of major populations, may succeed.

So for future general aviation business ?entrepreneurs?, if making a lot of social ?friends?, being popular and subsidizing your FBO/flight school venture from income from your $200K ?day job? is your thing, I wish you the best.

But for those who are SERIOUS about being profitable, and ALSO having new friends, start with this; can I step back a minute, without emotion or passion for flying and ask ? does this make any CENT$ as a business or do I just want to become a ?social director? after all?

Then you?ve answered the question rationally; is my motive ?Passion or Profit? ? or ideally, both!

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