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Professionally Speaking

Here He Comes, Ready Or Not!

There's a brand new student headed your way. This young man is in search of pilot training, and you just may be the CFI he ends up with. Let me tell you about this fellow....

Joe (not his real name) is a computer engineer by trade. Although he has tried to explain it, I can't really understand his job. He must do it fairly well, though, because his company sent him to Israel and Germany last year to help solve customer problems.

Joe is somewhat of an enthusiast when it comes to recreational activities. He owns guns and has been to several shooting schools; he owns a BMW motorcycle and has taken basic and advanced motorcycle driving schools. Then there's the SCUBA gear and the two open-ocean diving schools. He is also a certified emergency medical technician, teaches ballroom dancing, and speaks several languages. Once Joe gets involved in something, he goes whole hog. He has ridden that motorcycle on several trips of more than a thousand miles, and once he rented a motorcycle for a tour of Denmark.

Joe grew up in a general aviation family. His pilot father let Joe "fly" the airplane at age 6 or so. (Joe's big thrill was at the end of the trip, when his father let him shut the engine down by pulling the "red knob." Joe pulled it at 3,000 feet once and added 10 years to his father's age.)

Obviously, Joe has the interest, the budget, and the background to learn to fly - and the desire to do it right. And even as I write this, he is in the process of selecting a school and a CFI. (You may wonder why he got into all those other activities first. It's simple - somebody asked him to try those other recreational activities. Somebody sold him on the idea. Nobody has ever tried to sell him on flying.)

Here's my question: As Joe visits airports, how will the schools compare with what he has seen at motorcycle, gun, EMT, and dancing schools? Will he be impressed or discouraged? Learning to fly will be the most expensive recreational school he has attended. The equipment will be the most expensive. Flying after he gets the certificate will be more expensive than his other activities. He rather expects the facilities and the professionalism to be proportionately higher, too. Will he find that to be true, or will he be disappointed?

Joe has worked with professional adults since he went to work debugging software for an engineering firm when he was 14. Will he find equal professionalism at the airport?

Now hear this: There are a lot of Joes out there. AOPA's Mentor Program has produced a bunch of them. The Be A Pilot program will be running TV ads by the time you read this, and those ads are fine-tuned now to reach others who are interested in flying and can afford to pursue that dream. Those ads are designed with one purpose in mind - to get people out to the airport so you can explain the joys of flying. In fact, you may see more prospects coming to the airport this year than ever before.

In other words, here they come, ready or not. Are you ready? Or not?

By Ralph Hood

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