Hamilton flight school takes to the skies

A local flight training company is taking off at a steady pace after initial turbulence when it first launched a year ago.

REDBIRD FMX-1000 full motion flight training device.

REDBIRD FMX-1000 full motion flight training device.

With its popular in-house flight simulator and Cessna 172, Golden Horseshoe Aviation continues to grow by filling a niche of interested aviators and those who wish to take to the skies.

Located in JetPort’s facility (Unit 520, 9300 Airport Road) at John A. Munro’s Hamilton International Airport, the REDBIRD FMX-1000 full motion flight-training device has drawn aviators from all over the world.

The simulator was purchased eight months ago at a cost of $85,000.

“The advantage is that it doesn’t use any fuel, insurance is much less and it flies no matter what the weather is outside,” said Chief Flight Instructor and co-owner John Maxwell. “If a student is scheduled for every Tuesday afternoon, on days with bad weather there are a lot of lessons that we can do in there.”

“One of the capabilities of it is that an instrument rated (qualified) pilot has to renew their ratings every two years,” said Maxwell. “Traditionally this is done in a multi-engine airplane at $350-$400 an hour, rented by a pilot for several hours to brush up, before a flight test is completed for the examiner.”

Along with examiner fees, the cost to renew a pilot’s license in Canada can add up to thousands. However, testing can now be completed on the ground, in house and with an in-house examiner for $599.

It was in 2011 when Maxwell and the Chief Executive Officer Michael Geraghty flew past Hamilton’s airport and Maxwell noted the size of the airport and the city.

Maxwell was quick to point out Hamilton didn’t have its own flight school. The last time Hamilton had its own flight school was in 2008.

“Soon the conversation turned into an idea, then into business and then a business plan,” said Maxwell, adding the process took about a year.

The company has four instructors though they expect to hire a few more by the end of the year to teach the growing number of students. There are around 30 students at the moment.

Chief Flight Instructor John Maxwell with the Cessna 172.

Chief Flight Instructor John Maxwell with the Cessna 172.

As the company gears up to celebrate its first anniversary on May 1, the flight instructor noted they are in the process of importing a Diamond DA-200 to add to its fleet.

“It’s a really fun two-seat plane that comes with a canopy on top that provides a panoramic view,” he said. “We liken the Cessna 172 to taking your dad’s pickup truck, while the Diamond is like borrowing mom’s convertible.”

The new airplane will open up another avenue because it appeals to another market base.

In five years, Maxwell hopes to see his fleet expand to eight to 10 airplanes.

“We want to draw more general aviation to the Hamilton airport because there’s not a lot of small piston powered airplanes in this airport,” he said. “We hope to be an anchor tenant here and attract some of that attention back.”

Samantha Mincone, a student at the centre, spends a lot of time at the centre but noted training can be taken at your own pace.

As someone who has always been interested in aviation and planes, Micone looked up the flight school and signed up.

“I like that this is at a large airport too, because you get to deal with the big planes as well as the smaller ones on the runway and in the air,” she said. “It’s great to be able to speak with the tower and you’re able to learn quickly.”

She hopes to complete her flight certification in a few months. Transport Canada requires a mandatory 45 hours flight training as a minimum before certification, but Maxwell noted students should budget for 60 hours.

According to statistics, the national average is around 55 hours of flight training.

Time in a flight stimulator can amount to five hours, though students are also required to complete at least 40 hours of ground school training.

“We use computer based training modules, the flight simulator, teach in the boardroom with small classes, and take them out flying as much as we can,” said Maxwell.

Students can fly with a student pilot permit, which means they are able to fly solo with supervision.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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