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Pipistrel trainer drafted for Air Force program

Pipistrel’s Alpha Trainer has been chosen to train future U.S. Air Force pilots in a solo flight program coordinated by a California flight school.

The Pipistrel Alpha Trainer has been selected for use in the Aviation-Character-Education program to train future U.S. Air Force pilots. Photo courtesy of Pipistrel.

The Aviation-Character-Education (ACE) program is intended to help the U.S. Air Force address a growing pilot shortage by vetting applicants before they are enrolled in a formal Air Force flight training program. US Aeroclub in Fullerton, California, conducts the training.

“Normally this would take six months and cost [the U.S. government] $200,000 per student,” said Michael Coates, master distributor of Pipistrel USA, who discussed the program at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Instead, students newly graduated from high school enroll in an intensive two-and-a-half-week program designed to get them from zero flight hours to solo. It costs about $6,000 per student, and it weeds out individuals who wouldn’t be suited for the full Air Force pilot program.

“The Air Force is happy with the Pipistrel Alpha,” Coates said. Using traditional trainers, more than half of students weren’t getting to solo, he said.

“In two weeks’ time we start with another 30 students in Compton, California, and will continue five to six times per year,” Coates said. “It’s a good gateway for young people with no aviation experience but an interest in aviation to get involved through the air force.”

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: EAA AirVenture

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