Florida-based aviation training organizations are helping to meet this sector’s demands for trained personnel through technology-enabled learning and curricula innovations. Marty Kauchak finds out more.

Depending on the database – from state government to online repositories – Florida is home to between 181 and at least 208 flight schools.

Robert Luthy, the US Academy Director for L3 CTS, responded to the question, “Why Florida?” for a sector training site, by noting “The weather and all the attractions and did we mention the weather?”

Actually, there is the consensus among the three Florida-based flight schools randomly surveyed for this article that the state is very accommodating to flight schools. Luthy, for instance, added, “Florida is a great place to work and it helps attract people to work for you. The training at the academy is very intense. When the cadets have time off, we are thrilled that they have so many opportunities to do things that help them to get their mind off their studies.”

And, yes, there is the weather. The training sector expert continued, “When they are flying, the weather and the airspace lead to a high rate of completion. On average, we have over 330 flyable days per year. In addition, outside Orlando, airspace is much less congested. We are extremely blessed to have fantastic local Air Traffic Control facilities. They are extremely talented in dealing with all the training that we are doing. They provide us with opportunities that are not available anywhere else in the US and are a huge factor to the success of our training. They go above and beyond to help us out. It is simply a great place to learn how to fly.”

Training organizations in Florida are helping to meet the civil aviation sector’s burgeoning demand for aircrews and other professionals. New and innovative learning technologies and curricula are among the strategies being used to provide human capital to keep airlines in the US and overseas safe and profitable beyond this decade.


Florida-based flight schools have strong, increasing enrollment figures, contributing to the global, community-wide, “all hands effort” to supply qualified pilots and other professionals to meet airlines’ insatiable demands. Beyond the numbers side of the ledger, are the expanding courses and programs offered to professionals throughout their continuum of learning.

An initial perspective on Florida institutions’ student demographics can be gleaned from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU)’s Aeronautical Science (professional pilot) program at the Daytona Beach campus, which experienced a 13% increase in students last fall. Daniel Friedenzohn, PhD, the associate dean of the College of Aviation, at the Daytona Beach campus, provided insights for this article from his facility’s perspective only, and emphasized, “Given the pilot shortage and the needs of the aviation industry, including the military, it is expected that Embry-Riddle will continue to see higher enrollments in the Aeronautical Science program.”

Close to 20% of the Daytona Beach campus’s Aeronautical Science students come from outside the US. About 15% of newly registered flight students have already earned at least one pilot certificate before matriculation. Friedenzohn added, “While the increase creates scheduling challenges, both for the academic as well as flight training organizations, it is clear that more students are attempting to arrive with at least their private pilot certificate.”

A second perspective on student demographics was furnished by Mark Johnson, the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Pan Am International Flight Academy (Pan Am). The industry veteran initially noted his organization, “is a leader in aviation training and has more experience, simulator fleet types and more programs catering to the aviation service industry than any other training organization,” and added, “Over 5,000 pilots and aviation professionals trained at our facilities in 2017.”

Beyond delivering training to increasing numbers of students, the representative flight schools are strengthening the quality and scope of their curricula, in response to regulatory demands, best practices and other imperatives.

Pan Am’s Johnson modestly pointed out “We are a legacy of innovation and dedicated to customer service, capable of providing 100% of the airline training requirements from 0 hours of experience at our Ab Initio Pan Am Career Pilot Academy in Kissimmee [Florida], through Type Ratings for Commercial Pilots Licenses at our Pan Am International Flight Academy Las Vegas or Miami locations. All our training programs can be customized to specific airline requirements.”

In fact, Pan Am offers over 100 different training curriculums on over 22 devices for 10 different aircraft fleet types. “The Airbus A320, Boeing 737NG, 747-400, 777, McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series are just some of the simulators we offer type ratings to individuals and airlines,” the corporate executive added. The organization’s courses resonate quite well with challenges and themes at recent CAT-sponsored airline training summits around the globe – WATS, EATS, APATS and AAETS – a partial list which includes Removal of Circling Restrictions, FAA Pilot Training - Type Rating Initial, Recurrent, Reduced, Pilot-in-Command/ Second-in-Command, EASA Pilot Training - Type Rating, Indian DGCA Pilot Training - Type Rating, EASA Multi Crew Co-Operation (MCC) Course, Removal of Circling Approach Restrictions, Recency & Proficiency Checks, Crew Resource Management Training Courses & Emergency Drills and Upset Recovery. Johnson continued, “We also offer various specialty courses for airline operations. It’s important to point out that most Type Rating Training are approved to train veterans under the [US] GI Bill.”

Back at The College of Aviation at the Daytona Beach campus of ERAU, the organization is home to 12 degree programs in five departments. Friedenzohn noted, “The college continues to experience growth in many of its programs. Our Aeronautical Science program has experienced double-digit growth in the number of enrolled students.” Representative of programs being offered by training organizations to support the wider airline enterprise, other academic pursuits such as Meteorology, Aerospace and Occupational Safety, and Aviation Maintenance Science have also experienced increases in student enrollment.

ERAU is also prepared to meet the needs of industry by offering advanced graduate degrees. The School of Graduate Studies within the College of Aviation currently offers a Master of Science in Aeronautics as well as a PhD in Aviation program. There are plans to add master’s degree programs in the future.

For its part, the L3 Florida Airline Academy in Sanford, Florida, has two main separate airline training tracks.

One is for international students from partner airlines. These airlines are largely from Asia and send their cadets to receive a FAA Commercial Certificate. Luthy explained the certificates and ratings path these students follow is generally Private Pilot certificate first and an Instrument Rating, before they go on to the Commercial Single Engine and later the Commercial Multi-Engine add-on rating to get a Commercial Airplane Multi-Engine Landing Certificate. “The cadet pilots then either move back home to fly on their certificate or convert it,” he added.

Other cadets, including those from the US, have to take a slightly different route though, as they are required to gain more than 1,500 pilot hours before receiving their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. Luthy continued, “Therefore, after they have received their Private Pilot certificate, Instrument Rating and Commercial Single Engine certificate and Multi-Engine Add-on Rating, they tend to take Certified Flight Instructor training. If they pass through all of the courses, they are offered the opportunity to interview for an instructor role at the Academy, which can help them to build their hours required to work for a regional US airline.”

L3 CTS also offers a range of other courses at the Florida Academy including an A320 Type Rating. The most requested course is the ATP/CTP which is very popular with our airline track cadets and regional partners.

Expanding the Accession Pool

The simulation and training company has other efforts in progress, including expanding the accession pool of pilots for community. In one instance, L3CTS works with local educational establishments including the Seminole State College of Florida, Everglades University and Jacksonville University. “We have articulation agreements with the local colleges to transfer the courses they take here into credits and the schools. A number of our instructors are sponsored through these routes,” Luthy explained. As significant, L3CTS is starting to look towards developing more aviation magnet high schools that are designed to specifically encourage, facilitate and support different types of aviation career routes. The industry executive also noted, “access to funding continues to be a challenge for many students.” To that end, “We are working with government-backed loans as well as offering five different types of scholarships ourselves.”

Another challenge the L3 Florida Airline Academy is working on, is to break down the barriers and encourage more female cadets to join the company. “Across the business we’re working to try and address the stereotype to make the career more appealing, it’s an area we believe is only going to become more and more important,” the industry training leader said.

Responsiveness to Civil Requirements

Recognizing the frenetic, yet sustained, pace of growth in the civil unmanned air systems sector, ERAU’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science program continues to evolve and grow, and is increasing popular. Four, new, hands-on UAS flight courses are being developed, utilizing multi-rotor and fixed wing platforms. The program is being refocused, with Operations and Pilot Areas of Concentration being deleted, although a Flight minor is still an option; seven less relevant courses are being deleted while six UAS-specific courses are being added; and two service learning courses are being implemented.

And beyond UASs, while the ERAU Aeronautical Science program is said by the organization to be “well established,” it still looks to industry and latest practices therein in order to keep its curricula pertinent. For example, flight path monitoring is being incorporated into the course, Flight Technique Analysis (AS 420).

Human factors is another vital academic thrust at L3CTS. Luthy pointed out that in the US, the entire testing standards that are being used, have now changed from being Practical Test Standards to Airman Certification Standards. “These changes are part of an effort to bring in more ‘human’ factors into how we train and how we test. This involves looking at how the cadets react to different situations, as well as the physical skills and competencies they need,” he added. The training focuses on creating an understanding of human factors and decision-making. These skills are integrated to ensure the highest level of competency, honing personal skills such as workload management and risk assessment.

These human factors are being tested by new situational-based training. “Compared to the European market, this approach is much more nascent in the US,” the L3CTS executive offered and continued, “The training goes beyond teaching and testing basic flight skills, it puts the cadets in specific scenarios and situations in which the cadet must identify possible choices and responses, putting much more focus on their decision-making process. Going forward this type of training will help develop more rounded and experienced pilots from the start.”

New Technology Insertions

Luthy provided one benchmark on training organizations’ use and expectations for learning technology. “Across all of L3’s cadet training we take advantage of the use of simulators to the largest extent possible. For their entire career pilots will be continually using simulation to train across a wide range of situations, therefore the more we can introduce cadets to the latest technology at an early stage of their training the more beneficial it will be.”

ERAU’s College of Aviation at Daytona Beach is home to 28 labs supporting hands-on training to students in all academic programs. The campus is building more courseware that will cater to this generation of students’ learning style. Friedenzohn pointed out, “Already in use are the highest levels of simulation in our curriculum to improve training and reduce costs. The latest initiative includes the development of a Cessna 172 virtual walk-around with a plan to adopt it into the flight training curriculum this fall.”

Further, ERAU has developed new online training/homework that dovetails with the students’ flight activity. This is called PACE (Pre-Activity Computer Exercises) and has been developed by its in-house multi-media group, named Special VFR. “We invite you to examine some of the content at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWzIOaQY6RUoZj0xGDM4ewA,” Friedenzohn concluded.

L3CTS is investing in new aircraft, simulators and flight training devices at the L3 Florida Academy. Luthy pointed out, “We are introducing nine brand new Glass Cockpit Twin Engine aircraft, seven DA42 aircraft and we should be adding a total of 23 Glass Cockpit 172s. In support of those devices, we have invested in a brand new Level 5 Frasca PA44 full flight simulator and a Diamond DA42 simulator, which will be certified and online by August. We have also bought three Level 6 SR20 flight training devices.”

Pan Am’s Johnson remarked, “We are working on several new programs to implement on 2018 that include Upset Recovering Training and evidence-based training programs. We will be announcing these very soon.”

Training Centers of Excellence

Florida-based training organizations are strengthening their position in the civil sector community, as a primary source of aircrews, and also other airline professionals. Training devices and other technologies, are supporting aircrews’ continua of learning at these venues, for diverse fixed-wing and increasingly, unmanned air systems. At the same time, programs are evolving or being added to reflect new and evolving regulatory, policy and other overarching training guidelines. The efforts of L3 Florida Airline Academy to “cast a wider net” into the prospective pool of aspiring aircrews promise to strengthen the enrollments of the state’s flight schools well beyond this decade.

Published in CAT issue 2/2018