So, what exactly led to this pandemic-induced shift? I met with four flight training providers from all four corners of the United States to discuss this trend and how the pandemic has had a positive impact on their operations. Although each operator offers various services, from aircraft management and maintenance to charter and pilot services, they all seemed to experience the same upward trend in 2020.
For Paul Sallach, president of All In Aviation in Las Vegas, revenue generated from flight instructor hours increased over 150 percent from 2019 to 2020. “People are coming out of the woodwork wanting to learn to fly. We hired three new instructors and purchased four new aircraft in 2020 just to keep up with demand,” said Sallach. A paradigm shift
It’s well-known that learning to fly takes two things—time and money. While most of the country was shut down, many flight schools were considered essential and permitted to continue operations. With executives, attorneys, and entrepreneurs now working from home, the people with the most discretionary income now had the most time to devote to training. So, for training centers who cater to the affluent customer, this sudden confluence of time and money, coupled with concerns about safely flying on the airlines, provided the perfect balance of conditions for business to soar.
When a student pilot starts flight training, typically lessons are conducted in piston aircraft such as a Cirrus SR20 or a Cessna 172. According to a flight traffic report provided by FlightAware, which operates the world’s largest flight tracking and data platform, the number of piston aircraft flights across the country between June and December of 2020 was 40 to 60 percent higher than in the same months in 2019, with peak activity experienced in July and October.
Lewis Liebert, CEO of Performance Flight & Custom Jet Charters in New York, attributes a paradigm shift in what he calls a “paradoxical relationship” between time and money for the growth he’s experienced. “People who’d been commuting to Manhattan an hour and a half each way were now working from home, so these folks were suddenly getting two to three hours of their lives back, giving them time to train.”
April Gafford, founder and CEO of JATO Aviation in San Francisco, explains her average customer has a considerable amount of discretionary income, affording them the opportunity to make choices on how they want to
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