I recently found an earnest online discussion of how to engage walk-in visitors at a flying club. The original poster said he recalled being in their shoes, “going from school to school trying to find one I liked, and encountering so many schools who never really took me seriously, were unwelcoming, didn’t seem to care, or were too busy to take on more students.”
“I don’t want to be that person who acts like a barrier to people getting into aviation by scaring them off,” the poster said. He asked for advice, and he specifically wanted to know whether other commenters remembered anything that positively affected them when they first decided to learn to fly.
First, a hat tip to this person, who doesn’t want to be “that guy” (“that guy” who was too busy to answer a question, or stared through the customer who walked in to ask about flying lessons, or overwhelmed a potential client with a lot of information that he couldn’t make sense of, so he shrugged and walked away).
Second, in relating this online discussion I don’t wish to regurgitate a batch of advice from random commenters on the Internet. I do want to pass along one bit of wisdom that I found particularly compelling.
“To sell flying, walk them out to the flight line and let them sit in a plane or two. Get them feeling like they are entering a new world rather than keeping them inside where they feel like they aren’t allowed access to the gate.”
It sounds stone simple, but I wonder how many flight schools do this.
This advice came from a pilot who had taken an introductory flight at a different flight school. The CFI was 20 minutes late. “We talked a little bit on the ride. I tried to ask a bunch of questions while I could, but he gave me the impression that he just wanted to leave. I never went back.”
The pilot eventually visited another flight school. “A flight instructor came out, asked me a couple questions, walked me out to their planes, let me sit in the plane I would be flying, took the time to answer all my questions, walked me through what it would take, etc.” He signed up for lessons that day.
After his bad experience at the first flight school, it’s not surprising he took his business elsewhere. What makes an impression on me is that he was won over by the flight school whose employee took the time to walk him to the flight line, let him sit in an airplane, and demystify the process. As another commenter said, “Welcome people into aviation, and they’ll find it’s not that intimidating after all.”
Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.