By Shari Valenta
Are you a flight instructor or a multi-engine commercial pilot with about 500 hours? You may be eligible for employment at a regional airline.
“The majority of these airlines are flying sophisticated full glass cockpit regional jets,” explained Jesse Schoonover, CEO of Atlas Airline Academy. “The transition between a basic twin-engine, piston-driven aircraft to one of those can be a pretty substantial gap.”
What happens to pilots with fewer hours when they try to get a job at a regional airline?
“A lot of them flunk out of the training,” said Schoonover. “It can cost the airlines up to $40,000 when that happens. After that, the student gets a black mark on their record. On their next job interview they have to disclose that they went through training with another airline and didn’t make it. They’re not very desirable to the airlines at that point.”
What can prevent unprepared candidates? That’s where Atlas Airline Academy comes in. They offer a condensed version of the training in a two-week class called Airline & Jet Transition. Students will spend one week going through ground school training.
“We go over the aircraft systems, high-altitude air dynamics, flight attendant coordination and airline regulations,” explained Schoonover.
The second week is spent practicing on a Canadair Regional Jet 200 simulator instructed by a CRJ pilot. The simulator is a replica of Bombardier’s CRJ-200 cockpit.
“The Canadair Regional Jet accounts for about 50 percent of what the regional airlines fly,” remarked Schoonover. “It’s a 50-seat jet. After 9/11, the regional airlines were coming in with these smaller jets and replacing 737s that weren’t flying to capacity anymore. As a result, there’s a huge demand for pilots at the regional level today.”
In addition to the two-week course, there’s a CRJ familiarization course. This is a one-day training course for professional pilots who want to make the transition into a regional jet.
Schoonover has 11 years experience flying. He was previously a pilot for United Express out of Denver International Airport. However, like a lot of talent in his field, he decided to leave after 9/11 when the industry was hurting. He started his own flight school, Daedalus Aviation, at Front Range Airport in Watkins, Colo. After three years, he left Daedalus Aviation and sold his membership interest to his cofounder. He used the money to start Atlas Airline Academy. Classes started November 1 of this year.
The school is able to provide affordable flight training because they opted not to purchase the simulator with a one million dollar price tag. Instead, they commissioned a Denver based engineering firm, Paradigm Shift Solutions, to produce the jet trainer. Project Magenta, a software company, created the software package.
“Had we not produced our own, our tuition would have increased about 40 percent to pay for the price of a simulator,” remarked Schoonover.
Not only is Atlas Airline Academy able to provide inexpensive training, but they also provide a job placement program and practice interviews. The mock interviews are video taped and followed up with constructive criticism.
“We’re seeking to establish working relationships with the airlines,” explained Schoonover. “The airlines are very eager to work with organizations like ours because we basically provide them with prescreening. When pilots come to us for training, we’ll give them an interview. If they seem cut out for the airlines, then we train them. At the end of the program, the instructors analyze each student’s performance. Based on that, a letter of recommendation is issued for those who excelled. From the pilot recruiter viewpoint, it’s a no-brainer because they have a candidate who’s already been evaluated by six or seven CRJ captains and has a head start on the training.”
Schoonover is excited about the potential of his new school.
“I think that we’re going to impact hundreds and hundreds of pilots a year with this and really help them achieve their goals and have success in the airlines,” he said.
Atlas Airline Academy is located in the Journeys Aviation building at Jefferson County Airport. In the future, they would like to expand their facilities all over the country.
Atlas Airline Academy is located at 11844 Corporate Way. For more information, call 303-465-6896 or visit [http://www.atlasairlineacademy.com].