June 10, 2013
When was the club formed and what is your mission?
The club is about two years old. It was organized here because there wasn’t really any high quality training or airplane rental available.
The mission of our club is to foster general aviation in general and promote flight training and education in particular, while providing economical airplane rental to pilots and students alike. All of our instructors have many thousands of hours of flying and training experience, and are not involved with training to build flight time but, rather, to make flying and aviation as accessible to as many people as possible.
All spend considerable time volunteering for club activities. For instance, we just participated in an Airport Day at nearby Bakersfield Muni Airport (L45) where the instructors volunteered to fly kids in the EAA-sponsored Young Eagles program. Instructors also worked the booth and answered questions about flying and training. Ours is a good group, with members focused on safety and lifetime learning.
Clubs all over the place are largely involved to increase the student load, the number of pilots out there. If you look around at FAA seminars, everyone is gray haired. Our club really wants to see youngsters in there again. We want to see 20-year-olds and 25-year-olds. I can say that of our students, the average age is maybe high 20s.
How many members do you have?
It’s constantly changing, it’s always rising. The last I saw there were 37 of us.
How many people did the club start with and what have you done to expand?
I wasn’t around at the start. The understanding I have is there were three people and the word just spread quickly. We have a web site, but we have not run any ads, we haven’t really done anything at all like that. The word spread quickly and three became five, five became twenty, and twenty became what it is now.
What are your dues?
We charge $300 per year. That covers the office rent and the insurance and so on.
You have annual dues instead of monthly dues?
Yes. I suppose if somebody did not want to pay it all up front, that’s all right as well. Nobody’s asked, though.
Is there any buy in?
Do you lease the aircraft?
The owners own them. All the revenue from the aircraft rental, from the airplane usage, goes straight through to the owners. So the only income for the club is the dues.
What type of agreement do you have with the owners?
It’s a handshake. The owners are all in the club and want the club to succeed. The owners are able to use the airplanes as often as they would they like, although they don’t use them a whole lot. I don’t think they fly 20 hours per year.
Are the owners responsible for their own maintenance on the aircraft?
Are the club members required to have renters insurance?
It’s recommended, but it is optional. I would say that probably half have it.
What type of checkout does a new member have to go through?
There’s an extensive checkout—a written exam and a checkout. Checkout normally run somewhere between one and six hours. If it’s an experienced pilot, it’s an hour. If the instructor feels you need some extra training, it goes longer.
Do you have any currency requirements?
We’re actually working that out right now. We’ll probably end up with a requirement to fly with an instructor yearly, but it hasn’t been implemented yet.
Does the club offer instruction?
Yes. We’ve got seven instructors who are independent contractors and charge $40 to $50 an hour (depending on the instructor), for both simulator and airplane time.
Of your 37 members, how many are students?
Probably 10 or 12 of them.
How many of your members got their license through the club?
Quite a few. I would say about half of them, but that’s a guess. You read about the fact that a huge percentage of students that start, quit. The percentage of students that start with us and quit is really small. What that number is, I don’t know, but it’s quite low—maybe 1 in 10.
How long have you had the Redbird Simulator and why did you get it?Three months. I believe we’ve had it since March. Several of the instructors have always looked at simulation as the way of the future. One of our club members walked in and offered it up. He asked if he were to purchase the simulator, would the club use it. We said absolutely we would, and he did. He stepped up and made the big investment.
How much did it cost?With the options on our sim, I think it cost around $70,000.
What are some of the options and how is it used?The Garmin 1000 is an option. We can use either the six-pack panel on it or the 1000. I don’t know what that additional option cost, but it isn’t cheap though. I think all the students are using the six pack so far. That’s what the airplanes are.
Everybody is using it for instrument training. Some of them are using it for primary as well. So we’re actually starting students out in the simulator. What we’re finding is that they are acquiring the skills, they’re able to actually operate the airplane within standards quicker, and it’s cheaper.
How much do you charge per hour in the sim?The sim is charged at $65 an hour when configured as a six-pack panel, and $85 an hour for the G-1000 panel. Changing panels takes about 10 minutes.
Have you had any of your primary students who started in the simulator solo?Not yet, but we probably will in the next 60 days.
How many students are working on their private and how many are working on their instrument rating using the simulator?There are four people using the sim for primary training. For instrument training there are three to five.
Tell me about the avionics in the airplanes.The SP is IFR equipped, autopilot. It’s got a King GPS. The 172 is VFR only. The 150 is IFR as well.
With the simulator, is the panel a 172 panel?Yes.
Does the Redbird simulator have any motion to it?Yes it does, three-axis. It isn’t exactly like an airplane, but it’s really close.
Do you have a syllabus that you use?We use the Cessna training outline. There is no hard line that says you’ll do this in the sim and this in the airplane. What we usually do is start them out in the simulator, showing slow flight or takeoff, etc. I don’t spend hours and hours in there. It’s an hour in the simulator and an hour in the airplane and then an hour in the simulator again. I don’t want people to feel like they’re simulator training. They’re flight training and we’re using the simulator as a training aid.
Can you walk me through a simulator lesson?You explain the lesson, use checklists like an airplane. The instructor would explain something like slow flight, the student would walk through it, then the instructor would critique it. The nice thing with the simulator is that you repeat things over and over again quickly. So you can accomplish as much in an hour as you could in three hours in an airplane.
Do you take off for each flight or do you start the lesson in the air?Either way will work. Optimally you actually start them at 3,000 feet, which saves a lot of time. You can stop the program, explain what the student did properly, what he did wrong, and start it over again quickly.
Explain the advantages of instrument training in the simulator.You can set up cloud heights, you can set rain, wind, all that—snow, sleet, hail, turbulence. You can train some things in the simulator that you wouldn’t train in the airplane. For example, an engine failure at 300 feet or an upwind engine out, or instrument failures along the way. You can fail the static system and the pitot along the way. You can ice up. So there are a lot of things like that. It’s actually quite useful.
As an instructor did you need special training to learn how to operate the simulator?An hour of training is usually adequate. It’s largely training on how to switch the thing on and warm it up. It isn’t much. An experienced pilot would be able to figure it out if he wanted. I always recommend the training, though. Redbird offered three hours of training and we lined up all the instructors in there. It worked out great.
Are there any drawbacks with the simulator?I don’t think so. We were a little apprehensive at the start that the students would go, “I don’t want to fly a simulator, I want to fly an airplane.” Everybody likes it. I can’t think of any negatives whatsoever.
Do you have any members that have joined because you have the simulator and it makes training more cost effective?I think we will. Whether we have enrolled people to date who want to do it strictly because of the simulator, I don’t know. But I’m sure as the word spreads out there, we will see that, especially if we can explain that we put people through it and it is cheaper and it is quicker. We absolutely expect that it is, but we haven’t run anyone all the way through yet.
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