This might be better entitled – How to Start a Flight Instruction Business if you are Frank Dorrin. My goals drove my approach to this business, so take what works for you and leave the rest.
I came to understand early that in order to become very good at anything, you had to practice. In order to practice teaching, you had to have students, so I committed to working flights at night and on weekends – at any airport in the area. I had the support of my wife to make this significant commitment, and it wouldn’t have worked without that.
Working for various schools and independently, I maintained students at Wilmington (KILG), Atlantic City (ACY), Delaware Airpark (33N), and Georgetown. Most of my student base was at Georgetown, and I’d use my airplane to fly there and back several nights a week.
Snow, rain, IMC, I was doing business and building flight time, instructor time, and instrument time. The objective was not to make money, necessarily, but to build experience for my ultimate goal of flying professionally. The Elite simulator I had purchased to enhance my personal instrument skills was now actively incorporated as a business in Georgetown, and at times also used out of either of my homes as needed. I made a commitment and flew allot.
While flying out of Georgetown, the FBO was starting a school there and noticed me teaching. I was approached and asked to join up with them and did so. Now I had a source of students that kept me very busy; introduced me to Cirrus aircraft and new C172s, and helped me get to know more people. My instrument and TAA skills were refined here.
Life events interrupted and sometimes caused me to stop taking students. Beverly and I commuted by air for a summer while the Smyrna house was being built. That was outstanding experience – flying in all weather except ICE and Thunderstorms – and doing it everyday. By the end of that summer, I was a shit hot instrument pilot and it showed when I got back to instrument instruction.
I only trained one pilot in my PA30, and he is a close friend whom I trust explicitly. He and I have flown in many aircraft together, including Cirrus; Seminoles; Warriors; and the PA30. I should say we trained each other, since we swapped seats regularly and he is an instructor. Mike is an amazing guy who is a much better pilot than he thinks he is; a real feat for a pilot.
Over the last 6 years, I stopped looking for new students. Once I started working in DC, it wasn’t fair to anyone in my life – work and home – to try to fit that in too. The sacrifice I made to my aviation goal for a time was worth it, as I was asked to build something special for PHI that required focus.
During that time, I did IPCs, BFRs, problem resolution (pilots having issues with one thing or another, and sim training for instrument proficiency). I also flew often with Mike in our respective airplanes, as we explored all aspects of the Twin Comanche. I managed to build up 700 or so hours of multi-engine time in the process.
Having said all that – some thoughts on finding students and starting your own business.
– Get some bling! My wife does embrodiery as a home business and does up jackets, shirts, and hats for me. I use them and it starts conversations. Get some.
– get vistaprint cards for your instruction and an email address. Maybe a website / blog for student successes
– find a school to get associated with (to use their airplanes and insurance). I could get on with a school in this area easily, I think.
– make sure you are insured – you have assets
get to know the FBO owners and buy fuel from them. remind them you instruct. leave your card / wear your bling
– consider joining another instructor to start a flying club with a training airplane. buy a basic airplane to teach in.
– go to those Chamber of Commerce meetings. Advertise instruction. Wear your bling.
– I have focused on teaching people in their own airplanes. Get the word out at airport meeting that you are available.
– Go to the FAA safety seminars and wear bling!
– be positive – always positive
– Fly – take single engine guys for a ride in that amazing airplane of yours. Give them your card and let them know you are available on your field for BFRs, Instrument Training, etc.
I never made much money doing this, but it kept me flying and was a direct path to my dream – now realized.