By Alyssa J Miller
With news of layoffs, abandoned airplanes, and a declining pilot population, it could be easy for aviators to become depressed and pessimistic about the future of general aviation. However, turnarounds in history weren’t built on negative thinking, AOPA Senior Vice President of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community Adam Smith told attendees at the third annual Flight Training Summit Oct. 10 in Palm Springs, Calif. He encouraged pilots to be positive and optimistic when speaking about aviation and encourage growth in the industry.
“Look to the future with confidence,” Smith said, acknowledging the daunting, long-term effort to arrest and reverse the declining pilot population. Smith emphasized that no single group can stem this downward trend, but working together the industry can overcome this threat.
“This is not something about what AOPA is going to do,” Smith said, emphasizing that the association and the new pilot center are working to bring the entire aviation community together. To that end, Smith welcomed ideas from the 100 flight training providers at the summit and gathered many during breakout sessions throughout the afternoon.
Smith also outlined some of the priorities for the new center. Advocacy will play a major role, he said, and that means not only fighting off negative measures that could hurt aviation but pushing for new initiatives that could nurture it. Building community and reducing the cost of aviation through flying clubs is another initiative, Smith said, hinting at a new effort that will be unveiled later in the week during AOPA Aviation Summit. The AOPA Flight Training Initiative, which has launched the Flight Training Excellence Awards, released flight training field guides, and created a website just for student pilots, will continue to help refine the training process. A goal is to stem the 80-percent dropout rate among student pilots.
In addition to leading the new pilot center, Smith revealed his personal drive to help increase the pilot population. He told the group of flight training providers that he recently earned his instrument rating because he wants to ultimately become a flight instructor and share the gift of learning to fly with others.