Aviation Startups & Side Hustles – 50+ Business Ideas for Aviation Professionals

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Aviation startup & side hustle ideas

We talk with many aviation professionals who are interested creating a startup or side hustle.

And sometimes these folks end up with successful businesses become some of our very best customers – so we have a vested interest in helping you succeed.

There’s an old saying about starting a business- “Find a need, and fill it!” The classic marketing textbook tells us it’s all about supply and demand – find a huge demand for a product or service that doesn’t have a great local supply, and jump in!

Of course there’s a lot more to it than this, but everything starts with an idea.

Here are 52 ideas for startups or side hustles. You probably have others – leave your favorites in the comments!

  1. Aerial photography/inspection
  2. Aircraft washing/detail service
  3. Airport based restaurant
  4. Airport Bird/wildlife management
  5. Airport consultant
  6. Airport equipment broker
  7. Airport laundry/dry cleaning service
  8. Airport procedures trainer
  9. Airport snow/ice removal
  10. App developer
  11. Area guide/expert
  12. Attorney
  13. Banner service
  14. Blogger
  15. Caterer
  16. Celebrant for destination weddings
  17. Charter broker
  18. Community/public relations consultant
  19. Completions Consultant
  20. Construction concierge/delivery service
  21. Contract pilot
  22. Copywriter
  23. Expert witness
  24. Fire detection/firefighting
  25. Fishing charter
  26. Flight instructor
  27. Freelance Flight Attendant
  28. Freelance inspector/IA
  29. Freelance scheduler/dispatcher
  30. Freelance technician
  31. Freight or specialty cargo
  32. Fuel/consumables broker
  33. Golf charter
  34. Healthcare specialist
  35. Insurance Consultant
  36. Journalist
  37. Legal consultant/specialist
  38. Oil/gas or other industry charter
  39. Parts broker
  40. Podcaster
  41. Real estate photography/inspections/travel
  42. Research service
  43. Search & rescue
  44. Software developer
  45. Sports travel specialist
  46. Tax consultant
  47. Technical consultant specializing in an aircraft type
  48. Technology Consultant
  49. Travel consultant
  50. UAV Building Inspection
  51. UAV Photography
  52. UAV/Drone regulation

Transcript of episode –

Paula Williams: Welcome to this week’s episode. I am Paula Williams.

John Williams: I am John Williams.

Paula: We are ABCI, and ABCI’s mission is…

John: To help all of you folks out there in the aviation world to sell more of your products and services.

Paula: Absolutely. And we are doing a little bit of a series on startups and side hustles in the aviation industry. This is a lot of fun because some of our clients are, or started as startups or side hustles by somebody in the industry or had a great idea, and decided to strike out on their own to start a company and do what they do. Right?

John: Yes.

Paula: And this is really cool for people who are experts in a particular area, or maybe our pilots who have a schedule that allows them to have a certain amount of scheduled time on their hands, other people that maybe have been furloughed for a while during the pandemic, or other things like that. There is an idea that is knocking around in your head that could be the next really cool aviation business. In order to pursue that, you need to start with an idea, right?

John: Yes.

Paula: Okay. So…

John: First, there was a dream.

Paula: First there was a dream. If you have an entrepreneurial bent, you may be looking at different ideas for side hustles in the aviation industry. If you are passionate about the aviation industry, this is where you ought to be spending your time and your energy because the industry needs you, right?

John: Uh-huh.

Paula: We need innovation and we need people who are able to provide products and services that nobody has thought of yet, that there may be a need for. And as the industry is evolving like everything else, there is a lot that needs to happen. All right. So, we put together a very long list of ideas. We are not going to talk about every one of these, but what I am going to do is just have John and I look at a list and pick out one or two that you think is particularly cool for whatever reason.

John: This is really bad to have lists on the video screen.

Paula: I know, that is why we are going to put this into the article as a list that is great for SEO.

John: Of course.

Paula: But we also need to talk about some of these things that are maybe pretty obscure that you may not have thought of. The aircraft washing and detail service as an example is really important, especially in the age of COVID. Everybody is really excited about having their aircraft cleaned and done the right way. If this is something that you could do at your airport, you can use all of the approved chemicals and processes and checklists and everything else, and make people feel really good about their aircraft being super clean and super fabulous. And if you do really good service, then that is something that is needed, right?

John: Yes. It has been needed forever. I grew up in a different time, okay? I used to be an airport bum. And I would wash airplanes and charge people 20 bucks. I wash the airplanes, then I used that money to go fly in an airplane 5 bucks an hour. Well, they got to know me and after a while, they go and say, “Okay, your airplane is clean.” And I said, “Yes. I have 20 bucks.”, “How about if you just fly it around a pattern a couple of times?” I said, “Okay.” So he tossed me the keys and I go fly. Well, some of these, I had never been. I have got an entire first logbook full of Point 2, 3, and 4 pattern work and in every airplane it is different. I never got checked out and I just went flying. Put back in a day, all you needed to know is on the gauges, if you had a feel for mechanical stuff and airplanes, and I did. But washing and detail service is still needed.

Paula: Yes, exactly. Nowadays the airport bums and kids cannot even get on the airport.

John: Yes, I know.

Paula: There is no way they are touching a plane without insurance. This needs to be done by somebody who has thought through the business process and has put together all of that stuff.

Laundry and dry cleaning is another great opportunity if you can pick up and deliver at the airport because you have an airport-based business. There is a lot that goes on with uniforms, towels, and all that stuff, that I had never thought about until we heard about some companies that are doing this. And they actually do a pretty big volume of business at a decent-sized airport. So that is a thing.

Procedures training — that is another thing. There is a specific way that people are supposed to get on to the airport, or how to fill out a security badge, how to do these kinds of things, and how to fuel up an airplane. There is a lot of different equipment-specific procedures and things, and sometimes they want in-person training. So if you can go do that in-person training and sign people off, more power to you, right?

John: Yes.

Paula: Right. And all of these really depends on what are you interested in? And what do you have access to already? What can you research and what do you have contacts and networks already in the neighborhood to do? Or sometimes not in the neighborhood, sometimes they are local, sometimes they are not local. Depending on what is going on.

Bird and wildlife management? That is a thing out here in Utah. They have geese, seagulls, and other crazy things, and so, you know, I do not know how they managed that. I know in some places in Alaska and things like that, they employ people with dogs or noisemakers or guns or whatever to manage the wildlife, so that they can clear the airspace above the airport for different operations. Just about anything you can think of, there is somebody that does that.

John: Then a bigger issue than you realize is not just birds, but… I know a story about where a gentleman was getting ready to go fly checks, taxi at the end of the runway, and start doing his run-up procedures, and a deer walked into one of the props. He just saw it too and so, you know, it was just messy and bloody, and it was one of those times when it was gray overcast and raining, and he did not see it till the last minute.

Paula: Oh. That is sad.

John: So, there is a need for wildlife management and under fort.

Paula: Exactly. Right. Some of these things like being an area guide, or an expert on a particular area, or a particular airport — that can be very useful for people flying into the area either for tourism or for industry or whatever, being a concierge type of a person. People who are involved with private aviation are in it for the convenience. So if you can make things more convenient in some way for people, a lot of these activities are where it is at, right?

John: Uh-huh. Even the smaller airports still… There are most smaller small airports. Not necessarily dirt runways, but small pay strips used to be able to go in there, and they will have a car you can rent for five bucks to go downtown and get lunch and come back. Just keeping, you know, fill it with gas and you are good. But something like that, you do not have to have been a Hertz dealer.

Paula: Right?

John: But something, because they are [inaudible] around that.

Paula: There are lots of ways to get this done. Things are changing so quickly. The Ubers, the lifts of the world, the food delivery, and everything is changed so much over the past year, that there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in airports where they may be lagging behind.

This is one of my favorite ideas that I ran across — being a celebrant for destination weddings. This kind of goes back to the old tradition of how ship captains used to be able to celebrate weddings, or used to be able to officiate a wedding. So you can, on the internet, get a license to officiate weddings, and then you can take a couple somewhere, hitch them, and bring them back, or leave them there for their honeymoon. That really just adds to the number of packages that are available if you are a pilot in the tourism industry, if you also have a license to be a celebrant for destination weddings. You could have some great stories on your website, marketing that service.

Construction concierge, delivery services — sometimes there are construction projects out in the middle of nowhere and they need something right away. If you can specialize in the delivery of strange things in strange places, that can be a really lucrative business as well.

If you are an attorney or anything of that sort, you do not even need to be an attorney just need to be an expert. You can be an expert witness for court proceedings. There are lots of people getting sued all the time unfortunately in the aviation industry, and they need people who know things about very technical areas of the industry that can be friends of the court or called as witnesses in those cases.

Fishing charters are another favorite of a lot of people because they want to retire and go fishing. So why not use this seaplane, you can get the licensing that is required for that area, and things like that, run a fishing charter.

John: Some areas have things that you have to know about if you live there because I remember flying from a small town in Oklahoma to another. I actually flew from a small town in Oklahoma to a golf course and landing on the fairway because it was a runway. And in taxing off under a bunch of trees, I have the family on board and we would just get out and have a picnic. Rid of an airplane for them by then a price of $29 an hour for Piper Warrior and we had 29 a week at the airplane all day for one hour with the flight.

Paula: Oh, my gosh. That is fantastic. If you specialize in a particular area and specialize in fishing or golf or whatever the recreation is around in that area, you can get people to the best places. That is really, really cool. And we are not talking about any of the legal requirements or anything in this episode, we are just talking about ideas. So this is all just brainstorming, right?

John: Yes. Tossed in with some stories I actually did.

Paula: Exactly. Oh, here we have got the golf charter coming up again. Lots of freelance ideas. Whatever it is that you do for the industry, there is a possibility that you could do at freelance. So if you are a flight attendant, if you are an IA, if you are a technician, they specialize in a particular aircraft type, there are lots of things that you could do. If you are a writer, if you are an artist, if you are a photographer, any of those things — they need those in the industry, right?

John: Yes.

Paula: Right. You could be in health care and work in aviation. You know organ transplant, transportation, organizing those kinds of things, making sure that things are meeting all of the requirements for aviation and for healthcare. All of those kinds of things, they need consultants that will help them get all the paperwork together and make sure that they are meeting all of those requirements and best practices and things like that.

Insurance — that is always a good one for somebody looking for a side hustle. Journalist. I wish there were more journalists that do something about aviation. Right? A lot of the folks that are doing journalism in aviation, there is a second or third specialty for them and they really do not know that much about the topic. So if you know something about the industry, or you are retiring as a pilot or a technician or something like that, and have ever been interested in journalism, that might be a really good opportunity for you.

Brokers of parts, brokers of fuels and consumables, brokers of any thing, any noun, right? That is bought or sold by the industry. Podcasting — there is a lot of people starting podcasts in the aviation industry. When we started 13 years ago, there were maybe two. There was the Airplane Geeks and there were maybe a couple more, and now there are probably 50 podcasts in the aviation industry. But there are always different niches that are not covered so you can look for that.

John: Real estate photography. Now, there is one I did, actually. I started the business to fly a photographer around.

Paula: Oh, cool.

John: And we had enough contracts that we actually made some money after paying for the rental of the airplane, and let me take the door off the airplane and the 172. We fly around the middle of frigging winter yet his camera was climatized, and then go take the pictures wherever. We contracted with cities, sometimes States. And we did some interesting stuff. That is one that not many people do anymore, but you may want to do that now with drones rather than airplanes or helicopters.

Paula: But if you were working with real estate agents or you are a real estate agent, then you need an airplane to get people to different properties to show them off. Especially around here, we have mountain real estate where people are going to Park City, they are going to Brigham City, they are going to Logan, they are going to Kaysville, they are going to different places to look at houses and doing that in an airplane. You can see a lot more than you would driving people around in your car, which is what most real estate agents do. Imagine the competitive advantage here, especially for super high-end real estate, which there are a lot in different places.

Tax consultant — that one is huge. Every state has different laws and rules about taxes and different laws and rules about everything. So being a consultant that helps people figure all that out is really cool. Technology consultant — there is a lot of Technology on aircraft now and people do not always want to believe the vendors about everything, especially if they have a lot of technology on their airplane and it does not seem to be working together very well. Then they would like to have somebody that they can talk to about how to make this work. Lots of UAV ideas, and we actually have a couple of episodes that we did earlier this year about UAVs and some of these business opportunities with UAVs too. The nice thing is if you are a pilot, you already know a lot of the FAA regulations that are going to be on the UAV licensing exam. So you kind of have a head start over the average citizen that was to start a UAV business. You kind of have a clue.

All right, so, lots of ideas. Hopefully, you have run across a few that you had not thought of before and if you are in the market for starting a business, and you have an idea and you are already to the point where you want to get it to take off, that is what we are in the market of doing for people, is helping them sell their products and services. One of the most common reasons that new businesses fail — it is like 1 out of every 7 businesses fails within the first year, and most of the reason for that is they run out of money, and most of the reason for running out of money is running out of customers. So if you have a good healthy pipeline of customers and future customers who are interested in your product or service, if you have got a great waiting list of people that want to buy from you, that is a great place to start as a business. You got an income and you have got that reassurance that that is going to be there. Before you quit your job, it is nice to have that lifeline and have that marketing in that sales funnel in place, so that you know that there is a market. You know you have got customers that are already interested and wanting to sign up as soon as you are willing and able, right?

John: You bet.

Paula: All right. So what is included in this, we are going to have another episode after this one where we talk about the details of what is included in here. But the basic gist of it is it is everything that we wish we had had when we started our first startups a million years ago, right?

John: Well, it was not that long.

Paula: Oh, come on. It was a long time ago in terms of technology and other things.

John: Yes, it was high-tech except for mainframes when I started.

Paula: Yes, and light-years of difference in terms of our knowledge and experience with sales and marketing. That makes all the difference in the world because we both ran successful businesses in the past, but have had businesses fail because we were just keeping our current customers happy and we were not worried about getting others. So we want to prevent that for you.

We want to make sure that you have got enough customers that you could fire any one of them, for any reason, or they could fire you because a lot of times that happens for reasons outside of your control no matter how good of a job you are doing. And having a nice pipeline is a really reassuring thing.

So that is our intention with our startup bundles to make sure that you have got a good healthy pipeline of intended customers. So go sell more stuff.

John: The industry needs the business.

Paula: Absolutely.

[END]

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