AVmail: September 2, 2013
Letter of the Week:
It's the Instructors, Stupid
I own a small flight school with three to five planes in central Massachusetts. It's the kind where everyone is always greeted properly when they walk in, the kind the fosters a large pilot community, not just a pilot's certificate. Otherwise, you'll only watch them leave and their hours dwindle on year two.
But we have a major problem. It's not bringing students to finish or the so-called "80 percent drop-out rate." The problem is the lack of good-quality, enthusiastic CFIs. This past AirVenture, I spent a full day meeting and making contacts with every school at the new College Park section. (I'd like to see that expanded to flight schools someday, but that's another topic.)
In 2013, I have rejected more instructors than I've hired. Why is that? I know I'm very picky, and joining this group requires a fun attitude. Why can't a licensed pilot who's a CFI land a Skyhawk or feel the need to use a checklist on their interview check ride with us? How about getting airsick on a reasonably calm day or not speaking English [well] enough so I can understand them? How did they pass their medical, flight training, and check ride? I don't get it!
The problem isn't with the students or the planes; it is with the flight instructors' attitudes and enthusiasm and also the school owners. I expect a lot, as we all should, but I think we get limited qualified CFIs. We ask ourselves, "Would you let you children fly with him?" All reasonably good CFIs, please stand up. Then call me.
FCA Flight Center
It's the Economy, Stupid
I read with horror the recent article on motion and simulators, particularly the part where "everyone" was surprised at how expensive learning to fly has become. For 30 years I have been speaking with ex-pilots whose fathers used to fly or who quit flying themselves after they started having children. AOPA has an affordability initiative, but rather than an economic development specialist, it is headed by a marketing ace.
I note that it is only in the past few months that a major conservative think tank has released a paper revealing income inequity to be bad for the economy. However, their prime focus has not been aviation.
I think it imperative structural economic defects in the wider economy be recognized for the threat that they pose to all of general aviation. This problem affects ab initio training and the future of recreational flying.
Advice for Mark Baker
Regarding the "Question of the Week":
Baker needs to work on two things: facilitating and growing the number of new pilots in training so that the GA pilot community continues to grow and doggedly working on the issues related to the safety of GA flying. That includes changing the practical test standards to remedy the deficiencies of skills and knowledge that underlie the poor general aviation accident record.
I did not find an option that I felt was perfect, although grass roots effort was pretty close. I think that general aviation needs to be presented to the public on a regular basis, showing that being wealthy isn't necessary to be able to fly.
As it stands, the only time there is media coverage of GA, it is to report, "A small plane crashed." There should be more coverage of its use to transport supplies, the sick, and as just a fun way to spend an afternoon and really not too different in cost than golf.
G100UL and Embry-Riddle
I'd have a lot more confidence in Embry-Riddle's done deal with G100UL if I knew that they were testing the product in the high-compression engines that many of us are stuck with. What's the composition of their test fleet? No disrespect intended, but 172s and Archers are not representative of the real-world high-compression fleet.