I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Hal Shevers of Sporty’s. This is the last of a series of blogs on my visit (https://doctoraviation.com/sportys-pilot-shop-the-phenomenon/). This final blog will focus on key decisions that made Sporty’s successful.
When I asked Hal what had kept him in business for 57 years he did not hesitate with the answer: Aviation Education. Sporty’s currently has 150 flight students. This includes an innovative partnership with the University of Cincinnati Clermont campus. In the UC program students can earn an associates degree or a bachelor’s degree and graduate ready to make a living in the flying industry.
I asked Hal about key decisions that have been made at Sporty’s through the years. I mentioned three of them in the previous blog (https://doctoraviation.com/sportys-right-people-on-the-bus/). Developing the weekend instrument ground school was first on the list. This innovation way back in 1964 revolutionized how student pilots prepared for FAA examinations.
Getting Dick Collins and Joe Vorbeck on the bus (plane) was also a key. Dick and Joe were instrumental in producing high quality training videos. Hal was anxious to avoid talking heads, so the videos are full of live footage and graphics, lots of graphics.
Closing tied to the videos was the advent of the DVD. It was obvious to Sporty’s what the DVD could do. The quality and ability to duplicate made getting instruction out much easier. They sell over 1,000 learn to fly videos in a month. Eventually the courses found their way to the internet, only increasing capacity and distribution.
One of the final key decisions was the move from Lunken Airport to Clermont County Airport. Lunken, as are many municipal airports, is owned by the city. The city fathers don’t know anything about running an airport. So they rely on consultants, some who are good, some of whom are not. When Sporty’s moved to Clermont County Airport they moved to private property. This allowed easier financing and more freedom. They eventually took over the management of the new airport for the county…allowing further innovation and freedom.
Another key decision was made outside of Sporty’s, by the American people. The Recession of 2008-2010 slowed Sporty’s business (and other aviation businesses) for years beyond the recession. When I asked when Sporty’s business recovered. Hal shared it was Election Night of 2016. Within 10 days after the election business was good again.
When asked point blank why Sporty’s is so successful, Hal answered with two things.
- Being on the cutting edge of education. We have people who love to fly, instruct, teach and do it right. Wonderful, local, Cincinnati people
- Consistency of quality in products and people.
That brings me to the conclusion of this series of blogs. Hal Shevers told me that he learned to fly through the Flying Club at Purdue. He spent many hours at Aretz Airfield with Cap Aretz and others. Hal told me that when you made it to the Piper Aztec, it was a sign of success.
Sporty’s has a somewhat legendary red Aztec. Posts and articles on Sporty’s often mention it. When I asked Hal the significance of owning the Aztec, he shared the Purdue story with me. I would say that it is duly symbolic that Hal and Sporty’s has an Aztec. It is a sign of success.