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Updated 07/09/06

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Link - 2002 instructor certification changes

Link -The state of hang gliding instruction as of Feb. 2003

What is your school's business plan?
From John Matylonek of Oregon Hang Gliding
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.

And now, an editorial comment on the state of instruction as of April 2006:
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?



  • Where the active pilots have come from -- membership until 4/97 and total ratings on record issued by the instructors that initially taught them.
  • (Same as above)The state of hang gliding instruction as of Feb. 2003

    Previous issues:
    The 13th issue -- launches discussed
    The 14th issue--The 11/98 USHGA Instructror Certification process
    The 17th issue -- Aerotow incidents and suggestions for safety
    The 18th issue-- How lucky are we?
    The 19th issue-- Decison making
    The 20th issue-- Comments from Holland and Attitude modification
    The 21st issue-- How to make your training hill higher
    The 22nd issue-- Continuing discussion of #21 and misc. training methods
    The 23rd issue-- First flights and launch incidents in Nov.'99 discussed
    The 24th issue-- "Arrival" landing discussion
    The 25th issue-- Lockouts
    The 26th issue-- You write it!

    *******How about a (somewhat) virtual reality simulator for you school?*******

    Add this great training tool to your school
    Plans for them are available at no charge for contributing instructors now.
    Do it soon or the hardware and software will be a real problem to get.
    Our simulator
    to you.

    See the following for brief coments on:

  • Our feelings on what Hang Gliding needs to survive. Our Future

  • The NEW (as of Nov.'98) USHGA process for instructor certification
    and

    An alternative certification policy they didn't consider

    The Instructor's Forum Welcome

    Contributing instructors/schools:
  • German Barbato
  • Dave Baxter @ Morningside Flight Park
  • Ben Davidson @ Tek Flight Products
  • James Freeman
  • Fly Maine Hang Gliding
  • Dave Glover @ Flying Humans
  • Terry Kramer @ Raven Sky Sports
  • Rob McKenzie @ High Adventure
  • Mission Soaring Center
  • Daniel Morrison, @ Atacama Air Sports--Chile
  • Barry Morwick @ Prairie Wind Flight School
  • Marin Slavcov
  • Steve Smith @ Airborne Watersports H.G.
  • Sally Tucker @ Thrills of Flying
  • Bill Umstattd
    Where the active pilots have come from -- membership until 4/97 and total ratings on record issued by the instructors that initially taught them.

    Links to contact Contributing Schools and Instructors


      Hang Gliding links

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