By Shari Valenta
In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman. He built a pair of wings by tying bird feathers together and sealing them with wax. Perhaps Sascha Protzko chose the name Daedalus for his flight school because he forges aviation professionals out of mere mortals.
“I think teaching is one of the most rewarding things in the universe,” said Protzko enthusiastically, “It’s imparting something you love to other people and seeing the fruits of your labor.”
The flight school is located at Front Range Airport in Watkins, Colo.
“We can take someone who knows nothing about aviation and make that person into a certified flight instructor within six months,” said Megan Sayre, director of operations. “We treat it like a job or college; you’re there eight hours a day, and then you go home and do three hours of homework.”
Daedalus instructors teach using the new FAA/Industry Training Standards.
“Instead of learning the traditional way, such as practicing maneuvers, you use all the aircraft’s technology in a scenario-based program,” said Sayre. “With FITS, you learn how to use the advanced avionics and equipment that’s used in modern aircraft.”
According to Protzko, Daedalus students spend about 60 percent of their time in ground school, flight simulators and ground procedural trainers and 40 percent in the air. Students can pursue seven types of FAA certifications, but Protzko says the CFI is an important step if a student wants to land a job flying.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship; CFIs teach for us and then go get airline jobs,” explained Protzko. “Our instructors have gone on to work for airlines such as Great Lakes Airlines, Sky West and American Airlines.”
Daedalus doesn’t charge sign-up or monthly fees, and takes pride in offering the latest aircraft. The nine models in the fleet are all under seven years old, with one exception; a 1967 Citabria is used for aerobatics instruction. Daedalus is also proud to offer a 2004 Cessna 182 and a Piper Arrow, both with full glass cockpits.
The school employs 12 instructors and boasts 5,000 square feet of space. On hand is an AST HAWK flight training simulator for virtual-environment flying, and five flow trainers with paper cockpits, used to study cockpit layout. Five computer workstations allow students to review aircraft systems, practice flight planning and access on-line resources. The software implemented is a multimedia system training tool that uses labs, videos and quizzes to teach students with a Cessna layout. An interactive CD-ROM offers flight planning practice and helps students study aircraft systems, explaining how to identify and handle problems, such as fuel clogs. Protzko says his students eventually get to the point where they can draw schematics from memory.
Online, students can check weather conditions before filling out navigational log flight forms. Students are encouraged to use other online resources, such as FAA checklist materials and advisory circulators.
“We encourage students to check these resources, to expand their knowledge,” Protzko explained. “That’s a huge part of the training. We tell them, ‘Don’t take our word for it—look it up for yourself.’ This way, everything we tell them is backed up.”
When students complete their training, they’re required to take written, oral and flight tests before receiving licenses. Daedalus is an FAA-approved testing center, so written tests can be conveniently taken at the school. FAA representatives conduct oral and flight tests.
Protzko received his own flight training at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He earned his FAA commercial pilot license in 1997, along with a minor degree in meteorology. He then became an independent instructor at various flight schools based at Front Range Airport, while flying for private companies. In 2001, Protzko began flying for Integrated Health Services, an HMO based on the East Coast. But he didn’t like being out of town so often and missed teaching.
“I realized if I had four or five instructors, I could have more students, using new airplanes,” said Protzko enthusiastically. “I thought I could train better than other flight schools, choosing to emulate corporate flight departments and airline training programs. In the summer of 2002, I decided to start the flight school. It’s been great!”
Protzko chose Front Range Airport as base for both his flight school and his maintenance business, Mile High Aircraft Maintenance.
“I liked the location, because it has lots of space for expansion,” he said. “It’s an economically sound choice. It also has versatile airspace, which is wonderful for flight training.”
Denver International Airport’s bustling airspace is 10 miles away from Front Range’s quieter airspace.
“We also have a brand new tower, and fewer pilots to contend with,” said Protzko. “That will change soon, but for the next couple of years, this will be a great training environment.”
Want to see if Daedalus can make a pilot out of you? Take an introductory flight in a Cessna Skyhawk 172 for only $59.
Daedalus Aviation is located at 5150 Front Range Parkway in Watkins, Colo. For more information, call 303-261-4177 or visit [http://www.beapilotdenver.com]