With all these new programs in their budding stages, the thing that really makes Harrington’s eyes light up and raises the excitement in his voice to a whole new level is his soon-to-be-live website, pilot.tv. The free site will feature aviation TV shows such as Sky King; movies like The High and the Mighty; airshow reports; narrated travel logs; and a pilot-targeted weather page based on The Weather Channel, which will highlight areas of VMC and IMC conditions around the country in a special briefing. Harrington also promises that the free website will contain no advertising, and he expects it to launch this summer.
The newly developed programs at American Flyers can potentially allow the company to grow once the recession is over. Only time will tell if the strategy worked. Harrington’s goal is to produce 12,000 well-trained pilots every year, a number far short of the 40,000 he claims finished their ratings in 1960. With the new GI bill coming into effect later this year, providing reimbursements of up to $10,000 for flight training, he may just reach that goal.
Training at American Flyers
Fortunately, I heard about and enrolled in the CFI course at American Flyers at the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). Its concept is simple but brilliant. A group of students get together for a month to help each other become CFIs. Mornings are spent in a classroom with American Flyers instructors, and afternoons are spent teaching each other. There was a sense that we were all in this together as I watched other CFI candidates struggle as much as I did. We supported each other through our training and all ended up with the coveted CFI certificate in our pockets. Today’s $2,995 tuition is money well spent.
I was thrilled to return to the American Flyers office at SMO recently to get an instrument proficiency check. My instructor, Taylor Laverty, suggested we start out in the simulator. I jumped into the box that housed the SimPro 200, and Taylor put me through maneuvers, tracking radials and an ILS approach. It was great being able to see the flight track — horizontal and vertical — on the attached computer screen after the flight.
It had been years since I flew a simulator, and the experience surely made me realize the value of using one as a training tool. While it would take about one hour to shoot three approaches in an airplane in the Los Angeles basin, we could probably shoot at least six or seven in the same amount of time in the sim.
A couple of days later, Taylor and I jumped into a Cessna 172 to shoot a few practice approaches. After flying the touchy simulator, I felt rock solid in the 172 and Taylor signed me off for my IPC.