Web site an oasis for potential pilots

 - September 23, 2008, 7:48 AM

Any pilot who has ever found himself on the receiving end of the question “How can I learn how to fly?” now has a ready reference to which to direct the would-be aviator. Sporty’s Pilot Shop has launched a new Web site– learntoflyhere.com–as a one-stop resource for those interested in taking up or advancing in flying. What’s in it for Sporty’s? The site clearly seeks to increase the pilot supply house’s customer base, but in these times of declining pilot population, who can argue with the wider nobility of that goal?

“We really have something there for all stages,” said Eric Radtke, president of Sporty’s Academy, the company’s educational arm. “From the ‘just in the idea’ phase, all the way up to the person who is preparing for the check ride for that initial pilot certificate, it is more than just trying to get people interested. Once they are interested, it’s keeping them there and giving them the resources.”

Developed by the company’s own flight instructors, the site examines many aspects of the requirements to earn a pilot certificate. “We got together all of our instructional staff that talks with prospective pilots daily, and we thought, ‘OK, what excites people about aviation? Why do people take the time to inquire? Why don’t they proceed?’” said Radtke. “We gathered all this up and we tried to boil it down to the information that people really want to know.”

The section called “Begin Your Flight Training” addresses questions about the investment of time and money. It also provides a list of bullet points for prospective students to consider when evaluating reputable flight schools.

“Often times coming to the airport for those of us not in aviation already can be intimidating, and we’re trying to combat that issue as well, giving people the information they need to know so they can be confident that when they go to that local flight school they know what they want to ask and what they want to look for,” said Radtke.

For those who prefer to take their materials with them, the site features downloadable brochures– produced in cooperation with AOPA–that target the issues of choosing a flight school and flight instructor. A streaming narrated video on the site takes viewers through a prototypical first flight lesson, and one area details the different types of certificate that are most easily achievable for the fledgling pilot, focusing on the recreational, private and the new sport certificates.

Once students have begun their instruction, they can visit the site and avail themselves of online practice exams and other study materials, in addition to guides to buying supplies and pilot gear. The company has also designated specific areas for the pilot already in the training process, with the goal of making the process easier and more cost-effective and efficient for the student, said Radtke.

On the Web site prospective pilots can order a free learn-to-fly kit that contains a DVD on the flight fundamentals, a logbook, a cockpit poster and, of course, a Sporty’s catalog.