Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research





Key words

U.S. domestic student pilot recruitment, international student pilot recruitment, school choice factors, vocational pilot training, marketing flight schools, pilot workforce sustainability


As international civil aviation activities resume from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with fleet growth and high retirement rates for senior pilots, there is a concern about the industry’s capability in supplying sufficient numbers of competent professional pilots. In order to advance the industry’s recruitment, it is necessary to determine effective approaches that may attract prospective student pilots to flight schools. This study investigated how school choice factors influenced U.S. domestic student pilots’ selections of vocational, non-collegiate flight schools in comparison to international student pilots. The study data were adopted from a 2019 survey research, which included 157 domestic and 44 international participants. The participants were invited to rate how much influence various choice factors, including marketing approaches, relevant people, and institutional factors, had on their school choice decision-making. Key findings regarding marketing approaches revealed that word of mouth and media-based marketing approaches were significantly more influential for international student pilots. Whereas domestic student pilots seemed to prefer personal communication-based marketing approaches. With respect to the influence of relevant people, this study found that certain school members (i.e., flight instructors, current trainees, executive committee, and sales personnel) had a significantly higher influence on international student pilots’ school choice decisions than for domestic student pilots. In regard to institutional factors, it was found that both groups included the following factors as the key influencers: training quality, availability of flying opportunities, training costs, safety record of the programs, the overall reputation, length of time to complete program, reputation of flight instructors, scheduling flexibility, and training capacity. Moreover, international student pilots endorsed that institutional factors pertaining to school campus life had significantly more influence on their school selections than their domestic counterparts. Implications and recommendations were proposed. This study helps fill a gap in the current literature on vocational flight school choices.



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