Aviation Marketing – Flight Schools – Are Your Instructors Busy?

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Flight instructors Rick Sharp, left, and Tomas Martinez wait for a potential flying school student at the Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy. (Steven Georges Staff Photographer) http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_12336297

A steady stream of new students is what keeps a flight school in business. In this economy, with students scarce and money to advertise scarcer, how do you find and attract new students?

LONG BEACH – Flight instructor Rick Sharp hasn’t seen a new student in six months.

Each day he sits in the lobby of the Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy, hoping for a prospective customer. But the recession this year has taken its toll on the number of people buying flying lessons, and it has left many instructors grounded.

“See the instructors sitting by the front door?” said owner Candy Robinson. “They’re just waiting for students to walk in. They’re like vultures.”

As the owner of Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy since 1980, Robinson has seen her share of economic lulls. This year, the number of new students has dropped by about 50 percent, she said.

Robinson said most of the academy’s students come from well-to-do families in countries like India, South Korea and Mexico.

They get their pilot’s license in the United States, where it’s cheaper, and then head back home. She said local students have been scarce.

While longtime instructors usually have a steady stream of students, times are harder for newer teachers like Sharp, who are working to build their clientele, she added.”This is marketing,” Sharp said, as he sat in chair by the front door.


I would argue that there are better ways to market than to sit by the front door “like a vulture.”

There are students out there – people who are also suffering from the economy, and have access to student loans and are motivated to pursue a new career that will have them ready when the economy recovers.

How do you find these people?   Search engines and social media.

Most people that look for something on the Internet use search engines like Google or Yahoo. If your site is one of the first that pops up when they enter “flight instruction salt lake city,” for example, you’re more likely to have the person visit your website, and give you a call if they like what they see.

Another way for these potential students to find out about your flight school is to promote your site through social media.  If you have a mechanism that allows students to easily post an article about their first solo or about landing a flying job on their Facebook profile, all their friends and family will know about it. Some of those friends and family may be interested in flight training for themselves or someone they know.   This electronic “word of mouth” works the same way as the traditional variety – people are more likely to walk in the door if they heard about your school from a friend or family member.

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26 thoughts on “Aviation Marketing – Flight Schools – Are Your Instructors Busy?”

  1. I always dreaming when I was child to become a pilot, but the destiny show me to become blogger like nowadays, Thanks for your post

  2. There is no doubt the the global recession has had a dramatic and negative impact on flight schools throughout the United States. Here in Central,FL on less than 4 flight schools have closed! This is due to 3 factors:

    1.) A lack of domestic student base. U.S. students are having an increasingly difficult time getting financing for flight training. The cut off of flight funds by Sallie Mae has devestated some flight schools and most U.S. students simply do not have thousands of dollars lying around to spend on the “luxury” of flying.

    2.) In addition, many potential domestic students are choosing other careers because of the increasing regulation and especially lack of pay in the early years.

    3.) Worldwide growth has also slowed considerably. International students from China and Asia are not comming to this country in the numbers they were just two years ago.

    4.) The credit crisis has limited the amount of money flight schools can borrow to buy new aircraft, make payroll or even run their business.

    This perfect storm is not going to solved by simple marketing. It is going to solved by a global economic recovery and loosening of the credit markets.

  3. As a business trainer I feel the pain of the flight schools as they grapple with the recession, but I also see the wisdom of following the advice in this blog.

    Don’t sit around doing things the way you always did them. You have to change your whole mindset and approach. This advice from ABCI is spot on. Get them in to help you. You won’t regret it.

    If you can survive the current downturn, when the economy recovers, you will be in a very strong position because the field will have thinned.

    This is what we are starting to see in our own area which is business training.

    Every week brings news of training schools going under because they are not adapting. We are not going to make that mistake. We are cutting costs and changing the way we market ourselves. When the upturn comes we believe we will still be around and in an even stronger position.

    Take up the offer of a free initial consultation. Believe me, it will be the smartest thing you ever did.


  4. In my opinion recession is no long.Students are again taking interest in becoming pilot, because this is the field which cannot be down for a long time.

  5. Federal loan consolidation can be an excellent way to save money on loan repayment. Of course, always check out the reputation of the consolidator before signing a contract.

  6. While there is some truth in this statement…. “Most people that look for something on the Internet use search engines like Google or Yahoo. If your site is one of the first that pops up when they enter “flight instruction salt lake city,” for example, you’re more likely to have the person visit your website, and give you a call if they like what they see.” The same could be said years ago for naming yourself AAA flight instruction to be first in the phone book, or having a large phone book ad etc…

    A form of marketing such as the above is better than just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, or someone to walk in the door… but only a tiny tiny bit better. Its the same deal with having a twitter or a facebook page, its just a tiny bit better than doing nothing, even though social media gurus likely would suggest otherwise.

    Marketing takes work, short cuts dont cut it, no matter how new, or how well they are sold. Marketing also takes risk. Folks fail to see the risk of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, the door to open, the facebook to get commented, or to be retweeted. Sitting around is perhaps the biggest risk, and one of the biggest reason flight schools dont have students… and also why aviation is so darn expensive too.

  7. Excellent response, Ron!

    I agree- When the economy was good, people didn’t need to think very much about marketing- students were plentiful and word of mouth worked fine. And there was money in the budget to commit what we like to call “random acts of marketing,” which worked to varying degrees and that was fine.

    In a bad economy, companies that never had to learn the basics of marketing and apply sound principles are at a profound disadvantage.


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