AOPA: Flight training, GPS interference and other issues face general aviation

Concerns about flight training is one of the biggest concerns Craig Fuller, head of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, says he has.

The number of pilots has dropped from about 800,000 15 years ago to about 600,000 today. And airlines are worried about how to fill the pipeline for pilots, he said.

Fuller spoke today at the Wichita Aero Club luncheon at the Wichita Airport Hilton.

About 80 percent of student pilots drop out and never get their license, Fuller said.

That must change, he said.

The AOPA has commissioned an independent opinion research firm, APCO Insight, to model the best primary flight training experiences and determine where the actual experience falls short of a student’s expectations, the group said.

In a survey, respondents said they found learning to fly rewarding and reported positive experiences for most elements of flight training.

However, respondents also said costs and quality instruction were  concerns — so were scheduling issues and other delays, the study said.

Individual flight instructors were not the issue, however. Rather, schools must support and train instructors, arrange a good match between students and instructors, measure success and ensure professionalism standards are met, the study said.

Flight instructors must interact well with students, demonstrate commitment to their success, organize lessons, carefully prepare students for their check rides and plug them in to resources and websites, the report said.

Besides flight training, other issues facing the general aviation industry include President Obama’s negative remarks about business jet use, the need to replace 100 low lead aviation gas, the risk of possible interference with GPS in aircraft and a change in allowing a pilot to opt out of Internet flight tracking services.

Not allowing a business to opt out of flight tracking can be a safety concern for the CEOs who fly and the proprietary nature of some of the trips a business takes, Fuller said.