Take a couple of shiny, new aerobatic aircraft and match them with enthusiastic, expert instructors, and you might just have a winning combination when it comes to spreading the passion for aviation and recruiting new pilots. California’s 5g Aviation is banking on that, and so far, it seems to be succeeding.
“If you get in that airplane and go up with one of my instructors, you’re going to fly again,” said 5g Aviation CEO Ty Frisby. “It’s like you can’t just eat one potato chip.”
The combination flight school and American Champion Sales Center opened in July 2012 with a Super Decathlon. The school, based at John Wayne Orange County Airport, has since added an Extra 300. An authorized provider of Eclipse 500/550 upset recovering training, 5g also offers private pilot training in taildraggers, tailwheel transitions (as was the subject of the July 2013 AOPA Pilot article “The third wheel”), and aerobatic courses. It has an active following on Facebook, where it offers special discounts, and shares first-flight photos and results of aerobatic competitions in which instructors have encouraged their students to enroll.
Frisby, a Falcon pilot who has an aerospace engineering degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott, chose the Decathlon as the school’s first trainer in part because it was the aircraft professors at ERAU used to hook him on aerobatics.
His and his instructors’ passion for flying is as enticing as the new aircraft for rent. The instructors’ experiences include flying jets ranging from Gulfstreams to Cessna CJs, crop spraying in King Airs, and coaching aerobatics. But the CFIs all have one thing in common—a passion for flying tailwheel aircraft and performing aerobatics.
Ron Rapp, a Gulfstream pilot and one of 5g’s mentor instructors, provides training in the tailwheel aircraft when he’s not in the jet. Now, he teaches aerobatics as a hobby, but explained that he also reaps some benefits from flying the conventional-gear aircraft: “It keeps our skills fresh for flying the jets.”
Frisby gives 5g flight instructors the leeway to work with students and make deals as they see fit to get more pilots flying there and learning aerobatics. He said he trusts his CFIs to “do what’s best for the company.” Raised in Alaska, Frisby learned business management from his father who owned a construction company—pay well, expect a lot from employees.
Frisby also prides himself on hooking pilots and prospective students on aerobatics. The key, he said, is to “keep the activity enjoyable” and safe. “Fun and safe, they actually go hand in hand.”
With that, Frisby said he encourages prospective pilots and already-certificated pilots wanting to switch to taildraggers or learn aerobatics to try it out: “Eat that potato chip.”