What a terrible winter for flying. In six weeks I have managed to get in the air on just five days. Normally five days is one good week of flying. My students are pretty frustrated, but this is Iowa, so we learn to deal with it. At least it isn’t like this every year.

When I accepted the position of president of the Iowa Aviation Promotion Group a year ago, I had some pretty lofty goals. I haven’t let go of them. In fact, I believe we’re intensifying these goals. One thing that I feel is core to change is to first decide what you want to do, i.e. create a set of goals and a set of measurements so you know if you’re headed the right direction. Then you can try a variety of things to see how they work against your measurements.

Here are the goals we established to promote and improve Iowa Aviation:

  1. More people that understand, appreciate, and support aviation.
  2. More economic benefit to local communities by encouraging and supporting businesses that use aviation to succeed in locating here.
  3. More activity among existing pilots
  4. More pilots!

If we succeed in meeting these goals,

  1. Aviation will be seen as a plus, locally (less complaints & fighting against airports), and statewide (better legislative support). This is an education mission and doesn’t require that people be direct participants in the industry, but at least be tolerant of it.
  2. Local communities will retain their youth and grow. Chambers of commerce around the state understand this. Businesses hire employees. Businesses that use aviation move to communities that have high quality airports.
  3. More active pilots buy and rent airplanes, rent hangar space, buy fuel and supplies.
  4. There is a genuine pilot shortage. Airlines, corporate operators, flight instructors, and businesses need pilots. If there are more pilots, the cost of everything aviation-related decreases.

So, how do we measure progress against those four goals?

  1. I believe that number one is likely to be the most difficult to measure. Coincidentally, that has been the primary mission of IAPG in previous years. I would argue that by working on the last three, number one becomes a positive side effect. At the very least, we could count cars or attendees at Fly Iowa. We could also hold survey to guage the level of support. I’m open to other thoughts as this is a tough one to measure.
  2. Chambers of commerce and the state measure numbers of businesses, numbers of employees, sales, and all sorts of interesting figures to see how their economies are doing. We need to get connected with them and share information. We can help them grow and they can help us measure the growth.
  3. Aircraft and fuel sales are easier to measure. Airports know when their hangars are full and when there is a backlog for hangar space. The Fly Iowa Challenge had many registrants at our airports. We can easily count visitors to airports.
  4. The FAA publishes data on all pilot licenses each month, which we compile and publish on the FlyIowa.org website (look under Blue Skies).

Now that we have an idea what we want to do and how to measure it, now we need to do something to make the numbers change. I have proposed several programs such as the Fly Iowa Challenge, Blue Skies, and the Iowa Flybrary to help. I would like to hear your thoughts. This is a 100% volunteer organization and it takes all of us to make a difference. What can we do to make a positive change?

– Tim