Where Do all the pilots come from?????
     Impending changes in the hang gliding instructor certification
     process that will (probably) make it more costly and difficult
     to become certified, sparked a study of the pilot ratings issued,
     their source, the effectivness of the instruction (did the Hang 
     1 pilot remain a member for more than a year) and the relative
     value to the USHGA of big, high volume schools vs the small 
     schools and "back yard instructors" for the creation of a stable
     base of air junkies. 
  	   Simply showing Hang 1's would not show totally valid data
     for an instructor as many instructors don't bother to "award"
     the rating when they know the pilot/student is well on their 
     way to a Hang 2 but it should show a valid trend. Did large,
     "professional" schools generate most of the pilots that remained 
     active? That question would not be simple to answer as proximity
     of the school to a good flying site would badly skew the results.
     Just what should be done to maximize the number of pilots from the
     pitiful percentage of people who dream of flight?	
           The chart below shows the number of pilots given Hang 1's 
     in all years on record from all and each instructor in the USHGA
     to pilots who were (still) members as of 4/1/97. We specifically 
     included  the 4 months of expired members and hope that some of
     the expired members simply forgot to renew and that those past
     months shown will still be valid. Ok, look at the chart---- 


You will note that there are a number of instructors who have contributed many pilots (many also have a good record for ratio of Hang 1's awarded and active pilot generated who remains a pilot/member). Those 40 +/- instructors account for approximately 40% of our "newer" pilots. That "newer" spans nearly 10 years. The remaining (approx.) 60% come from instructors/schools that have given 20 or less (each of them) of the Hang 1 ratings that are on record. Roughly one third of the pilots/members come from instructors who have given 6 or less Hang 1 ratings in their whole teaching career. I think there may be an implication here that if we (hang glider pilots, manufacturers and instructors) are going to survive with solid members in a stable USHGA, we will have to increase the number of instructors for, as, the way things stand at the moment, we are not holding even. We need to keep the instructors we now have and create new ones to fill in the massive blanks in the map where there are none. We need instructors within a 2 hr. drive from anywhere and that is not the case with the (less than) 140) that had generated ratings this year when we got the data that made that chart. Are you curious as to who has taught the greatest number people that became pilots? Again, for the moment we'll only look at the H1 ratings/current members picture and callously ignore instructors (such as me) who often "forget" to give a H1 if the pilot is definitely on their way to a H2. The top 31 instructors are: C THORESON Count 136 P DENEVAN Count 79 B KUSHNER Count 76 M JONES Count 75 D GLOVER Count 70 A BEEM Count 67 T HAGER Count 53 D BAXTER Count 47 J TINDLE Count 45 J RYAN Count 44 P VENESKY Count 43 J REYNOLDS Count 42 R MC KENZIE Count 42 P GODWIN Count 40 G BLACK Count 38 G REEVES Count 38 M TABER Count 38 R ENGORN Count 38 A BLOODWORTH Count 33 B CHALMERS Count 33 D QUACKENBUSH Count 33 J MIDDLETON Count 32 J HOOKS Count 30 A WHITEHILL Count 29 D GUIDO Count 29 J WOODWARD Count 29 R HASTINGS Count 29 D GORDON Count 28 W THORNTON Count 28 J HUNT Count 27 T CADORA Count 26 B UMSTATTD Count 25 Please note that this includes memberships generated after the push for ratings and "advertising" schools that produce the most members. The numbers shown in a few cases may be low and some who should be there were "lost" due to the fact that the records are kept with the first initial first as part of the name so if an instructor's first name is "Robert" and half of the ratings were signed off by "Bob", they will be listed as two separate instructors. In some cases a school owner will sign off all ratings so that individual will be high on the list at the expense of the instructor. For the moment, just consider the numbers in the list above. Add them up. THOSE ARE THE TOTAL not for a year, or two or three, but the total current members created from the most prolific instructors in the largest schools in the country. 1422 pilots TOTAL! In 20 years. Now do you need to ask why we are not growing. A number of things are implied from all this. First, we need more instructors scattered about the country. Next, we need to treat every new pilot as a resourse to be nurtured.That minute fraction of a percent of mankind that want to fly need : a) a place to fly, b)the opportunity to learn, c) competent, thorough instruction and maybe most important d) continuing help to keep them learning and flying safely once they have left the nest. The bad part is that all of this has to be done at a price that doesn't scare people away while paying us for the awsome responsibilities involved with teaching safe, competent flight. Aerotow will provide a solution for some where "standard" schools are not available BUT the inevitably high cost of instruction to produce a solid Hang 2 will probably scare away alot of the potential pilots in that 1/1000 of 1% that are our target and tandem training will not appeal to many. Other forms of towing can possibly reduce the cost and there are viable ways to teach foot launch, particularly with a static winch, that can fill the gap where tandem is not desired. Can we increase that 1/1000 of 1%? I don't believe we can do it safely. If we were to create the desire to fly by any form of hype, the people attracted would not be likely to take the required mental and physical skills as necessary things to learn. It would be shades of 20+ years ago---- "Yeah let's fly, hey yeah that's neat" and then reality and injury strike and they disappear into the mist. Again, back to the pie chart while considering--1) There are no instructors in roughly 1/3 of the country and in 27 states, there were 2 or less instructors. 2) The total membership of the most prolific instructors (in fact all instructors) does not come close to equaling the drop-out numbers. 3) There were only about 140 instructors in the country giving ratings at the time we got the data---8/97. What do we do? That "we" includes all pilots who will ever want a new, certified glider. Quality of instruction does not appear to be a big problem. A quick scan of the data shows that most instructors have a "success" ratio pretty much in the same range. There are some exceptions at both extremes but there may be reasons for that which are not due to the quality of instruction but simply the nature of the school's students or "visitors". Availibility of instruction is an obvious problem. A person can have had the most wonderful time of their life at an aerotow park but if they go back to a state where there is no place to follow up, they will not be members for long. The drop-out numbers could possibly be radically reduced by instructional "follow-up" and keeping the pilot in the proper glider. That "proper glider" issue is a big one. What was described to me as "L.Z. Culture" almost forces many pilots to go out and buy a glider that they may not have fun flying so they ultimately quit. So again, what do we do to increase the availability of instruction (not put ourselves out of business) and increase the number of pilots. The instructor certification process has to be friendly without compromising quality. Recertification should be a matter of safety and currency (similar to the Red Cross instructor program). We can't afford to lose good instructors for simply bureaucratic reasons. We need instructors to fill in the blank areas on the map. That still doesn't help where there are no sites. The answer to that keeps which keeps rearing its head and which I keep on pushing aside, is summarized in the word "Towing". Although towing is not for everyone it sure beats nothing, radically increases the number of sites, should increase the number of flyable days, and can accomodate both tandem, solo, foot launch and dolly (for those who think running is too much work or physically can't run). Systems such as static winches are relatively inexpensive. I hate it all. I can't stand having my hands on someone elses life with mechanical advantage such that if I screw up, I could kill them but for those not in CA, in places like New England where weather is totally fickle, it may ultimately be "THE ANSWER" if given some more developement. Oh yeah, now what is the plan for changing the instructor certification process and will it help change that pie chart?