Training & Technology’s Transitions

By Scott Spangler on February 3rd, 2009

JetWhine_JA-Air-Logo2-1-2009 12-47-31 PM The JA Air Center opened its new four-building campus, which covers 150,000 square feet, on December 1, 2008. As the airport’s primary FBO, the company had to add flight services–charter, training, and aircraft rental–to its well known menu of avionics, maintenance, modification, and aircraft sales. Seizing the opportunity to innovate, JA Flight Services used technology to integrate training and the transition from one aircraft to another.

CPC-logo As a Cessna dealer and service center, becoming a Cessna Pilot Center was the logical first step in setting up a flight school, said JA Air President Brad Zeman. It will be among the first to deliver the CPC’s 21st century training curriculum for initial, recurrent, and advanced training, starting with the sport pilot certificate and supported by the latest computer-based ground schooling. (See Next-Gen Challenge: Selling Aviation.)

JetWhine_Garmin G1000 The JA pilot center should be up and running before the first Cessna 162 SkyCatcher, a light-sport aircraft, completes the Cessna’s single-engine family on the JA flight line later this year. The common trait of this family, aside from the name, is what’s in the panel of each: glass. Garmin glass. The G1000, to be exact. Except for the 162, which has the Garmin G300, which some might call  G1000-lite. Another exception is the flight line’s complex airplane: the retractable-gear Piper Arrow has Garmin G600 glass.

All this glass is not an accident, said Zeman. Learning the cockpit–the avionics–is a leading challenge when transitioning from one airplane to the next. Having the same system–the G1000–in the Cessna 172, 182, 206, 350, 400, and Caravan, and G1000 “derivatives” in the 162 and Arrow, makes those steps up and down easier. The panel is the same, only the numbers are different.

JetWhine_Cessna 350_cockpit Pilots can rent any of these airplanes as needed (once they meet the necessary time and experience requirements, naturally), or they can join JA’s new SkyShares. A membership program, pilots pick one of the seven SkyShares singles as their primary airplane. The membership fee is roughly half the cost of owning that airplane, and that fee includes 20 hours in any of the other six airplanes. That way, Zeman said, pilots can use the airplane best suited for every flight, whether weekend sightseeing in the 162, a business trip for two in the speedy 350 (right) or 400, or loading up a 10-person trade-show team in the Caravan.

JA’s plan is, to my knowledge, unique, and it seems well thought out. Time will tell, and I’ll be following up on it. —Scott Spangler

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