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Input from pilots is welcome but "membership" is limited to instructors and schools.
The definition of a business is a transaction that provides regularity and consistency in its service at a profit. Given that we depend on weather and training site conditions, no wonder some can never can make enough profit. The trick of any instructor or school is to figure out a training plan that is as regular and consistent as is possible given the local conditions. This will determine the ultimate size of your business. The scooter tow system is part of the package now that can fill in for the hill when the wind direction is wrong and can be placed in a highly visible location. The condor or a very large low and slow glider (for the persons weight and wind) and quiver of progressively smaller sized training gliders provides the consistency of service from no wind to breezy. If local climate is the issue, than only provide the service during that time of year of when it is consistent and regular. It may not be a business that you depend on for your sole personal income, but it will help the sport and local population knowing the one could learn how to hang glide during this set time of year. Being consistent with your availability is the rule though. Those class dates would be prominently advertised on your website, the local hang club and in your promotions the rest of the year. You may even enjoy yourself more, knowing that you don't depend on this. Even a part-time or seasonal business makes a profit too so don't devalue the service. That cheapens it for every other instructor. That would devalue it in the eyes of the client and again all you will get is "I'll try hang gliding today" students....not to mention the all the other one time thrill students this one guy tells. The rest of the year could be devoted to just finding those five serious students. Minimizing all ongoing expenses to what can actually be supported and is needed - like year-long rent for shops and office costs is a given. Accepting these expenses depends on how much potential volume you can generate (high population areas) AND how consistent and regular the service can be. You can make money in a highly variable location by switching your centers of operation based on the conditions. Again, the low power scooter tow - condor system can be a great help here. I have found that small business owners are the best customers because they know the value, effort and time you put in is immense - they accurately value things. If you show them semi regular progress they will be happy. Don't be afraid of start pricing the lesson at cost per number of flights and than tieing a lesson discounts with equipment purchase and tie waiving of flight limits with purchase of lesson packages. One introductory lesson without any of these committments is appropriate. Always provide choices, but make sure each choice your provide makes you money. I provide a lesson plan in four steps of three lessons each. I like the plan of providing a $110.00 first lesson introduction with 7 flights and then having clients purchase 3 lesson package at $300.00. The next of set of three lessons is where most of the risk of damage to equipment occurs, thus the single lesson price goes up to $130.00 but remains at $100 if a step package if bought. Unlimited flights (till performance progress remains static or diminishes) is provided if the first piece of equipment is bought (full face helmet). Always connect the next three lesson step with a vivid experience (create a video showing these experiences) they will have in the training and with a crucial piece of equipment they will need to perform it. Never talk to them without this piece of equipment in front of you. Since the second step requires long distance communication and unassisted flight, purchase of a radio is appropriate. The lesson price remains at $100.00 if another lesson step package of three is bought. Unlimited flights are provided if the radio is purchased. Also, get the measurements for the harness for the third step in the training. Have an adjustable full pod harness made for this step in case the harness is not manufactured in time for their training. The third 3 lesson step in training often involves strategic skills and manuevers and becoming more familar with customized equipment. Thus the definition of lesson turns to tasks taught, understood and attempted not number of flights. Purchase of harness and parachute is tied to unlimited flights. The free parchute clinic is tied to this step but the equipment must be ordered. Purchasing the falcon, target, sonic (anyway we need to stick to true beginner gliders) and vario is tied to the mountain tour in the fourth step (shown in the flying video with beaming new pilots wearing the equipment you will have them purchase) Stick to these prices and policies with everyone. People are very sensitive to fairness. Sometimes, a client can barter some of their crucial skills in exchange for a lesson. This is still a transcation in equal value. You may consider providing the choice of paying by the hour, say $40.00 an hour, or the above plan. They will soon turn to the above plan! Clients are paying for the time, attention and effort you put in transforming thier bodies and brains into birds. Private lessons are always cost more, so charge extra To put this all in perspective, I pay may yoga teacher and ongoing $850.00 a year, my horse-riding instructor $45.00 an hour, my guitar teacher $25.00 an hour.
Let's see if I have this right:
5-10 years ago, in order to boost hang gliding membership, the USHGA made instructor certification more difficult. The number of instructors and the membership dropped. They consistently refused to listen to pleas to reinstate the "No charge for initial H-1 rating with new membership" which was good incentive for new pilots to join. It would have cost the organization nothing but greed took precedence over smart. They wanted that extra $15.00 for marking H-1 on the card. No longer could the instructor say to a new pilot, "I can give you a rating if you join the USHGA and it won't cost you anything extra". Just maybe, receiving that magazine monthly would have kept new pilots interested over those long winter months.
The USHGA (that former hang gliding organization) had branched out to include paragliding to increase membership. Hang gliding membership still dropped but membership in the organization and organization revenue increased which of course, is the most important thing.
Now, with declining membership the (former) USHGA took a lesson from state government who, if they are driving business out because of high, tax driven overhead, increase taxes to make up for the lost revenue. The (former) USHGA now, increases membership dues to help the organization. Basic economics says that this will have what effect on inspiring new members to join?
With an annual loss of instructors, the (former) USHGA now decides to make liability insurance mandatory for instructors. From a strictly basic economic perspective, this will have what effect on inspiring pilots to become instructors? From a practical standpoint, what effect will this have in attracting sharks?
The (former) USHGA will of course possibly be able to survive if it can broaden its membership base so that it may not really matter that there are very few hang gliding instructors around and the hang glider pilot population has dwindled to some insignificant number.
An impartial observer in the future would smile and nod knowingly as they look at the trend for increase in bureaucracy resulting in decrease in pilots: increase in dissatisfaction with an organization by an important segment of a group and decrease in pilots. In the future there might be almost nobody belonging that (now) sub-group that the organization was formed to represent.
The organization would be strong and of course, that is the important thing.
Does it matter that 25 to 40% of the membership dislike the organization? Well, that group might be well more than 50% of that original grouping that the organization was formed to represent. What is known for fact is that the number of instructors and hang glider pilots is dropping and that the bulk of the memebership came from small volume instructors who are being driven to extinction. More bureaucracy does appear to be making things worse. The (former) USHGA is no longer focsed on one single thing - HELPING HANG GLIDING (and HELPING those who teach it). That could be construed as a good thing as the help to date has been increased control and as such has reduced the number of instructors and new pilots. "They" say that changes in instructor certification have been for the better but the number of new, long term pilots being created says otherwise. How do you undo Best Intentions?
*******How about a (somewhat) virtual reality simulator for you school?*******
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