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Bad news, good newsBad news, good news

“Palo Alto flight instructor allegedly steals plane, disappears into night over Pacific Ocean.”—San Francisco, May 18, 2015

“Solberg instructor lands in Readington Middle School classroom.”—, April 27, 2015

Which of these two headlines would you rather see associated with your flight school?

Of course you would rather not be the one fielding phone calls from the media wanting to know how a CFI could allegedly steal one of your aircraft and seemingly vanish. (As of this writing, the whereabouts of the 24-year-old Palo Alto CFI remain unknown.)

I’m sure you would much rather be the flight school whose professional-looking employee is shown in a photo explaining aviation and career opportunities to a classroom of middle schoolers.

I pick through the Internet every week to find articles about flight schools, flight instructors, and student pilots. Many of them are sad accounts of accidents. Some are truly bizarre—like the mystery of the Palo Alto CFI, or the student pilot who allegedly took off from a Nevada airport in a Piper Seminole that didn’t belong to him, and who subsequently had a rambling transmission with air traffic control in which he referred to himself as a pedophile.

So when I come across articles that shine a good light on general aviation or the flight training industry, I almost feel like cheering. Stories such as the nuns who took their very first flight in a small airplane, thanks to a CFI at New Garden Airport in Pennsylvania. Or the Guthrie, Oklahoma, pilot who recently opened his own flight school, almost a decade after he survived an airplane crash that left him with a prosthetic arm and a long recovery period from 70—yes, 70—surgeries. Or the Solberg flight instructor who took time out of her day to talk to children about aviation.

I also enjoy the stories of high school students who have soloed. These are much more common on Internet news sites than they used to be. (Here’s one of a 17-year-old in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania—complete with a photo of the young man beaming what I call the “solo smile”—the one that never wears off.) Nearly every one of these is written in a breathless fashion that conveys amazement that the student who soloed flew an airplane before he or she got a driver’s license. It’s something we take for granted, but everybody else doesn’t realize that. It’s one small part of what makes aviation special.

So, your homework assignment for the next few weeks is to start compiling those feel-good stories from your own flight school. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • New flight instructors or other personnel
  • New aircraft on your flight line
  • NAFI Master CFI status (or an FAA Master Pilot designation, if you’ve been around long enough to receive this)
  • And, of course, solo or checkride successes.

In a future issue of Flight School Business we’ll discuss how to create press releases and how to get those press releases to the media—and, in turn, to the public and perhaps some new customers.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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