Money MattersWe don't get cards and letters anymore, but we do get e-mail.
In a recent column I urged certificated flight instructors to telephone students to remind them of appointments, and I promised that such calls would be "profitable." An obviously sincere and dedicated fellow, Reilly Burke, wrote to suggest that many CFIs do it for the good of their students rather than for profit. "These," he said, "are the best instructors. They are successful because of their desire to help others." He warned me that we can "make a real mess...if we put profit first."
Lord, Reilly, ain't it the truth. I couldn't agree more.
I have been helping people sell flight instruction for a long time, Reilly, and my goal has never been to put profit first in the picture. I am just trying to get people to put profit in the picture at all.
No, Reilly, profit is not the most important thing, but it is one important thing. It is also a necessary thing. Bankrupt CFIs and bankrupt flight schools do not serve students. They can't. They are no longer in business. It has been my experience that many CFIs (please carefully note that I did not say all or even most, CFIs - but many, CFIs) seem to think that profit is a dirty word - an evil thing that shouldn't even be a consideration in flight training.
But it takes money to conduct flight training. Someone must purchase the equipment and pay for the insurance, depreciation, light bill, and, lest we forget, the CFIs. That money must come from somewhere; and, on top of all those bills, we must have profit.
Books have been written on the role of profit. The communistic/socialistic theory is that profit is a nonproductive waste. For more than 70 years they tried that theory in the former Soviet Union, with disastrous results. In the beginning of those seven decades, the U.S.S.R. was a wheat exporter. Toward the end it had to buy wheat - on credit - from us.
When there is no hope of profit, there is no incentive to invest in equipment. When nobody is willing to buy, there is no incentive to build; and this does apply to airplanes. Anyone who doubts this should study the nonexistent history of general aviation in the Soviet Union.
Profit also plays a major role in aviation safety. Talk to anyone who has worked for an aviation company that wasn't making a profit. They'll tell you it isn't just a miserable experience, but also a dangerous experience.
Lest we forget, the hope of profit not only serves the general aviation industry, it created the industry in the first place. The first airplane was a general aviation aircraft, developed with private funds, and the Wright brothers fought bitter court battles to protect their patents.
When Cessna could no longer make a profit on the single-engine aircraft used in flight training, the company quit making them. Thousands lost jobs in general aviation when profits dried up in the 1980s. The airlines' current lack of profits still has many airline pilots looking over their shoulders, wondering if the laid-off list will grow to reach their seniority number.
Aviation thrives during profitable times, and is miserable during unprofitable times. Profit is good and should be a goal - not the only goal, but a goal - for all of us.
Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.
By Ralph Hood