In my endeavours to introduce new stuff to the British microlight and sport aviation market since the last 2 decades, I have observed a huge resistance to anything new... both from the powers that be and from pilots and aircraft owners.
From new student pilots, and non flyers, there is an enthusiasm and optimism when presented with new designs and ideas in aviation. You might well ask what new things I have introduced to the UK market... and how many of them succeeded or not.
Yes, I am the first to admit that not all ideas and items were 'successful and profitable'. But that's another story.. including the 25 litre red plastic jerry cans, plastic aircraft models as teaching tools for instructors, light weight plastic chocks from microlights, Breezer ultralight, Impulse ultralight, Brauniger iEFIS, Simonini Engines, DUC propellors, AvMap gps units, amongst other things.. Those with long memories may be tempted to chuckle or sneer as their experiences may dictate.
My blog today refers to the resistance I encounter from flight schools and instructors when presented with irrefutable evidence of the increased profitability of modern, safe, well designed and tested aircraft and instruments.
Any normal business invests in the training of staff and updating of tools and equipment on a regular basis to keep up their productivity and profitability as well as their ability to attract new customers in a small, competitive and service oriented sector called the "Flight Training Industry".
But the flight training schools use old, inefficient aircraft, with not all systems working. The owners know that the maintenance costs and fuel costs of older aircraft are high, but with sliver thin profit margins, they are not able to retain sufficient profit margins. Their staff are underpaid, and underworked.
Imagine a young man who spends atleast £6000 to achieve his private pilots license, then a few more thousand pounds to clock up some "stick-time". After this effort over a few years, he pays out more than £5000 for attending an Instructor Course from a hard to find provider. Thus after an investment of more than £10,000 he gets paid a measly £30 per hour of flight instruction which may or may not happen depending on weather.
There is a continuous demand for flying as a hobby, but we have high barriers to entry due to cost and accessibility. We do not have a nationally recognised academic standard for pilots, despite the wide ranging knowledge base and good competency standards required to achieve the Pilot's License.
Given this background, I say that it is high time, flight school owners and flight instructors and clubs around the country look to the future where there is emphasis on low noise, low emission and efficient aircraft to learn to fly. Of course there is much excitement and talk about electric aircraft now because of government talk about banishing petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Why do flight schools owners not invest in their business after the initial purchase of one or two aircraft when they start up? Lack of profitability in the first place prevents them from saving enough for the future; the same lack of profitability prevents new investors from coming into the business sector.
So how does the flight school increase its profits? And why should they invest in new aircraft ?
Reducing the amount of petrol used per hour and regular maintenance is always the first item on my list of cost reductions. This can only be done with newer, highly fuel-efficient and composite aircraft. The composite aircraft are lighter and sleeker thus with low drag, which in turn reduces fuel burn. The composite construction precludes corrosion and time taken for annual inspections, thus reducing further costs.
The older the machine, higher the fuel consumption and higher maintenance bills.
Reducing the cost of finance charges is another sure way of making the business profitable; but in this age of very low interest rates, the finance cost is not onerous and encourages capital investment into the business.
Increasing customer fees is another way of increasing the profit margins; but flight schools are very nervous of reducing their customer numbers by increasing fees, even though they realise that they are undercharging for their services...
Everyone knows the power of social media for advertising thus print advertising costs can be reduced.
Some profitable flight schools have continued to invest in their business by seeking out fuel efficient aircraft and low maintenance aircraft, whilst many others continue to deplete the reliability and profitability of the older aircraft they have in use.
If you are learning to fly, ask your flight school why they continue to use tatty old aircraft, whilst charging you the same high fees that other flight schools do with new aircraft.
New good quality aircraft in a flight school attract new customers willing to pay a premium fee to use the new aircraft, thus increasing profitability.
New and reliable aircraft attract more customers who see the difference in quality.