About PilotWorkshops & Our History
by Mark Robidoux, Founder
The basic idea behind PilotWorkshops first entered my mind in 2002, just after receiving my instrument rating. Although I had a good instructor, met all the requirements and passed my checkride…I didn’t feel like I was fully prepared to fly in the IFR system. (Maybe you felt the same way?)
So I looked around for online training programs that focused on IFR Proficiency but really didn’t find much. Most of the training I could find was for getting a rating or passing a written exam rather than building proficiency. I felt like there should be more resources beyond the dry FAA texts, but there just wasn’t much out there.
Fast forward three years to May of 2005 and the founding of PilotWorkshops. I have to admit that a lot of people told me I was crazy for leaving my job back then to start a new business – especially in the aviation field. After all, the industry wasn’t exactly flooded with new pilots. Still, I believed there was an opportunity to serve the existing pilots who wanted to continue building their knowledge and skills online with the best instructors in the industry.
I was extremely lucky, and am still thankful for, some of the first people I shared my idea with, and who were so supportive. Bob Martens, Doug Stewart and Rod Machado all believed in the idea and contributed to what would become our first products. In addition, they helped me recruit what has grown into an incredible group of instructors and experts who share their wisdom and experience with our subscribers and customers.
It was rough going at first. We had a very good product, but not much capital and therefore, not much marketing. Having a good product, but no way to tell people about it, has caused the demise of a lot of companies. But luckily we were able to struggle through the first few years.
The primary reason we made it through those lean years was our Pilot’s Tip of the Week. Our subscriber list grew every week, and much of that growth was organic – pilots telling other pilots about it.
We decided to do things differently from other organizations that sent out pilot emails, so we created tips that were short and sweet – getting right to the point in 2 minutes or less. And we didn’t pack our emails with ads, which really made us stand out (and still does).
We now have over 185,000 pilots who get the Tip of the Week!
Over the years, as our subscriber base grew, our product family grew as well. We developed products focused on Airmanship, IFR Proficiency and Aviation Weather. In 2010 we launched our flagship IFR Mastery program which provides new IFR-based scenarios each month to thousands of dedicated instrument pilots. In 2015 we debuted our “Real World” series of products featuring in-cockpit videos. And in 2017 we released both Getting Started With Flight Simulation and the Pilot-Friendly Manual for VFR Communications. Our Pilot-Friendly Manual for IFR Communications and the VFR Mastery series debuted in 2018. In 2019, IFR: The Missing Lessons and Advanced IFR were released along with a Pilot-Friendly Manual called Pilot Exercise Program.
In addition to creating our own programs, we acquired ZD Publishing and their family of Pilot-Friendly GPS Manuals in 2013. Over the years tens of thousands of pilots have purchased our products and we are extremely grateful for this support as we continue to invest heavily in product development.
We run a “lean and mean” operation at PilotWorkshops. My primary focus is on developing new products along with Jeff Van West who is our Creative Director, Ryan Koch, our Content Producer, and a “virtual” team of dedicated instructors, software developers, graphic artists, video editors, audio engineers and more. I also work on developing new partnerships with influential aviation companies and cultivating the strategic side of the business.
My partner, Jeff Mulligan, runs our marketing and website technology and started several successful internet marketing companies prior to joining us. Mallory Devine manages Customer Support and assists with Marketing. Mallory is a CFII who enjoys flying aerobatics.
Our office is located on Boire Field (KASH) in Nashua, NH at 99 Perimeter Road. If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello.
KASH is also where I keep my airplane, a Light Sport Amphib, which is a real blast to fly and reminds me why so many of us love aviation.
You can see videos of the YellowBird and more on our FaceBook page.
Thanks for reading and for your support!