Hello, my name is Carl Gegenheimer. I am the Chief Flight Instructor and Head of Flight Training for L3Harris’ U.S. training sites. I started my aviation adventure in 2005 when I enrolled into the Academy’s Professional Pilot Program, was hired as a Flight Instructor in 2007 and have worked in both the Flight Standards and Flight Training departments since then. I became the Chief Flight Instructor in 2013 and am blessed to have had the opportunity to continue to provide the standard of training we are known for as well as look for ways we can improve.
Obviously COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the entire world. As you will know, the aviation industry has seen a momentous impact from COVID 19. This has sadly led to airplanes being parked, airline pilots getting furloughed and the closure of some regional airlines in the US. While the negative impacts of COVID-19 are constantly made abundantly clear, there are a few “silver linings” that have come about as a result.
Listed below are just a few of those that we have observed at the U.S. training sites.
Social distancing requirements have meant we are limiting the number of people on campus or in the same area. For instance, operations managers and other administrative employees have moved to a rotating schedule between working remote and on campus. With that, we have had to continue to work on improving our communication. We have set up regular on-line meetings and conference calls, have improved the level of detail provided through email, and have organized important flight training information on our IT network so that we are all informed and can best serve our cadet’s needs. Post pandemic I’m confident that these good practices will continue to stay with us.
2. Training Efficiency
Due to travel restrictions and airline training suspensions, many of our foreign contract students have not been able to start training at our US locations. As such, we have seen an improved student to instructor ratio, allowing for our current students to be scheduled more frequently and progress through their training faster. Since there has been a pause in airline hiring, we are in a position now where we will be able to sustain these ratios by hiring our own graduates and if necessary bringing in additional instructors, should the student demand drive us to a need to do so.
3. Online Training
When COVID-19 first made its impact in the US, the academy quickly reacted and allowed ground school, ground briefings and oral evaluations to be conducted remotely through an on-line platform. The option for our cadets to conduct these activities on-line affords more flexible options based on instructor or student schedule constraints.
Perhaps the most relevant silver lining is the actual timing for current and perspective students. Commercial aviation has always been affected by what is happening in the world. A few years prior to starting my flight training, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 resulted in a temporary shut down and decreased flight operations. Following this, in 2009 when the global recession hit, I was a flight instructor and saw numerous friends and former colleagues get furloughed from the airline job they recently started. In both instances, the industry rebounded and continued to grow. Prior to COVID, the aviation industry was all working together to address the ever-increasing need for more pilots around the world. This means for those just starting, or about to start their aviation adventure, the time you spend earning your certificates and ratings, accumulating flight time and earning experience will all coincide with industry growth and soon enough, the demand for more pilots.
Our Flight Operations Management team continue to work on ways to manage COVID-19 and improve our efficiency and customer’s experience. Our goal as an Academy is to train professional aviators who proficiently master their craft with the utmost regard for safety. Despite the difficulty COVID-19 has presented, our Academy, and staff members, have continued to do just that.
I look forward to working with many of you in pursuit of your aviation dream.