The philosophy behind the enhanced AOPA Project Pilot program is ringing true with members. They are realizing the need to reverse the trend of a declining pilot population. A potential new pilot might literally be sitting right next to you.
Take Dick Reeves ( AOPA 608648) of Huntsville, Alabama, who signed up his neighbor, Leedy Aboudonia. Reeves, who has been a pilot for 28 years, said she already had expressed an interest in learning to fly and plans to begin her flight training in August. Reeves previously participated in the program as a Mentor about five years ago and created not only a new pilot, but a partner for his Piper Turbo Saratoga.
Bill Chandler ( AOPA 4550170) of Woodbine, Maryland, was already acting as a Mentor on his own when the updated Project Pilot program was formally unveiled on June 2. When he heard about it, he thought it was a great new source of encouragement and immediately signed up.
He had been meeting monthly with Ron Bromley, who began flight training about six months ago. When Chandler was a student, he said he didn't have the support network that Mentors can provide. Bromley is now nearing his first solo. "I still remember my experiences," Chandler said. Chandler has been flying for about two and a half years and is the co-owner of a Piper Warrior. Chandler met Bromley through church.
Another man saw Chandler's AOPA hat at a church function and also expressed his lifelong interest in flying. His kids are grown, and he finally has the time and resources to begin flight training. Chandler hopes to sign him up for the Project Pilot program as well.
And Calvin Thomas ( AOPA 1030276), a tailwheel instructor at the Andover Flight Academy in Andover, New Jersey, is mentoring Clair Lamoureaux. He said that students need more than a good instructor to round out their education. The student wants to show the instructor confidence and oftentimes is afraid of asking what might be perceived as a dumb question. The Mentor can boost confidence and keep the motivation going, particularly after the first solo when many students are likely to quit flying because they had accomplished a goal and the next one is much farther away.
Project Pilot provides powerful tools, centered on the new Web site, www.AOPAProjectPilot.org, which will help you as a Mentor keep in touch with your student and track their progress while providing support, tips, and encouragement. It's fun and takes little time, and the payoff lasts a lifetime. If you don't know of an immediate prospect, several people have signed up on our Project Pilot Web site seeking mentors.
June 9, 2006