When Aviation Adventures sent an email to its students and customers asking them to consider nominating the school for an AOPA Flight Training Excellence Award, they answered the call. The school, with locations in Leesburg, Manassas, and Warrenton, Va., is the winner of the Outstanding Flight School award and the Student’s Choice award for the school with the most nominations.
Reading the nominating forms, it’s obvious why the school is successful. Its instructors are professional, the airplanes are top notch, and the students are supported through a wide range of activities and extra learning opportunities. Owner Bob Hepp tries to foster student involvement through an atmosphere that he says feels more like a club than a business. “It’s more than a school,” he says. “It’s where your friends are.” They offer sessions to meet the designated pilot examiners and courses specifically designed to get pilots back in the air. There are regular fly-outs to great destinations such as the Bahamas and the Hudson River corridor.
But more than that, Hepp seems to have a group of instructors he can count on to do the right thing. In a market that is short on instructors, Hepp is incredibly picky. His interview process starts with a phone screen, goes on to a ground lesson, and ends with a flight lesson. Prior to the ground and flight lesson applicants are given materials to prepare, including the school’s standardized teaching procedures. If they teach to those, Hepp knows they have the ability to work within a system. Throughout the process, his focus is on interpersonal skills. As he says, you can teach someone to fly the airplane, but you can’t teach interpersonal skills. And the standard is uncompromising. He’ll go short of instructors before hiring one that doesn’t fit.
To help keep the staff sharp he closes the doors once a year and holds a CFI academy, where he makes sure everyone is on board with procedures and safety. The feedback on the seminar has come from the local flight standards district office, a representative from which told Hepp that it is evident in all the students that come out as graduates.
Training takeaway: Aviation Adventures standardizes training amongst its instructors. See the documents here.