Friday, January 31, 2014

Air Associates of Kansas Offers Comprehensive Approach to Flight Training

By Carmelo Turdo 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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Midwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show Hosts Learn to Fly Day

By Carmelo Turdo
The Midwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show (MACTS) continued today with day two of the Flight Instructors Revalidation Clinic and the annual Learn to Fly Day activities, all sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association (GSLFIA).  The second day of the MACTS traditionally features exhibits that encourage youth to experience aviation through flight simulation and interaction with pilots of many types of aircraft.  This year, the flight simulators were provided by Mike Saettele of St. Louis Flight Simulator, and Scott Olson brought in his 1:2 scale Edge aerobatic radio-control aircraft.  Many of the exhibitors from yesterday's trade show remained through the day to greet visitors and introduce their services.  Here are some scenes from today's Learn to Fly Day:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Midwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show Opens with Safety Seminar, Exhibits

By Carmelo Turdo
Dave Pressy
The Midwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show began early this morning with a series of aviation safety programs sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association (GSLFIA) at the Maryland Heights Centre in St. Louis County.  The Flight Instructor Revalidation Clinic was held concurrently with the Super Safety Seminar, and attendees of both mingled with trade show exhibitors into the early afternoon.  Event organizer and GSLFIA President Dave Pressy opened the program after assisting exhibitors as they set up their displays.  Following the opening remarks, a series of engaging seminars were presented by familiar experts in the aviation safety field:

Jeff Edwards, President of AvSafe accident investigation and reconstruction consultants
Al Gorthy, Assistant Manager for Runway Safety in the FAA Central Region
Fred Harms, FAA Principle Ops Inspector and former FAASTeam Manager
...and special guest speaker...
Steve Nagel, Col. USAF (ret.) and former Space Shuttle Astronaut

Here are some scenes from today's sessions and trade show:

Jeff Edwards of AvSafe gets the attention of the attendees

Astronaut Steve Nagel introduces the U.S. Space Program

MPA Gateway Chapter provided breakfast

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Exhibit

Air Associates of Missouri Exhibit

Ideal Aviation FBO Exhibit

St. Charles Flying Service FBO Exhibit 

Southwestern Illinois College Exhibit

EAA Chapter 32 Exhibit

FAA Security and Hazardous Materials Office (on left) Exhibit

Greater St. Louis Chapter of the Ninety-Nines

Women With Wings St. Louis Chapter Exhibit


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Illinois Army National Guard Blackhawks Make Brief Stop at St. Louis Downtown Airport

By Carmelo Turdo
Three UH-60 Blackhawks from the 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard based in Decatur made a short stop at the Jet Aviation ramp at St. Louis Downtown Airport Sunday.  The crews were conducting pilot proficiency flights wherein several flight crews per aircraft shared flying responsibilities for the various legs of the training route.  The Aero Experience was on the ramp to visit with the crews and bring you some up close views of the venerable Blackhawks (two "L" and one "A" model).  The Aero Experience conveys our appreciation to the Illinois Army National Guard and all U.S. military units throughout the world for their noble work keeping our nation safe. 



Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Ramp: Sunshine Returns to Snow-Covered Midwest Airport

By Mark Nankivil

This weekend brought sunshine to fuel the melting of nearly a foot of snow that fell on the Midwest last week.  The combination of snow, sunshine and airplanes usually produces opportunities for great photos.  These views of the ramp at St. Louis Downtown Airport this past Saturday were too good to pass up, and we thought our audience would enjoy them!