For many years efforts to attract future pilots to flight training or pilot training programs included efforts such as the now-defunct Be a Pilot program. However, this technique has not proven to be successful and has done little to combat the 80% drop out rate among new student pilots at flight schools. Be a Pilot efforts including a television campaign, direct marketing and financial marketing assistance to flight schools did not produce the desired results.
The results of the study showed that students want more productive, well organized, helpful and respectful interactions with their flight instructors, something they say they’re not getting enough of now. Students also want lessons of high value that they perceive are helping them to achieve their aviation goals and to have certain milestones available as their training proceeds. Finally, the report indicates student pilots want to be a part of a community and have more flexible schedules for training.
According to AOPA’s study, cost is not the overriding factor in students’ decisions to drop out, a welcome finding for those in the flight training industry since the costs of attending flight schools or other flight training facilities is not likely to go down. Students simply want more out of their training and instructors, issues that could be easier to correct.
Retaining high quality instructors has been another issue flight training programs have had to deal with over the years. Many flight schools pay low salaries and wages to instructors to keep costs as low as possible for students. Could the AOPA report be the tipping point for some schools to embrace high-quality instructors and the higher pay that goes along with that change? Only time will tell.