President's Position

What if...

July 1, 2012

 

Some months ago at AOPA, we asked ourselves one of those “what if” questions.

It went something like this: What if we could find a meaningful way to share everything we know about what makes a successful flight training experience?

Craig Fuller

The question, and our answer, is the result of more than a year of comprehensive research and a national conversation with the flying and training communities.

First we put all that we know from our recent work on our website. Then we launched the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards brought to you by Flight Training magazine and we’ve received more than 1,000 nominations already. You can nominate a school or instructor. However, we wanted to do more.

Some of us had been visiting with a company called IDEO in Santa Clara, California. This unique design company has joined us in focusing on the question of how we can grow the pilot population. There are pilots among IDEO’s employees, but the firm’s real contribution comes from looking at our challenges from different perspectives.

Taking on our “what if” question, the IDEO team worked with an AOPA team. They pondered our research. They spoke with pilots and student pilots. They examined flight training from the perspective of the student, the flight instructor, and the flight school.

Then one day, the combined IDEO and AOPA team presented me with three of the most innovative and exciting books about learning to fly that I’ve ever seen. They are packaged as field guides on flight training. One book is for the student. The second book is for flight instructors, and a third is for flight training organizations.

The beauty of these books is that they are all interrelated, and all contain the best thinking we know of on what contributes to successful flight training. But they aren’t meant to sit on a shelf for occasional reference; they are designed to be used as workbooks during the training experience. They are quite literally a guide, taking student, instructor, and flight school through the optimum training experience.

So, we now have the answer to our “what if?” We can share all of the best insights we’ve gained about what to look for, expect—and, yes, even demand when it comes to flight training with every individual who dreams of flying.

Of course, just educating the prospective student pilot is not enough. Here’s where the companion field guide for the flight instructor comes in. It is so logical. No training experience is going to work out well unless the student and the instructor are in sync. So, all that we know about what is critical to successful flight training from an instructor’s point of view is in the instructor field guide. The third book, for the flight training organization, talks about its critical role in this process.

As excited as we are about these field guides, IDEO strongly recommended they be tested. Thanks to more than 100 volunteer students, instructors, and schools, the testing validated the value of the Flight Training Field Guides, and production is under way.

We want to share the Flight Training Field Guides and talk to people about them, and so we are bringing them with us to AirVenture in Oshkosh at the end of the month. There will be a team in our tent to share the guides and get your reactions. We also want thoughts from the general aviation community about just how best to release the guides so they are effectively utilized. Look for more in ePilot and in our other publications as the guides become available.

If you have ever wondered what you could give a friend that would share what he or she needs to know about learning to fly, well, now you can!

I am very excited about this and other efforts we have under way. All of this work will be part of a new Center at AOPA to build the pilot population and strengthen the general aviation pilot community.

We look forward to sharing more with you about this initiative at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs this October. You can register for Summit and learn more about what’s in store online and see “Reaching the Summit” on page 74 of this issue.

Email AOPA President Craig Fuller at craig@aopa.org.