Flight training academy Phoenix East Aviation (PEA, Booth P131) is looking to expand the number of new students who want to learn to fly at its headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida, and to that end the company is exhibiting at ABACE 2016.
PEA is 40 years old and has trained more than 12,000 pilots who fly for airlines throughout the world. “Why are we in China?” PEA president and CEO John Bingham asked rhetorically. “We want more students. We have about 200 students on campus now, and we want to increase that to more than 300.”
Bingham–the former president of Piaggio America–joined PEA more than six months ago, and since then he has revamped the operation, with new simulator labs and a dedication to helping students obtain their pilot licenses as efficiently as possible, while also promoting an enjoyable atmosphere. The new simulator labs, equipped with Redbird simulators, are one way to help students learn faster and keep them more closely involved with the training program.
Instead of flying once in the morning then taking the rest of the day off to hang out on the beach, students now can spend time in the simulator, fly the airplane, study, then fly more in either the simulator or airplane or both. “The school is a place they want to be,” Bingham said. And, since his arrival last year, the average flight time to obtain a private pilot license has dropped to below 60 hours from 80 to 85. Recently, three Chinese students were able to get their licenses in less than 60 hours.
PEA’s fleet includes all-glass-cockpit Cessna 172Ss, Diamond DA42s and Piper Arrows, as well as an American Champion Decathlon used for upset prevention and recovery training and tailwheel endorsements. The reason for flying newer airplanes with modern Garmin G1000 avionics, Bingham explained, is because upcoming airline and corporate pilots will be flying behind glass, and it’s better to start flying with that equipment right away. “We’re trying to offer a premium product,” he said.
Another way that PEA helps its students is by arranging for local apartments and bank accounts so students don’t have to worry about those details. “All they have to worry about is getting to school and learning,” Bingham. PEA can also issue the I-20 form for M1 or F1 visas. With an F1 visa, a PEA student who has gone through all the training to become a flight instructor can teach at PEA while logging flight time needed for an airline or corporate aviation job.
The student to flight instructor ratio at PEA is about 3.5 to one, Bingham said. About 90 percent of students hail from 60 countries, with the balance from the U.S. Thirteen percent of the students are women, which is about double the average female pilot population in the U.S.
To help the parents of PEA students or the corporate sponsor for a group of students sent to PEA to learn to fly, the academy offers online access to its internal tracking program. This way they can follow the students’ progress and see how their money is being spent. “I think it’s important to be transparent at all levels of the business,” Bingham concluded.