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A Structured Approach to Becoming a Commercial Pilot

Skyler Shaffer finds her stride as an instructor in L3Harris Flight Academy’s comprehensive program.

Skyler Shaffer
Skyler Shaffer found her own path to the skies with L3Harris Flight Academy’s comprehensive program.L3 Harris Flight Academy

Not everyone is cut out for an office job. From childhood, Skyler Shaffer knew that big dreams lay ahead for her—and she was inspired by her father’s example to turn those dreams into action. “Growing up, I always wanted to be some kind of engineer or an astronaut. My dad heavily encouraged me to do something more than your regular 9-to-5, as he knew I wanted something more than what is below the sky.”

Exposing that potential took a form that’s familiar to many young prospective pilots—at an airshow. “Since we had a fascination with powerful aircraft, we went to multiple airshows,” Shaffer says. “Seeing what the aircraft could do made my heart flutter, and I knew I wanted to fly. We both started our flight training together at a Part 61 school, but at the time, my dad’s workload was too much to focus on flight training. I then decided to go on my own and venture to L3Harris Flight Academy. Now that my dad’s workload isn’t as heavy, he’s decided to join L3Harris, and I’m now his instructor.”

Shaffer takes part in an Aviation Day event
Shaffer takes part in an Aviation Day event at L3 Harris Flight Academy.L3 Harris Flight Academy

How did she go from wannabe pilot to teaching her dad how to fly? It wasn’t all laid out for her. “Before I went to the Part 61 school, I had little knowledge on what was ultimately expected of me for the practical exam and just trusted my instructor. I wish I had done a lot more research on my own and asked around before going to the only flight school I knew about that was closest to me.” That experience left her wanting more. “At the Part 61 school, I felt like there was little structure. There was no outline of what to study, nor was there a deadline.”

Shaffer made the transition to L3Harris Flight Academy, and she found the organization she’d sought after. “Personally, I like to have due dates for my goals, and the quick-pace life of a Part 141 school was perfect for me. They had a clear schedule, syllabus, and deadline to my training, making it heavily motivating.” In addition, the rigorous schedule meant that she finished her training faster than she’d anticipated. “The duration of my training really surprised me! I was told the academy was fast-paced, but did not expect it to be as fast as it was.” Earning L3Harris’ High School Senior Merit Scholarship in 2017 also gave her a psychological boost—as well as a financial one.

Shaffer along with the close friends
Shaffer along with the close friends she made during training – now as instructors.Skyler Shaffer

With more to the program than just a great training syllabus and schedule, L3Harris also provided an environment and culture Shaffer enjoyed—one that supported her training goals. “I really loved the people I was with. Not only did the training-course outline motivate me, but so did my peers. I really loved the encouraging atmosphere of the academy’s instructors, managers, and other students. I was constantly told to push myself further than I thought I could, which led to great results. Even if I was in a funk, I was reminded that I’m human and that I can choose to be greater than my failures.”

So, what’s on the horizon for Shaffer? (After finishing up her father’s training, that is.) “I’ve decided that I want to fly seaplanes. There’s nothing that makes me happier than the sun, ocean, and airplanes. In five years, I see myself getting my seaplane rating, and island hopping and landing on glassy waters somewhere in the Caribbean with a seaplane charter service.” In 10 years? “Honestly, I’m not sure. There are so many incredible opportunities in this field. I’ll just have to wait and see what it surprises me with.”