Positive word of mouth has helped GT Aviation become one of the most successful flight schools in the Washington, D.C., area.
As mentioned in the March 10, 2015, edition of Flight School Business, GT Aviation is located at Potomac Airfield in Friendly, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone. Owners Tim and Karen Poole launched the business in 2009. When I contacted Tim Poole for an update on the flight school, I asked his strategy for attracting new business.
“A lot of it is word of mouth,” he said.
In addition to striving for high levels of customer satisfaction, Poole said he tries to participate as a member of the aviation community in various venues, including the DC Pilots Yahoo group and the AOPA Forums.
“For the most part our reputation has preceded us,” he said. “When I see people asking for recommendations on where to learn to fly, we’re normally in the top among names of schools” that are mentioned.
“For the most part, you have to be careful how you structure those,” Poole said of the daily deals. “If you’re a mom and pop business and you offer a widget for half off and you sell a thousand, you’d better be able to deliver a thousand and eat that loss.”
“We haven’t had that issue with intro flights,” Poole said. “We know we’re taking a loss, but at the same time, the redemption rate of people coming out and showing up to [take the flight] is remarkably low. A lot of these are bought directly by people or as gifts for other people, and we might see a 50 to 60 percent redemption rate on a given deal. That’s extremely rare, so we might end up making a little money because people buy these things and never claim them.”
Other aviation professionals echo Poole’s comments about taking care to structure Groupon deals. Here are some more specific ideas from the May 20, 2011, issue.
Finally, GT Aviation has a Facebook presence—both a traditional “fan” page and a public group. Both pages share news as well as solo and checkride photos and other customer accomplishments.