At the Boeing flight training center near Miami International Airport, as of Aug. 1, there were 15 flight simulators; the company expects to have a total of 17 simulators there by the end of the year. Boeing this year already has moved two full-motion flight simulators for its new 787 Dreamliner, among other models, from Seattle to its training center in Virginia Gardens.
Just east of Boeing’s 134,000-square-foot training center on Northwest 36th Street is the 110,000-square-foot flight and maintenance training center of its rival, Airbus.
The company’s growth is partly fueled by its increasing share of the commercial aircraft market in Latin America, said Joe Houghton, vice president of training and flight operations support in the Americas for Airbus.
“It’s just going gangbusters for us,” Houghton said. “There’s an expansion that needs to happen.”
At the Airbus training center in Miami, “we still have some room to grow.”
Northwest 36th Street in Miami also is the home of Pan Am International Flight Academy, the original training division of the old Pan American Airways.
Its flagship facilities in Miami currently feature full-motion flight simulators, 31 types of jet aircraft ranging from the Airbus A330, and the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 to the Boeing 747, 767 and 777. The school also has U.S. training centers for airline pilots in Denver, Las Vegas, Memphis and Minneapolis.
The presence of Airbus, Boeing and Pan Am International distinguish the pilot instruction ecosystem of Miami from smaller clusters of flight training schools and facilities in most U.S. cities.
When Boeing completes its consolidation of North American training in Miami, “this is going to be their largest flight training facility in the world,” said James Kohnstamm, vice president, economic development, at the Beacon Council, the economic development agency of Miami-Dade County.
The Airbus flight training center in Miami is the only one in the Americas and one of only five in the world, and “we hope to see some growth from them in the future” at the Northwest 36th Street location, Kohnstamm said. “They have some opportunities for growth on adjacent properties.”
Pan Am also could get busier soon. Tokyo-based ANA Group, parent company of All Nippon Airways, announced July 30 a definitive agreement to acquire the Miami-based flight training school from its owner, American Capital Ltd., for $139.5 million. The acquisition by ANA, which closed Thursday, means “we’ll be expanding dramatically in Asia,” Darrow said.
Some airline pilots who train in South Florida earned college degrees just up the road on I-95 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
“We train some of the best pilots in America. Twenty-five percent of all the professional pilots in the United States are trained at Embry-Riddle,” said John P. Johnson, president of the private university. Embry-Riddle students who earn four-year degrees in aeronautical science and become airline pilots learn much more than how to fly a plane. “We’re not a flight school. We’re not a flight training program,” Johnson said. “Six of our graduates are U.S. astronauts.”
Flight training schools found near South Florida’s airports are usually more down to earth. They provide instruction for the initial levels of pilot certification, and they usually offer more than just flying lessons. Typically they train students at general aviation airports on propeller-driven planes while operating such sideline businesses as aircraft rentals, sales of pilot supplies, air tours and aerial photography.