Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC) in central Ontario, Canada voluntarily ceased operations 17 March in response to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic at a most inopportune time – toward the end of the centre’s semester. Group Editor Marty Kauchak writes. 

WWFC’s fleet of Cessna, Diamond and Piper Seminole aircraft, parked at their Breslau, Ontario training facility, hoping for a return to some hands-on flight instruction in June. Image credit: WWFC

WWFC’s General Manager, Bob Connors, hopes that by early June, his organization’s students can resume some limited amount of instruction in flight training devices or the ATO’s aircraft. Meantime, they have adapted to maintain continuity of academic instruction for its cohorts.

For students enrolled in centre courses at a nearby university and community college, WWFC used the institutions’ online learning platform to modify the centre’s content and deliver it as instructor-led or remote individual learning. “For our students who are stand-alone here, at neither academic institution, we have become quite resourceful with Zoom,” the ATO executive said, noting the centre used this platform to deliver private and commercial ground school instruction and another course for its ATP program. Connors reported the migration to DL-enabled instruction has been “really, really positive – and I say that based on the attendance.” Whereas 50 students may be enrolled in the traditional classroom course on Zoom, most of them log in for lessons on a continuing basis. Further, the quality of the Zoom-supported academic work was reported to be “not bad.” 

“We have become quite resourceful with Zoom.” – Bob Connors, WWFC GM. Image credit: WWFC

When WWFC is able to resume in-person instruction, “This would probably use 10 of our 30 aircraft and be limited to only solo flights in the post-private, time-build type of phase,” Connors explained. An eventual return to full-instruction phase may conceptually introduce more of the organization’s aircraft as training assets and reintroduce dual-instruction at the licensed level and ab initio phase. “That process to getting us back into the ‘full swing’ will take most of this summer,” he predicted.

On the demand side of this ATO’s ledger, WWFC has not seen a mass exodus of students during the pandemic. “Only a few students have asked for their money back – that is very encouraging.” Looking ahead, “while last year was a banner year for us, we don’t have that situation. We do have good, solid, viable class sizes, for both our university and collegiate programs, both of which start in September.”

Asked how learning technologies may play into WWFC’s academic instruction following this pandemic, Connors responded, “I initially said, we don’t have any options, so let’s give it a try. DL has worked sufficiently well that I see, even as we resume in-class activity, that we will have much more supplemental content, study material, enhanced material such as workshops or tutorials, happen through technology platforms. That will become part and parcel to how we do things.”