Consider this: If you get a job flying for the airlines, you will have weeks, even months, of training in a simulator before you are allowed to touch an actual airplane. Does that give you an idea of the value of simulator training?
In October 2011 Redbird Skyport opened at San Marcos Municipal Airport (HYI) between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Introduced with much fanfare at that year’s AirVenture, the Skyport has some GA heavyweights behind it, including Jerry Gregoire, chairman of Redbird Flight Simulations, John and Martha King of King Schools, and officials from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Cessna, Avemco, and other industry partners.
Its mission is to develop solutions to the challenges of a shrinking pilot population, a staggering student drop-out rate, and the ever-increasing cost of flight training. The aviation laboratory includes a full service FBO, flight school, and “aviation experience” center. All aspects of the project will provide a test bed for hardware, software, business processes and ideas with the goal of revitalizing general aviation. What’s even better: Everything learned at Skyport will be shared with the entire flight training community.
A major component of Skyport is flight training with a curriculum built around the Redbird Flight Simulator. The school offers training for private pilot up through Airline Transport Pilot certification.
“Everything is introduced and practiced in the sim before it is done in the aircraft. The basic idea is ‘Simulator for learning — airplane for demonstrating what you learned,’” explains Josh Harangue, marketing director.
One of the challenges of having a flight simulator, even one as sophisticated as the full-motion FMX Redbird, is that some clients have the attitude “the simulator isn’t real, I’d rather fly the real thing,” even when the weather is not conducive to flight training. (Speaking as in instructor, when I encounter that attitude I create the current weather conditions in the Redbird and let the student get into “trouble” in the air. )
The dismissive attitude toward the simulator is not readily encountered at Skyport, says Harnagel.
The use of the simulator during the intro flight is key, says Harnagel.
“The customer learns about the controls, instruments, and basic ‘feeling’ of flight before they get in the airplane,” he says. “Most immediately understand the benefit.”
In addition to the simulators, Redbird Skyport, which offers Part 141 training, has four 2012 Cessna 172s equipped with Garmin G1000 panels, and a 2012 Piper Seminole with a Garmin G500 panel.
According to Harnagel, about 40% of their students comes from the local area, another 50% come from outside the Austin-metro area and 10% come from overseas.
Skyport has five full-time instructors, four part-time instructors and two check airmen. Dual instruction is done from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the simulators are open for solo practice from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Skyport officials also have struck a deal with Vaughn College in New York that offers college credits for flight training. “Additionally, many colleges will give credit for flight training,” he noted.
According to the Skyport website, the full-time course costs $9,995, which covers all simulator, airplane and instructor time, course study materials, written exam prep software and the written exam fee (provided the client takes the written exam at Skyport) and the practical test fee.
It also offers a part-time course, which is billed on an hourly basis. The cost ranges from $8,000 to $15,000, depending in the frequency and consistency of the training.
For more information: RedbirdSkyport.com