What is the first thing many new pilots do after passing that first checkride?
Taking friends or loved ones up for a ride tops the list for many newly certificated aviators.
By the time those rides get off the ground, the passengers likely have heard all about the flight training that brought the new pilot to this happy stage. Now they will see for themselves what general aviation flying is like.
If the new pilot graduated from your flight training program and is continuing the relationship as a renter, the customer’s future flying will bring you into contact with numerous new prospects—and some may now have heightened interest as a result of their friend’s success.
These prospects are looking forward to meeting the flight instructor and inspecting the training aircraft that they have been hearing about lately. If your aviation business exudes the sense of welcome that many aviation trainees say they value as a supportive influence during training, part of the new pilot’s plan for his passengers’ entertainment will be to give them a quick tour of the flight school, with introductions to the friendly folks behind the counter, the A&Ps who keep the fleet flying—and yes, even the boss.
No matter how many people have been drawn to your facility by blind ads in publications or websites, or the occasional walk-in from the street, the visitors who find their way into your lobby (and your aircraft) with a pilot whose solo shirttail hangs on your wall may already be on their way to making the decision to start flying. So don’t miss the chance to get one of your business cards into their hands, or send them off with a cap, T-shirt, or windbreaker bearing your school’s logo. It will do double duty as a keepsake of their flight and an invitation to return.
This valuable form of contact with the public will only give you an edge, of course, if what the passengers have heard about your flight school business from the only customer they know personally has been upbeat, as well as uplifting. If their friend’s recounting of the flight training process sounds like it was a struggle or a waste of resources, it will put you behind the eight-ball. (But in that case, the new pilot will surely have gone elsewhere to become a renter pilot.)
Any operator of a customer-centered aviation business understands that service is everything, whether the goal is training a pilot, caring for an aircraft, or meeting the needs of today’s flight, such as providing ground transportation or doing a quick turn on fuel or refreshments.
A fringe benefit of meeting those needs with gusto and a smile is to learn later that the new student who just registered for your next ground school, or signed up for lessons, did so on the recommendation of a previous customer who, according to the new student, “just can’t say enough good things about your operation.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.