Category Archives: Innovations

Plane Guilt: The Unfortunate Stigma of Aviation

by Chris Findley, CFI

Recently I was having a conversation with a Charter Operator’s team about possible ways to increase their visibility and market share.  I mentioned the use of customer testimonials as part of their advertising.  They responded, “But our customers won’t do it.  They feel like people will judge them negatively because they used a private charter.”

I haven’t been able to get that thought out of my head.

There is a stigma about general aviation- that somehow these planes are the wasteful toys of the “rich”.  To admit to flying one or utilizing one for business seems to be tantamount to admitting you have stock in Exxon, own a Hummer, or that you were involved in clear cutting a rainforest.  There’s a stigma.  And ironically it doesn’t matter if you’re flying a Cessna 172, a Cirrus, Baron, or a Phenom.  People will look sort of sideways at you and wonder if somehow you’re the clandestine “millionaire next door”

There are several things that we need to understand about “Plane Guilt” if we hope to overcome it:

The relative nature of the argument. When someone uses what is perceived as “rich toys” either for pleasure or as a part of their business, there is a judgment that happens in many people’s mind.   “Mr. Jones is so extravagant and wasteful to be using that business plane. ” And many clients/owners/operators are very aware of this stigma. The argument that aviation is simply an extravagant and wasteful tool for the wealthy is completely relative.  It’s relative based on one’s perception of affluence and wealth.  What is extravagant to one may not be to another.  In many ways Americans have blinders on and miss the fact we are, in general, an affluent people.  Consider the fact that Americans and Europeans  spend enough on ice cream and pet foods to provide  water, health, nutrition, and education for the entire planet.  Also, consider that 80% of the people on the planet live on less than $10 a day.1  Of course Americans are a generous people too.  Even in the economic hard times we are facing at home, over $200 million was raised in short order for the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. 2   But realize that this relief was only possible because we, as a people, are successful.  And never mind the crucial role, dare we mention it, that private aviation continues to play in that recovery effort.  Nonetheless, we need to understand the argument that somehow Aviation is more wasteful than something else is really to give in to a selective form of logic that ignores the larger picture.

In fact, most of the pilots I know are far from wealthy (including yours truly).   Most would fall into the middle-class.  They work hard, have families, and developed their flying hobby. Even professional pilots aren’t soaking up the dollars.  The  average salary for a new corporate pilot is $32,500.   Flight Instructors average about $25 per hour before taxes (at 30%).3  Of course these can increase with seniority, but very few are making anywhere near the six-figure income many people wrongly assume. Somehow people have gotten it into their heads that pilots and those involved in GA are wealthy (which equals ‘suspect’).   Those who work in the industry know better.  Flying has a wonderful cross-section of people.  Yes, there are celebrities and wealthy people, but by far most GA patrons and operators are not.

There are plenty of other expensive hobbies that consume thousands of dollars in discretionary income each year.  Is golf looked on with equal disdain?  What about bass-boat owners?  Or Harley-Davidson riders?  There was a time when it was a bit pretentious to have a cell phone (remember when they came in those gigantic brief-case-sized bags?)  Not that long ago to have more than one car or a flat-screen television was a sign of excess.  But times, and stigmas can change.

The Expense of Charter? Charter flying can be expensive.  But it can also be surprisingly affordable.  As I was working on this article I looked at what the cost difference was between airline and charter flights for a trip from Evansville, Indiana to Atlanta.  The average price for the airline ticket was $800.  The charter price was around $780 in a modest Cessna 310.  For a bit more speed, a King Air was $944.  Jet service in a  BeechJet was $1300.  This illustrates the idea that charter can be had for less than most people realize.  Perhaps that would be worth the cost to avoid the hassle and extra fees of today’s airline travel.

But it’s the perception, right?

Overcoming the Stigma by Stories How can we overcome the stigma of Charter/Corporate flying?  We tend to argue from the statistical side, particularly the cost and relative affordability of flying.  But there’s one critical feature missing: emotion.  People often pay for a good or service because of emotion and perceived value.  One of the most effective means of doing this is through the use of stories.

Aviation needs a Jared.

When Jared Fogle was a junior in college he weighed a whopping 425 pounds.  His father, a doctor, warned him of his weight and the dangers it posed to his health.  After his roommate noticed signs of edema (fluid retention that can lead to diabetes) Jared decided to get serious about losing weight.  He discovered Subway’s new line of low-fat sandwiches and developed his own diet based on eating one veggie sub for lunch and a turkey sub for dinner.  The rest is history and marketing genius by storytelling.  Most of us have seen Jared’s commercials and know that dropped to 180lbs.  The story caught on, despite the initial resistance of Subway’s marketing firm.

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath make the point that this serendipitous campaign contains all the things necessary to be successful and “sticky”.  It is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and given by a story.  They note, “Inspiration drives action, as does stimulation.” Later they note the surprise in the story, “[Jared’s story] violates our schema of fast food…the guy who wore 60-inch pants is giving us diet advice!” (Heath and Heath, p222)

Can we find a story like Jared’s?  We need a story that violates the schema, the stigma, currently popular about flying.  Aviation has tended to depend on celebrities to make its case.  That has its advantages.  But perhaps a far more effective and change-inducing idea is to find the “ordinary person” who is utilizing and benefiting from charter aviation and has the courage to tell their story.

Because, we have a story worth telling.  Can we find our Jared?

If you have a story, I’d love to hear it!  Email me:





New T.V. Show “The Aviators”

Very excited to see this initiative!  Excellent possibilities for positive coverage of Aviation.   Help get the word out!


Reducing the Cost of Flight Training

by Chris Findley, CFI

Everyone is looking to reduce cost these days –businesses asd well as individuals.  My family certainly wants to save money and we reguarly look for deals to make the most of every dollar.  Pilots in any phase of flight training are also looking to stretch their training dollar.   I took some additional training last year in a Cessna Cardinal (177RG) and felt my wallet lighten each time the hobbs meter ticked off another tenth of an hour.  As an instructor, I believe we must be conscious of giving our students the most value for the dollar by approaching each lesson with a purpose and a plan.  As a student (and all of us ultimately are) here a few ways to help stretch the training dollar.   I’d welcome your comments and ideas to add to the list!

1.)  Conserve. You are the best advocate for your money.  Conserve it by using what you need, not what you want.  That is, you may want to fly the G1000 DA-40, but you can get more hours for less mulah with the 1977 172.  As long as it will allow you to finish your training safely and make you a competant pilot, then conserve your money.  You can transition to the G1000 later and beleive me, when you do, you’ll really appreciate it!  Also, if you are a new student pilot, you don’t need every book on the subject, the latest computers, ANR headsets, flight bags, sectional subscriptions of the entire U.S. etc.  Ask your instructor to give you a list of the basics you need.  As you fly, you’ll learn more about what you want and what is comfortable for you.

2.)  Plan. Make sure you and your instructor have a plan.  Have a syllabus and work it.  Moreover, make sure your instructor communicates it to you.   I’ve found that my students really appreciate an email a day or so before the lesson that outlines the upcoming flight.  This gives them time to prepare mentally, do some reading, and think through what they will do.  Sometimes I give them chapters in the Airplane Flying Handbook to read and/or a video I want them to watch.  If you’re not following a plan then the efficiency of the training decreases, which means the cost will increase.

3.)  Study. This is a common issue among many students.  I’ve had students reach a learning plateau because they simply neglected their studies.  Sometimes a student can be developing wonderfully –they have a “feel”, their coordination and operation is solid, but the progression through flight training simply “stalls” because the knowledge base is not there.  Sometimes people just enjoy flying so much that they just want to fly.   Failing to study will increase the amount of  explanation time needed in ground sessions.  But it will also increase the time spent with the prop spinning while receiving an explanation for things that you could have learned much cheaper with a cup of coffee at your kitchen counter.

4.)  Rehearse. Visualize your upcoming lesson, walk through it, speak aloud what you’re going to do and when.  For instance while rehearsing for stall practice you might say, “I will maintain back pressure while the airspeed bleeds off.  I will have to increase back pressure as the plane slows.   As it slows below 50 knots, the stall warning horn will sound.  I will check to insure I’m coordinated, and that I’m maintaining my heading.  As I run out of elevator, I should feel a loss of control effectiveness, followed by the first buffet of the stall as I near 42 knots…..etc.”  You get the idea.   But do that for your next lessons, anticipating the things your instructor will do based on your plan (see #1.).

5.) Practice. This is akin to #3, but I’m talking about using tools to help you practice. You might pull a cockpit photo off the internet (even better, snap a picture of your plane’s cockpit) and blow it up large enough to fill your computer screen.  Then make a copy of your checklists and procedures just as you have them (same format) in the plane.  Practice walking through your procedures with the picture as a reference.  You’ll learn the layout and understand the flow–without the hobbs meter chipping along.  I also think this is where a Flight Simulator on your PC can really help.  Make some practice flights on the sim, but you’re not focusing as much on flying the sim as much as practicing your procedures.   I did this for refreshing my mind with the procedures for the Cardinal.  I paid $10 bucks for an old version of MS Flight Sim and used the 172RG selection.  The difference did not matter for my purposes.  I was practicing the mental rhythm of the checklist –gear operation, manifold pressure changes, RPM, cowl flaps.  This helped tremendously.  Because the procedures were in my head for my lessons, I could concentrate on the maneuvers.   It’s also a good idea to stop by the airport and just see if they will let you go sit in the plane and work the checklists there on the ramp.  Practice like you play (fly)!

Conserve, plan, study, rehearse, practice.  These are five ways you can stretch your training dollar.  There are many more.  I’d love you to share ways you’ve found to make the most of your money in flight training.   Comment below!

A Neglected Market?

For a businessman or woman, obviously there can be real benefits to using corporate aviation.  BizAv can provide more access to a greater number of airports, less waiting, and greater flexibility with scheduling.

But there may be another market, perhaps a neglected one.

You wanna know someone for whom the airline travel really bites?  Try a family on vacation.

Ever try to manage a stroller, car seat, 3 irritable kids, snacks, tickets, bags, “stuff” from Disneyland, potty stops, meltdowns, and a TSA agent with a wand?

What if…and this is purely hypothetical, charter companies began offering flights for families on vacation?  There could be some cost sharing between families if the plane was large enough.  Also, on the other side of the coin, you could use modestly fast planes (King Air or even a Pilatus or Caravan on a regional leg) that would make things a bit more affordable. One site showed the King Air/Pilatus going for about $1200/hr.  If it’s a regional hop (vs a truly cross-country one) that really puts this type of flying more in reach, particularly when you consider the cost of 5 airline tickets in the peak summer vacation season.

Convenient?  Fast?  Direct flight in a King Air to Disney w/ no wrangling through the airline terminal?

Sign me up.

Embry-Riddle Tests Bio-Fuel


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which operates the nation’s largest fleet of airplanes in a college training program, said on Monday some of those airplanes will soon be burning lead-free renewable fuels produced by Swift Enterprises. “We believe this effort by Embry-Riddle and Swift will guide the way to a large-scale switch by the general aviation industry to alternative fuels,” said Richard Anderson, associate professor of aerospace engineering and chief investigator in the research project. Engineers at ERAU’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla., will perform the certification testing needed to enable more than 40 Cessna 172s, nearly half of the university’s fleet of 95 aircraft, to use Swift fuel. Embry-Riddle chose to partner with Swift because the company’s non-leaded fuel has passed an FAA detonation test and gets more miles per gallon than current aviation fuel, the university said in a news release. The fuel can be synthesized from sorghum.

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