Your Own Flight Instruction Business

Are you thinking of becoming an independent flight instructor? Starting your own flight school? Already instruct or operate your own flight training organization? Much like flying, running a flight training business is a complex endeavor full of amazing rewards. Yet lurking around every corner lies potential risk. As aviators and instructors, we benefit from having regulations and best practices collated into the FAR/AIM, with supporting advisory circulars, legal interpretations, handbooks, checklists, and decision-making frameworks.

For the aspiring entrepreneur, practical information is disparate and diffuse. Business books and interviews with magnates like Buffett and Gates are often full of platitudes that leave one feeling vaguely inspired yet with more questions than answers. MBA’s teach theory, but not the reality of practice. This discussion will flip the script with real, humorous, surprising, and sometimes unbelievable anecdotes from the front lines of a veteran flight school owner.

We will delve into the anatomy of a flight training business by exploring such questions as: Where do I begin? Do I need to write a business plan? Should I form an LLC or Incorporate? How do I market my services? What about trademarks and copyrights? Should I conduct training as Part 61 or 141? Specialize or offer every service? What type of aircraft should I operate? Should I buy or lease? Hire employees or independent contractors? Create my own syllabus or purchase? What are minimum standards and how do I negotiate with airport authorities? How do I ensure I’m complying with Federal, State, and Municipal regulations? Should I offer financing? What kind of insurance do I need? What happens if I get sued?

While not every topic can be covered during this brief discussion — and while not intended to be legal or tax advice — the expected outcome is to provide attendees with an opportunity to reflect on how to structure a successful and sustainable flight training business. Key frameworks will be introduced to help develop a sound business, mitigate risk, and guide thinking through complex issues inherent in running a high reliability operation.