April 13, 2011
By Ian J. Twombly
The people at Sporty’s Pilot Shop and Sporty’s Academy know flight training. The company claims a student dropout rate of less than half the national average, and through innovative programs and resources, they are seeing their business grow. Now Sporty’s Academy is supporting AOPA’s Flight Training Initiative with a new website addressing student retention.
Sporty’s founder Hal Shevers attributes the school’s success to their ability to get students to a goal that is both cheaper and quicker than the traditional private pilot route. Everyone who goes through Sporty’s Academy first earns a recreational pilot certificate, allowing them to get out and fly with a passenger in a Cessna 172 or similar airplane. By doing this, the academy is addressing the value of training, which was cited as one of the key factors in AOPA’s flight training experience research last fall.
Sporty’s Academy also encourages students to be part of a community—another influential factor from the research—by recognizing and promoting those who solo. According to Shevers, a bell sounds in the building, and everyone comes out to greet the new solo student. The shirt tail is then cut, a photo is taken, and all of it hangs on the wall for a few weeks until it’s framed and given back to the student.
Through the use of programs such as finish-ups, the recreational course, and a professional cadre of flight instructors, the academy has seen a 30-percent increase in business year over year.
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