Flight Night event touts benefits of general aviation

March 24, 2014

Manassas, Va.-based flight school Aviation Adventures teamed with motivational speaker Ravi the Raviator to hold a Flight Night event targeting pilots and nonpilots. For pilots, it was a chance to meet with organizations and expand the use of their certificates, while nonpilots got the chance to hear a motivational presentation on the joys of aviation.

Bob Hepp is the owner of Aviation Adventures and the winner of a 2012 Flight Training Excellence Award for flight schools. He said he got the idea for the Flight Night event after attending the Flight Training Summit at the 2013 AOPA Aviation Summit. “They had people from different organizations do speed dating on their products. It was just long enough to get a sample,” he said. “I thought we have a group of pilots with certificates who want to do more than go for $100 hamburgers or fly the pattern.”

Hepp said his goal was to get pilots more active and social in aviation. “I know of organizations looking for members, so it felt right to get these two groups together.”

Then the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) approached Hepp about sponsoring Ravi’s “You Can Do It” tour. “I spoke to Ravi and he wanted to do something on the airport and I said it was a perfect fit. We had the perfect speaker, added the Flight Night name and it happened,” he said.

Hepp reached out to 21 aviation organizations, including the Northern Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society, the Virginia Aviation Business Association, and Pilots ‘N Paws, and all of them responded. “We even had the Virginia Seaplane Pilots Association just show up,” he said.

The event opened with remarks from Randy Burdette, director of the Virginia Department of Aviation. “The Ravi took the stage for an hour, where he did his presentation, gave away headsets and two flight training scholarships,” said Hepp. “Three companies, Aviation Adventures, American Helicopters, and American Aviation, each gave away two discovery flights.”

Ravi’s “You Can Do It” presentations hit three market segments: "You Can Do It—Rejuvenate Aviation," for pilots; "You Can Do It—Live Your Dream," for high school students; and "You Can Do It—Learn to Fly," for the public.

Rejuvenating Aviation is a pep rally and call to action for the pilot community, said Ravi. “I tell them that we can’t rely on AOPA or EAA to solve the problems of general aviation. We have to work on solutions too,” he said.

With Learn to Fly, the goal is to have pilots bring a nonflying friend to encourage them to take flight lessons and help increase the pilot population, said Ravi. “Finally, with Live Your Dream, I go out to high schools and talk about flying and the importance of STEM education,” he said. STEM focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math. ”We’re really trying to reach a large nonflying population at a critical age group. You can inspire them, and they can go to a local flight school like Aviation Adventure and turn their dream into a reality.”

After Ravi’s presentation, participating organizations were given five minutes to give an overview of what they do, said Hepp. “We gave them a table where people could meet with them later.”

The main intent of Flight Night was to help participating aviation organizations build their membership, allowing pilots to become more active, said Hepp. “We wanted to give those with a pilot certificate more of a purpose.”

Ravi will take his "You Can Do It" tour to Sun 'n Fun April 1 through 6 in Lakeland, Fla. “Between April 1 and April 4, I will visit 10 high schools in Polk County, where I hope to reach 2,000 kids,” he said. “On April 5, I’ll be doing an aerospace educators workshop at Sun 'n Fun to show teachers how to use aviation to showcase STEM subjects, along with an aviation forum.”

Benét Wilson

Benét J. Wilson | AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor

AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.