Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Light-Sport Chronicles: Mike Z And The Harbingers Of Doom!


For those eager pessimists proclaiming LSA on life support, a rebuttal


"The Holy Grail at my school is the formation flying team I put together," Zidziunas remarks. "We opened the Sebring Expo this year: It's the youngest formation team in the country, and all the kids are eager to do it." He points out that older students get the fun treatment, too. "We do just a couple landings, then fly to a nearby airport, have a Coke, just take a little more time at it. It's not a waste of time though. They're getting comfortable in the airplane, they're learning to navigate. We just slow everything down a bit."

A key component to that approach is charging sufficiently for his CFIs—$45 per hour—to encourage them to fly out to those $100 hamburgers.

"I charge like a professional, which means I don't mind spending that extra time but not charging for it. We also come up with fun flights on weekends."

Zidziunas also agrees with me that co-ownership of LSA and other civilian aircraft is the saving-grace model for the future. Case in point: My friend Dan Johnson recently joined a four-person partnership in a Flight Design CTLSi at his Spruce Creek Air Park home. He has virtually all the enjoyment of owning his own airplane...at a quarter of the flying costs of sole ownership.

Mike Z is living and breathing his very own LSA business success story every day. He knows better than the doomsayers stuck in old paradigms that it's premature to sign LSA's death certificate.

"Sure, it's not like it was back in the glory days of GA. You can't wait for people to walk into your school any more: You have to take your program to them," he reasons. "The key is to show people they can do it. That flying isn't for 'special' people. That's the beauty of LSA: They're simple and fun to fly. We don't have to put them in airplanes that are hard to see out of and loaded with a bunch of intimidating instruments.

"We put together fun flyouts," Zidziunas concludes. "We go to the Bahamas five times a year. We encourage people to look outside the cockpit. We show them that flying's not so hard at all. And once they see that...you got 'em!"



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