Florida-based Flight training academy Phoenix East Aviation (PEA) is doing its part to help alleviate the worldwide pilot shortage by reaching out to students from all over the world, especially South America and Brazil. The company exhibits at many airshows such as LABACE, ABACE, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Sun ’n Fun and others. Here at LABACE, PEA (Booth 4004) has a team of Brazilian flying students on hand to answer any questions.
“PEA has been far more forthright in going to shows all over the world to create awareness,” said John Bingham, president and CEO. “We pick shows that work, and LABACE is one of them.”
PEA continues growing and now has nearly 300 students learning at its two facilities, in Daytona Beach, Florida, and at its Broward College campus, which is dedicated to that college’s program. Students hail from 75 countries, and they can fly more than 360 days a year, thanks to the mild Florida weather. PEA students and instructors fly more than 30,000 hours a year, and the company has trained more than 12,000 pilots.
The PEA fleet consists of the Cessna 172S, Diamond DA40 (single-engine) and DA42 (twin-engine), Piper Archer and Arrow and American Champion Decathlon, which is used for upset prevention and recovery training. The Pipers are used to train pilots in the Broward College program.
Job opportunities for pilots have never been better, and PEA offers a pathway to help new pilots gain flying experience to prepare them for professional pilot positions. PEA is an accredited institution, and as such, it can help students obtain either an F visa or an M visa.
After the student has earned his or her private pilot, instrument rating, commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates, PEA is often able to offer new instructors an opportunity to teach new students. In order to be employed by PEA and accept payment, an instructor who is not a U.S. citizen must obtain an F visa. However, if this is not possible, the instructor can obtain an M visa, allowing that person to teach but not get paid. In either case, the instructor is able to log flight hours and gain experience.
There is a large group of Brazilian students at PEA, said Bingham, and many from other South American countries. Many are attracted to PEA because they see former PEA students flying for South American airlines. “We find that Brazilian and South American students are really enthusiastic. They want to fly, and they have a passion for flying. Our job is to make sure their dreams take flight,” he said.
PEA doesn’t just teach flying. It also recognizes that students from so many different countries might be unfamiliar with the U.S., so it helps new students navigate typical issues such as opening a bank account, getting a driver's license, Internet access, shopping, etc. “We want to make sure they don’t have to worry about [these issues],” Bingham said.
One task that students must complete before beginning training at PEA is to learn English. “People must have a certain language level in English,” he said, “or it will hold them back. Otherwise, [not knowing English] is a waste of time and a safety issue.”
The aviation industry is facing what many are saying is a “tsunami of retirements” of pilots, and this is creating vast opportunities for new pilots. “Faced with that, our job is to provide new pilots,” Bingham concluded.