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Are Shoreham flying schools so busy.........

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Are Shoreham flying schools so busy.........

Old 7th Apr 2016, 07:57
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Are Shoreham flying schools so busy.........

...that they don't need to make any effort to encourage new students?

I had been flying with Omega Flying School before the owner decided he'd had enough and decided to do a runner with all our money. For me this is a lifestyle choice, late 40's, more time to follow up interests and the money to achieve my lifelong ambition, to gain my PPL.
As Omega is now no more I decided to investigate other schools on the airfield.

The first was Sussex Flying Club. The young girl was very pleasant on the desk and introduced me to the CFI. I told him of my woes and that I was looking to find a new flying school and the reasons behind it. To be honest I left after 5 minutes feeling rather short changed. If I am to hand over 200 of my hard earned a couple of times a month then the least I would expect would be to be shown the aircraft I would have the pleasure of flying in. Not a chance.... despite the weather grounding all aircraft and a few staff milling around the school, I was swiftly shown around the office and a rate card thrust in my mitts. Next please!

Perry Air was my next visit if only to get my logbook signed off by an ex-Omega instructor. Started off very well, a kind chap who took the time out to show me the aircraft, the hangar and to be honest a very well spent hour. This was better; making me feel welcome and a sense of an environment where I would be happy to finish my training. I left it a couple of weeks and went back to have a chat with my prospective instructor who was running half hour late that morning. Not an issue I though, I would sit in the club waiting room and read the Operations Manual. Well the chap on the desk had different ideas. He suggested in no uncertain terms that it might be more beneficial if I took a trip to the terminal and had myself a coffee whilst waiting, despite immediately to his right a very well used kettle and all the equipment required to make a potential new recruit a welcome coffee. Wow, grumpy was an understatement. Despite his advanced years, I am used to finding dragons at the doors to the Airport Lounges, not at the "first impression" stage of a business that I would have imagined would be chomping at the heels of new business.

Don't get me wrong, I smile when I think of the lengths that these companies feel they don't need to go to in order to secure current and new business; hence my question. Are flying schools doing so well, they are able to pick and choose their customers?
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 09:19
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the owner decided he'd had enough and decided to do a runner with all our money.
I can't comment on the other specifics in the rest of your post, but you should not pay up front for multiple lessons for exactly this reason. If, for some reason, you feel you need or want to do that, make sure you pay with a credit (NOT debit) card. That way the card company will have to reimburse you if something like this happens.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 09:42
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I paid up front by credit card as the protection is there in the event of; however that really is not the crux of my post.....The same thing can happen buying a car, a holiday, an appliance... this is why the protection a credit card gives you is far more beneficial than using cash even if the company goes belly up and you have an actual item to which you can claim against.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 10:43
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The young girl was very pleasant on the desk and introduced me to the CFI. I told him of my woes....
"Hello Mr CFI. I didn't choose your flying school to start with, preferring to go with one of your competitors. Now that they've ripped me off, I'd like you to teach me instead."

I tend to get grumpy when I'm invited to pick up the pieces left by situations like this as well.

And at your second encounter, when the instructor was running late I'd say that the chap on the desk did the right thing - in other words he was protecting his staff from further interruption and ensuring that his existing customers weren't inconvenienced by any more delay. Existing customers deserve loyalty from a business; prospects don't.

That said, there is no excuse for rudeness. Some basic customer care principles would be a good thing at many schools.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 11:11
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I tend to get grumpy when I'm invited to pick up the pieces left by situations like this as well.
Don't get into business, then.
Sorry, but a customer is entitled to give his money to whoever he chooses for whatever reason.
And if he got unlucky and came back to you, I think you just got a great opportunity.
If you mistreat prospective customers, there won't be any new ones and you'll only have the existing ones.
Not a wise idea, in my book.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 11:23
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Originally Posted by The Great Cornholio View Post
I paid up front by credit card
Ah, so it wasn't "all [y]our money", it was the bank's money.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 11:56
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Fully agree with Dirtyprop. This should be looked on as an opportunity to take work from a competitor, no matter what the circumstance. I expect Mr Heston is either extracting the yellow liquid or does not run a business.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 12:41
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either extracting the yellow liquid or does not run a business
Both, as in yes I was, and yes I do, actually.

take work from a competitor, no matter what the circumstance
That approach has got more small businesses into difficulties than almost any other. Being cautious and making sure propects (for that's all the OP was at the time) are qualified (ie are going to follow through and aren't just tyre kickers) is really important or you will find yourself doing loads of selling and no earning.

What a business needs is a way of attracting people who are going to be good customers and actively discouraging anybody who isnt so that they dont waste time on them. It could be that having grumpy front desk staff is a strategy that ensures only really keen prospects follow through - flying schools that have kept going must have something right in terms of survival of the fittest (Darwin-style) dont you think?
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 13:11
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Try "The Real Flying Company" Very friendly, professional and nicely kept aircraft.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 13:16
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Yes, that's the norm in some places :)

I can't speak of your airfield, but this is a little bit general experience ín many other places (schools, clubs) too.

before the owner decided he'd had enough and decided to do a runner
So this just created a sudden surge of unexpected demand for the remaining schools, for which they may not be prepared for right away.

For me this is a lifestyle choice, late 40's, more time to follow up interests and the money to achieve my lifelong ambition, to gain my PPL.
This makes you a second priority behind students wanting to learn to fly for making a career. You want to learn in a cosy and leasurely pace, your horizon is to gain, who knows how much you will later fly, your flight currency may be on a low level after your PPL obtained, making it risky to lend aircraft to you later on....!
If I am to hand over 200 of my hard earned a couple of times a month
You aren't aware that 190 of that goes to buy fuel, pay for insurance, pay low wages to CFIs.... flight training is a low-margin, yet risky business, especially with non-career students.

Well the chap on the desk had different ideas. He suggested in no uncertain terms that it might be more beneficial if I took a trip to the terminal and had myself a coffee whilst waiting, despite immediately to his right a very well used kettle and all the equipment required to make a potential new recruit a welcome coffee.
THis is a classic behavioural test If you want to be a pilot, you have to have to courage to ask, threaten or trick getting coffee from that cattle


Wow, grumpy was an understatement.
You need to get used to this and handle this like a man. Imagine how grumpy they can get when you fail to follow instructions during training
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 15:43
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Blimey ! Between rrizoli and Heston or, to put it another way, between a rock and a hard place. You both need a refresher at the Charm Academy. You both need to think in terms of; trowel, schmooze and laying it on thick.

This is a would be customer and student for Heaven's sake - they ain't exactly thick on the ground. rrizoli your comments are outrageous. Please tell me they are 'tongue in cheek'? If any instructor had got grumpy with me during training, they would have received short shrift and I'd have been on my bike looking elsewhere.

If I were to arrive at an FTO with somewhere between five and ten thousand readies to spend I would expect red carpet in any and every conceivable way - not expected to wheedle and cajole a cup of bloody coffee from the grumpy git behind the counter.

Great Cornholio, welcome to the world of GA in Britain. Based on my fifty four years of experience I can't promise that you'll find any improvements. Most like to think that they are doing you a favour in allowing you into their aviation emporium - so you'd better toe the line - or else !

Last edited by Capt Kremmen; 7th Apr 2016 at 17:07.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 16:27
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Originally Posted by Capt Kremmen View Post
rrizoli your comments are outrageous. Please tell me they are 'tongue in cheek'?
Yes of course, my answers are a bit of friendly teasing. I was experiencing the same to some extent in my country and I am not fond of it, at all!

But on a serious note: there are plenty of rough things that can happen in aviation, turbulence, weather, engine playing up, arguing with ATC, fellow aviators cracking jokes about your landings, your instructor having a bad day.... so it's a good idea to focus on the goal, and ignore the unimportant.

By the way, a friend of mine got really fed up with his instructor during his training, he felt he was treated as a piece of sh...t. After some time, he raised his voice and told the instructor to stop because the instructor's attitude handicaps his training. Guess what? The instructor was content with this and became very nice afterwards. So hence my advice: focus on the goal and ignore the unimportant things. Walking down a red carpet to PPL is not important. Getting there is.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 17:26
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To use your expression: "Walking down the red carpet to your PPL" is very much a part of one's training experience. How you start is reflected in how you finish and points in between.

The initial experience emphatically does not come into "ignoring the unimportant", it is part of the goal. There should be no such thing as any 'unimportant' part of one's training. One cannot put a price on friendliness, cheerfulness and a welcoming atmosphere in the FTO they are a necessary accompaniment of business efficiency aimed at giving value for money.

I'm shocked that attitiudes such as those aired by some commentators are still held. We seem to have learned very little in GA which is, after all, a service industry.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 17:52
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Unfortunately, it doesn't change after you have your license. Flying club/schools seem to attract those with an elitist attitude bias, deserved or not. Instructors & receptionists seem to suffer the worst from this.
Obviously there will be exceptions, but I encountered the same attitudes 30 years ago when training, and still do whenever I venture near my on-airfield club/school (thankfully not frequently as I have my own aircraft).

My advice is grit your teeth, pay the money, get the training and then go flying!
It'll be worth it in the end.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 19:03
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Cornholio,

I actually stay well away from Shoreham, I really didn't have a positive experience landing there after I had passed my PPL. Not from ATC, not from the people supposed to welcome you (where they take a great big bite out of your pocket too), not from the flying school I visited there. Over the last few years, I have been making a note of the friendly places I have visited, and of the more unfriendly places too. Like everything in the UK you just need to sift through the cr*p to find the good stuff!

I have had a very positive experience learning at Biggin Hill (which I understand is a bit of a drive from you). Both Alouette Flying Club (bit cheaper than S&K) and Surrey & Kent. I found them both very welcoming, very nice and always got a cup of tea for you, even if you're on your first visit. Send me a PM if you're interested and I'll give you some tips on both clubs.

I wouldn't have spent all that money on going to a place I didn't feel welcomed, or a place that didn't feel was right for me. I went through quite a few before settling on Surrey & Kent, did trial lessons in many places too. You get the ATPL academies, the real flying "school", the club that tries to be the school, the club that is very much a club and the few instructors that have their own business teaching on their own plane. Not all will suit your style (or your pocket). I opted for a club that aspired to be a school for the training (as I wanted the availability of the instructor, as well as the slightly more regimented learning).

I am not sure where you are based, but there may be a few places I could strongly recommend such as Cambridge, Southend Flying Club, Alouette (biggin), S&K (biggin), Jersey Aeroclub, Goodwood.... amongst others. Always felt welcomed, always felt a part of the team, and always felt that it was money well spent.

I also agree that this kind of behaviour is crazy, especially after every single school out there having had such a bad winter! Surely they'd rejoice to have a new customer, and bend over backwards to get you hooked in!

I do agree however that part of the training is dealing with pressure, as has been mentioned. But I refuse to think that it is acceptable to put you under that stress outside of the cockpit environment during training.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 19:28
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Jeez folks, lighten up! You are a lot of delicate little flowers.

Nobody is defending rudeness or poor customer service. Any business needs to put on a welcoming face to the outside world.

But I've spent the last 30 years running a consultancy that advised small businesses on planning and strategy, and I can tell you that the worst drain on a small business's resources is the prospective customer who doesn't really have any intention to buy but is just being a "tourist". In fact the very worst are those who get you to design a solution for them, write up a proposal and cost it for them - they then take it to your competitor and get them to do the work for a cheaper price. I'm not saying that is directly relevant here, but the general principle is - prospects are prospects, they dont become customers until they have parted with some cash. Maybe the OP would have had a different experience if he'd asked to book a lesson at each school he visited?

Oh and by the way - I now run my own flying school - about 30% of folk who turn up to enquire become right pains in the backside because they never get on with it and just keep coming back for another 90 minute chat and three cups of coffee. Walter Mitty had nothing on them. I'd do anything to get them to go away. Flying schools are businesses after all.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 19:29
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Originally Posted by Heston View Post
That approach has got more small businesses into difficulties than almost any other.
Yes. Who remembers the phone company whose business model was selling to people who couldn't get BT phones, because they'd got disconnected for failing to pay their bills?

Guess what? - they got lots of customers, and then went bust, because their customers didn't pay their bills.

Originally Posted by Heston View Post
I can tell you that the worst drain on a small business's resources is the prospective customer who doesn't really have any intention to buy but is just being a "tourist". In fact the very worst are those who get you to design a solution for them, write up a proposal and cost it for them - they then take it to your competitor and get them to do the work for a cheaper price.
I went for a job interview once ... and got used (during the interview) as a free consultant, and it turned out they didn't really have a job anyway.


So a few years later the same company invite me for interview again. My response to the agent: "that's £500 cash in advance for attending the interview, deductible against my first month's salary when I've got the job".
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 20:05
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Squeegee Longtail

You're absolutely right. I now do not go back to those places where I had a less than welcoming experience. Here's one from my archive ! Having flown into Compton Abbas one fine day, not by design but due to a problem at my home airfield, I politely asked reception if they would be kind enough to phone my home airfield and ask if all was now well and offering to pay for the call. I got a blank refusal from an extremely stroppy receptionist.

There were altogether about six of us who had flown in and after a while someone produced a cell phone and we made our own call. We were clear to return.

I haven't been back to Compton for just over two years. This attitude was mirrored by a the experience of a friend in slightly different circumstance but still negative on the part of Compton.
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 20:11
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I've only been to Shoreham once a couple of years ago for an overnight stop on my way back to Scotland, and had a very positive experience with one of the flight schools and its staff.

I was sitting on the spotters bench planning my flight when I struck up a conversation with a guy who turned out to be a flight instructor from the flight school above the restaurant in the main building, he asked about my plane and intended flight . He offered to go upstairs and print out the latest weather then spent a fair bit of time interpreting and discussing what conditions I could expect along my intended route. The net result I delayed the flight till the next day.

Can't remember the guys name but he appeared to be in his late 50's and he offered me his professional advice, use of his computers and his time all without the request or expectation of remuneration and knowing there would be no future business or selling to a guy who was just passing through.

Decent bloke, school receptionist was friendly, all in all a very positive experience of Shoreham.

Pic of my visit



http://www.airliners.net/photo/Maule...tar/2525084/L/
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Old 7th Apr 2016, 20:26
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I don't think your experience is atypical. It's UK GA. I'm well glad I'm out of it. GA can suffer from the small town mentality as it were. I'd often pitch up and be treated more like a trespasser than a paying customer at some airfields. And as for flights schools they're very unpredictable - keep looking until you find a good one. If they don't treat you well when you come to them as potential business then they're not going to treat you well once you've signed up and they have your membership fee or fee or worse you pay up front for their block rates.
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