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Who will get Carl’s money?

My friend Carl is 68 years old. He is married but has no children. He’s still working full-time, but he’s planning to retire soon, and he knows he’s going to need a hobby

Carl is a history buff. He and his wife, Michele, came to AOPA’s 2019 June fly-in in Frederick, Maryland, specifically to see the C-47s. Carl doesn’t like flying in commercial airlines, but he loved the small airplanes he saw on the ramp at Frederick Municipal Airport. He talked about buying one and starting lessons, but that was as far as it went.

Carl likes motorcycles, too. On Sunday, May 26, 2019, Carl happened to be driving along an interstate alongside Rolling Thunder, which is the caravan of motorcycles that heads to Arlington Cemetery in Virginia each year in observance of Memorial Day. (Rolling Thunder this year changed its name to Rolling to Remember.) From his car, Carl got to see lots and lots and lots of cool motorcycles up close.

On Monday, May 27, Carl and his wife spent the afternoon visiting the local Honda and Harley-Davidson dealerships, looking into the requirements to get a motorcycle license and take lessons. Even Michele, who has declared that she is not getting onto the back of a motorcycle, was charmed by the Harley-Davidson gear designed for women.

I believe Carl will pursue the motorcycle license when he does retire. As someone who was able to actively witness Carl’s engagement with aviation and motorcycles, it was interesting to predict which one will likely earn his dollars, based on the level of enthusiasm he showed at each event and the follow-up research he did.

Like I said, Carl loved the airplanes at the fly-in, but he’s a stranger to general aviation. He didn’t talk to any flight school representatives—and there were several at the event. He and Michele didn’t even go into the main exhibit hall because “it seemed to be for pilots,” and they are not pilots. They were spectators, not participants, and nobody tried to change that.

Watching the motorcycles roll by on the highway, Carl saw a bunch of people his age among the riders. He saw himself, essentially. That, I think, prompted him more than anything to visit the motorcycle dealerships the next day. And I’m pretty sure that the sales folks in the Harley-Davidson dealership saw him as an opportunity—not a spectator—and invited him to join their community.

If you see a Carl and a Michele wandering around near your flight school, or at an airshow, looking intrigued and excited but maybe too intimidated to know where to begin, it’s up to you to make that first move. A smile, a greeting, a “How’d you like to fly that? We can show you how!” could be all it takes to convert the Carls and Micheles from “onlookers” to bona fide customers.


Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.

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