AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 83

P&E 

EDUCATION

'Too many
choices'
Unlocking quality online aviation content
B Y D AV E H I R S C H M A N

IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE INTERNET, quality aviation content was hard to find because
it was scarce. Today, quality content is hard
to find online because aviation videos are
plentiful-yet the best of them are often lost
in the daily deluge of clickbait.
" The signal-to-noise ratio has become
a real problem, " said Steve Thorne, better known as " FlightChops, " a Canadian
general aviation pilot whose YouTube
chronicle of flight experiences has 330,000
followers. " The amount of aviation content has gone from virtually nonexistent
a decade ago to overwhelming. There are
almost too many choices. "
Online aviation content has become
indispensable to student pilots learning
to fly; seasoned pilots studying new-tothem aircraft and avionics systems; and
the entire aviation community for keeping
informed about industry news, regulatory
changes, and the latest safety information.
But where can GA pilots find the most
relevant information? And how is online
content likely to change the way pilots
learn, stay proficient, and plan aviation
adventures in the future?
Let's start with paid online pilot
education.
Industry leaders such as King Schools
and Sporty's Pilot Shop have long since
done away with VHS tapes and DVDs, and
they distribute all their coursework online.
That material is available to customers
using a wide variety of mobile and desktop
computers, and buyers can study wherever
and whenever they choose.
" The change allows for better products that allow more interaction, " said John
Zimmerman, a Sporty's vice president.
" That's messy and difficult for us. Every

flight school, every student, is different,
so we've got to make our courses available
everywhere, on all devices, all the time. Our
customers don't just study at home, in the
evenings, on desktop computers anymore.
That's just not how people live their lives
these days. "
A growing library of coursework
allows students to study for FAA knowledge tests, use automated flash cards,
take practice exams, and even generate
the FAA-required signoffs in their electronic logbooks at the end. Descriptions of
maneuvers contain detailed graphics and
in-cockpit video.
Even after students obtain their ratings, they have lifelong access to the online
material so that they can brush up and
review whenever they choose.
Sporty's is steadily adding to its video
library with experts such as Patty Wagstaff
teaching aerobatics, and Garmin producing videos on the company's own avionics
products.
" We produce most of our videos ourselves, " Zimmerman said. " But it would
be presumptuous for us to think we know
everything. Patty is one of the world's foremost experts in aerobatic flying and she
writes her own scripts, and Garmin produces its own product videos. "
Sporty's primary business is selling
aviation hardware and accessories at its
Ohio-based shop. It also operates a flight
school where most of its aviation videos are
recorded. But Zimmerman said its business
units are largely independent.
" We're not trying to be Amazon Prime, "
he said, " so we're not trying to lock you into
our hardware business through our online
education content. We want to run a great,

standalone training business that helps our
customers accomplish their goals. As long
as we do that well, we'll have a good chance
of earning more of their business. "
FLIGHT MASTERY

After they obtain their ratings, companies
like PilotWorkshops seek out pilots for
subscription-based flight education.
Mark Robidoux, a GA pilot in New
Hampshire, started the paid education firm
that creates detailed online scenarios in
2005 after he earned an instrument rating.
" I passed my FAA exam, but I still had
so many questions about IFR flying that I
really didn't feel ready to launch into the
murk. I know it's a license to learn, but I
wanted to hear from pilots who had vast
amounts of real-world experience. "
PilotWorkshops creates detailed IFR
and VFR scenarios with storylines, graphics, weather reports, charts, and aircraft
performance information. It puts participants in the virtual cockpit and asks
them to make difficult aeronautical decisions with the given set of circumstances.
A panel of experts then reviews those
choices, and each one says what they
would do in the same situation, and more
important, why. Subscribers can discuss or
debate the merits of the reasoning behind
the decision making in an online forum
that's refreshingly lively, informative,
respectful, and sometimes funny.
PilotWorkshops has about 7,500 paid
subscribers to its monthly scenarios; more
than 60,000 customers for its books and
online training guides, and more than
200,000 subscribers to its free aviation " tip
of the week. "
" Our customers are serious about
improving their flying-and we give them
direct access to experts who can thoughtfully address their questions, " Robidoux
said. " Our customers are hungry to build
and maintain proficiency, and that drive to
constantly learn and improve the way they
fly creates a tight community. "
The next big step in aviation education,
Robidoux said, is merging remote instruction with flight simulation.
" We already challenge pilots to think
about what they would do in a variety of
different scenarios, " he said. " The next big
aopa.org/pilot AOPA PILOT | 83


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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 5
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
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