I think AOPA's efforts are worthwhile - but believe for the most part they have missed the mark. The nature of the flight school business makes it difficult to achieve a consistent quality result for most students. Many / most flight schools are thinly capitalized operations employing very inexperienced CFI's ( due to low compensation) who are more interested in their next job than in understanding that teaching is the primary mission. The federal reg's and the flight schools themselves do the student a disservice by letting the student believe that they can get their ticket in 40-50 hours. The real national averages appear to be much higher. The student starts into the training process and experiences the 'normal' issues that have been around the industry for forever (CFI leaves to fly jets, plane broken again, Wx, etc.etc.) and then they are banging the pattern, flying to the practice area, and landing at one of the other two or three practice fields for the umteenth time. The student can no longer say this is a FUN experience... which is why most of us got into this in the first place. And I'll bet why we still fly. To the student who bangs the pattern, flys into the same two airports and does the millionth stall practice. The fun is gone. So why do I want to drive out to the airport and learn to fly again? Many say I have better ways to spend my time and money. We start with high expectations of fun adventures. We believe pilots (esp CFI's) are a higher form of life. Something to aspire to, to be a part of... and then most students end up spending alot of time, money and frustration dealing with flight school practices that we would never put up with in our professional lives. Pretty soon - we have 'better' (read - more fun) things to do than to go out to the airport and burn circles in the sky.
Just my view ...
AvGas $ 5
Cirrus rental $ 200
CFII $ 60
Flying Fun - priceless !
I have to echo the commenters who described the lack of professionalism as the greatest barrier to decreasing drop out rates.
For us student pilots, this flying stuff is serious business. It's very serious. It is, at its most basic, learning how to avoid dying. It may be more of the same ol same ol to you veteran aviators, but please don't bring that attitude to the cockpit when you show up for flight lessons. Cool and calm is good. Chatting on your cell phone with God-Knows-Whom while I am doing turns around a point is not.
And yeah, we SPs have lives too. Here are my suggestions:
1) If you're going to be late, or a no show, pick up the damn phone. Or send an email. Or something.
1) If the airplane is out of service, pick up the damn phone. Or send an email. Or something. Corollary: If you say the airplane will be ready in x number of days, then I expect the airplane to be ready in x number of days! How long does it take to change a tire? Corollary 2: If you say you're going to do something, do it.
1) Please at least pretend to remember what we did last time. And where we are in the training program. A 2 minute review of my logbook will give you loads of information...especially since you put it there!
1) Have a plan; I don't care if we follow it exactly – make adjustments as necessary – but please, if I don't know what we are going to be doing in the air, until I get into the cockpit, I've lost an opportunity to prepare for that particular lesson. Which costs me time and money.
If I wasn't so motivated to do this, I would have quit several times over by now. At first I thought "maybe it's just this instructor". Reading the literature, it is obvious that it is not just this instructor. So I'll suck it up and deal with it, and hopefully get it over as quickly and painlessly as possible.
It's interesting to see the change in strategy on the part of AOPA now to get students to the finish line instead of trying to attract new ones. Ok, so let's say that whatever new camapign AOPA launches succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams and the 80% who have been quitting now go on to get their ticket. Who says that these newly licensed pilots won't stop their activity or just quit at that point?
The presumption at large has to be the idea that once a student has invested that much time, effort and expense into becoming a pilot, he or she will continue to participate in aviation. While this theory might seem reasonable on the surface, it fails to consider the current economic, political and emotional climate that might have significantly contributed to the students abandoning their goals in the first place.
We are no longer in the era in which 707s proudly roared into the skies leaving a stream of black smoke behind. All we have now are recollections of the last airline trip we took when we stood on long lines, waiting to be stripped of all human dignity by invasive searches of our bodies and our property. Not exactly the kind of stuff that inspires anyone to aviation and nothing that AOPA can do anything about.
I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but finding answers to a problem requires looking at ALL the factors, unpleasant as they may be.
I'm just a freshly minted 54-yo sport pilot but I had a feeling that maybe AOPA didn't get their money worth from this "research".
It seems the research lumps together very different groups of students with different motivations and circumstances and potentially presents the highly scientific but utterly useless picture similar to "average patient body temperature in a hospital".
Obviously a large group of young 20-year olds pursuing the dream of making a carreer in aviation as a pilot may have different motivations and circumstances from large group of 40+ year olds well-to-do adults turning to flying as a life style/recreational activity.
The first group would most likely and understandably primarily focus on costs/efficiency (as one can easily see just looking at some comments here) - and here industries who may be employing them in a future as pilots could do a lot for a retension by establishing significant financial incentives to obtain commercial ratings and certifications.
The second "life style/recreational" group of prospective private pilots has its own motivations. While cash may not be an obstacle by itself, the comparative value and "return on investment" is. They will not get easily discouraged by the need to find a suitable school and a CFI that "clicks" with them - but they can easily get discouraged by perceived low value of activity as a recreation and/or lifestyle - as compared with other potential investments of similar amount of time, effort and money, and this includes views of their families. And even if they stick with it all the way to the license - many of them will stop flying for these reasons later.
And for this second group you see calls for "community formation" efforts, fly-outs, more group activities for $200-hamburgers etc. ($100 -haburger is the thing of the past already) That is all good for some but maybe woefully not enough for retension in this group as a whole.
We need to get pilots out of the rut of the pattern and let them enjoy their pilot skills on their own terms and w/o the extreme hassle and commitment to own the plane. We need to invent the way for pilots to fly out to the destinations *and enjoy them too*. The run to a restroom and walking about the airstrip will not cut it for long. This means the need for rental infrastructure that encourages off-base flying-and-staying, provides for easy and reliable ground transportation, maybe convinient "plane-and-car" daily rental packages etc. This requires major investments to create the lifestyle VALUE proposition and serious commitments from the whole industry, possibly with government grant participation..
Meanwhile, in the absense of common purpose in the industry and major action, our small airports and runways are being closed and new ones are being covered with Xs every year, many are desolated, depressing places, unattended and with no services. Even if you could find a ground transportation out of them just leaving a plane in such a place doesn't strike as a reasonable or safe thing to do, etc. You don't get masses involved into such fying...
It looks like both young and older future pilots do not have answers to their needs on the horizon, surely not from the "research" - leaving the situation where it is now: a gauntlet for ever shrinking pool of extremely committed, motivated and blind to the reason, with the rest falling out on the way or soon after....
One thing follows - stop beating on CFIs already. They are not a part of the big problem and this is just a wasteful barking at the wrong tree. The real reason for declining numbers is that the whole GA infrastructure and career ladder pilot training is in shambles and therefore is no longer attractive as a choice neither as career nor a lifestyle. And there's nobody to step up and break a vicious circle of decline.
Having experienced the "typical" transaction-oriented urban flight school, and a couple of well-organized rural flying clubs that were as much social club as flight school, I'm perhaps much less surprised by the importance of community. The difference between the two experiences was night and day for me, in terms of my enjoyment of flying.
I'd love to see sport aviation move dramatically farther toward "community." It's an alien idea to many flight school operators, though: I doubt they're hostile to it, but they'll need to see examples of it in action to get a feel for how to do it. Which, in turn, suggests there may be more need for community among flight school operators...
By the way, I've had several women tell me that a friendlier, more community-type environment is what it would take to attract them and their friends into flying, too.
As a former educator, I was surprised by how stressful my own flight education was for me. My expectations were high, learning to fly was fun, but very stressful, and I found it a very emotional experience. Several ratings later, it is easy to forget that first experience. At one point, I remember almost quitting when I was slow in learning landing techniques.
Because student expectations are so high and the initial learning experience is stressful to most, I think the job of teaching people to fly is very difficult to do well and requires sensitive, skillful teaching. Although I have had several excellent instructors, mediocre one are par for the course. I applaud AOPA for the study but it highlights the same old problem. Teaching is hard, flying is fun, and given the chance, many teach as a method to fly. Identifying the problem is the easy part, fixing it is harder.
As a brand new sport pilot (I just passed my checkride last Monday) I can name several reason why sticking with it can be very difficult for anyone - even those like me who are 100% addicted to flying. In my case there were many factors that would have made me quit a long time ago. If it wasn't for the fact that I am my own boss and lucky enough to have excess disposable income there would be no way on earth I would have been able to complete my training. While I liked my instructors personally, the school itself was poorly run at best. I expected ground school to be in a classroom like setting followed by quizing of some type, followed by flying lessons and then more ground work and more flying etc.. In reality I didn't have a day of traditional ground school other than when I explained that I didn't clearly understand certain principles even though I was given books and expected to learn it on my own. I explained I learned best in a tutoring type of environment but was told that I was underestimating myself. I am 46 and I know my strengths and weaknesses pretty well which I tried many times to explain to my teachers. I was cancelled on at the last minute many times due to different circumstances with reservation changes, maintenance, weather and this became a real problem as the airport is one full hour from my home, many times I got the call minutes before arrival. I was also given false expectations from day one. I was told that I would become a pilot by the summer, which I thought was ridiculous at the time. Then it became end of summer, then fall, then winter. It wasnt until the following spring and 68 hours later. The most frustrating part came after i was "ready" to take the checkride. Getting an approved FAA examiner in our area took 3 full months! So I just kept flying the pattern weekly waiting for the examiner who also then cancelled on my 3 times before finally showing up. The cancellations usually came the morning of the checkride after I spent few days before doing flight planning and prepping and losing sleep! Long story short, I fear the lack of professionalism in the training community coupled with the extensive amount of time and money that must be committed are what make it very difficult for students to actually become pilots. At the end of the day I was incredibly determined to let nothing stand in my way but I always kept thinking about what if I were one of my employees or anyone with a regular job and income? It would be next to impossible. I hope this experience isn't what most people are facing but my gut says with such a high dropout rate they might just be. Of course you do now have one new pilot, EAA, AOPA member and aircraft owner here, but I wonder how many people would put themselves through what i just went through? Sadly, I dont think too many...
I got my license in 1977 at a military flying club while in the Air Force. The instructors and manager at The Lowry Aero Club (also a Cessna Pilot Center) were excellent about making each student feel like an important part of the aviation community. I subscribed to Flying and joined AOPA in 1978. Staying in touch with all of the latest and greatest through the publications has been fun. If you want to feel like an important part of the aviation community, join The Civil Air Patrol. It's a great experience for young and old that have 100LL flowing through their veins. Join a flying club, take a lesson or introductory flight.......but get behind the controls of an airplane and experience the greatest feeling in your life. Then it's up to us to keep that feeling alive. Thanks Robert for another good story.
I tend to agree with airsteve172 that in effect AOPA has the tail wagging the dog. A club I belonged to, with 25 planes and 300 some members did an informal interview with 70 students who stopped training. The club was professionally run, was a 141 school and had excellent instructors, so many of the results from AOPA's survey didn't apply. What was interesting, and not brought up in AOPA's survey is that about 15% of the students just wanted to see if they could successfully fly and land the aircraft. When they reached that goal they quit.
Why the industry can't convert the1% or 2% of the millions of non-pilots who attend fly-ins, airport open houses, air shows and races is beyond me. I wonder if manufacturers marketing is still based on the 1950's model.
Also, other than a $150 hamburger or day trips, GA for vacation isn't that functional do to lack of small airport car rentals, not to mention check out requirements for rental a/c if you want to fly at your destination.
AOPA answered the wrong question IMO.
"If I had to reduce the findings to one statement it would be that customers expect to be treated well and to get what they're paying for, which is to get the thrill and reward of learning to fly. They should expect nothing less."
I appreciated your use of the term customer, as it speaks to a particular – if not explicitly stated – viewpoint on student pilots. The students need to be understood as both learners, but also as customers. Something I would term “student-customer.” Ultimately, the problem is not cost per se, but rather value to the customer. Value creation for the customer remains transparent to the student, and incomprehensible to the flight school – precisely because the flight school treats students as students only, and students view themselves as customers first, and students second (they can’t help it – they’re society programs them to think that way). Consequently, flight schools generally do not focus on 2 critical areas of Value Creation:
1. For student-customers: flight training programs of the highest quality and value
2. For CFIs: fostering a safe, secure, professionally challenging, and rewarding flight school environment – which in turn helps to create value for the customer.
Once flight schools get it through their heads that these two areas must be addressed, then student-customer (note the purposeful inclusion of the word "customer" rather than simply "student") retention will increase. Until then, my best wishes to AOPA's newest endeavor. I'm afraid I remain skeptical.
I teach as a full-time flight instructor and want to echo the comments on this forum that AOPA's effort really needs to be a two-prong approach. Both the student pilot needs to be supported towards finishing their ticket AND the newly-minted pilot needs to be supported, as well.
The reason for 'new starts' not continuing with their training or absolutely, multi-fold. Keep in-mind that the group I am about to discuss are those that have gone beyond the demo flight; after all, there are some persons that do the demo flight as simply a 'been there, done that, opportunity and no interest beyond that'.
Here's some influencing elements as I see them in my day to day:
Money to train (certainly part of the problem) / inadequate financial resources.
Lack of support in the activity by a spouse or significant other
Failure of flight instructor to adequately support morale/spirit of a primary student as they are going through one of the learning plateaus (a period in learning growth, where the growth rate temporarily flattens out) - learning to land is a big one (presolo phase).
Lack of activities in the FBO that don't encourage the formation of supportive aviation friendships between student and other students AND certificated pilots.
Just as tragic is the 'failure' of a flight school to provide activities that support the pilot AFTER the certificate is attained.
My observations (with suggestions on a few) on each of the above points are as follows:
MONEY - this is a tough one. I've seen the loan packages that are offered the students (through AOPA) and others and must say that after the bank bail-outs, lending procedures (understandably) became much tighter and far less liberal than pre-recession times.
LACK OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT - this is a BIG one. As much as possible I try to include the significant other in the process. For instance if we are going on a dual xcntry I encourage the student to bring their significant other on one of the flights (I wouldn't advise having the pax during airwork, for good reason). One of the things the FBO I teach at (Tradewinds Aviation in San Jose, CA) does to help support both the certificated pilot and burgeoning pilot is to provide a pancake breakfasts on the first Saturday of each month. Typically pilots (and some student pilots) will get together for a early breakfasts and head out on a group fly-out to some destination of interest. The latter activity offers a great opportunity for a student pilot to bring along their significant other and gives the 'non-flying' partner the opportunity to interface with other non-flying spouses (works out as a spousal/ significant other, support group).
The latter activity also encourages the certificated pilot to continue to push outside the local area and not just have limted flights with landing practice once a weekend or so. One needs to always infuse the 'adventure' aspect of flying into the student pilot or pilot.
I also think that AOPA (and organizations like it) could do more on this front. Provide a portion of their website dedicated to the non-flying spouse/s.o., support them (as they are vital to the process) in understanding what this aviation thing is all about and what it can mean for them, too.
FAILURE OF A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR TO SUPPORT A STUDENT THROUGH A LEARNING PLATEAU - in my opinion, this is an absolutely vital duty on part of the student's CFI. My students are made aware of the plateaus they may likely encounter (so that there are not suprised when they encounter one) and when they do run into a plateau, I find it vital to support them in their efforts and always do my best to keep track of how they are feeling in this difficult phase of learning. I guess the latter is an example of the many things I genuinely love about being a flight instructor - there is an 'art' to learning to do this, (i.e., teaching people to fly) well. It is the wise instructor, in my opinion, that understands (to borrow from a popular aviation quotation) that in addition to the 'science' of flight, one must also teach the 'romance and adventure'; cornerstones that support and fuel the student's motivations. As an instructor you must also teack to their 'spirit' (the 'why' of why they are up there) as well as their minds.
As an instructor, you need to keep your 'finger on the pulse' of the student's enthusiasm or frustration. If you have a student struggling with landings (and really starting to get frustrated, despite efforts to work on the aspects that are hindering them), sometimes I've discovered the best thing to do is to schedule an upcoming session that has a different focus. For example, sometimes I will walk a student through the process of planning a local 'cross-country' (some airport relatively near that they haven't been to - which doesn't meet the xcntry distance req, but is done more to nurture their spirit). Then we go fly that 'xcntry' they have planned, stop and have a milkshake/burger, perhaps. Arrive, tie down and get out of the plane and let their spirit revist the opportunities that flying provides that they likely dreamed about and what motivated them to fly in the first place. Immerse them in the 'joy' of this thing we call flying. The latter both is an important teaching moment AND just as important; one that nurtures the spirit of the student and serves to motivate them as they move through the plateau.
Often, I'll find the latter 'side trip' allows them to come back and tackle their plateau with a new vigor and assurance that this is something we all had to work through and they will too! Sometimes the best way to gain perspective on a challenge is to look slightly askance of the problem - like the old trick of looking slightly away from an object you want to see in the dark, in order to see what you were looking for in the darkness (to play with metaphor, here).
LACK OF ACTIVITIES WHICH SUPPORT THE STUDENT PILOT AND CERTIFICATED PILOT -
The latter is SO vital. Costs to have a monthly panckake breakfast or small and a great opportunity for 'seasoned' certificated pilots and student pilots to mingle and mix - hangar fly. At my FBO, the certificated pilots plan a group destination to follow the panckake breakfast. I've found these certificated pilots are only too happy to bring a long a burgeoning student pilot so that they can have a taste of the adventure too! In addition to an activity like the latter, my FBO also has a simply appointed lounge area (with a freely provided collection of snacks and seating); the latter encourages the sense of community amongst the student pilots (and certificated pilots) as they mingle and share their adventures/learning phases, etc..
There are a couple of others, but the one's I listed are some of the one's I notice which can hinder a student pilot (or a pilot after they get their 'ticket').
And this is to AOPA - I appreciate your good work and encourage you to continue to provide more marketing tools to CFI's which we can use to translate that new demo into a new start! Myself, what I do, is to take Flight Training magazine, affix my business card on the mailing label area of the magazine. In the magazine, I include the AOPA free 6 month membership offers that they send me. The other give-a-ways, that AOPA provides me are also very valuable. After I do a demo with a prospect, I give them one of these and really emphasize (and I really mean it) that if they have any questions don't hesitate to call or email (I also am certain to follow-up on the demo ((where there seems to be a spark of interest in learning to fly)) a couple days later). A big thing, though,,,, give the demo student something physical to walk away with after the end of their demo. A reminder of their adventure. My FBO also includes a photo of the pilot on a nicely-designed 'First Flight' 'certificate' printed on high quality photo paper.
Hope some of this helps!
Cecil E. Chapman
FAA Gold Seal Certificated Flight Instructor
Senior Flight Instructor - Tradewinds Aviation, San Jose, CA
As a long time independent flight instructor, I am constantly asked about learning to fly. The first question I ask is why are you wanting to learn; business. pleasure. etc.. This gives me some hint as to the motivation of the prospective pilot.
My answer is always this: I have good news and bad news for you. First the bad news.. learning to fly is not easy. You are operating in a third dimension that unless you have had some previous training, will be totally foreign to you. The sights, sounds, and pressures and forces on your body will be foreign to you. There will be a period of adaptation that you will have to undergo. If it is in the summer, it will be hot. If it is in the winter it will be cold. You are required to take a written exam, that while I will be here to explain the various concepts, and help you prepare, you will have to take and pass the test, while the minimum grade for passing is 70, my minimum grade for recommending you for a checkride is an 80.
There will come a time typically right before you solo that I will turn into a complete jerk. You may be doing everything totally right, but I will do everything in my power to anger you to provide you and me, with how you would deal with a stressful situation when and if it occurs. I tell you this now in the calm of the moment so when it happens, you will realize what has happened, and that it is a teaching tool, and your instructor has not lost his mind. Many times after it is over with, they start laughing, and say "you warned me, but you did not have to be so good at it".
The good news: once you get immersed in this, it will be the most fun you will ever have. If you have a true passion for it, the rewards and experiences you will have will be priceless, and the friendships you make, rich and long lasting. Having told them all this, I then take them flying. I lose very few students, and have had several go on to airline positions.
Those that I do lose are from life style situations, moved, birth of a child, medical condition arising etc.
A key to successful customer service is to under promise, and over deliver. I find that works best in the flight instructing business as well.
I am a student pilot with 120 hrs or so. My son is a commercial pilot and got his CFI and has trained me. I just need to take my written and get the check ride. But until then, I fly for practice and fun. I feel very confident flying my Cherokee 140.
What I see as missing in the process for flight instruction is an instruction plan and tool. There are various methods out there, books, videos, etc. but nothing really together and comprehensive. Let me add that I am a civil engineer with a masters degree and almost have another degree accounting for Army techical school courses. I am currently an instructor for these technical courses. We have an extensive plan, with practical exercises, for everything we teach. What I think is needed is a web based course that has inputs for CFI and Student, that gives book/visual instruction and practical exercises for each lesson. An instructor and student notebook would also do. The CFI would prep by reviewing the lesson plan and then follow through with the student. The CFI instruction would give hints and tips along the way on what to do and not do. The student would have web based "homework" prior to the next meeting with the CFI. Each lesson should have specific goals and an objective for that lesson. When you finish, you would be ready for the written test and the flying test. If you fail the test, there would be specific preps to increase skills in just the areas needed. Much could be borrowed from the AOPA Safety Foundation web based training. This intergrated approach, should make everything come togther easier and with better understanding. I know an approach like this would have greatly helped me get to where I am sooner. The daily reqirements of life and distractions today make this type of focused approach almost a necessity.
I haven't flown in three years for these reasons:
When I started my Private I couldn't find an instructor that was calm and collective. My first instructor was so bad I wanted to push him out the window... at 7000 feet! My second instructor was so old I think he forgot how we "yung uns" (as he kept calling me) learn. I then switched to another flight school and found a really good instructor, but with really bad planes (I really don't know how that fleet passed any inspections!). I learned emergencies the old-fashioned way, they were real! With my good instructor sort of panicking slightly before taking the yoke! My dad, a flight instructor that quit long before I started, had always told me "Panic Kills" (his mantra).
During my instrument rating training I had three instructors because the instructors at this particular school either quit due to lack of support, bad planes, lack of students, better job offers, and a number of other reasons, or went on to the airlines (those were the instructors to get that all important high hours in so they could be airline pilots, not instructors). Sometime between my private and instrument training a new extremely high ATC tower went up at the airport. I never had to communicate with ATC before except at a couple airports on xcountries. Now I was forced to be a radio expert quickly while learning instrument. Of course, most of the radios in the school fleet didn't work. After struggling (and getting dear old Dad to help with ground school) I finally finished my instrument four months after my dad (my inspiration) passed away. Getting back into the plane, any plane, was hard for me when Dad went.
After two months of burying and settling my dad's affairs, I started my commercial. Was doing great! Good plane (a Mooney! What my Dad flew!), good instructor who liked to teach, good hangar talk with some experienced pilots (including the husband of a coworker), a couple BBQ's. Everything clicked! And I was on a faster learning curve! Until.....
I broke my foot half-way through my commercial and was grounded for three months. I had lots of money ($2000) in my account at the flight school, enough to finish and maybe start multi training. When the doc gave me the OK I went straight to the airport only to find out that the school had shut down and all the student monies were gone! No flight school, $2000 stolen, and no one to help. I called AOPA, local sheriff, heck, even the FBI! The owners of the flight school are criminals, pure and simple. And due to money no longer there and no other flight school I could afford, I was forced to quit flying! And so close to getting my commercial!
I now am a proud owner of an old RV. It's much cheaper to take care of than a plane. I love to fly (Dad always said it was in my blood), however I can't see paying thousands of dollars up front only to have some of it stolen. I hear about flight school owners shutting down schools in the blink of an eye, taking money that doesn't belong to them, and no one is doing anything to stop them. I can't take those kind of chances anymore! And I'm tired of hearing "you get what you pay for". I thought I was paying for flight school!
Please AOPA and others. Let's solve this problem of flight schools shutting down and stealing from us! I've read too many horror stories about this kind of thing happening. Until better regulations are in place for ALL flight schools I have no choice but to hit the open road in my RV. Wish I had a plane, though....
Although I wholeheartedly agree that it is always better to have a perfectly run flight school with perfect and talented instructors, good planes and great balance sheet - I'm quite sure their shortcomings are not the THE BIG REASON people are not becoming pilots.
Becoming a pilot is too big of commitment anyway to be put down by bad school or an instructor. If you are - how do you expect to get through memorizing FAA regulations and pay $150-200/hr per dual training flight? :)
If I need my house painted - I will not be discouraged by bad painters-contractors. I'll fire them and find better ones and had my house painted just fine - w/o complaining and whining about bad painters causing a great real estate collapse of 2007... There are other reasons for that. One has to see a bigger picture.
Aviation is by its very nature for people with a fierce fire inside. It is not a utilitarian necessity (unless you live in Alaska :) ). This fire is being lit well before you show up in flight school. And it is not for a flight school to extinquish it. The question is - what do we have what to light it up with? As an affordable, satisfying and attractive lifestyle and a family recreation choice for top tier of middle class in America? As a carrier choice for young? Answer this - and you have your big picture....