Christmas light rides for fun or profit

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Christmas lights from an airplane

Christmas light rides for fun or profit

As a starving flight instructor working for a start-up FBO in a small town of 25,000 people, we were always looking for ways to drum up new business. The Christmas of 1992 we concocted a great plan; we advertised Christmas Light Rides all over town. Ads were put in the paper and fliers were posted in all the major hangouts.

The goals were simple, I needed flight time and money, the FBO needed the cash flow, and we both needed to promote aviation in the hopes that some of these customers might convert to students and then maybe aircraft owners or renters. Sounded like a great plan, and it was.


My steed was a “gentle-used” 145 horsepower C-172, which worked fine at our field elevation in the cool winter nights in Oklahoma.

We charged $15 per person and the C-172 was renting for $62/hour with instructor. The flights were all less than 1/2 hour so even with a two person minimum we came out ok. Most loads were 3 people.

Honestly, if you have ever flown at night over a town during Christmas at 1000′ agl, the lights aren’t that spectacular, but no one complained. Most of these folks had never even been in a small airplane so just a normal night flight was a huge thrill.

My logbook shows that the first night of business was December 12th and I flew all the way past Christmas, giving my last right on December 26th. Twenty-three flights in all with a total of 57 passengers, two of which were my Grandparents for their 40th wedding anniversary (no I didn’t charge them)!

The whole endeavor was quite creative and a huge success for all of us at the time. I don’t believe we gained any new students, but everyone that went up left the experience with a positive impression of aviation.

And I could pay my rent that month – a win-win! Merry Christmas!

by Brent


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