As Sporty’s Pilot Shop marks sixty years of business, we thought it was a good time to honor their success and contributions to General Aviation, and the many thousands of pilots who have achieved their aviation goals with help from Sporty’s.
In 1961, a young Cincinnati flight instructor began selling radio scanners to pilots from the trunk of his Studebaker. Pilots could tune into ATC frequencies to learn the lingo, and Hal Shevers realized it made flying just a little safer. That became Hal’s passion, and for the next sixty years, he expanded into new modes of flight instruction, a lineup of training aircraft and a retail business offering thousands of aviation products and accessories located at Clermont County Airport in southwest Ohio.
Hal pioneered the first three-day ground school courses, where aspiring pilots could spend one long weekend at locations across the U.S. and prepare for their instrument rating. He started producing the course on VHS tapes, and before long, pilots were learning at home in front of their televisions.
Instruction has always driven Sporty’s growth. “We now have seventeen training aircraft here on the field,” Bret Koebbe, VP of Sporty’s Video Academy, “and at any given time we have nearly two hundred students.”
Sporty’s Academy was established in 1987, and offers pilots all over the world over two dozen remote-learning training programs, the successful pairing of years of experience with the latest technology. “Rather than rote memorization, we focus our training on real world flying skills,” Koebbe said of Sporty’s training philosophy. They’ve added aerobatic training, in collaboration with Patty Wagstaff.
Hal built his staff of people who are passionate about airplanes, flying, safety, and fun. “We are all pilots and love to fly,” Koebbe says. “Several of us often fly out early on a work morning for breakfast a hundred miles away, then show up for work by nine,” he added. He also invites everyone to fly in and enjoy Sporty’s free grilled hot dogs on the ramp from noon to 2 pm every Saturday.
Watch this three-minute video on Sporty’s remarkable story.
As a way to give back to the industry, the non-profit Sporty’s Foundation was formed to fund scholarships and support the EAA Young Eagles efforts to introduce youth to aviation. Koebbe pointed out that all Sporty’s Foundation overhead is covered by the store, so donations go entirely to programs and activities that advance aviation education, and opportunity.
“Sporty’s has been a strong supporter of the RAF and we wish Hal and his great staff continued success for their next sixty years,” RAF Chairman John McKenna said.
By Carmine Mowbray
Submitted on March 31, 2021