Flight Training - March 2011 - 35
THE FAMILY OWNED AND operated Tailwheels Etc. flight school offers a diverse array of aircraft and boasts that they employ "the best staff in the nation" (left). Tailwheels Etc. T-shirts are the uniform for students and CFIs alike (below).
NOW HE’S THE OWNER
To keep the transition simple for current students, he kept the same telephone number and uses the same two Cessna 172s for primary and instrument training, adding a Socata Trinidad for commercial and CFI training. “The flight school kind of looks the way it did in terms of the aircraft and building,” he says. He plans to add online scheduling and will accept credit-card payments, which he Jeff Vandeyacht hopes will facilitate “impulse buys” of gift certificates. He uses Twitter and Facebook along with the website to build an online presence. As Vandeyacht is new to the ownership experience, he hasn’t experienced a dropoff in students. But he has been thinking about how to retain them and help them to succeed. “The important thing is to keep them enthusiastic,” he says. “I always try to make sure before the end of every lesson that they go home feeling positive, that it was a good flight today…I always try to make it fun. I know a lot of other instructors say that, but I really focus on that to make sure they’re having a good time.” —JWT
the family business, which includes his son, Jonathan, the head of maintenance; daughter, Elizabeth, a mechanic and CFII; and instructors and office staff. The consistent good weather enables Tailwheels Etc. to offer accelerated training. In two weeks, a student can obtain his or her private certificate—with no opportunity for burnout or frustration. “That’s one of the reasons we put together our two-week program,” Amundsen says. “They come in, they’re focused, we don’t let them get distracted. They go home with homework, they don’t have a chance to forget everything because we build on everything they learn.” Any pilot who’s been through accelerated training will tell you that it’s like drinking from a fire hose; “fun” and “accelerated” don’t normally pop up in the same conversation. Yet Tailwheels Etc. strives to make it so. Fly-outs to the Florida Keys or the Bahamas are part of that strategy. The sense of community that students crave? Tailwheels sponsors weekly cookouts, and there is a community room where students can socialize. When Tailwheels Etc. took over the former fixed-base operation building on
the airport—a hangout for the airport’s pilots association—its members feared they would be evicted. “I wanted those guys in,” says Amundsen. “You know how much wealth of information they have?” He cites former military and airline pilots, former FBO managers, and private pilots. Their collective wisdom is a treasure trove for student pilots.
Looking to the future. Tailwheels Etc.’s track record might seem to be the anecdote to a struggling industry, but Amundsen has his concerns. He worries about the lack of financing for qualified students, and sees the ripple effect of a pilot shortage two years down the road when 65-year-old airline pilots begin to retire. In the last six months he’s lost three of his best flight instructors to the airlines. That means hiring new instructors and honing their teaching skills, which he says is the “toughest part” of the business. “We believe in what we do,” Amundsen says. “We’ve worked hard to perfect it."
Jill W. Tallman, associate editor of AOPA Pilot and Flight Training magazines, is a private pilot with an instrument rating.
MARCH 2011 FLIGHT TRAINING
Flight Training - March 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - March 2011
Flight Training - March 2011
Air Safety Institute
Since You Asked
Legal Q & A
The Flight Training Experience: Making It Work
Where Do You Stand?
Is This Flightopia?
The 12-Step Lesson Plan
Who Will Fly?
Career Pilot News
Can a CFI Use Pizza in the Cockpit?
Flight Instructor Burnout
By the Numbers
Flight Training - March 2011 - Flight Training - March 2011
Flight Training - March 2011 - Cover2
Flight Training - March 2011 - Contents
Flight Training - March 2011 - 2
Flight Training - March 2011 - 3
Flight Training - March 2011 - President’s Perspective
Flight Training - March 2011 - 5
Flight Training - March 2011 - Right Seat
Flight Training - March 2011 - 7
Flight Training - March 2011 - Flight Forum
Flight Training - March 2011 - 9
Flight Training - March 2011 - Going Places?
Flight Training - March 2011 - 11
Flight Training - March 2011 - This Weekend
Flight Training - March 2011 - Tech Tip
Flight Training - March 2011 - Success Story
Flight Training - March 2011 - Air Safety Institute
Flight Training - March 2011 - Since You Asked
Flight Training - March 2011 - 17
Flight Training - March 2011 - Final Exam
Flight Training - March 2011 - Legal Q & A
Flight Training - March 2011 - Flying Carpet
Flight Training - March 2011 - 21
Flight Training - March 2011 - Insights
Flight Training - March 2011 - Checkride
Flight Training - March 2011 - The Flight Training Experience: Making It Work
Flight Training - March 2011 - 25
Flight Training - March 2011 - 26
Flight Training - March 2011 - 27
Flight Training - March 2011 - 28
Flight Training - March 2011 - 29
Flight Training - March 2011 - Where Do You Stand?
Flight Training - March 2011 - 31
Flight Training - March 2011 - Is This Flightopia?
Flight Training - March 2011 - 33
Flight Training - March 2011 - 34
Flight Training - March 2011 - 35
Flight Training - March 2011 - The 12-Step Lesson Plan
Flight Training - March 2011 - 37
Flight Training - March 2011 - 38
Flight Training - March 2011 - 39
Flight Training - March 2011 - Weather
Flight Training - March 2011 - 41
Flight Training - March 2011 - Flight Lesson
Flight Training - March 2011 - Who Will Fly?
Flight Training - March 2011 - Career Advisor
Flight Training - March 2011 - 45
Flight Training - March 2011 - Career Pilot News
Flight Training - March 2011 - Can a CFI Use Pizza in the Cockpit?
Flight Training - March 2011 - Flight Instructor Burnout
Flight Training - March 2011 - By the Numbers
Flight Training - March 2011 - 50
Flight Training - March 2011 - Advertiser Index
Flight Training - March 2011 - 52
Flight Training - March 2011 - 53
Flight Training - March 2011 - 54
Flight Training - March 2011 - 55
Flight Training - March 2011 - 56
Flight Training - March 2011 - 57
Flight Training - March 2011 - 58
Flight Training - March 2011 - 59
Flight Training - March 2011 - 60
Flight Training - March 2011 - 61
Flight Training - March 2011 - 62
Flight Training - March 2011 - 63
Flight Training - March 2011 - Debrief
Flight Training - March 2011 - Cover3
Flight Training - March 2011 - Cover4