by Mark R. Baker, President & CEO
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Being a flight instructor is not a glamorous job. You’ll never get rich as a CFI. And, once in a while, it can be downright scary. But you can’t beat the view from your office window and you can’t beat the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve helped someone make their dreams come true.
The very best flight instructors, and the very best flight schools, do more than simply teach people to safely handle an aircraft. They educate, inspire, and invite their students to cultivate a lifelong passion for flying and for the aviation community.
These are the unsung heroes of general aviation. Without them there would be no new pilots and no opportunity for licensed pilots to grow their skills or expand their ratings.
At AOPA we believe that CFIs and flight schools should be recognized for all they do. That’s why we created the Flight Training Excellence Awards to celebrate the flight training professionals who do so much to sustain and nurture the GA community. And the Flight Training Excellence Awards serve another purpose, too—spotlighting best practices and encouraging schools to share their experiences of what really works.
To discover how schools and instructors are doing, we invite students to tell us about their training experiences—the good and the bad. For 2015, we received more than 7,100 responses to our flight training poll, and we used those responses to identify some of the very best schools and CFIs around.
Based on the poll results, we selected Aeroventure Institute of Southbridge, Mass., as the 2015 Best Flight School, and Todd Shellnutt of Atlanta as the 2015 Best Flight Instructor. Another 10 schools and 10 instructors were recognized as “Outstanding” and a further 23 flight schools and 45 flight instructors made it to our Honor Roll.
The poll numbers tell an important story, but it’s not the only story worth telling. Each year I get to select a school that has made significant, innovative contributions to the flight training community to receive the President’s Choice Award. For 2015, it went to Paragon Flight, in Fort Meyers, Fla. Enthusiasm counts for something, too. That’s why each year we also recognize the school that receives the highest number of positive nominations from its students—for the fourth year in a row, that distinction went to Aviation Adventures in Manassas, Va.
All these award winners are making real contributions to the future of general aviation, and I’m glad that, at least for a moment, we can shine a light on the good work they do every single day.