October 7, 2009
By Sarah Brown
The three students first came to Nassau Flyers at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, N.Y., to train for their private pilot checkrides. This August, they returned to the flight school as its owners.
Don Scoca, Don Vogel, and Doug Wohl saw one another in passing at the school before they earned their certificates six years ago, but they did not get to know each other until after they began training for their instrument ratings. They began flying together, bought an airplane together, and this year came together to purchase the flight school where they had been students.
Scoca said he invited the other two men to start flying with him while the three were training at another school for their instrument ratings. After six months of renting airplanes to head out each week for the $100 hamburger, they decided to buy a Cirrus SR22 to take on their excursions. Scoca and Wohl were business-owners, and Vogel was in finance, so the three decided to apply their expertise to their common passion. “We’d been successful in other businesses, and we wanted to try our hand in aviation,” he said.
Scoca, Vogel, and Wohl had known the former owner of Nassau Flyers, who had had the business for 33 years, while they were students. Scoca said the business had been in financial trouble, so the three decided to try to revitalize it and expand its services. He approached the owner and made him an offer for the school.
After several months, the former students took over the school Aug. 1. They have added aircraft, a detail area and maintenance department for outside aircraft, glass cockpit technology, and a pilot shop to the school. They kept the 20 employees, including some of the flight instructors who were there when they were students. Scoca said the transition from pupil to employer has been natural.
“We’re pretty easy-going,” he said, adding that he is now training for his commercial certificate with one of the original instructors from when he was working on his private. “You fly with somebody and you’re very close with them.”
The new owners invited the public to an open house Sept. 26 to show off the facilities and to introduce potential students to the world of aviation. Scoca said attendance was close to 500, and 12 people signed up for lessons. While it may seem crazy to buy a failing business in a bad economy, Scoca said, they view it as an investment in the future.
“We’re constantly expanding,” he said. With a larger fleet of aircraft and more advanced technology, the three men hope to introduce many more students to flying. “We have something for everybody,” he said.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has awarded its third annual Flight Training Excellence Awards to top flight schools and flight instructors ranked by more than 3,600 flight students who voluntarily reviewed their flight training experience through an AOPA online poll.
For decades, pilots have headed to Bay Bridge Airport in the Chesapeake Bay for scenic coastal flying and great seafood. Check it out after attending the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on Oct. 4.
Maintenance experts have asked the FAA to clarify whether recurring inspections of Cessna 210-series aircraft can be mandated without following required rulemaking procedures.
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