6:51 PM

Go Ahead, Tell
AOPA What You
Really Think

There can be no disputing the fact that as fuel costs rise and our economy teeters precariously close to the edge of a full-on depression, people all over the country are choosing to hold on to any extra cash they somehow managed to collect. If you have a dream to learn to fly, and if you're still are getting a check from a job that has yet to be sent to China, chances are you've chosen food, housing and gasoline for the mini-van over flight instruction.

If any of that sounds familiar, AOPA feels your pain. The fine art of building up our pilot population is a daily part of their job description, and in an effort to keep the phone ringing at flight schools across America, the following from their web site indicates they want your help:

One of the biggest threats facing general aviation is the dwindling pilot population, and that's why AOPA is turning to you for ideas on how to reverse that trend. "Take five minutes and tell me what you'd do," implored AOPA President Phil Boyer. Share your ideas in this short online survey. So far, hundreds of members have responded to Boyer's call to action published in the May issue of AOPA Pilot. "But that's not enough. We need ideas from every AOPA member," Boyer said. "This issue is as important as the user fee fight, and the more information we have, the better we can tackle this problem that threatens the very heart of aviation."
A pitch in the latest AOPA Pilot Magazine featured an appeal from Boyer and a personal request for members to take the short survey. According to AOPA, you've followed that instruction well, with "more than 600 pages of high-quality opinions and ideas" received by the middle of last week.

If you are AOPA [and these days you have no reason not to be], go here and throw your ideas on how would build our pilot population in the mix. The questions are phrased in such a way that you really are given carte blanche to speak your mind:
(Q) In general, besides cost, what do you think are the major obstacles that keep new people from learning to fly today? Please limit your response to 75 words.

(Q) Let's say you were sitting across from someone who had the time and financial resources to learn to fly. What would you say to that person to convince him or her that they ought to take up flying? Please limit your response to 150 words.

(Q) If the job of recruiting new adult student pilots was entirely up to you and you had the full resources of AOPA to back you, what would you do to convince more people to learn to fly? Please limit your response to 500 words.
When I took the survey, I basically told them they should hit up every major aviation and aerospace company in the country to develop a foundation that would pay the cost of earning a private ticket for up to 5,000 of our best and brightest young men and women ages 18-24. Why? Because a 21-year-old that gets his/her license will hold that ticket for 40-50 years and buy lots of aviation stuff along the way. But there is an even better reason to focus on this demographic:
These young people are all very well-connected and once they get their ticket, will be talking [texting?] general aviation to their close circle of friends. The 5,000 new pilots each year will be the seed that keeps GA growing as our pilot population ages.
What I proposed to AOPA was that they begin a nationwide version of my Welcome Sky Aviation Scholarship Program that I developed at Fresno Chandler Downtown Airport several years ago. It's a simple concept – sort of a 'Robin Hood' style of developing funding – where rich pilots with extra cash lounging around their bank accounts take that cash, pool it, and pay for full-ride flight training scholarships. The recipients of these funds are really sharp kids who have written essays on what it would mean for them to learn to fly. In the few years I pushed Welcome Sky in Fresno, we managed to produce four new private pilots, and I know this system works. I have never had the means to administer it nationally, but I know AOPA does.

Just my two cents, because they asked for it.

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