Do you want to start a flight school? If YES, here is a 20-step guide on how to start a profitable flight school business with no money and no experience. Please note that if you intend starting this type of business, it is advisable to first look at the existing laws and zonal regulations in the country or state you reside in to know what is expected of you.

You can start your flight school business from a small town in the United States and if you are good at what you do, it won’t be too long before your brand becomes a nationally recognized brand especially if you go into franchising.

20 Steps on How to Start a Flight School Business in the United States

1. Understand the Industry

The flying school industry is made up of establishments that primarily provide aviation and flight training for vocational and recreational purposes. If you are a close observer of happenings in the flying school industry, you will notice changing regulatory framework and a growing disinterest in aviation as a profession muddled the industry’s performance despite a growing economy.

While the new regulation is expected to improve pilot safety, major regional and commercial airlines contend that it adds a significant barrier to entry for would-be aviators, exacerbating the pilot shortage crisis. Going forward, the Flight School industry is projected to grow.

As the economic recovery speeds up, per capita disposable income is expected to expand, as are corporate profit levels. Nevertheless, heavy competition in downstream industries, such as commercial airlines, will dissuade some intended students from pursuing a career as a pilot.

Interesting Statistics About the Industry

The Flying Schools Industry is indeed a large industry and pretty much active in most developed countries of the world. Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, there are about 750 registered and licensed flight schools responsible for directly employing about 13,746 people and the industry rakes in a whooping sum of $3 billion annually.

The industry is projected to grow at 0.9 percent annual growth within 2012 and 2017. It is important to state that ATP Flight School, CAE and FlightSafety have the largest chunk of the market in the industry. A recent report published by IBISWorld shows that Flying schools in the United States are located in proximity to key downstream markets.

Commercial flights generate most demand for aviation and for piloting services; therefore, flying schools are typically located close to metropolitan hubs as well as popular regional airport hubs. States with significant military bases also draw flying schools, for military aviation training.

The report further stated that, areas of the country with fair weather are typically attractive for industry operators, as it provides students with a safe environment to test their skills. Therefore, the Southeast region houses more flying schools than any other region, at 30.4 percent.

Please note that the flying school industry has high barriers to entry. The majority of the businesses in this industry are corporate operated, and there are few major players that control significant portions of the industry’s total market. In addition, classroom facilities and equipment can be rented on an as-needed basis, resulting in relatively moderate initial infrastructure costs.

The main factors that may prevent new players from joining the industry include course development and accreditation costs, as well as a high level of regulation. Among flight schools, rapidly changing technology can be costly. Operators must balance the benefit of offering up-to-date courses with the cost of producing such coursework. Additionally, reputation is important and takes time to build.

The tough part as it relates to start-up cost most likely is the need to secure a standard and well – positioned facility and licensure. Regardless of high barriers to entry, the competitive nature of the industry makes it very difficult for new operators to break even within a short period of time.

So, if you are looking towards making money from the flying school industry via running your own flight school, you should first meet up with the requirements in your country before launching the business. The truth is that if you do not secure the required license and accreditations from the appropriate authority, you stand the chance of having your school shut down before it even takes off.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who patronize flight schools cut across all genders; male and female above 18 years with the financial means and who wants to become pilots or fly for fun hence the demographic composition for flight school business is all encompassing.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

It is important to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to the flight school business but on the average, these are the basic services that commercial flying schools offer;

  • Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate training
  • Private certificates training
  • Commercial certificates training
  • Student certificates training
  • Other certificates training

It also is important to note that some flight schools may decide to also offer consulting services that relates to helping clients secure related flying licenses and permits.

The Level of Competition in the Flying School Industry

The competition that exist in the flight school business goes beyond competitions with flight schools within the city or state where your school is located; you will be expected to compete with flight schools outside your state and even outside the United States of America. So, it will be right to say the competition in the flight school line of business is relatively tough.

The truth is that no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you have done your due diligence and you brand and promote your services or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure your licensed trainers are able to teach newbies how to fly without much stress, your services are affordable, your customer care services is top notch and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.

But over and above, there are several flight schools scattered all around the United States. So, if you choose to start your own flight school in the United States, you will definitely meet stiff competitions amongst flight schools within and outside your location.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Flying School Industry

Here are some of the most popular flight schools in the United States of America;

  • ATP Flight School, CAE
  • FlightSafety

Economic Analysis

If you are looking towards successfully launching a business and maximizing profits, then you need to ensure that you get your economic and cost analysis right and try as much as possible to adopt best practices in the industry.

Flight school business is no longer a green business, as a matter of fact, you will come across several flight schools when you search both online and offline directories. So, if you are mapping out your economic and cost analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of what is required to secure planes, parking lots/hangers, business license, building software apps and also the running cost to successfully run the business.

Over and above, if you are considering starting a flight school, then your concern should not be limited to the more visible costs, but also on branding and on how to build a robust clientele base. The truth is that if you are able to build a robust clientele base (owners of private facilities and managers of public facilities), you are sure going to maximize profits in the business.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing how you intend starting a business. Basically, you should be guided by your overall business vision and mission statement. If you are looking towards starting a flight school, you would have to start from the very scratch because you can hardly get the franchise of a flight school to buy.

It is a business that is not so popular and requires serious paperwork. Please note that most of the successful flight schools around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to start your own flight school today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established flight schools within your business location who are also jostling for partnership to manage training and certification services for airline companies. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

Some other challenges and threats that you are likely going to face are economic downturn and unfavorable government policies.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Generally, you have the options choosing a general partnership, limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC, or a sole proprietorship for your light school. Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale flight school business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate start – up capital in a small neighborhood.

But if your intention is to grow the business and have chains of well – secured and organized training facilities with clients coming from all across the United States of America, then choosing sole proprietor is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

When it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Typically, it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policies that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.

Here is some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own flight school business in the United States of America;

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting your own flight school business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successful run it without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Irrespective of the results you produce as it relates to training your students on how to drive planes, professional certification is one of the main reasons why some flight training schools stand out. If you want to make an impact in the industry, you should work towards acquiring all the needed certifications in your area of specialization.

You are strongly encouraged to pursue professional certifications; it will go a long way to show your commitment towards the business. Certification validates your competency and shows that you are highly skilled, committed to your career, and up-to-date in this competitive market.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hands of the law catch up with you. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your business in the United States of America;

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Starting a flight school is no doubt expensive even if you choose to start on a small scale partnering with less than two training airplanes. The amount needed to acquire the required business licenses, acquire training airplanes, purchase customized software apps, training facility, parking and paying your workers are part of what will consume a large chunk of your start-up capital.

So, if you choose to start the business on a large scale, you need to go source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large – scale flight school with loads of full-time employees. When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good flight school business plan.

If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business. Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your flight school;

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Flight school businesses require that you position the business within cities with airstrips hence it must be located in good location; a location that is ideal for flight trainings and a location that is at the epicenter of aviation if indeed you want to attend to loads of clients and maximize profits from the business,

The fact that you can operate your flight school from any part of the world does not mean that location has little influence on the success of the school. If you have taken your time to study flight training schools, you will realize that flight training schools and related businesses are willing to partner with airline companies to help handle their training concerns.

So, if you are looking for a location for your flight training school business, ensure that it is a place that is located in a commercial flying center and aviation hub in your city, a place that is visible and easily accessible. Of course, you would not want to locate this type of business in the outskirts of town.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

If you are considering starting a flight school, then aside from the customized training airplanes, you should look towards hiring ICT experts to help you develop your own unique software applications to help you coordinate and secure airplanes that are on training flights, secured internet platform and online payment system. Also, you will definitely need computers/laptops, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves) amongst others and all these can be gotten as fairly used.

As regard leasing or outright purchase of an office and training facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standings, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short-term rent/lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long – term lease or outright purchase of the property but if not, then move on and source for other ideal location/facility for such business.

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard flight school, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Admin and Human Resources Manager, Sales and Marketing Officer, Accounting Clerk, Certified Training Pilots, Aviation Engineers and Technicians and Customer Service Executives. You may need a minimum of 15 full time – staff to start a flight training school.

The Service Delivery Process of a Flight School Business

Flight training school and skill acquisition centers are established with the aim of teaching students technical and trade skill set. In essence, a student is expected to enroll in a flight training school if they have the certifications he or she wants to acquire in the list of their courses.

As it relates to a flight training school, any student that enrolls has two basic aim for enrolling in the school. Firstly, they want to learn how to fly planes and helicopters, and secondly to be able to qualify and obtain their flying license ad certifications. So, when a student pays for the training, they are expected to achieve the above within a stated period.

Please note that a flight training school may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated business process is not cast on stone.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

The fact that the entry barrier for starting even a small – scale flight school business is high does not mean that more players won’t want to come into the industry if they have space. In essence, you must come up with unique marketing strategies if you must carve out a market for yourself within the available market in your state or country.

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans, make sure that you create a compelling company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience as a pilot, it is important to clearly state what you have been able to achieve in time past. This will help boost your chances in the market place. Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your flight training school business;

  • Introduce your flight school by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to owners of private high schools, colleges and other key stake holders in and outside the city where your flight school is located
  • Advertise on the internet on blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to get your message across
  • Create a basic website for your business so as to give your business an online presence
  • Directly market your flight training services.
  • Join local flight school associations for industry trends and tips
  • Provide discount for your customers
  • Advertise our business in community – based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories)
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals)

17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One key factor that will help you offer your flight training services at a price that is highly attractive is to ensure that you source your working capital from sources that won’t put pressure on you or give you high interest rate. Another strategy that will help you offer flight training school services at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name.

Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your services. So also, if you are able to secure business partnership as it relates to getting referrals, then you will be able to get the right pricing and of course maximize profits from your business.

18. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

The availability reliable and easy to fly airplanes in your school, availability of professional pilots in your company, your business process and of course your pricing model are part of what you need to stay competitive in the industry.

Another possible competitive strategy for winning your competitors in this particular industry is to build a robust clientele base. Over and above, ensure that your organization is well positioned, key members of your team are highly qualified and your services can favorably compete with the some of the best in the industry.

19. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

When it comes to business, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always. If your customers are satisfied with your products and service delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers.

If your services and customer service fluctuate, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers retaining your services. Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also attract new customers.

Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.

With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).

20. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you are not conscious about boosting your brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend good money to boost their brand and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and create a corporate identity for your flight training school;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and aviation magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community – based events / programs
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your flight school
  • Install your Bill Boards in strategic locations all around the location where you have your flight training school
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • List your flight school in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your flight school in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your flight school is located.
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your airplanes, helicopters, vehicles and vans are well branded with your company logo et al.
Solomon. O'Chucks