Monday, March 16, 2009

The "Other" Pilot

Chatting about the emergence of the Light Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot rule the other day got me to pondering (which is always dangerous). We were talking about what should be done--should flight schools invest in LSAs to spark interest, or should they wait until eager would-be students show some interest?

There are, of course, pros and cons to both ways, and a delicate balance of the two is probably most ideal but least likely. Such balancing acts are difficult to manage.

It occurs to me that most of the problems are rooted in the marketing of sport pilot. It is the "other" pilot license, less-than and, subsequently, not enough. The private pilot's license is still seen as the "base model," if you will, of flying licenses. After the private license is introduced, the sport pilot license may be introduced briefly as the "other" option, with the insinuation that it requires less skill and is not as desirable.

I still believe that the LSA/SP rule has a good potential to help out aviation and flourish--after all, look at the new aircraft being produced for the LSA market. It's more innovation than we've seen in other GA aircraft sectors since decades ago, and I think it's wonderful to see the new designs emerging. However, I think we have yet to see flight schools' interest reach the same levels as that of LSA companies.

Again, I think everything relates to perception. There is the idea that LSAs are fragile creations only a small step up from a kite when many are light-years ahead of the tired flight school steeds. There is an awful lot of possibilities out there for LSA--but first, we need to recognize that a sport pilot is no less skilled than a private pilot. The basics of flying do not change, from a Cub to a Savage Cruiser to a Cherokee to a 777. In fact, the sport pilot should be commended for his realistic approach--how many private pilots could fulfill all of their flying desires with a sport pilot license?

To change this perception, education must continue. Aviation organizations need to embrace LSA/SP and work to promote it, educating both the public and flight training providers. An educated flying community is a powerful and successful community.

I hope to see LSA/SP grow a lot in the next few years--I truly think it is a great opportunity to get more people involved, young and old.


No comments:

Post a Comment