December 2015 - Page 2 Aviation Articles

Planning Ahead For Your Aircraft Replacement

How long does it take to acquire an aircraft? For a cash deal, with very straight forward tax and ownership structures, and allowing for the due diligence and pre-buy inspection, you could close the deal with everything going perfect within a month or less. Add in real-world delays, financing, and ownership and tax planning, a more realistic minimum may be six months. Want to spec out a new aircraft, choosing your paint, interior, and other options? Six months if all goes well, but plan for longer, especially for in-demand models. Trying to sell your current aircraft, too? Could take even longer. I think the real answer to "how long" is two to three years. 

I have one prospect who has an aircraft lease expiring in 2019. They are looking for a study to help them identify and cost out their next aircraft. They have had their current aircraft for 13 years. Another active client has been looking at replacing their aircraft for the past eight years, with a hiatus from 2008 to 2012. 

Many corporations look out at least five years in their detailed planning with some, famously Toyota, having a 100-year business plan sketched out. For the corporate flight department to be an effective team member, they to need to plan with the same detail and discipline as their corporate parent. The aviation department needs to be proactive in meeting the air transportation needs of the company. Yes, events like a recession or major catastrophe will throw all those plans out. Good plans, whether for the company or aviation department, look at these key areas:

  1. The current situation and how well you are meeting the short-term goals.
  2. Clearly identifying the long term goals
  3. Identifying current and future needs and requirements to meet the long term goals
  4. Best and worst case scenarios
  5. Creating or identifying milestones and performance metrics to indicate how well goals are being met
  6. Having actionable steps to move in the direction of the goal

The third item, needs and requirements, is where the two to three year planning comes into play. Planning for a major acquisition should be done methodically. Budgeting and detailed travel planning really can only look out two years for most companies. The aviation department needs to be head of the corporation in identifying what its equipment needs will be. Waiting until the current aircraft is not capable of meeting the changing air transportation role, or is costing too much to operate, falls short on the aviation department's service goal.

The tough part of getting approval for the next aircraft is often that the aviation department is doing a great job with what they already operate.  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" along with the magnitude of the acquisition price gets balanced against the short-term profitability goals of the company. This is where the people and management skills of the aviation manager can be tested. How well have you done your job of being known as a team player for the executive team? Is aviation just "the boss' plane" or is it seen as serving the corporate mission? Along with the two-minute elevator pitch for why you need to replace the aircraft, do you have the details the CFO or Board of Directors may need?

Doing detailed planning for the aircraft within the scope of your five-year plan allows you to identify and prepare management for those infrequent, high cost, maintenance inspections, overhauls, and upgrades needed. During the acquisition process, being prepared also aids in the aircraft price negotiations.  Negotiations from a position of strength, and a willingness to walk away from a deal that doesn't work will get you a fair price easier than being seen as needing an aircraft right away.

Having a plan and updating as you go is far easier than always being reactive and shooting the closest alligator. Sometimes things go awry, but when you have a plan, you at least know how far off course you are and the direction needed to get back.  Last tip, a plan is not worth much unless it identifies at least the next major action needed to accomplish the plan. 

I hope you all are ready for 2016 to 2020 (FAA NextGen anyone?). 




It’s Not You, It’s Your Instructor: Are You a Victim of Bad Flight Instruction?

Did you start flight training and not finish? Or maybe you started, took a long hiatus, and then returned to it in a better place at a better time.

There are many reasons people quit flight training. They get busy, start families, run out of money. Life happens. These are acceptable setbacks. But there are many other setbacks and challenges during flight training that, in my opinion, are unacceptable, and the most frustrating of these is poor instruction.

I recently had a conversation with a medical professional about flying. The conversation started out like many of them often do - we discussed our respective professions, and he mentioned that he began flight training when he was younger but never finished. When I asked him why, he described a myriad of flight training problems and challenges not uncommon to new students, but that he accepted as his own problems. He just wasn’t a good pilot, he said.

At first, it would seem that this particular person might have given up too quickly or too easily, but further into our discussion, I began to see a bigger story - a relatively common story that as a flight instructor, I really despise hearing.

Here’s a perfectly capable person- a medical professional and a seemingly well-respected business owner in the community - who is led to believe he can’t fly. "Some people just have the natural ability to fly, I guess, and I’m not one of them," he said. In discussing the topic further, though, it was clear that whatever instruction he had accomplished with his instructors in the first few hours wasn’t productive, wasn’t positive, and gave him a bad perception of flying.

Throughout our conversation, I discovered that he had been physically uncomfortable in the airplane (an airplane not really ideal for flight training, to begin with). I learned that he was unable to reach the rudder pedals, that he was all but reprimanded when he lost sight of the airport and was unable to navigate back to it on the first lesson. He said he wasn’t offered ground training and didn’t feel like he progressed.

Have you heard similar complaints before? Me, too. Is it possible that he was a student who showed up unprepared or didn’t make his instructor aware of his inability to reach the rudder pedals? Sure. But a bad pilot after only a few hours? Nah. There are outliers, to be sure, but the majority of flight students who walk into a flight school are eager to learn and capable of learning. We need to do better.

In a short conversation, I couldn’t convince him that he’s wrong, that he was likely (and unfortunately) the product of terrible instruction, and that it’s not like that everywhere. But I tried. I tried to reassure him that there are more professional instructors out there, more comfortable aircraft, simpler aircraft, and something called ground school, all of which would help alleviate many of his challenges, misconceptions and insecurities.

It might be too late for this person - I hope not - but if we’re serious about saving general aviation, if we want flight training to be a robust and successful industry within general aviation, we have to do better. Flight training is a serious venture, and one we need to approach cautiously, with safety in mind. But after ensuring safety - rather, along with the assurance of safety - flying should be fun. As instructors, we should be teaching students, encouraging students, and making aviation safe and enjoyable for students.

When it’s not fun, students quit. When they’re belittled, students quit. When they don’t feel safe, students quit.

I wonder how many other prospective pilots are out there with similar stories about initial flight training? How many of you started flight training and were faced with similar challenges and problems? How many of you quit and maybe found your way back somehow, eventually, after moving to a new flight school or befriending a new instructor? How many of you haven’t yet found your way back?

If you’ve had a bad experience with initial flight training, I urge you to find a new place to fly, or a new instructor to fly with. It’s not like that everywhere.

YOU Should Finish Your Flight Training

Perhaps you are one of the thousands of people who have always looked to the sky when an airplane passes over, pausing in awe. You have been determined to fly your entire life, but just never completed your training. Your dreams may have been temporarily grounded due to money, children, work obligations, or simply not feeling qualified. There is no reason that your dreams have to be put on hold anymore, and I am here to give you some inspiration for why you should finish learning how to fly.

Earning your pilots license is a huge accomplishment, but it is not as unobtainable as some seem to believe. The majority of people I interact with outside of my flight university see flying as this magical, dangerous pursuit. Some ask if it is scary, but the most common question by far is, "just how difficult is it to fly an airplane?" I’m here to tell you that flying is difficult. Earning a college degree is difficult. Flourishing in a career is difficult, raising a family is difficult, and anything that is worth doing is going to be difficult.

The one thing that separates those who can’t with those who can is determination. If you determine that you will finish training, you will put in the hours it takes and you will learn the material and succeed. If you continually make excuses for why you can’t finish training, then you never will finish.

There is a possibility that you are on this website right now looking at the huge selection of aircraft for sale and wondering what it would be like to own your own and fly it whenever you wanted. There are affordable options, and earning your license is the first step to becoming an aircraft owner and successful aviator. You might not even need more inspiration for why you should earn your license, but I have compiled some great reasons that I like to remind hopeful future pilots of.

Flying Increases Your Intelligence

Like most hobbies, flying requires you to learn something new every day. However, unlike most hobbies, almost everything you learn in training is transferable to another skill set. A pilot has to be proficient in time management, communication, resource management, and decision making, to name a few. You will constantly be sharpening different skills that apply to situations outside of the airport.

You Have Options

Not everyone wants to become a licensed Private pilot, but many do want to fly. There are several options out there for that as well, such as a Sport Pilot license and flying gliders. These have limitations on taking passengers and can be less free as far as regulations that must be followed, but for a fair weather flyer they are perfectly viable options. The great thing about aviation is that it is incredibly diverse. Find something that fits your lifestyle and dreams and run with it!

You are Joining a Great Community

Some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting are pilots. Not only are they wise from years of continual learning, but they are also adventurous and supportive. The aviation community is very welcoming, and you can feel at home at almost any airport you visit. I suggest joining a local chapter of EAA or the Ninety-Nines if those interest you. If not, simply sitting around in an FBO often leads to great conversations.

It Will Look Great on Your Resume

No matter what field you’re in, adding that you have your pilot license is a great addition to your resume. It shows your potential employer that you have dedicated yourself to working hard on a single task for a long period of time and earned it. Employers are looking for well-rounded individuals and having this qualification makes you stand out in a sea of other candidates.

So Many New Adventures

My fiancé and I flew to over 25 different airports in our first year of dating. I can think of something memorable or exciting about every single one of them. Whether it be the people we met, the hangars we explored, or simply how beautiful the sunset was while we sat on the porch of the FBO, none of those amazing memories would have happened if we didn’t decide to go on an adventure and fly to a new airport. Taking to the skies opens up so much possibility for adventure and lifelong memories.

Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Why not chase after your dreams?

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