Discussing the dismal number of student starts in the 1990s, my Flight Training magazine coworkers and I wondered how flight schools located where the nonflying public congregate, like shopping malls, might fare. Learning about two new aviation education efforts at EAA AirVenture 2012, we’re about to find out.
Zulu Flight Training, a subsidiary of Continental Motors, just opened in a mall in Spanish Fort, Alabama, not far from Mobile. Its partner in the program is Redbird Flight Simulations, which provides the latest in advanced, full-motion simulators. Whether pursuing their private pilot certificate or instrument or multiengine ratings, students will be introduced to—and practice—all key flight skills in the sim before getting into an airplane.
With ground and simulator school conveniently located, students are more likely to show up for lessons. “Our goal is to provide a consistent, structured and stress free environment at a set price to help people obtain their pilot’s license whether it is for a career or pleasure,” said Zulu Chairman Rhett Ross. That includes full disclosure of all course offerings and services to ensure that the curriculum or price never surprises students.
Zulu also offers proficiency training, and other pilot courses will be announced in the coming months, Ross said. As the pilot location proves itself and resolves inevitable kinks, Zulu will expand to other locations around the country. To help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Piper Cub, Redbird simulated it with motion. It’s been awhile since I flew a Cub, but its response was spooky accurate. All it really needed to complete the simulation was a fan-blown slipstream through an open door.
To provide the complete educational benefit of simulator training, Redbird Flight Simulation, partnering with Bad Elf, King Schools, and Jeppesen, introduced Cygnus, which connects the student’s iPad electronic flight book (EFB), such as Jepp’s Mobile FliteDeck, ForeFlight’s Mobile Pro, or Garmin Pilot, to the simulator—and it’s simulated location. It works hand-in-hand with the Bad Elf’s new GPS Pro, a 66 channel WAAS compatible receiver.
At the light-sport aircraft end of the aviation spectrum, Flight Design USA has been focused on increasing the number of places where people can learn to fly. As of AirVenture, it has a network of 31 Flight Design Pilot Centers equipped with modern CT-series light-sport aircraft for training and rental. Each of them employs training materials that Gleim created specifically for Flight Design.
The network’s newest members include North Coast Air in Santa Rosa, California; Southwestern Aviation, outside of Bensen, Arizona (30 miles east of Tucson International); and Hampton Airfield in Northampton, New Hampshire, a unique full-service school whose fleet ranges from Cubs, Champs, and LSAs to a IFR-certified Cessna 172.
It will be interesting to follow both Zulu and the Flight Design efforts to see how well they are received. Certainly they will not immediately reverse the declining pilot population or solve all the challenges that face every flight school, but it’s a start that’s been a long time coming. –Scott