At Wayman Flight Training, for example, aircraft rentals supplement revenue from pilot instruction.
Wayman Eduardo Luy, general manager and part-owner of the flight training school, based at the Opa-locka Executive Airport, said that “the vast majority of our business is training ... We’re flying a fleet of 14 airplanes right now. We’re pretty busy. Miami is a huge flight training center.”
Many of his students are foreign nationals who work abroad as pilots after obtaining certification in Miami.
“We’re training them here and shipping them off to South America or Asia,” Luy said.
Foreign students must register with the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, which is one of the biggest changes at flight training schools since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
“Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen is required to register with the TSA for a background check to make sure you’re not a terrorist,” Luy said. “And of course, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you need a visa.”
The Federal Aviation Administration lists 75 FAA-approved pilot schools in Florida on its Website, including 24 in South Florida. Among them are Broward College and Miami-Dade College, which provide classroom training and farm out in-flight training to private schools. In addition, many so-called “non-approved” schools operate legally and effectively without meeting FAA standards for curricula, personnel, equipment and facilities. However, the FAA requires students of nonapproved schools to obtain 40 hours of in-flight training for a private pilot certification, compared with 35 hours at approved schools.
Helicopter training requires substantially more time in the air.
Helicopter Academy, based at the North Perry Airport in Hollywood, provides 300 hours of in-flight training, said manager Tom McDermott. Students of the FAA-approved school who have learned to fly a fixed-wing plane need more flight time to master a helicopter. “You’re basically going from a tricycle to a unicycle,” McDermott said, “from something that’s basically stable to something that’s basically unstable.”
Many more hours of in-flight training are required to become a co-pilot, or first officer, with a major commercial airline. The FAA recently increased the minimum to 1,500 hours from 1,000 hours, with certain exceptions for institutions that offer more than basic flying lessons. For example, the minimum remains 1,000 hours for graduates of aeronautical science programs like the one at Embry-Riddle. “If you earn a four-year college degree, then you only need 1,000 hours of flight time,” said Bob Rockmaker, president of the Allentown, Pa.-based Flight School Association of North America.
Pilots commonly work their way into airline jobs by working as instructors for flight training schools, collecting pay rather than paying to accumulate in-flight hours. But that career path has narrowed. Rockmaker said there are about 1,500 flight training schools in the United States, down from about 2,400 before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, perpetrated by a group of passenger-jet hijackers that included several foreign nationals who attended Florida flight schools.
“The whole flight training industry was pretty much shut down for a while” after the 9/11 attacks, Rockmaker said. “There were schools that never reopened, and there were many schools that were closed for 30, 60, 90 days because of all the challenges, the problems, the checking by the security folks that needed to check on them.”