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Celebrating the soloCelebrating the solo

The solo: one of the most significant days in a pilot’s life. We remember that special day—perhaps more vividly than we recall the day we took a checkride—because it signifies the day we could truly call ourselves pilots. Case in point: an 87-year-old pilot who recently planned a visit to AOPA headquarters to talk about the seventieth anniversary of his solo.

What other occasion in aviation is the punchline of its very own joke, supposedly uttered by a nonflying friend: “You mean they let you fly the airplane by yourself?”

It’s a big deal. And if you’re not making it a big deal, you’re missing out on a significant marketing opportunity.

The solo is proof not only of your customer’s achievement, but also of yours. After all, your instructor got the new pilot to the point where he or she could take off and land an airplane without any help.

Taking a photo is the least (and I mean the very least) you should do. Here are some other ideas:

  • Photos: These can easily be shared on social media. Some flight schools post photos in the lobby or other common area (again, it’s a good way to make your clients feel good about their accomplishments while signifying that your flight school is successful at making new pilots).
  • Shirt-cutting: There was a time when every flight school celebrated a solo by cutting a student’s shirt, but the practice seems to have become more hit and miss in recent years—which is a shame. The shirt tails make a great keepsake. They can be framed or simply thumbtacked on display in a flight school’s lobby.
  • Videos: These are just starting to gain a foothold among flight schools, but if you want an example of how to do it right, check out Sporty’s Academy at Clermont County Airport (I69), Batavia, Ohio. The videos are nicely produced with a musical soundtrack and graphics that show the airplane’s flight track and the altitude and airspeed. Here’s one you can view.

If you celebrate solos in a fashion that’s more creative than these suggestions, I’d love to hear about it ([email protected]).

Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.

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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