We tend to put our attention on the “now”, living our lives day to day, focused on what our next goal is, or the current problem in front of us. So looking back at the end of the year, it’s often surprising how much has happened. We’d like to share with our followers a look at 4 big milestones that have happened at Thrust Flight in 2019.

Won AOPA Distinguished School of the Year

With the help of our students, Thrust Flight was honored to be the only flight school at Addison Airport to be recognized in 2019 by AOPA as a Distinguished Flight School of the Year. Coupled with that, our Academy Director Bob Choate was the only instructor at Addison Airport to be recognized as a Distinguished Flight Instructor of the Year.

This was validation of all our hard work throughout the last year. We look forward to rising to the challenge of bringing this quality to our students in 2020.

2019 Flight Training Experience Award

Expanded our Fleet

In preparation for expected growth in 2019, we added 5 new aircraft to our fleet. This included an air conditioned 2019 model fresh from the factory.

We are continuing in 2020 to add more aircraft to our fleet and will maintain our standards when it comes to having the best quality aircraft we can provide for our students.

Monthly CFI Academies

In 2019 demand for our Academy grew so much that we were required to host monthly classes, doubling the previous years bimonthly academies.

Our academy, under the leadership of Bob Choate, has grown to legendary status in the aviation community. With over 40% of each class hearing about us via word of mouth, the CFI Academy has become the face of our school.

In 2019 we graduated over 240 students that came to us from more than 10 different countries. It truly has become a “World-Famous CFI Academy.”

Launch of Zero Time to Airline

This is of course the most exciting part of 2019 for Thrust Flight. In just 5 months since launching the program, classes are now filled through the first 2 months of 2020 and there are no signs of slowing down.

We are thrilled to have a projected 105-120 new ZTA Students in 2020. At this pace over 200 airline pilots will complete the full program and move onto the airlines within the next 2 years.

Perhaps the most exciting part of this is the pace we have managed to keep up. Our students in the commercial phase of the program have completed this milestone in 5-7 months. Nearly all students have completed private and instrument in less than 4 months

private and instrument in less than 4 months. And the quality of our pilots is phenomenal. Looking at the momentum of the program through 2019, we couldn’t be more excited to see where our students will be at this time in 2020.

As we continue to grow and expand in 2020, we will maintain focus on the quality of our instructing. Ensuring our quality does not suffer due to expansion is paramount, and we are excited to take on the challenge going into next year.

Flight training in the age of COVID-19 can seem like a worrying prospect. We’ve received many questions from students and instructors alike about what they can do to stay healthy during this time as they continue to fly.

Below we’ve outlined a few practices you may want to implement in your own routine as you continue your flight training. We’ve also outlined what we are doing as a school to help our students stay healthy.

The CDC has issued a few general tips to help curb the spread of this disease. These include:

  1. Wash your hands regularly. Use soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds.If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  3. Avoid close contact with other people, especially if you are in the high risk group of people (elderly or someone with pre-existing conditions).
  4. Stay home if you are sick.
  5. Wear a mask if you are sick and must go out in the public (such as to see the doctor).
  6. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue that is immediately thrown in the trash.
  7. Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.

1. Before your flight

As stated above, if you’re sick do not go to the airport for your flight, especially for ground school. Call your instructor and let them know you are ill and unable to fly.

You’ll want to check with your pilot school to see what their cancellation policy is around illness. At this time, you’ll hopefully find most flight schools very accommodating.

When you get to your lesson, if your instructor appears sick you should one, ask them if they are in fact sick, and two, consider postponing your flight until they feel better or switching to a different instructor until they feel better.

Before you begin your usual preflight, take a couple of minutes to wipe down the plane with antibacterial wipes. Wipe down every surface of the interior you are likely to touch. This includes the yoke, throttle controls, seat belt, handles, etc.

After you’ve finished wiping down the plane use hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

2. In Flight Tips

If you don’t already, we recommend all students use their own headset. While rental units can be disinfected, we feel it still isn’t worth the risk of transmitting disease given it sits centimeters from your mouth. If you’re not sure what headset to buy, check out our article on the best headsets for flight training.

If you do have to borrow a headset from your flight school be sure to spray it with a disinfectant spray.

While the CDC recommends staying 6 feet from other people this isn’t really an option when you’re flying in a small Cessna 172. But there are still things you can do to stay healthy in flight.

During your flight if you need to cough or sneeze, move your mic, and cough or sneeze in your elbow away from the other pilot.

We have been asked about wearing a mask while flying. If it makes you feel more comfortable you are certainly welcome to, however, we don’t view it as necessary because, per the CDC recommendations, only those that are sick need to wear masks. And if you are sick you shouldn’t be flying.

Coughing in the cockpit

3. Post-Flight Debrief

After your flight, gather all of your stuff and then wipe down the plane once more. This is to be considerate of the people flying after you who may or may not wipe the plane down.

Once again, when you are finished wiping down the plane, use hand sanitizer to clean your hands or go wash them in the nearest sink with soap.

What we are doing at Thrust Flight

Here at Thrust Flight we’ve adjusted some of our policies in order to follow the CDC’s guidelines. While you may not be training here at Thrust Flight, we wanted to share these steps so you could encourage your own school to make adjustments if they aren’t already. Here’s what we are doing:

  • Increasing the frequency in which we disinfect our facilities – our custodian is cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly, throughout the day.
  • Disinfecting aircraft between flights – we’ve instructed both students and instructors to make this a part of their preflight routine.
  • Adding hand sanitizing stations around the facilities  – we’ve added stations in our lobby, near our classrooms, and in the hangar.
  • Encouraging students and instructors to greet each other by waving rather than shaking hands
  • We’ve instructed all employees (flight instructors and administrative staff) and students to stay home if they are sick or feeling ill.
  • Instructing students and flight instructors to only come to the school for their flights and to leave immediately after.
  • Conducting ground schools online rather than in person.

We recommend everyone stay up to date with local government announcements concerning Covid-19 in your area during this time and be sure to continue to follow official CDC announcements.

Do you have more tips on staying healthy while flight training? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

By Patrick Arnzen

“So much for that pilot shortage” is a headline that can be found right now on an article posted by AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which — according to their About Us page— exists “to protect and to grow the incredible privilege that we call general aviation.”

They must certainly have earth-shattering data to make such a sensational claim, considering their position as a protector of the industry. The pandemic has certainly hit the industry in a big way, but to put the last nail in the coffin of the entire industry there must be some sort of data, studies, or hard evidence to substantiate such claims… right?

Read for yourself to see: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2020/april/07/airlines-go-from-boom-to-bust

Articles like this can be found all over industry-friendly websites. Headlines such as “Should We Worry About the Future of the Airline Industry?” and “How Coronavirus Will Change Aviation In The Next Decade” are widespread and apparently they are getting clicks, because they keep coming.

The very groups whose mission is to help this industry are evangelizing false claims that echo the fear and panic we see every day on the five o’clock news. All this fear and propaganda have been generated without any real analysis and are designed to illicit an emotional response.

It’s time for everyone to calm down, behave like adults, and have a real conversation about what has happened historically to aviation after major events. It’s also time for the industry professionals to have a dialogue about the real health of the industry rather than outsiders telling us what our future holds.

I started my aviation career before 9/11. I worked as an airline pilot during the crash of 2008, and I own and operate a successful flight school. I am an active A&P IA mechanic and a Designated Pilot Examiner who evaluates pilots from Sport through ATP. I understand this industry. I have lived and breathed aviation for more than 20 years.

I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with some of the most talented aviation professionals in the industry.

Without exception we all agree: all of this conjecture is detrimental to attracting new talent to the aviation workforce.

This industry needs a positive message right now. But even more than a positive message, the industry needs a true and accurate message, a real study of what to expect in the future— otherwise we run the risk of artificially making the aviation industry look less attractive as a career choice than what is reality.

In no way do I mean to diminish the sufferings of those afflicted with COVID-19 or minimize the seriousness of a virus without a treatment. I am, however, saying that most of what I have read related to aviation and the virus is click-bait, pure and simple.

Here it is folks…the data. I believe all of you reading this are intelligent enough to draw your own conclusions from the facts highlighted below.

Two Causes of Reduction in Airline Travel: Fear and Economy

There are historically 2 causes of a decrease in air travel— fear of air travel and a hurting economy.

We have an example of each of these from the past 20 years.

Fear

Although one could argue that the decline in airline travel after 9/11 was caused by a weak economy coupled with fear of flying, it can be inferred by the market trends of the time and the number of air travelers month to month that fear played a much larger role (the market proceeded to go down even further after 9/11 while the number of air travelers steadily increased.)

US Travel Numbers sourced from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics

By July of 2003, the number of air travelers had recovered to pre 9/11 numbers. The fear caused by the novelty of commercial airliners being used in terrorist attacks only slowed air travel down for a few weeks, and completely returned to normal in 2 years.

It is important to distinguish the difference in the fear being experienced today vs the fear we all felt after 9/11. Our fear today is of a virus whose threat extends everywhere we go— grocery stores, church, work— this is not intrinsic to air travel. After the 9/11 attacks, the fear people experienced was related directly to flying.

Once consumers begin traveling again, it is safe to assume air travel will quickly return to normal, just as it has before. There is no inherent fear of flying in this case as there was after 9/11. And once regular travel resumes, the trend we’ve been seeing in global air travel can be expected to continue.

Total global air travel in millions(2019 is predicted not actual) Source

Economy

If fear of flying is not a concern, one other factor that could hinder air travel is the economy.

Dow Jones over the last 20 years

The Great Recession of 2008, the worst economic recession since the great depression, barely made a dent in the total number of air travelers. 10 million less travelers for one year in 2009, and then the trend went right back to continuing upward at a dramatic rate.

To summarize- it is a safe bet that more and more people will continue to fly after consumer confidence is restored. Nothing that we’ve seen in the past has slowed the upward trend, and this will continue. People WILL continue to fly.

What About Pilot Hiring?

The trends in air travel are just one factor that contribute to pilot hiring. Retirement numbers have a huge effect on the number of pilots that need to be hired each year. Therefore, the increase in the need for pilots is often greater than the increase in air travelers. This is evident from the numbers that were being touted just a month ago.

Pilot retirement forecast prior to pandemic– Source

These were the predicted retirement numbers prior to the pandemic. Recently, airlines have offered early retirement packages that only account for a fraction of the total future need for new pilots. Age 65 is a hard number for retirement, and the airlines historically have retired a percentage above the hard numbers listed above.

Think of the early retirements and lay-offs the airports have had due to the pandemic.

What does this do to the already inevitable pilot shortage once regular flying returns to normal? What will this mean when the number of air travelers continues to increase?

Consider the following: When the pandemic hit, the major airlines were about to lose a significant number of pilots to retirement.

This was anticipated and was not a major concern— the majors have an endless source of pilots they can hire from via the regionals. Because of this dynamic, pilot shortages are a problem first experienced and solved by regional airlines.

So when the pandemic resulted in a sudden halt in airline travel, the majors had an opportunity to offer early retirement to the pilots who were about to retire. Pilots close to retirement age cost the majors more to employ, so it makes financial sense to retire them early during a temporary lapse in air travel. After all, the regional pilots are always there when you need them.

But what does this mean for the regionals? They aren’t flying right now either. Hiring has been halted at nearly all regionals.

What many may not know is most of these regionals have not stopped interviewing and have continued their “cadet” programs at their partnered flight schools. I’ve seen this first hand. Thrust Flight’s regional airline partners are still prepared to start hiring as soon as needed. The regionals are setting themselves up to be able to hire a large number of pilots once people start flying again.

With all of this considered, a picture of our industry in the next year begins to form that is contradictory to many of today’s headlines. Once regular air travel starts up again, majors will hire a large number of the experienced pilots flying for the regionals, and regionals will be forced to increase their recruitment efforts from the most reliable source they have for pilots- Flight Schools.

Therefore, I maintain that now is a phenomenal time to consider a career as an airline pilot. While it admittedly is a bad few months to be a student just finishing their required 1500 hours, this lapse in hiring pilots will surely result in a surge once normal flight operations resume. A student starting today won’t be eligible to be hired at an airline for approximately 2 more years.

By that time, I predict hiring numbers will be higher than they were before the pandemic hit.

Even though airlines are in a temporary rough patch, the world still needs more pilots.

My call to action to each of my aviation constituents: This industry has been good to all of us. It is time to think of future aviators. Fear mongering does them a great injustice. This is not the time to stomp our feet and get emotional- pilots are logical by nature, so why are we reacting without thinking? Pilots are better than this. This industry is better than this.

We need to come together and support this industry so that those that come after us have the chance to reap the same benefits that we have.

Patrick Arnzen is a former airline pilot, has been a DPE since 2013, is an A&P IA, and owns and operates Thrust Flight, a flight school that trains and prepares students to be airline pilots. He has been involved in the aviation industry for more than 20 years.