When it comes to expanding business or elevating leisure, many individuals look to the skies. They begin to dream of a day when they can conquer the clouds and be masters of their own fate. Some of those daring individuals go even a step farther and decide to explore the world of aviation from the cockpit.
But the world of flight training is competitive to put it lightly. Flight schools span the globe and work each day to offer more competitive rates, experienced trainers and impressive fleets to prospective pilots who seek the new business venture or vacation spot. These schools are constantly balancing investment and return as they navigate what will set them above the rest and draw more clients.
“Walking a customer who arrived in a late model luxury car out on the ramp to get in a 1970’s vintage trainer with worn upholstery, cracked interior plastic, and museum-rejected avionics just would not work,” one representative from Atlas Aviation said. Born at the Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF) in 2004, Atlas Aviation had a business plan to establish itself as a premier flight school serving upscale neighborhoods in the Tampa, Florida area. Older aircraft models didn’t fit the brand nor the prospective customer. Quickly, Atlas Aviation pivoted and sought out like-new CESSNA aircraft and most recently a factory new Cessna SKYHAWK piston.
The transition to a new aircraft was the push Atlas Aviation said it needed.
“We knew we needed a more upscale fleet, better organized and more consistent training methods, and any other edge we could get over our plentiful nearby competition. The final straw arose from a conversation with our experienced, aviation-specific insurance brokers; they told us their most successful flight school clients had all been Cessna Pilot Centers,” the flight school representative said.
Some of that success can be attributed to the Cessna name as well as the perks, including parts discount programs, Cessna marketing tools and free admission to instructional seminars to assist in operating a flight school more profitably. Some also comes from the opportunities the flight students are given. They often see the return on a greater investment.
“They started training somewhere else for the price, but later choose to fly with us because they recognize the value of training in up-to-date equipment,” the Atlas Aviation representative said.
“It flies more than any other airplane in our fleet averaging 65 hours per month since we got it a year ago.”
– Atlas Aviation
The school says older aircraft impact a student’s experience but also the school’s bottom line.
“In addition to having to overcome a customer’s discomfort in flying an airplane older than they are, there is the maintenance aspect to consider. Older planes require more frequent maintenance to meet our standards.
“Training private and instrument pilots to operate in the current ATC environment without Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified GPS or access to Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) / Flight Information System-Broadcast (FIS-B) weather and traffic data puts them at a disadvantage later. The reduced situational awareness would also put them and the instructor team at increased risk. Our Peter O. Knight location sits beneath the Tampa Class B 1200-foot shelf, about one mile from the edge of MacDill Air Force Base’s Class D airspace. Older airplanes with outdated avionics make airspace incursions much more likely,” the Atlas Aviation representative said.
The acquisition of the new aircraft also allows the school to increase profits.
“Our customers love the updated GARMIN G1000NXi avionics and appreciate the Electronic Stability and Protection (ESP) system. We priced this airplane $25 higher than our other two G1000 Skyhawk pistons yet it flies on average ten hours per month more than them,” Atlas Aviation said.
The company says from the very beginning Textron Aviation has been professional and friendly with a clear knowledge of how flight schools operate. That made what may seem to be an intimidating process much simpler.
Atlas Aviation says if your flight school is assessing its fleet, keep this in mind.
“The cost of new airplanes can be staggering, no doubt. A lot of analysis went into our purchase. We took a well calculated risk and so far, it is paying off.”
“If your flight school needs additional airplanes, talk to your customers. See if they will value a new airplane in your operation as much as our customers have. They may surprise you.”
– Atlas Aviation