Flight training marketing / business trends

jrh

Well-Known Member
After seeing so many posters in another thread complaining about their empty schedules, I'm curious about something...

Has anybody seen growth in the flight schools lately? If so, what do you think caused it to happen? A certain method of marketing? Targeting a certain demographic? A particular type of promotional offer?

If business is drying up, what do you attribute it to? The recent economic chaos? A string of bad weather? The time of year, with people busy right before the holidays?

Just trying to get a handle on what will work best for marketing in the future, as well as natural ups and downs that can't be controlled...
 

tgrayson

New Member
Has anybody seen growth in the flight schools lately?
Our flight school has probably only survived due to an influx of Indians. Why? High gas prices, slowdown of airline hiring, and now, overall economic uncertainty.

My observation is that marketing of flight training is only marginally effective. I bet if you ask most people what got them into flying, they'd say they knew someone who flew.

If I were really desperate to gather students, I'd do like the real estate agents do, very effectively: call up everyone you know (particularly if they're a pilot) and ask them if they know anyone who has expressed an interest in flying and ask for a referral. You get their number, call them, and say X referred you.
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
The current market is unprecedented in that it's hitting all tiers of the economic ladder. Those who have typically been immune to this sort of fallout are being hit hard by decreasing portfolio values. It takes a butt ton of money to learn to fly - doesn't surprise me that people are shunning it with the current economy the way it is.

Perhaps the one thing you can focus your marketing on is discovery flights - even as a gift. Even if they don't lead to primary students, perhaps the revenue can get you over the hump. Good luck!
 

CoffeeIcePapers

Well-Hung Member
Indians, Italians, Maldivians, and Cape Verde-ins (Is that a word), have been keeping us busy. There is little to no domestic training here.
 

Michael95U

Well-Known Member
The schools that are going to survive are the schools that can draw globally. If you aren't 141 and SEVIS approved, there are going to be tough times ahead. But even the foreign market is starting to slow down.

Michael
 

juskl

Well-Known Member
Need a niche. As in aerobatics, tailwheel, etc. Also government contracts help. But in the end, reputation is everything. We have numerous students from various countries. But we mostly deal with American Aviators. And they are all still coming.
 

azaviator08

New Member
141 schools are doing great. I have 8 students that keep me pretty busy. I was at a part 61 school and it was so slow I couldn't even pay my bills at all. Luckily I have a bartending job twice a week, which oftentimes makes me more money than my flight instructing job :)

When I was at the part 61 school there was no advertising or marketing besides a sign out front for discovery flights. They also had some sort of a website that was totally out of date.
 

Douglas

Old School KSUX
Weather causes me the most money.
MX is great, prompt and does not cause many cancellations.
I am booked for four or five flights a day, seven days a week. I am normally booked one week in advance.
We are a 141 school, we are one of the flight training providers for a University. Basically, if there are still loans available, we get a new batch of students every fall. Late spring gets thin though.

Even though I am booked, I have never come close to the eight hour limit. I did at my last place, but these flights only last 1.0 - 1.2 (long days little cash)
 

T56Maniac

Member
FlightSafety Academy in Vero Beach Florida currently have 7 foreign contracts and continue to grow. Several more are in the works over the next year. FSA currently employees around 80 instructors to keep up with the foreign contract demands.

We have almost no single (state-side) students anymore, because they cannot get loans.
 

Douglas

Old School KSUX
currently have 7 foreign contracts and continue to grow.

I don't know how you guys do it, I would not deal well with the language barrier.

I can't even take it when I tell my english speaking students to push right rudder and the the left rudder is promptly stomped.
or "turn to the East.".... "where does the sun set? is it setting? did you turn east?":banghead:
 

The Gardener

Terrafirma Phobic
I don't know how you guys do it, I would not deal well with the language barrier.

I can't even take it when I tell my english speaking students to push right rudder and the the left rudder is promptly stomped.
or "turn to the East.".... "where does the sun set? is it setting? did you turn east?":banghead:
Indians speak fluent English. No problemo. If you hate your job so much maybe you should consider a different line of work? Maybe flying freight?

As said before the 141/international schools are doing well still. This is going to trim off some of the strangler schools though. The place next to us has about half their fleet for sale and their pumps went dry about 3 weeks ago. My school does about 60% foreign right now. For me though I only have one at the current time. I still have enough US students. I even have one car salesman who got laid off. He is collecting unemployment and digging into his savings to complete his training. He knows that when things get better they will be a need for pilots again. We have seen at least 2 significant hiring booms since the last big dump after 9/11. That is a significant hiring surge every 3.5 years. That isn't too bad. If you get in on top you wont be one that gets laid off. Students need to start training now so they are ready to pick up first dibs.
 

Maurus

The Great Gazoo
My flight school is growing. Our north location takes care of local students and our south location takes care of mostly international students. My flight school seems like it is only slowing down as a result of weather and not people.
 

Knucklehead

New Member
If you can get on at a 141 college or university you shouldn't be too bad off. Students can always get Federal student loans, VA benefits, etc. through colleges and universities and that typically helps keep you busy.

On the downside though, instructor turnover is pretty darn low right now. As we "seasoned" instructors know, it's pretty darn tough to get a foot in the door somewhere else right now. Also, it has been my experience that colleges and universities typically hire cfi's that graduate their program.

Hang in there and good luck.
 

Sheblerep

New Member
Our business has been picking up steadily over the past month with predominantly domestic students. A lot of poeple started calling on November 5th. The day after the elections. I don't know if it was an economic factor or not, but fuel is a ton cheaper right now than it was two months ago.

We did have a slow period over the past week for Thanksgiving, The month of December, and during the early parts of January as is customary in the holiday season.

Personally, I believe that when the President-Elect was elected, it was a big relief on many people that believe we needed a large change in the government. Add in the promises of tax cuts, government subsidized health care, large corporation bail outs, and big economic stimulus checks, there is going to be a lot more money floating around for most everyone. This loosened up the wallets of the consumer enough to start flight training again.

Just my perspective.
 
R

Roger, Roger

Guest
Shebler...I hope you're right. And not just the flight training, but the overall aviation industry.
 

matt152

Well-Known Member
Perhaps the one thing you can focus your marketing on is discovery flights - even as a gift. Even if they don't lead to primary students, perhaps the revenue can get you over the hump. Good luck!
The owner of the flight school I am instructing at says the school takes a loss on every intro flight. He thinks of it as a marketing investment.

A large amount of our current students are in the flight program at a local college. Without them we would be sunk.

I think we need to encourage more doctors and lawyers about how great it is to fly.
 

tgrayson

New Member
The owner of the flight school I am instructing at says the school takes a loss on every intro flight. He thinks of it as a marketing investment.
Probably true, if he pays the instructor. I'd beware of too many marketing schemes that brings in lots of intro flights from those with low likelihood of continuing training. Our flight school used to get a zillion leads off its web site, but only a small, small percentage would ever come in for a flight, and and even smaller percentage could continue to fly. The instructors got tired of following up on those leads. Radio advertisements also brought in a small number of uncommitted students; one intro flight and they'd disappear.
 

ILS37R

Well-Known Member
My school has been... getting by. Business, generally, seems to be down, but we've picked up a government contract which has been keeping a handful of instructors busy. Our CFI-Initial qualified instructors have been quite busy, as well.

On the other hand, a lot of instructors have been sitting on their hands recently, for various reasons. In my case, my steady students passed their checkrides and my remaining students could charitably be called, "irregular." But that's more an ebb-and-flow of training issue than anything else. In other cases, we've simply hired too many instructors for the business we have. I can understand why the owner does it--after initial drug screening and a 172 checkout, hourly instructors have little to no cost unless they're generating revenue--but it makes it financially challenging for some.

The final thing I'd say about the instructors at my school who are having trouble making ends meet is that they generally only have their bare CFI.

As for marketing, we actually had to cut back on it a bit because of huge numbers of introductory flight window shoppers we were getting.

Overall, training hasn't slowed down so much as it hasn't picked up as it tends to do around now in this part of the country. Weather has been gorgeous and maintenance par for the course, so I put the blame squarely on the economy. Really, though, we need a larger sample size to make any definitive judgements where I work.
 
Top