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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team












Friday, January 31, 2014

Air Associates of Kansas Offers Comprehensive Approach to Flight Training

By Carmelo Turdo
http://www.airassociatesmo.com/tae/Air Associates of Kansas, the Cessna Pilot Center and full-service FBO located at Johnson County Executive Airport in Olathe, Kansas, has earned a reputation as the Kansas City area's premier flight training facility.  The learning experience at Air Associates of Kansas includes the use of  time-proven ground school courses, flight training in modern Cessna aircraft, and incorporation of the state of the art Redbird simulator.    The professional flight instructors on staff become integral partners in training their students to achieve the Sport, Private, Instrument and Commercial pilot certificates.  Air Associates of Kansas has achieved its success through a well-organized, comprehensive approach to flight training.

Air Associates Pilot Services Office
The Aero Experience met with Chief Flight Instructor, Austin Palmer, during a recent visit to Air Associates of Kansas to gain some insights into the success of the flight training program.  Visitors are greeted by the friendly staff assisting customers in the well-lit lobby of the main offices just past the maintenance facility.  One gets the impression that there is a healthy pace of business as pilots receive their lesson scheduling, aircraft rental and fuel for the day's flights.  

Chief Flight Instructor Austin Palmer

In order to handle a significant pilot training program, there must be an investment in the aircraft fleet.  "We have thirteen aircraft for flight instruction and rental and a full-motion Redbird simulator," Palmer said.  He emphasized that the training aircraft, a mix of Cessna 172 Skyhawk and Cessna 162 Skycatchers, are newer models and most are equipped with G1000 avionics.  Cessna 182 Turbo and C172RG aircraft are also available for more advanced training and for rental.  On-site FBO services ensure that students are provided with everything they need to begin that next training flight.

A portion of the Air Associates of Kansas fleet
There is much more to a successful flight training program than just modern aircraft.  Palmer noted that there are about 75 students at various levels of training, and thirteen instructors.  The matching of student pilot to instructor is a critical part of the process.  "Some of our instructors are full-time, some are part-time and some work evenings and weekends," Palmer continued.  "They all have different backgrounds that make for a well-rounded flight school.  We all work together.”  He added that scheduling is carefully managed through consideration of availability of student and instructor, the instructor’s workload, and personality interactions.  Efforts to keep channels of communication open have been effective in maintaining good relations among students and instructors, and online scheduling has made the training process more predictable.     

Serving the student in his or her journey to obtaining various pilot certificates is paramount in the Air Associates of Kansas pilot training program, and various approaches can be made to achieve these goals.  The current student demographic for many non-collegiate programs can be summarized as 40-ish with teenage or older children.  There is some (but not a lot) of available time and funds to invest in going for that pilot certificate.  Flight schools have recognized this trend, and are conscious of the time and cost concerns of their students.  Air Associates of Kansas can leverage their Cessna Pilot Center status to provide additional tools such as interactive, computer-based training materials and access to G1000-equipped Cessna 172 Skyhawks at competitive prices.  The flight school also has two Cessna Skycatcher Light Sport Aircraft for use in training and building private pilot training time at a significantly lower hourly rate.  “We find ways of keeping the cost (of flying) down, and the Skycatcher is one of them," Palmer noted.


Cessna Skycatcher
Air Associates of Kansas has found ways to keep their two Cessna Skycatchers busy as part of a Career Pilot Program under development to address the coming pilot shortage predicted by commercial aircraft operators.  The objective is to develop new pilots through internal training programs, employ them in the various services offered by Air Associates of Kansas, and prepare them to pursue other opportunities with commercial airlines, charters and other fleet operators while beginning the training process anew with more pilot candidates.  Chief Flight Instructor Austin Palmer described how the Skycatcher fits into the comprehensive approach to developing the next wave of commercial pilots:  

We are working on a Career Pilot Program.  We can bring someone in with no hours through flight instructor and then on to more advanced ratings…We are utilizing the Skycatcher as much as possible to keep costs down.  When building time, the Skycatcher is a great choice to do that less expensively.  Start in the smaller aircraft then progress to the Cessna 172 and larger aircraft.  The Sport License is a great stepping stone to get your foot in the door.  Start Flying the Skycatcher.  For someone who begins training for the enjoyment of flight, the Skycatcher is the perfect place to start.  Get some experience and build time.  Then get your private license.  We have private pilots who come out and rent it just because it’s cheaper and a fun plane to fly.

The comprehensive approach to pilot training from student to commercial, multi-engine ratings utilizing in-house resources has been very successful at Air Associates of Kansas.  The Aero Experience will continue to explore the Career Pilot Program as we return to Air Associates of Kansas to profile the other services provided at the Olathe, Kansas location.  We wish to thank those who provided their time and expertise to the production of this feature, and look forward to producing future articles in this series.

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