Flight training as a business has been going through changes in the past few years. In some respects, it is growing up and becoming a more stable, more mature business offering training for students seeking career pilot employment. These changes are consolidating where training takes place and include fundamental changes in the approach that must be taken to successfully provide career focused training. With these changes there has been a shift away from a traditionally smaller footprint, local airport, business model to one that is focused an economically successful model while continuing to provide output of pilots needed to meet industry pilot hiring needs.
As flight training for career focused pilots funnels more would be professional pilots to academy, collegiate and university, and large footprint training providers, this change allows businesses to actively take advantage of economies of scale in training with respects to overhead, assets utilized in training, and securing of adequate staff to provide the training services.
A realistic evaluation of the flight training business will recognize that the historic methodology of providing training at small scale training providers with minimal flight instructor staff and limited aircraft resources is not able to meet the current modern demand of output for career pilots. Lack of standardization in training, lack of available funding for pilot trainees, and lack of full time instructors to provide training result in training delays and cost increases for customers seeking training. These and other detracting considerations often drive customers seeking professional pilot careers to overlook any convenience that might be gained by training close to home with many smaller scale training providers. Many of these customers now seek training from larger scale training providers, even if it means travelling to the training.
In addition to efficiencies and conveniences provided to customers by larger footprint training providers, many of these providers also have developed strong partnerships with airlines and other professional pilot employing companies. These hiring relationships are developed as employers seek to fill professional pilot positions and develop recruitment relationships with the training providers that are putting out the largest number of certified pilots who may be employable. Doing this allows potential employers to maximize their hiring efforts by recruiting pilots from training providers who are putting out large numbers of applicants (hundreds and in some cases thousands per year) instead of having to visit multiple smaller training providers who are putting out only a few pilots per year, which can increase the human resource cost of recruitment.
As the customer base for training becomes more savvy, these hiring relationships are seen as reasons to seek training from particular training providers and the market of customers further funnels from local small scale training providers to larger providers. Some of these providers have national scale training operations. Continue reading
Whenever you send a new aircraft for its first maintenance work after you buy it, it is always a fear that you are going to find a bunch of things that need attention, and as a result, can get expensive. So, when we sent Charlie to a mechanic friend of mine a little over a month ago to address an AD inspection, one that we thought was not actually applicable and for which we wanted to eliminate the need to inspect it on a recurring basis, with a little nervousness, we also asked the mechanic to, “give her a look over and see if there is anything else that should be fixed.”
Charlie sits awaiting my pickup…perhaps a little sad she won’t get to hang out with the P51 and Stearman in the hangar in which the maintenance was done. I have to think if these aircraft have souls, that as that sat quietly in the hangar for many nights, they shared with each other the decades of adventures they have had as we pilots transition in and out of them and pass along, with generations of pilots still flying these classic and historic aircraft.
Asking a mechanic what else they would like to fix on any vehicle is a scary, open-ended invitation to make that inspection open all kinds of Pandora’s box moments. But having a good mechanic I trust, we also wanted to know if there was anything lurking that should be addressed.
The AD we wanted to address was an old one, one that required inspection of the carburetor linkage every 25-hours. A frequent AD such as this is certainly a detractor in the regular use of an aircraft, and we suspected it had been made exempt many years ago, but the last two annual inspections had written it up as still applicable. Continue reading
Showing a pilot looking out the slid back window, soaring above clouds, with what would appear to be “the kids” in the back seat, the “great new Stinson Voyager” presents itself as the plane for the “everyman” (and I mean no disrespect to its applicability to women also, but consider the time, it wasn’t the market that was being targetted just yet).
Finding the original 1947 brochure that was presented for buyers with the documents from Charlie was one of many small treasures that gives a historical perspective on the aircraft we are now learning more about. The document is in wonderful shape and shows the detail and presentation given to extolling the virtues of this aircraft to a would be 1947 pilot purchaser who might consider all the benefits of adding a Stinson to the family set of vehicles.
The quality of the presentation is amazing. It is somewhere between a professional children’s book and a professional sales brochure. It sells what the manufacturer though would be valued at the time by the buyer and his family. Looking through it gives us an insight into a different time in aviation, and American, history.
I couldn’t look through this without wanting to share it for the historical perspective on an aircraft that has managed to live in varying degrees of relevance and utility for now 70 years.
The 545am weather check showed major improvement from the day before, so it was time to get up and get on the way for the last leg of the trip to bring Charlie back to her new home, Allegan, Michigan for the next adventures that she would share with us.
The morning found Charlie on a chilly ramp, with the temperature hovering just above freezing. I was expecting a hard start with a cold engine, but I wasn’t expecting it to be an even harder start due to the rookie mistake that I had made when we left Charlie two days earlier.
What was that rookie mistake?
Ugg, I had left the master switch on and we now had a dead battery.
Fortunately, the helpful folks at Byerly Aviation in Peoria were quick to offer assistance of a jump start, and also, fortunately, the battery is in a position that is easy to get at in this old Stinson.
With some extra power, Charlie’s engine again came to life and we were able to head off on our way as the morning sun arose in the east and we headed toward it, inching ever closer to home with every minute. Continue reading