Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Aerosim Flight Academy

The professional flight-training difference

The training fleet at Aerosim's main campus, based at Sanford International Airport in Orlando, includes 32 Cirrus SR20s, 12 Piper Seminoles, as well as a handful of Cessna 172s and Piper Arrows.
Aerosim also offers an "M-1" program that earns students a single-engine land rating, instrument rating and commercial multi-engine (CME) rating. For pilots who already have ratings and experience, but want to get current and upgrade their skills for an airline job, Aerosim also offers a "Jet Bridge" program with ground school and about 27 hours in a CRJ simulator, incorporating cockpit resource management (CRM) training.

"ASA (Atlantic Southeast Airlines) was in our office recruiting recently, and they hired one of our graduates that went through the Jet Bridge program who was 60 years old," Campbell said. "They figured, 'We can get five years out of him before mandatory retirement, and we know he's not going to be looking for another job.'"

The Aerosim Campus and Facilities
A tour of the facility illustrated that there's much more to professional flight training than an airplane and a good instructor. At the Learning Resource Center, props like engine parts and a cutaway piston engine and variable pitch prop enable students to see the mechanical workings of aircraft systems. In the Computer Lab, students can learn to operate avionics packages on the ground and practice ATC communications. The school also has several simulators, including four FTD Level 6 trainers. Used to prepare for actual flights, students can practice emergency procedures and fly approaches, maximizing the return on their training time.

The Professional Pilot Program has a spring, summer and autumn start date. An M-1 Program starts each month. Many of Aerosim's students are from overseas, and the academy has an immigration specialist on staff to help students with visas and other paperwork foreign nationals are required to file. Two hundred of the current Professional Pilot Program students are from China, their education paid by the government. Mendenhall noted that Aerosim must meet training standards set by Chinese aviation authorities as well as the FAA, in addition to standards set by the U.S. Department of Education and the Florida Department of Education.

"We have a lot of authorities we have to answer to," Mendenhall said. "Only about a dozen schools in the world have all the necessary certifications to teach Chinese students."

Academy graduate Mark Libretto, Class of 2000 and now first officer for a major domestic airline, often returns to campus to addresses students. "I tell them this," he said. "This is one of the easiest routes to an airline job. However, that doesn't mean it's going to be easy or it's handed to you. As long as you put out the effort through all the ratings and get that experience, you will be qualified for an interview with the airlines."

The Cost Of Professional Pilot Training
The cost of the Professional Pilot Program is $70,024.24. The M-1 Program is $46,826.00, and the Jet Bridge Program about $4,500.00. The Professional Pilot program is eligible for Federal Title IV financial assistance, but Campbell acknowledges that finding banks that will provide loans to pay for the program has become difficult. This gets to the heart of a financial conundrum facing many would-be professional pilots: How can they justify spending this amount of money training for a career where starting salaries (say, with a regional airline,) are about $20,000 per year?

"They have to see the big picture," said Campbell. "It's like being a doctor in residency after medical school. There's long hours and low pay, but you're working on your trade. You're building experience, and your pay will continually go up, and when you make captain, you'll earn a lot more money. And with the huge demand, you will always have a flying job."


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