AOPA has launched the new Center to Advance the Pilot Community designed to arrest a decline in the pilot population that has been occurring for several decades. The center, led by Senior Vice President Adam Smith, will focus on projects that have clear, measurable outcomes.
“The decline in the pilot population didn’t happen overnight and reversing the downward trend requires a long-term commitment,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “The Center’s first few initiatives are just the beginning of what will become a much more robust and wide-reaching program that builds a community in which more people earn pilot certificates, pilots are more active, and the flying lifetime of pilots is extended.”
The first major initiative of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community will be to support the development of a network of flying clubs. Extensive research has shown that flying clubs are a valuable part of the aviation landscape and that the most effective ones help keep aviation affordable and accessible. They also create a supportive community that keeps pilots active and engaged.
AOPA will work to promote flying clubs nationwide and provide the tools and resources clubs need to build on their own success and that of their members. As part of that effort, the center will develop a flying club network to strengthen the bonds among pilots and clubs nationwide with a goal to link 1,000 clubs in the next five years.
AOPA will reveal comprehensive research on flying clubs and make available valuable, new resources at noon Pacific Daylight Time on Oct. 12 at AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif.
The center also will continue the work that AOPA began a couple of years ago with the Flight Training Student Retention Initiative. AOPA’s detailed research found that as many as 80 percent of student pilots drop out of training without earning a certificate. Reducing the number of dropouts by as little as 10 percent could see thousands of new pilots entering the general aviation community each year.
The center will now oversee projects including the Flight Training Excellence Awards, created to recognize flight schools and certificated flight instructors that provide top-notch training experiences. Through these awards, AOPA has identified the best CFIs and flight schools in the country.
In the first year, AOPA received more than 2,400 nominations from satisfied students and customers. The winners of the first AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards will be announced during Summit at a gathering on Oct. 10.
The center also will be making available three Flight Training Field Guides designed to optimize the flight training experience for flight schools, instructors, and students. AOPA is pleased that Cessna Aircraft Co. will be distributing copies to each of its Cessna Pilot Centers across the world in an effort to encourage the customer experience concepts these books instill.
“Turning around the decline in the pilot population is a tremendous challenge and our members and others in the community are looking to AOPA to provide leadership in this area. We have made the commitment to create the Center and are dedicated to sustaining and growing this effort in order to strengthen general aviation now and for future generations,” said Fuller.