As pilots, we understand more than most just how important it is to have reliable data to get from point A to point B. But 2020 gave us what felt like a year-long navigation failure, and we did a whole lot of aviating in the meantime. Now, the flight training community needs up-to-date, actionable information to prepare for the future, and the best source of information is, well, the flight training community. The State of Flight Training will provide insights to help guide the way forward for the flight training industry.
The average CFI does 13 hours of unbilled admin work per week.
54% of lapsed pilots plan to get current in 2021.
60% of large Flight Training Organizations use a custom curriculum.
Most student pilots rate their instructors higher than their flight school.
Several clear trends and insights emerged from this year's data. We will be exploring many of these in detail over the coming months.
Like the rest of the world, the flight training industry was impacted massively by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns and restrictions. However, Independent Certified Flight Instructors (I-CFI) disproportionately felt that impact. In broad terms, most Flight Training Organizations (FTO) weathered the storm reasonably well, and some even benefitted from the increased disposable income and free time of consumers. Conversely, I-CFIs faced immense challenges and lacked the infrastructure and industry support to succeed during the pandemic.
There is a common line of thinking you hear in flight instructor circles: “This sim is great and all, but people just want to get in the airplane. It’s why they are learning to fly.” This idea makes some sense at face value, and instructors reference it frequently to justify lower simulator utilization rates. However, the truth is likely more nuanced. Based on the data from this year’s survey, Students and Pilots tend to value training time in a simulator more than instructors.
If you are involved in the flight training industry, you likely have made some painful sacrifices and choices. Learning to fly is not cheap, and it is notoriously time-consuming. Pursuing a career in aviation is equivalent to becoming an attorney in both dollars and years. Many professional pilots and instructors have education debts that would make a financial planner blush. If you are in this industry, you love flying. It is the only explanation for why you would put yourself through the pain. Resultantly, you may find it hard to understand that not everyone wants to be a pilot. In fact, approximately 80% of the general public in the United States has no interest in becoming a pilot, even if cost was not a factor.
This report is only possible because of the many organizations that care deeply about the flight training industry. Those listed below were indispensable in helping us shape our questions and the analysis of the responses. Additionally, they were critical in reaching a wide enough audience that we feel strongly that the results are valid and represent a quality snapshot of the industry.