Archive for April, 2011

California Flight Schools Targeted For Closure By LA City Council

Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Santa Monica Airport

Santa Monica Airport - photo courtesy

The Los Angeles City Council April 21 voted unanimously to shut down six flight schools which operate at the Santa Monica Airport. According to an article in the Santa Monica Daily Press (, the legislation approved would also establish a flight pattern that would make airplanes fly over homes in the area.

The legislation was originally proposed in March by the California city council. Council members Bill Rosendahl, Paul Koretz, and Janice Hahn proposed the legislation because of their concern fledgling pilots and idling jets might cause safety and environmental problems in the area.

According to an article, “Flight Schools Under Attack in Santa Monica, CA” in the Flight Training Blog, the actions taken by the city council could not just affect the schools in California, but flight schools across the country. The article stated the initial goal by the city council was just to force the Federal Aviation Administration to make flight schools in certain areas close or alter flight plans.

The article in the blog operated by the aviation schools claims the council members have no knowledge of aviation and do not appreciate the impact of their actions.

According to the article in, the action was taken to halt “numerous practice maneuvers” that take place over the area, thus improving safety. The resolution specifically cited a crash in July 2010 over the Penmar Golf Course. The National Transportation Safety Board has not determined the cause of that crash.

The article in the blog by aviation schools reported that some claim students at the flight school engage in dangerous maneuvers.

Someone from unsuccessfully tried to contact Hahn to gain comments. She did not return calls.
A spokesman for the Federal Administration, however, dismissed any talk the flight schools operate in an unsafe manner, pointing out the planes involved operate out of many small airports.

“Nobody has offered one bit of evidence suggesting that Santa Monica flight school operations are anything but safe,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor wrote in an e-mail. He pointed out the pilot killed in 2010 was an experienced commercial pilot, not a student at a pilot school. If the person was an experienced pilot, he could not have been a student receiving flight training.

Joe Justice, who runs the flight school, Justice Aviation, said in the article that he believes the actions of the Los Angeles City Council are “political,” and he added he is “angry.” He said despite “rough landings” by students no people or homes on the ground have been “jeopardized.”


Santa Monica Daily Press Flight Training Blog

Flight Training – A “New” Way To Pay?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Even student pilots can earn money while flying according to Fly and Earn

Even student pilots can earn money while flying according to

Paying for flight training is now a major obstacle for most would-be pilots. Past sources of financing have all but dried up, gas prices are skyrocketing, and the cost of earning a license or rating have never been higher. But in times like these people get creative about pursuing their passions, and that’s exactly what Jay Taffet of Fly and Earn did. Taffet developed a revenue-generating system that he says even student pilots can use to earn money while flying. According to Taffet, his system is 100% compliant with all FAA regulations regarding pilots’ compensation and that a traditional requirement, the commercial pilot certificate, is not necessary to earn money with his program.

Taffet set out to find a way to pay for his own flying ten years ago and created the Fly and Earn program for the aerial photography market, even though he had no experience as a professional photographer. “I started this side-business ten years ago to pay for my flying and, by the second year, I earned $35,000 and bought an aircraft. It has been exciting flying and the best income supplement ever since” says Taffet on his website. Taffet tells pilots that aerial photography is a simple, lucrative side business that requires no experience or skills, no photography experience, and can be started with a digital camera and a small investment.

For more information on the Fly and Earn business model, please visit

Flight Training Scholarship Celebrates Life of Patrick Marzitelli

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Flight Training Scholarship

Patrick Marzitelli Flight Training Scholarship will offer two $3,000 awards per year.

Patrick Marzitelli’s family recently launched a new flight training scholarship program in memory of their son, Patrick who died tragically in May 2010. According to a Marzitelli family press release, “John and Maria Marzitelli have established the Patrick Marzitelli Science and Aviation Scholarship Fund and launched a website to provide exceptional young men and women with the means and support to pursue their passion for learning about science and aviation. Two $3000 scholarships will be awarded annually, one to the White Bear Lake High School (Patrick’s high school in Blaine, Minnesota) senior demonstrating the strongest interest in science, and one for aviation study – reserved for employees of airports similar in size to the one Patrick worked at. Both winners will also have demonstrated a strong commitment to community service and their families.”

Patrick worked as a lineman at Cirrus Flight Operations at the Anoka County airport in Blaine, MN. On the evening May 21, 2010, Patrick reported to his girlfriend that he’d been “splashed with jet fuel” and was coughing. Later that evening, a co-worker found Patrick with his head submerged in fuel in the inspection hatch of a tanker truck he’d been refueling. His cause of death was accidental aviation fuel inhalation.

The family’s press release goes on to say “Patrick was a very special kid and we really want people to know what was lost,” said John Marzitelli. “We are also pleased to announce that White Bear Lake Area High School will offer Aviation and Aerospace as an elective course for students beginning in 2011. It is our goal to expand this offering to other high schools over the next two years.”

To learn more please visit

Flight Training: K-State Salina Open House

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
K-States Flight Training Programs

Learn more about K-States Flight Training Programs

Kansas State University Salina will hold an open house this Saturday, April 16th, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. According to a K-State press release, America Jet will provide airplane rides every half-hour between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for $15 per person. Flights will be available on a first come-first served basis. The Wildcat Breakfast Fly-In from 8 to 11 a.m. is a chance to meet K-State pilots and mechanics of the past, present and future while enjoying pancakes and sausage.

Other open house activities will include…

  • Local groups will show off their skills throughout the day. Lakewood Middle School’s Stang Gang will perform at 10:30 a.m. The Bennington High School Jazz Band will perform at 11 a.m. K-State Salina’s Spirit Cats will perform at noon. Miller’s Shotokan Karate will perform at 1 p.m.
  • K-State Salina’s club basketball team will offer a free clinic for 10-to-18-year-olds, 10 a.m. to noon in the Student Life Center. The clinic will cover fundamentals of the game, shooting form, and dribbling skills. The team is also sponsoring a Hot Shot tournament for 10-to-18-year-olds, 1-3 p.m. in the Student Life Center.
  • The Spirit Cats dance team will teach 5-to-11-year-olds a routine during a free clinic, 10 a.m. to noon in the Student Life Center.
  • Throughout the day, the club baseball team will have throwing, fielding, base running and hitting stations on the softball field for 6-to-17-year-olds. Participants can also can also “guess your speed” and check the accuracy of their guesses with a radar gun.

Willie the Wildcat, K-State’s mascot, will be making appearances at most of the open house venues during the day.

More information is available at

Learn more about K-State’s flight training programs

Lifting Off: Beginning your Career as a Commercial Pilot

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
Click to see our featured flight schools - jet taxiing

Commercial Pilot Training – find the school that’s right for you. photo courtesy of Brandon Farris

The thrill of flying more than 30,000 feet above ground is a sensation that humans have long enjoyed. Unfortunately, unless you have a Firebolt like Harry Potter’s, flying can be a pretty expensive hobby — that is, unless you are a commercial pilot.

Pilots get to meet a variety of new people and travel the globe to see new places each day. From takeoff to landing, commercial pilots have a lot on their plate. The safety and comfort of sometimes hundreds of passengers are his responsibility. Pilots must be good communicators and respond well to pressure. Critical thinking and deductive reasoning are necessary to troubleshoot in-flight problems.

If you are serious about becoming a commercial pilot, it will require that you invest both time and money. There are several ways to begin your training as a pilot. Some future pilots begin in the military and can receive a civilian certificate through their service. Other pilots opt to go through private training with a flight instructor. Another option is to receive your training by an airline. Many pilots receive an undergraduate degree to jump-start their piloting career. Hundreds of colleges across the country offer an associate’s degree in aviation.

All pilots need a pilot certificate. You need to consider what kind of vehicle you want to fly. A fixed-wing license will allow you to fly airplanes. If you prefer flying helicopters, you will choose the rotary-wing route. There are several different types of pilot certification which limit the size and type of aircraft you can fly. These include:
•    Student pilot
•    Sport pilot
•    Recreational pilot
•    Private pilot
•    Commercial Pilot
•    Airline transport pilot

The type of certification dictates the conditions under which you may fly. For example, student pilots must be at least 16 years old, be fluent in English, and must pass an exam testing their knowledge of aviation rules and procedures. They must also demonstrate their ability to perform basic maneuvers such as taxiing, taking off, emergency procedures, and landings. Although they may be endorsed to fly solo, they are not allowed to carry passengers or fly in a business setting.

Pilots are generally paid fairly well with salaries ranging from $32,000 to $129,000 averaging out at $65,000. Job opportunities continue to grow as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts the demand will grow 12 to 19 percent through 2018.

About the Author – Derek Gurr is a writer for My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online courses they can choose from to reach their goals. The site even helps students find the best flight school to fit their needs.

Back to School for Helicopter Pilots!

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
Golden Gate Helicopters - classroom

Golden Gate Helicopters presentation

By Paul Harris

Young people love helicopters. OK, maybe not all, but most do – at least that’s the impression I got when I presented at a Science, Engineering and Technology Careers Day at a local high school in the San Francisco Bay Area recently. The number of questions received were indicative of just that. In fact, with one pair of youngsters, we couldn’t answer their questions fast enough before they were firing another at us!

I was originally asked by the owner of the flight school at which I fly to present at this event and, as a budding pilot working towards my helicopter CFI/II certificates, I was more than happy to participate and share some of my passion for aviation and helicopters in particular, as well as practice some of my newly-found lesson planning skills!

There was quite a bit of work involved for myself and a fellow pilot preparing the slides, and of course ensuring we stuck to our allotted 30 minutes which, as a couple of helicopter geeks, proved to be the hardest part! However, the effort invested paid dividends when it became obvious that we had their attention– the interest clearly showing on the faces of the high school students as well as the accompanying parents.

In the school corridor after the presentation, I heard a number of late-comers cursing because they had missed the helicopter slot and it occurred to me that we had achieved something useful, at least for those that made it. It really felt like we had introduced a new idea to a handful of teenagers and opened their minds to helicopter flying and aviation in general – perhaps something they had not been exposed to before or considered as a potential future career path.

In terms of my own benefit, I found this experience very valuable and rewarding indeed and would not hesitate to present at a similar event in the future. It allowed me to practice my presentation and teaching skills, and also gave me a chance to promote aviation and flying. I would strongly recommend to any trainee CFI students out there or even veteran instructors and commercial pilots to offer your services to local schools for career days or classroom talks – I think you’ll be surprised at the reception you’ll get!

The author of this post, Paul Harris, is completing his CFI/II at Golden Gate Helicopters, a Part 61 school based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Bay Area’s premier provider of on-demand charter services. He also writes a weekly blog for Golden Gate Helicopters which you can read at

Air Traffic Controller Training: Why are over 20% Washing Out?

Monday, April 11th, 2011
air traffic control schools

1 in 5 ATC hires not making the grade

In the midst of a nationwide shortage of air traffic controllers (ATC), a recent report released by a government watchdog agency revealed that a surprisingly high number of air traffic controllers hired in the last few years did not complete their on-the-job training. At least 22% of students receiving air traffic controller training have dropped out while at the same time a record number of senior air traffic controllers have opted to retire early, resulting in a serious staffing crisis that has left many towers dangerously understaffed and manned by a higher percentage of inexperienced trainees.

Training at air traffic controller schools has always been rigorous, and controllers must be able to successfully handle multiple complex tasks simultaneously while thinking and acting quickly under pressure. While an historically high percentage of candidates “aren’t able to bring all those skills together,” according to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, other factors appear to be contributing to the high rate of attrition.

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the 2006 imposed work and pay rules (IWRs) which reduced salaries and benefits, along with adverse work conditions, contributed dramatically to over 4,000 air traffic controllers and ATC school trainees deciding to tender their resignation since that time.

The situation has resulted in a higher burden being placed on the remaining air traffic controllers, including students undergoing ATC training. Although eventually air traffic controllers can earn hefty salaries, trainees frequently work long hours including holidays, weekends, and graveyard shifts, continue in classroom instruction, and face threats of dismissal if they fail to become certified within a specified period of time, leading to stress and fatigue in an environment where they must remain alert. They are also typically paid for several years at a much lower salary (that averages $75,000) than the median income of a fully-certified air traffic controller (about $110,000 per year). Many trainees who left the ATC program cited as their number one reason the inadequate level of pay for the work performed, often lower than salaries paid by previous employers.

Thus it would seem the primary reason why the industry has been experiencing such high turnover when it comes to its air traffic controller trainees is largely financial, coupled with the fact that at the same time trainees must endure conditions where they are often overworked and overwhelmed in hectic understaffed environments.

View a list of air traffic controller schools


1 in 5 Air Traffic Control Trainees Wash Out, WPXI News

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Air Traffic Controllers

National Air Traffic Controllers Association Fact-Sheet

Boeing 737s – Fatigue Cracks Responsible For Southwest Incident?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
Southwest 737 Suffers Skin Rupture

Another Boeing 737 (similar to this one) suffers skin rupture

Federal investigators are saying that fatigue cracks were responsible for causing a 5-foot-long, 1-foot-wide gaping hole that burst through the ceiling of a Southwest Airlines jet headed from Phoenix to Sacramento Friday.

It’s reported that the 15-year-old Boeing 737-300 quickly depressurized, causing the pilot to make an emergency landing at a Yuma military base after a rapid but controlled descent from 36,000 feet. Passenger Debbie Downey told CNN that she and her husband could see the sky as well as the plane’s wires and cables. Although many on board were shaken up, none of the 118 people on board suffered serious injuries.

Southwest Airlines canceled 300 flights and ordered inspections of approximately 80 Boeing 737-300s. While Southwest has approximately 170 Boeing 737-300s in its fleet, the aircraft under scrutiny have not had their aluminum skins replaced. “Obviously we’re dealing with a skin issue, and we believe that these 80 airplanes are covered by a set of (federal safety rules) that make them candidates to do this additional inspection that Boeing is devising for us,” Southwest spokesperson Linda Rutherford told Everett, Washington newspaper The Herald.

The incident raises concerns for federal aviation officials and airlines with older planes. The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor and Timothy W. Martin wrote that other U.S. airlines have not commented on how they’ll deal with inspecting their own aging aircraft. Flight Safety Foundation president Bill Voss said that should the findings from this incident indicate fatigue, the FAA would be forced to implement more frequent inspections.

“The safety of our Customers and Employees is our primary concern,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief operating officer in a press release issued Saturday. “We are working closely with Boeing to conduct these proactive inspections and support the investigation.” A nine-foot section of the damaged fuselage will be sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, DC for further examination.

The Herald; “Six Foot Hole Forces Southwest 737 Emergency Landing; April 2, 2011

Wall Street Journal; Southwest Jet’s Skin Rupture Sparks Probe; April 2, 2011

Southwest Press Room; “Southwest Works to Minimize Customer Delays as it Inspects its Aircraft”; April 2, 2011

CNN; Widespread Cracking Found Where Hole Opened On Southwest Jet; April 3, 2011

CNN; Southwest Inspecting 79 Planes After Hole Prompts Emergency Landing; April 2, 2011

Flight Training – Piper’s “Ready, Set, Fly” Program Targets New Owners

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
Piper Archer LX

Flight training is now included with the purchase of a Piper Archer LX - photo copyright Piper Aircraft, Inc.

Piper Aircraft Inc. is offering primary flight training with their new “Ready, Set, Fly” program to new owners of the Archer LX aircraft. The program is designed to teach new owners how to fly in an extensive three-week course. Piper Aircraft believes the program will promote the growth of general aviation by encouraging more people to become pilots. Piper announced the “Ready, Set, Fly” program at the Sun ‘n’ Fun International Fly-in & Expo in Lakeland, Florida this week.

According to Piper Aircraft vice president Randy Groom, this revolutionary new pilot training program will solve several common detractors to successfully learning how to fly an aircraft such as a lack of convenience, concerns about the quality of instruction available at many flight schools, and scheduling conflicts that hinder student pilot progress. The convenience issue is one of particular concern, and one that Piper is prepared to meet head-on. The standardized pilot training offered as part of the “Ready, Set, Fly” program is part of a short yet concentrated three-week course overseen by a professional instructor. By learning to fly in their own aircraft, owners become more familiar and comfortable which could also yield a long term safety benefit. The program also solves the problem of subpar equipment found at some flight schools.

This custom program was created specifically with the Archer LX in mind, and is intended to be a means to introduce prospective pilots to aviation. It further illustrates Piper’s commitment to the aviation industry, particularly to the light aircraft segment.

The Archer LX is a single-engine aircraft with a Lycoming 0-360-A4M, 180 hp engine that is capable of flying at speeds up to 147 mph (237 km/h) with a range of up to 522 nautical miles (966 km). A new, Garmin G500-equipped model costs $309,900. If an already qualified pilot purchases an Archer LX, they can apply their training time in the program toward a different FAA certification. Qualified and prospective pilots who purchase one of these new aircraft can also elect to conduct their pilot training at a different facility of their choice if they feel that Piper’s program is not for them.


Flight Training: Why Do 80% Of New Students Drop Out?

Friday, April 1st, 2011
flight school student with CFI

80% of student pilots drop out before earning their license

For many years efforts to attract future pilots to flight training or pilot training programs included efforts such as the now-defunct Be a Pilot program. However, this technique has not proven to be successful and has done little to combat the 80% drop out rate among new student pilots at flight schools. Be a Pilot efforts including a television campaign, direct marketing and financial marketing assistance to flight schools did not produce the desired results.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association set out to understand why so many student pilots were dropping out of training, with the goal to create new systems to retain student pilots once they begin flight training programs. Even if the 80% dropout rate is reduced by 10% it could have a big impact on flight training programs and increase the pool of trained pilots.
AOPA commissioned a study to find out why students were dropping out of flight schools and what motivated students to stay once in training programs. While cost turned out to be a factor for students dropping out of flight programs, it didn’t play as big a role as originally estimated by most in the training industry.

The results of the study showed that students want more productive, well organized, helpful and respectful interactions with their flight instructors, something they say they’re not getting enough of now. Students also want lessons of high value that they perceive are helping them to achieve their aviation goals and to have certain milestones available as their training proceeds. Finally, the report indicates student pilots want to be a part of a community and have more flexible schedules for training.

According to AOPA’s study, cost is not the overriding factor in students’ decisions to drop out, a welcome finding for those in the flight training industry since the costs of attending flight schools or other flight training facilities is not likely to go down. Students simply want more out of their training and instructors, issues that could be easier to correct.

Retaining high quality instructors has been another issue flight training programs have had to deal with over the years. Many flight schools pay low salaries and wages to instructors to keep costs as low as possible for students. Could the AOPA report be the tipping point for some schools to embrace high-quality instructors and the higher pay that goes along with that change? Only time will tell.

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