Friday, February 19, 2010

Santa Monica Flyers II

Wrapping (that’s moviespeak) yesterday’s item with Charles Thomson and Santa Monica Flyers, the erstwhile flight training entrepreneur happily reports a good start. “I haven’t done any marketing whatsoever; it’s all been word of mouth. People were waiting for a light sport airplane in this area.”
Note: Photo at right is Charlie's SportCruiser.
That’s a scenario many LSA operations can envy. It doesn’t hurt to be smack in the middle of a huge megalopolis and general aviation mecca either.
Thomson believes the wish to fly is universal. “Flying provides the connection between man and God. Look at angels: people with wings. It’s sad to me that someone might go through life and never fly.”
Yet his business philosophy is anything but idealistic: He charges students less than some local schools for instructor time, but gives a greater percentage of the hourly fee to instructors.
“I can get the best instructors that way. Some schools charge $80/hour...and only give $18 to the instructor! We charge $50 and give instructors more. There’s no need for a school to make a huge profit on that aspect of the training.”
Student rental rate for the SportCruiser after a modest membership fee is $105/hour wet. Rated pilots can get a block rate of $110/hr.
“That’s cheaper than most Cessna 172s - which are typically 20 years old and more. I tell students they will probably spend $3,500 to $4,500 to get their Sport Pilot license. That’s been our average.”
Here’s wishing the best of good fortune to Charles Thomson as well as his “rival” on SMO, Karine Noel, whom I profiled here a few weeks ago here. She teaches on a Flight Design CTLS, which means students have more LSA training choices.
It’s also kind of a neat update to the classic Cessna/Piper rivalry that’s been part of general aviation, and Santa Monica Airport, for generations.

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