Three students who had never flown a small airplane. Seven days of intense flight training. Unassisted flights that took place in front of thousands of people at the Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida.
That’s a nutshell description of the One Week Ready to Solo project, but there’s much more to consider from a flight training standpoint. One Week Ready to Solo brought together a former U.S. Navy corpsman, a Harley-Davidson custom builder, and a global advertising manager for General Motors. None of them had previous flight experience. The goal was to show the nonflying public that the dream of flight may be more accessible than it seems.
Over seven days, the One Week Ready to Solo participants had nine sessions in a Redbird Flight Simulations simulator, nine flight lessons in a refurbished diesel Cessna 172, and five ground school sessions. On the big day, they flew “unassisted”—the CFI sat in the right seat, but he or she did not speak or otherwise interact with the student. One CFI went so far as to put duct tape over her mouth to make sure she didn’t accidentally coach her student.
Redbird Chief Pilot Roger Sharp said he made the call that the students would not actually solo at Sun ’n Fun because of the congested airspace and other concerns. Even so, “all three were proficient enough to solo at the end of the training,” he said. “This type of accelerated training is common at our school and demonstrates that flight simulation can reduce the cost of flight training, accelerate the time it takes to complete a certificate or rating, and improve the quality of learning.”
Flight training professionals know that students are likely to progress quicker if they can manage to take two or three lessons per week. Try explaining that to a customer, and you might get a blank stare or an accusation that you’re just trying to get more money out of his pocket. But it’s true, because the student retains much more after each lesson.
For some students, a compressed schedule might be their best chance for success. A modified accelerated curriculum could help get your customers to that goal, and help them to taste the freedom of flight that will sustain them for the remainder of their training. The One Week Ready to Solo students are a case in point.
You can view a series of webisodes chronicling the One Week Ready to Solo project at AOPA Online. Each episode is approximately 15 minutes in length. Your customers might like to view the webisodes and realize that, in a week, they too could be ready to fly an airplane all by themselves.
Jill W. Tallman is editor of Flight School Business.