A new Washington, D.C.-based aviation trade association, the National Flight Training Association (NFTA), is now actively representing a network of United States-based professional flight training providers seeking a unified voice on aviation industry matters that impact flight academies.

The National Flight Training Association was founded to focus exclusively on the interests of professional flight training organizations based in the United States. It is led by CEO Lee Collins, a former career commercial airline pilot and flight training professional. He is an accomplished industry leader whose resume includes a number of leadership and visionary roles, including serving as president of an airline industry trade association. His track record of success in airline safety and aviation legislative and government affairs spans more than 20 years.   

“There are more than 600 FAA-termed ‘Pilot Schools’ in the United States; yet, there is a void in the conversation when it comes to actively including these flight training academies in national discussions on crucial issues impacting aviation in the United States,” Collins said. “With the National Flight Training Association, organizations who help train the next generation of pilots will have a seat at the table and a voice in Washington. The ongoing pilot shortage has made it clear that the aviation industry, which is critical to the U.S. economy, is in a fragile state and needs direction from a variety of stakeholders, including flight training organizations of all sizes. Legislation that impacts the flight training industry must be informed, in part, by that industry to fully understand its ramifications.”

NFTA has five founding board members, elected to serve a three-year term: Nayda Cattin, Vice President of Cirrus Aviation in Sarasota, Florida; NFTA Vice President, Government Affairs; Bill Heckathorn, President and Founder of Ignite Flight Academy in Lincoln, Nebraska; NFTA Vice President, Membership; Ed Comisky, Designated Pilot Examiner and President, Echo Charlie Aviation, Orlando, Florida; NFTA Secretary/Treasurer; Christopher Schoensee, President and Owner of Paragon Flight Training, Fort Myers, Florida; NFTA Vice President, Marketing; and Captain Troy E. Wheeler, Jr, President, Lanier Flight Center, LLC, with two locations in Georgia; NFTA Board President.

The agenda for NFTA’s first year will focus on an array of critical issues intended to produce the safest, most efficient, and most cost-effective training for future pilots.   Collins says the issue-driven agenda is strong, and NFTA is perfectly positioned to act immediately in pursuit of its goals.

“NFTA will represent our members’ best interests with a strong and united voice in the national dialogue. We will be aggressive in our timelines and a trusted partner with other organizations, regulators, and our legislative bodies to effect real change now,” Collins said.  “For more than 10 years, Congress has called for the industry, along with the FAA, to produce the world’s finest aviators, and do so quickly to meet demand, while simultaneously using technology to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. Our member organizations are uniquely positioned to do just that.”  

NFTA has already attracted more than two dozen members, and dynamic flight training academies are encouraged to join the organization to have a vote and voice in national aviation conversations. NFTA is located at 1101 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C., with a satellite office on the grounds of the Punta Gorda airport (KPGD) in Florida.