Interview with Jill Rutan Hoffman
Founder & CEO @ Path 2 Flight, LLC

Path 2 Flight’s mission is to make general aviation more accessible through a highly consumable two-sided marketplace that offers flight experiences based on the user’s location. Additionally, Path 2 Flight is introducing new training technologies to the general aviation industry, including electric airplanes and VR flight training. These innovations promise to remove the barriers of time and money that prevent many from learning how to fly.
Hi Jill! Could you please tell us a bit more about your work with Path 2 Flight and what the first year of the company looked like?
Hey everybody, I'm Jill! I'm the founder, CEO, of Path 2 Flight. What we're trying to do here at Path 2 Flight is to make earning your pilot's license as easy as it is to earn a driver's license. And to do that, we're removing the barriers of time and money when it comes to earning a license. The first year of the company has been a bit challenging. We have discovered that most people out there really want to learn how to fly, we're excited with the response that we got, that people still or are hungry and wanting to fly. We often hear that people say, "Oh I've always wanted to fly but..." So Path 2 Flight was trying to develop something to make it more accessible. So we wanted to make it easier for people to find local flight experiences, and purchase and schedule those experiences on the spot. And after they had their first flight, we were there to help curate them and bring them along, by step-by-step introducing what they needed to do to complete that license. The challenging part of the first year is that the Side B part of the company, which is the flight schools, were a bit reluctant to sign onto the platform.Their impression is - most flight schools out there - they're operating on such thin margins, and they're just kind of happy with the customers they have, and really reluctant to jump into the new technologies, and new ways of doing things to attract new customers. But we're still working on that, and we're excited for the future and who knows! Path 2 Flight might create the next, might create our own flight experience. So that would be really fun because we we understand the barriers and how difficult it is to get that flight experience. So we'd like to remove those, to get more people to feel a lot more comfortable with breaking the laws of gravity.
What are some of the main reasons there is a flight shortage today? What are the main barriers for individuals to become pilots?
So there is a pilot shortage today, and a lot of people really don't realize that. In the military alone, they are short 2000 pilots currently. And the Boeing Corporation released a white paper recently that said by 2028, we will be short two million jobs in the airline industry alone, and that is roughly around 180, 000 pilots. So, one day - and we've started to hear them already - but you'll start to hear that flights are no longer canceled for maintenance, or for scheduling problems - they're cancelled for lack of pilots. And that's one of the reasons we wanted to start Path 2 Flight. Now the reason for the pilot shortage is usually airline pilots: they come from the military, people fly in the military, and they retire and they go into the airlines. And so with the pilot shortage at the military and the group of pilots that are flying airlines today, they're aging out, actually. So you have to retired, forced retirement at age 65. So there's no one to backfill those slots. So that's one of the reasons for the pilot shortage today. And another reason is that 80 percent of the people that start pilot training, end up dropping out - 80 percent! And we researched that problem, and realize that the barriers for people becoming pilots are the barrier of time: it takes too long. And the barrier of money: it's very difficult to make it down the airports and learn how to fly everything, and it's costly. So most people say, "I always wanted to be a pilot but, ah, I just I just don't have the time." So that dream always kind of sits out there, never discovered. But there's transportation issues out there, and we're looking at air taxis and new ways to get from point A to point B, and pilots have a big role to play in that. So it is important that people, that G.A. is successful, and learning how to fly, I think, is the key piece to make these things accessible. So there you go.
What has been the response to users and clients of the Path 2 Flight platform? How do you measure the impact of the platform?
So the platform itself was more of like, what we thought of, is our "mini cupcake". I think that maybe you've heard, is that when you come have an idea, you see it as your big wedding cake. And you're supposed to start off with your with your minimal viable product - so your cupcake! And that was the Path 2 Flight platform. And what it is, it's a two-sided marketplace that connects people who are interested in flying with flight experiences in their area. And we started out with this mini cupcake as a way to test the market, to see if people still really want to fly and what were some of their needs and challenges. And the Side A part of the platform was quite successful. As I said in my first interview question, people want to fly! And they're looking for that excuse. We're kind of going after the motivation of when people sign up for marathons - you're often looking for something more in your life, you're sitting on your couch, you're wanting to make an impulse purchase, so you can start Monday feeling like you've started something, you've made a life change. So that's what we wanted to do, is to make aviation more accessible. You find that flight experience, you pay for it, and you schedule it, and there! You're in the air. The Side B part of the platform was the most challenging, again with the flight schools - were they interested about that? Are they interested in acquiring a new type of customer? So that's something that we're working on currently, right now.
How did you build up the networks and partnerships that make Path 2 Flight the success it is today?
So the networks and partnerships that we're building that makes Path 2 Flight successful is that we're partnering with companies that specialize in VR flight training. So VR flight training is an important aspect of keeping people flying, because it removes the barrier of time. One of the issues is you can't make it to the airport after work, there's weather, it's giving up the Saturday, waiting for the instructor's schedule to clear. So if you could learn most of the things that you need to learn how to fly on a VR headset while sitting on your couch. There's a lot of really wonderful learning aspects of VR flight training too, that arguably make better pilots. The Air Force, today, is using VR flight training to try to train their pilots, because some of the issues they had with flight training is that they needed to to bring down the costs of training those pilots, and they also needed to make it more accessible and something that people would like to do. So they had to bring down the things like time commitment in the service, and one of the things that they use for that is VR, and they've had great success for that. Another partnership the Path 2 Flight is working on is with electric airplanes: we're currently partnered with Bye Aerospace that's creating the eFlyer, which is a fully electric airplane, and that removes the barrier of money. So you can fly at one sixth of the costs that would take you to fly in traditional aircraft. So Path 2 Flight, again, is trying to create that better flight experience, that easier flight experience. Through VR and Electric Aviation, it changes the whole landscape of what learning to fly means. We can create better pilots through better training and they can fly more, because it's less expensive. So the future of G.A., general aviation, is very very exciting with these new technologies.
What's next for your work with Path 2 Flight, as well as your other projects and endeavors? What will be your main focus for the next year?
So what's next for Path 2 Flight? Well, I think we're going to move on from our web site where we connect people to local flight experiences, to actually building a better flight experience. Path 2 Flight would like to incorporate pure VR training and Electric Aviation into our flight experiences, and remove some of those barriers to people that makes flight, traditional flight training, so inaccessible - we want to make it easier. Another project we're working on is actually building out the infrastructure, so getting airports across the country to embrace charging stations, so you can fly that electric airplane a little bit further out - you can fly that electric airplane cross-country, and feel safe knowing that there is a place there that you can recharge. My main focus for next year, I think is going to be getting the word out: we are looking for partnerships and we want to continue to build the Side A part of it and get people excited about flight, and let them know that learning to fly is not a goal that is unattainable. It's there, and it's easily achievable, but we just have to show the industry and the regulators out there that people still want to fly. I mean, right now, people are focusing on autonomy - and with air taxis and getting rid of the pilot - but that's a long way off. And in order to have those things take place, a human has to be involved, the pilot has to be involved. So we hope to be that bridge, from what air travel is today to what air travel is tomorrow. So we're very excited about it and we're really excited about Path 2 Flight, too.