I’ll never forget the “Big Banana”—that was the nickname for the brightly painted yellow Hughes Airwest Airline that I boarded for my first airplane ride. The stewardess (that’s what they wanted to be called then) noticed me peeking my head through the curtain to watch the pilots every chance I got, so she took me into the cockpit to meet who would become my new superhero—Captain Jim.
That was my moment when the dream came alive and the drive to become a pilot built a fire so strong that I would immerse myself in airport life, chatting with every pilot, and hanging on their every word. Scrimping and working three jobs, scrubbing hangar floors, and washing airplanes—all for the chance to fly.
Kids today are no different. They still love airplanes and are fascinated by those who fly them. But who takes the time to help them build that fire? You should, as should each of your CFIs.
Have you ever wondered why so many young people donate their time to volunteer as Civil Air Patrol cadets or for the Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation Wing when they could be at the mall or playing video games with friends? Have you ever denied a request to volunteer for the Young Eagles or refused the Boy Scouts when asked for tours and discovery flights? Have you ever found yourself relieved to finally escape the never-ending stream of questions about airplanes and flying? If you’re saying yes then you may have been unwittingly sending the dreams of future pilots out your door, along with some current and future business.
Whether their child is active in sports, music, theater, science, or aviation, most parents recognize that supporting their children in their endeavors at an early age may invariably tip the scales in their child’s favor for college acceptance and scholarship considerations. In fact, some parents have even taken their young pilots to Canada so they could solo at age 14, rather than making them wait until their sixteenth birthday here in America.
Mentoring shouldn’t be limited to youth. Studies have shown that when a private pilot student’s involvement in aviation stops when they exit your door, the chances of them completing their flight training drops dramatically. A great way to make sure you are grabbing the student is to develop a “new student” program that rewards CFIs when they successfully get their students involved in extracurricular aviation programs, such as The Ninety-Nines, Young Eagles, or any of the dozens of charitable flying groups. These new students often need a guide to help them understand how they can expand their involvement and increase their opportunities to network in aviation society. By giving them that tie into an aviation community, you are helping to ensure their success in flight training, and hopefully the future success of your business.