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Redbird SkyportRedbird Skyport

If the pilot population is to grow and flight schools are to prosper, there’s no question that the business model must include some fundamental shift. The old notion of, “If you build it, they will come,” is no longer sustainable. That’s what’s so exciting about the opening this year of the Redbird Skyport.

The Skyport, based in San Marcos, Texas, is in essence a test bed. Redbird began the Skyport as an incubator, a way to verify certain theories about the nature of the flight training business. To that end, the school has been running numerous experiments throughout its first year of operation.

Whatever the initial results of those studies may be (Redbird will present them in late October at a summit in San Marcos), it’s clear that Redbird has already succeeded in pursuing and advocating for a new approach.

Among its more dramatic efforts is the ability for students to take a checkride prior to the FAA Part 141 minimums. Everyone is trained first in a simulator, and then transitions to the airplane only when FAA standards have been met in the box. That has taken airplane time down significantly without cutting into profit margins.

Hours to checkride isn’t the only thing being tracked. Everything from the layout of the building and how money is collected to the syllabus is under review and consideration.

Even if every experiment doesn’t bring positive results, the school can already be considered a success. The first flight school to take elements of the Skyport and reproduce them in another location opened earlier this year.

Training takeaway: Redbird has set up simulator scenarios using real-life events that will form the basis of a curriculum. See the scenario.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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