By AOPA ePublishing staff
Adventure. Excitement. Freedom.
Sound like flying? Media professionals throughout the country are using these words to describe the wonders of general aviation as part of a promotional campaign. They’re experiencing it just like most pilots do, through introductory flight lessons.
Take Matt Gunn of The Canyon Courier (Evergreen, Colo.) in an article titled “ A flyboy at heart.”
“It was the realization of a distant dream that was lost somewhere between childhood and the unpredictable transmutations of time. But there I was, being delivered to that castle in the sky by a fixed-wing, four-seat airplane heading away from the metro area at roughly 140 mph,” he writes. “The experience was nothing short of astonishing. And equally as striking was how easy it all was.”
When Neil Ulman retired from an editorial position at The Wall Street Journal, he had the time and resources to learn to fly.
His son was already a seasoned pilot and flight instructor. In 1998 the two went on a 3,100-mile flight from California to the wilds of Canada. Ulman was hooked, but had doubts about his slower reflexes. With time and good instruction, his doubts evaporated.
“Yes, with good instruction, patience, determination, humility, time and some money, we oldsters can learn to fly,” he wrote in a recent article for the paper. “It’s a challenge, but the rewards are very satisfying.”
Ulman earned a private pilot certificate and went on to get his instrument rating.
Want to learn to fly? Check out AOPA’s resources.
AOPA’s publicity campaign to promote the fun, affordability, and benefits of learning to fly has reached more than 380 million potential pilots through nearly 1,000 print, broadcast, and Web-based stories over the past two years. It’s a key component of the Project Pilot program to get more people to join the ranks of pilots.
“The Project Pilot publicity program is creating tremendous awareness about the joys of learning to fly,” says Karen Gebhart, AOPA executive vice president of communications. “We’re excited about the positive results of the program so far. We believe we are well positioned to help contribute to the future of GA.”
Stories have appeared in such national media outlets as NBC’s Today Show, USA Today, New York Times, Success magazine, Fortune magazine, and Chicken Soup for the Soul magazine. Regional efforts have also generated hundreds of stories on TV; in daily and weekly newspapers, business magazines and trade publications; and on various Web sites.
AOPA is also reaching out to a new and younger demographic through an online media campaign. Editorial content is appearing on popular social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook as well as videos on YouTube.
The actual cockpit experience is creating more lasting impressions and shattering misperceptions. Bill Bero says he had every reason to distrust aviation. His father’s Air Force bomber was shot down in World War II, he has recurring dreams of a small airplane crashing in his neighborhood, and he got airsick on his first private airplane flight at age 9. But in a story titled “ A place to feel free” in Lake Michigan Shore magazine, Bero faces his demons.
“I’m not a bandwagon-jumper, but I’m also not getting any younger. I enjoy speed, and find that experiencing a little danger once in a while provides a rush that makes me feel alive,” he writes. “And it wouldn’t be like I would have to do this solo; a pro pilot would really be in charge of the plane.”
So how does Bero make out?
“It is a place to get reacquainted with yourself and restore faith in your ability,” he continues. “A place to feel free. Maybe someday I’ll return there—on my own. How about you?”
Those pro pilots, a.k.a. flight instructors, are central characters in all the stories. They may be young or gray, male or female, but they all come across as calm and methodical like Wayne Hendrickson of Wayne & Plane Flight Instruction in Oakland, Calif., or Gena Adams of Sky Bright Flight School in Gilford, N.H. (both young, let’s point out).
The journalists talk about the careful preflight process, then comes taxiing where they get a taste for what the controls do, and finally the actual flight.
“I’m done thinking that flying is for the pros. With no training, no Ray Bans and a mild fear of heights, I took off in and flew an airplane for less than what it would have cost me for dinner, a movie and babysitting,” writes Tim O’Shea of the Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor. “Granted, I wasn’t much help on the landing, but that’s what the lessons are for.”
Look for more of these stories to appear in the media. And help general aviation by introducing somebody to the wonderful world of flight. All you have to do is take them flying. Please send your stories to us so that we may use them in our promotional efforts.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008