New Flying School - Input Requested

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Wayne, Mar 17, 2019.

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  1. Mar 17, 2019 #1

    Wayne

    Wayne

    Wayne

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    Hey folks!
    I'm over the moon in reporting that a very good friend of mine and I have acquired some of the assets of the previous flight school at Clow International Airport (1C5) in Bolingbrook, IL, USA and have started up a new school called JW Aviation, or JWA. The website, which will be updated to include more detail over time, is flyjwa.com. We currently own a steam gauge 172, and have 2 x 152, a G1000 172, and a 182 on lease back.

    Many of you know how I feel about making aviation accessible to people and my rather dim opinion of how the flight schools I have interacted with are run. My buddy and I REALLY want to turn the traditional model on it's head, and would appreciate any ideas you might have, and when it comes to opinions you folks have an unlimited supply :gig::roll:

    I am maintaining my software sales job as my source of income, and neither of us is taking any salary out of the company as we invest and build. For my partner this is an incredibly fulfilling retirement occupation and for me it's a long range plan B - just because these businesses don't spin off huge amounts of profits so I can't hop out of a career I'm at a peak in.

    Here are some thoughts/ideas we already have:

    1) Many of our customers are people who "have always wanted to fly" and we need our culture to embrace and celebrate that. Let's make that journey fun.
    2) We are including a free 6 month Corporate EAA membership and free membership to our EAA 461 Chapter with our training. EAA 461 is a vibrant chapter with strong social ties and programs. The idea is to make sure that our clients are able to experience the "aviation lifestyle". I have been walking them through the coolest hangars with projects and aircraft ranging from the 1940's Fairchild, Navion, Howard, my Zenith build etc. This has been going really well and I had a couple of students attend the EAA meeting this month as well!
    3) All scheduling and online payment is done in FlightSchedulePro, which empowers students and instructors to manage their own schedules. People used to have to call to schedule a plane in the past - if they picked up the phone. The software also manages maintenance intervals, and the required documents.
    4) We have purchased, outright, a brand new Redbird LD FAA approved simulator, which emulates the Steam Gauge 172 and the G1000 172. We will be the only sim within easy reach of the SW Chicago area and the sim will not only be used to offset hours for Instrument etc. but will be used pre and post flight to help reinforce regular VFR training to help students learn outside as well as inside the cockpit.
    5) Our rates are highly competitive for the area.

    So folks - do feel free to share your experiences/ideas with flight schools and learning to fly. I'm looking forward to hearing them because, as a community, you will be helping to build and define what a new learning to fly experience will be all about.

    Thanks!

    Wayne
     
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  2. Mar 17, 2019 #2

    BJC

    BJC

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    Make your facility a place where people want to hang out, even if they aren’t current or future customers. Have clean restrooms. Having a clean place to relax, have a cup of coffee or a soda, read a magazine or talk creates a pleasant environment that makes people feel good, which, ultimately, is good for business. Have clean restrooms.

    Spend the money to keep the airplanes in top condition and appearance. You need customers who can afford to learn to fly, and those people expect modern airplanes. Nothing wrong with some old C152s for building time on the cheap, but the customers who will keep you in business will expect a clean, well-maintained, modern glass paneled airplane. Have clean restrooms.

    Flight and ground instructors must have the right attitude as well s teaching skills. Have clean restrooms.

    Run it like a business. There are no excuses for schedules not to be met, airplanes not to be ready to fly, supplies not to be available, etc. Have clean restrooms.

    Treat everyone with respect. Success is all about the interaction with your employees, customers and the public.

    Do all that, have clean restrooms, and let us know how it works out.


    BJC
     
  3. Mar 17, 2019 #3

    Tiger Tim

    Tiger Tim

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    This, IMO, is a huge and largely untapped market. Just make sure your instructors understand the differences between younger, career commercial students and more mature recreational pilots. That’s a big failing I’ve seen around the schools I’ve been involved with.
     
  4. Mar 17, 2019 #4

    TFF

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    I agree on the difference between professional pilot candidates and people who do as a hobby. Being serious is fine. Being paramilitary like you need for airline jobs, suck the fun out of the hobby part. Sometimes a student just wants to go for a ride; no need to slam a lesson on them. The time still counts. Driven studying like a job may get a commercial student a ppl in 40 hours. It takes 55-60 for people that also have to maintain regular lives. Just understand the difference and cater to who is getting taught. Especially the first 10 -15 hours; that is the make or break time for someone looking for fun.
     
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  5. Mar 17, 2019 #5

    gtae07

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    Even older airplanes would be fine, as long as they're in good condition. Perhaps older C172s with the Skyview STC and some TLC?

    Read: instructors that are there because they love to fly and want to teach, not because they just need to build time till they hit the minimums for a regional carrier. I had both as a student and I'm very glad I started with the first kind. I'd also suggest instructors who will teach flying oriented to the private/recreational/sport pilot, not the future airline pilot. Good manual flying skills and procedures appropriate to light airplanes, not bomber patterns and long airline approaches.

    Teach good paper navigation and dead reckoning skills, but be realistic about why you're teaching them. Today they're almost universally a backup for GPS, and the important skills are good flight planning, and maintaining situational awareness and good sanity checks on your electronics so you can safely and confidently complete the flight without them. "Paper, only paper, and nothing but paper" was how I was taught, but the vast majority of the emphasis and practical application was on computing ground speed and wind correction with an E6-B every 10 miles or so, and there are better things to spend your mental attention on. Good paper fundamentals, followed by responsible and realistic GPS usage is a much better use of your customers' time and money. That approach may anger the old guys and the purists, but the only-paper approach where you pretend GPS doesn't exist works about as well as assuming your kids will never even think of touching alcohol before they turn 21. It just means your students will say "the heck with this" first chance they get, and move to GPS anyway. Wouldn't you rather them use it right?

    It looks like you're at a non-towered field. Good! But make sure you get your students some decent time with towers and ATC as well. I know that's an area I'm weak in.

    Try to pick a textbook/supporting materials with the least amount of dumbed-down and/or misrepresented physics.

    Be upfront about fees and costs and policies. Don't assume your customers know the things "everyone knows" about light airplanes and airplane rental.

    Instructors should be cleaned up and present a professional appearance, but the airline-pilot-like uniform isn't a necessity (and it's honestly a little silly, IMHO). Unless you have an old taildragger or something for advanced training; then the instructor should be a grizzled old dude with a gravelly voice ;)



    Otherwise your approach sounds really promising. Good luck :)
     
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  6. Mar 17, 2019 #6

    Pops

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    The best pilot that I ever seen and flown a lot with and the best instructor and has taught more students in this state an ex- Marine pilot, FAA check pilot, I don't know any rating he doesn't have. Starts a fresh student pilot out with his first lesson with "Let's go flying and have fun".

    Bet, you can't do a worse job of butchering up the English Language than my post. :)
     
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  7. Mar 17, 2019 #7

    don january

    don january

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    Instructing approach. Say a person comes to you with a Kitfox/KR-2S or a Taylor-mono plane and wants to get their ticket. 150's 172's are great for some trigear time and to build more the commercial end of the program but I think if a school could assist more with aircraft type it would be more appealing to the public. It would be a matter of having a fleet of a few types of aircraft to school in the transition for student. IMO
     
  8. Mar 17, 2019 #8

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    Congrats and best wishes. I will post in more detail later, wife says no computer time today, family time Sunday
     
  9. Mar 17, 2019 #9

    Dan Thomas

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    That there. The things that kill flight schools:

    -Often it's airplanes that don't have everything working, or working properly. Stiff or sloppy controls, bald tires, heavy wing, poor performance or starting, radios or instruments defective, holes in the panel, upholstery shot, cracked and broken plastic interiors and so on. It costs money to maintain this stuff, lots of money, so lots of schools avoid the maintenance and dispatchability suffers. Once a customer experiences a couple of cancelled flights due to a busted airplane after he spent an hour driving to the airport, he finds another school.

    -Too many guys use instructing as a means of building time to get an airline job. They will tend to milk the student for hours and resist clearing him for a checkride when he's good and ready. That blacken's the schools reputation real quick.

    -And some instructors have paid attention only to their instructors and haven't hit the books to see that what they're being taught is correct. They pass on a lot of ignorant stuff to their students, some of whom then become instructors themselves and pass on that misinformation. Hire instructors that can quote the book stuff and have experienced it.
     
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  10. Mar 17, 2019 #10

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    Make a point of teaching hands on airmanship. Real stalls not just the sh** that is the minimum today. Teach the skills to make a real survivable emergency landing. EXPLAIN why this is worth spending a little extra money to the students. Find guys who can teach that old stuff, and make that one of the discriminators and advantages of your school.
     
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  11. Mar 17, 2019 #11

    BJC

    BJC

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    I may have been too subtle in my earlier post, so here is some elaboration.

    Your desire to make flying available to those on a limited budget is noble. To succeed with a flying school (as opposed to a club or some other form of like-minded members), you must, first, make enough profit to stay in business. That means that you will need students who are not on limited budgets, and more of them than those with limited budgets. Take care of them first, then you may be able to achieve your goal of making flying available to more people.

    It goes without saying, that all students, renters, want-to-be’s, and onlookers should be treated with the same courtesy and respect.

    Host activities, such as family picnic / hamburger cookout day, for everyone. Supportive families are important, as is a sense of belonging.


    BJC
     
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  12. Mar 17, 2019 #12

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    Our EAA Young Eagles program makes dozens of referrals to flight schools every month. So establishing a good relationship with them, and somehow supporting them financially is a really good move.
     
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  13. Mar 17, 2019 #13

    Pops

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    And if you get a reputation for teaching real highly skilled pilots, getting students will not be a problem, the problem will be finding more instructors to hire that can teach that.
     
  14. Mar 17, 2019 #14

    Dana

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    If you want to make aviation accessible, add a simple light-sport aircraft. I always wonder how many students are scared off by the seeming complexity of even a Cessna 150 panel... and I wonder how they'd feel if shown a picture of the C-150 panel next to a picture of a Cub panel and asked which one they'd prefer to start with.

    Though how to combine the proper laid back ambience of a Cub operation with the slick professionalism expected of an outfit with a 182 I don't know. The Cub operation needs professionalism too, but not slick professionalism.

    The other thing I think is missing from almost all flight schools is preparing students for flying after they get their tickets. If, say, there's an EAA fly-in at a nearby field, post it on the bulletin board and encourage ride sharing. Have suggested solo cross countries to fun airports with restaurants. If you have a lounge nice enough to draw the airport owners to hang out in, the lifestyle will rub off on them. Make sure your instructors don't put down experimentals or ultralights, as many do.

    And good luck!
     
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  15. Mar 18, 2019 #15

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    +! on making the flight school into a social center. Create a place where the airport bums can sit around and tell BS stories. Set up a table where kids (and adults for that matter) can build model airplanes, or do air combat flight sim competitions. Have a place where the "significant others" and friends can sit and play Scrabble or otherwise not be bored and angry while Billy Bob is taking his lessons.

    When the students and their families get a sense that "this is the place to be, where all the action and fun is", your school will attract and keep more customers.

    My local airport lost its little restaurant (airport management arrogance and stupidity). It was a crappy restaurant with crappy food but it was important to everyone here. It brought and kept people at the airport. So if you can find some way to get food, or snacks, or a catering truck, or a roach coach, or sandwiches associated with your school, do it. Even one of those hot dog warmers that rolls the hot dogs on hot rollers and doesn't require a whole restaurant health permit. Something that allows people to sit down and socialize, have a snack, etc.

    I agree 1000% on having a basic ultralight or LSA or "entry level" airplane as part of the school. A J-3, a Champ, or a Quicksilver, or a weight shift trike, whatever. A 7FC Tri-Champ would be great. Something with zero avionics, no screens, and less than 5 switches and gauges. Pure recreational and simplified flight.

    The reason for this is that nobody wants to get started in flying because of all the avionics and needles and FAR's and Garmin G9000 capabilities versus last year's G8000. The magic and visceral thrill of being up in the air is what makes someone decide to take the first hesitant step.

    As has been mentioned by others, only some portion of students will be there because they want to be commercial pilots. So take their money, of course. But an equal or probably larger portion will be people who "always wanted to fly", and who waited until the kids finished college, or retirement, etc. Those people have money to spend too, and they will enjoy spending it more on flying the Cub or the Champ or the M-Squared Breeze a lot more than they want to be staring at a screen in a G1000 equipped 172.

    If you can get your hands on one of the 2 seat motorgoliders, that will allow you to offer another unique and valuable experience for your students. Importantly it will give you another competitive advantage against other schools.

    Having the motorglider and the ultralight (or taildragger, or antique) will give yout he ability to claim you can offer your students a truly complete and well rounded education. It's one thing to have the instructor pull the throttle back and have the student try to find a smooth field to land in. Giving your students the experience of seeing and hearing that propeller stopped dead in front of them, and feeling that pucker-factor moment, makes your shcool "the real deal". Your students will be safer, and smarter, and represent fewer liabilities.

    All of this would position your school as the highest quality, and providing thevery best education. More importantly it allows you to advertise and promote yourself as being the school that teaches the black belt, Navy Seal, Ninja level stuff that nobody else can.

    As much as I like to think I can explain all this eloquently, what you really need to do is read two short stories by Richard Bach: "Found at Pharisee" and "School for Perfection". If you read those two stories, trust me, you'll know what to do :)
     
  16. Mar 18, 2019 #16

    Dana

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    Oh, and outdoor stuff. A deck or grassy area with picnic tables and grill and benches and chairs facing the runway.
     
  17. Mar 18, 2019 #17

    Pops

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    And large holdup numbered score cards :)
     
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  18. Mar 18, 2019 #18

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    I was a few minutes too late, you beat me to that comment !
     
  19. Mar 18, 2019 #19

    jedi

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    Wow, original post at 6 am and two pages by noon. I am late to the game already but will review prior posts. You may reference the Crashes in the News" post #2002 for my latest training comment. Great to see someone attempting to make a difference. I wish you the best of luck (you will no doubt need it) and a strong and steady cash flow. Looking forward to more communications.
     
  20. Mar 18, 2019 #20

    12notes

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    My suggestion is to require all students to do at least a few landings on a grass runway. There are tons of fantastic grass strips out there, they're unlikely to go to them if they've never landed on grass before. They might think you can't do it in a Cessna. This will also help if they ever have to do an emergency landing and there's a perfectly acceptable grass field near a not-so-good but familiarly paved piece of road nearby.
     

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