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Listening tour strives for flight training success

Flight school survey launched

What challenges do flight schools face, and how can the programs AOPA dedicates to building a thriving general aviation community help address them?

Students and instructors chat at a Santa Monica, California, flight school. Photo by Mike Fizer.

AOPA’s You Can Fly team has launched a listening tour to gather flight-school feedback about those big questions. The You Can Fly Flight Training Initiative is a donor-funded effort to provide flight schools with the support they need to help their students complete flight training.

“With up to 80 percent of those who start flight training not finishing, finding ways to promote student pilot success can produce more pilots from the existing pool of trainees while helping to reverse the decline of the general aviation pilot population,” said Keith West, AOPA senior director of Flight School Business Support.

The listening tour launched April 12 at AOPA’s Flight School Social at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida. It will continue at airshows and events through the fall, including a session at a Flight School Social in July at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; and a session during the Redbird Migration at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, Oct. 9 through 11.

“Our message to schools is that AOPA has been engaged in the flight training space for a long time. These are the AOPA programs that can help you today. We want to understand the challenges you face to help us create more tools to help you,” West said.

Approximately 60 people from 21 flight schools of various sizes attended the initial session in Lakeland, where AOPA presented the insights You Can Fly has gleaned about the flight training industry from surveys, studies, a Flight Training Advisory Board, and personal experience.

The AOPA You Can Fly team also introduced a survey it will use throughout the listening tour to shape strategies to help flight schools deliver the best service.

West said that preliminary survey responses suggested that, “of the things that we can help with most directly, business support and curriculum standardization rank the highest.”

“Finding aircraft is difficult,” he added.

Some flight schools also noted that their software is not user friendly—one reason some of the schools are “lukewarm as to whether their software meets their needs,” and would consider changing to a better-integrated, easier-to-use package.

Members of the AOPA You Can Fly team will be available at all four 2018 AOPA Fly-Ins to talk to flight school representatives, West said.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are entirely funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: You Can Fly, Flight School, Aviation Education Programs

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