Soar to New Heights With Pilots
By Melissa Sepos
Every month when Plane & Pilot magazine arrives, subscribers block out the rest of the world, absorbed in its contents.
The articles are practical, how-to pieces that offer recreational pilots advice, amusing anecdotes, new places to visit, legislative information and skills-based stories.
This group of fastidious, detail-oriented aviators is interested in learning about the activity, buying the latest gadgets and staying on top of training. In addition, they're also interested in science, engineering and electronics.
Ninety-seven percent of general aviation (GA) pilots are male. According to aviation industry estimates, there are about 650,000 active licensed pilots in the United States, including about 100,000 commercial airline pilots.
While it seems like a small demographic, it's affluent: The average GA pilot's household income is $181,000, and his household net worth at $1.03 million. Most pilots are in their 40s, well-educated, typically with advanced and multiple degrees, and have an upscale lifestyle.
It's estimated that more than 50 percent of all recreational pilots own their own planes. The remaining rent planes or join clubs in which they share a plane with a group of pilots. Both demographics are interested in plane equipment. This includes maintenance, in-flight technology and planes themselves.
There are many media outlets available for marketers who want to reach recreational pilots to target high-end quality products both inside and outside of the aviation industry. Indeed, pilots tend to be avid readers and active mail-order buyers, say industry experts.
Magazines offer pilots the most up-to-date information for their hobby. Publications include Plane & Pilot, Aviation Consumer, Aviation Safety, Flying, Instrument Pilot and Plane.
These cover topics such as industry news, new tools and technology. Nearly all major aviation catalogers carry space advertising in one or more of these magazines. In addition, a handful of publications review small aircraft and their technologies, and there are some historical publications, such as Aviation History.
Pilots are limited as to where they can buy aviation equipment or accessories. Because the hobby is specialized, only a few stores, often located at small airports, carry what a pilot needs.
Therefore, most recreational pilots shop via catalogs, which tout a high average order of $80 to $120 per order. The big catalogers in this field include Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, King Catalog, Hart Aviation and Sporty's Pilot Shop.
What They Buy
From aviation catalogs, pilots order pre-flight and in-flight merchandise, such as charts, checklists, fuel gauges, clipboards, flight caddies, training equipment and how-to books. Many pilots also purchase big-ticket items, such as handheld and in-deck Global Positioning Systems and weather-tracking devices, including radios and lightening/storm finders.
"From our experience and from usage researched from pilot and aircraft magazines, pilots respond to all types of direct offers. They have both the income and inclination to be acquisitive," says Paul Deigendesch of ClientLogic, an e-mail list broker.
Recreational pilots tend to have outside interests that run toward science, nature and engineering. Pilots own myriad software programs from flight planning and weather tracking to organizational software and simulation games. Most pilots use the Internet for research and recreation, and often manage some or all of their banking and finances using online services or software, say experts.
Beyond the hobby, pilots purchase luxury items for themselves and their homes: from cigars and fine wines to clothes, cars and entertainment systems. These safety-minded individuals also are excellent prospects for insurance and home security systems.
"While aviation products are an obvious match—some 53 percent of pilots own their own aircraft—indications show pilots are good targets for fund-raising, educational and investment/financial offers, as well," Deigendesch says.
Collectibles, service organization appeals and membership requests also appeal to pilots. The Aviation History list, which is comprised mostly of retired military personnel, often is used for such offers, says Mark Fleetwood of Direct Media. The magazine's list is used by mailers including Special Olympics and the Franklin Mint.
Melissa Sepos is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.