Some 80% of student pilots voluntarily withdraw from training before gaining even a basic pilot licence, according to a study conducted for the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
AOPA is trying to find out what flight training organisations could do to retain more of those who start out highly motivated to explore flying, whether for leisure or as a profession. Publication of AOPA's study is the launching point for a "flight training retention initiative" across the industry.
Carried out by polling specialist APCO Insight, the study found that about 35% of instructors were not rated as sufficiently professional or as good teachers, and nearly half the students rated support from the training schools as indifferent, and the aeroplanes themselves as being rather scruffy.
Student pilots clearly respond well to professionalism at all levels, the study found, and the image of flying is important to them. A particularly effective motivator for students is to ensure that they feel part of the aviation community.
The study reveals that 65% of aspiring pilot trainees want to fly for leisure, 5% for business, and 29% to train as a professional pilot. All of them are motivated by the idea of flying, and even the dropouts say that the experience of being airborne is highly positive.
Almost all of them make the decision to train, and choose where they train, through social contacts and word of mouth - practically none through advertising.