What Should You Do To Help The Declining Pilot Population

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What Should You Do To Help The Declining Pilot Population

There has been a lot published lately on the deterioration of our sport, but I haven’t seen much on what we should be doing to help. Setting aside the barriers, we all know that if you want to fly you will find a way.

Our contribution should be to help “set the hook.”

Certainly the alphabet groups like, EAA and AOPA have been engaged on the subject, but is that enough? We shouldn’t ignore the potential impact we can have at the grass-roots level.

Programs like Young Eagles and the burgeoning Eagles program from the EAA have created new pilots and there is great hope that Open Airplane and the AOPA Flying Club project will bear fruit, but will that be enough?


Take a non-pilot for a ride

As a population, we have been in decline for decades. The days of thousands of military trained pilots and thousands more trained via the GI Bill are no longer going to keep us propped up. We must accept a certain amount of contraction based on this and other factors, it’s just a different world than it was 30 years ago.


The goal

Our work should be to share our passion and let that be infectious to those around us. If we do that, people will respond and our ranks will grow.

What can I do to help?

We need to ask ourselves a few questions.

What is our capacity to share our passion?

  •   If you are a pilot, take someone flying. If you are a student pilot or just interested, take someone to the airport, to an aviation museum, to an airshow. We all can contribute.

Take a friend/neighbor/family member, or colleague to a museum

What is our sphere of influence?

  • We need to recognize that we touch more people today than we ever did in the past. Social media provides a great way to demonstrate your infectious passion for flight and hopefully inspire another potential aviator. Also, we should not ignore our non-flying friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Any of these folks could accompany you and you could show them what this is all about.  Maybe make a list of anyone you think could be a candidate. Don’t discriminate on the basis of money (There are lots of cheap ways to fly if you want it bad enough). Don’t forget people who have stopped flying, they could be an easy target.

We need to follow-up.

  • If you see that spark in someone, follow-up with them. Keep them engaged. If appropriate, volunteer to be their mentor.

Finally, be an ambassador.

  • Bring up flying in conversation (use tact, no one likes a braggart). You will be surprised how this can produces leads to someone who you might be able to bring into the fold. Talk about good things that come from flying; how it’s great for the community and how people can use airplanes to help one another.

Bring someone to an airshow!

Since the barriers are so great, we need to demonstrate that the benefits far overshadow those obstacles.
Personally I like set little goals for myself, here’s some examples below:

  • Take non-pilot flying once a month
  • Have non-pilot accompany me to a flying event at each opportunity
  • Mention flying to someone at least once a week
  • Post something about flying once a week in social media

I’m sure you have some great ideas that aren’t listed – we’d love to hear them, please feel free to post below.


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