Condition of Comair planes


New Member
Hi. I have recently gone on tours of Comair, Flightsafety and Panam. While at Comair I was impressed by both the official info I was getting from the marketing people and the unofficial info I was getting from unchaperoned talks with current students. I had started to get over my initial displeasure with the outer appearance of the airplanes because I was impressed with the program as a whole.

After my tour of Panam I had the same kind of unchaperoned talks with students and instructors and personally met two instructors who had left Comair because they were not getting their time in because of planes being down for maintenance. While having this conversation, a student walked by and said that she knew of a couple others at Panam who had left Comair for the same reason.

Can any present or recent Comair students tell me anything about maintenance and downtime issues? Information on the general condition of the planes would be great, too. Thanks!
As a student at Comair here's my observations about the aircraft.

The planes are well maintained for what they are, which is old. They do go down now and then, but all planes do. I have been here since Sept. and probably had only three or four cancelations due to something being broken. Usually if it is something like threads showing on a tire maintenance comes right out and fixes it. (This happened to me yesterday before a stage check and we were only delayed about 10 minutes or so.) Keep in mind newer planes have many of the same maintenance issues. They all need 100 hr. inspections, they all need tires from time to time, they all get fouled mags etc......

That being said, the availability of some aircraft can be an issue. Right now I am flying in the 172RG, working on my commercial rating. There are only seven or so RG's running at any given time right now, and lots of commercial students, so getting more than one flight a day is tough, but I have only had one day when I couldn't get a plane at all. They are phasing out the RG's and replacing them with something else so that problem looks as though it is getting worked out.

Comair would be well served leasing a few more 172's, but for the most part I don't see availability being a problem. Feel free to fire away any more questions and I will try to answer them as best I can.
My 2 cents, I went to school there, for Private, Instrument, Commercial, and Multi-comm, and a year and a half later, I worked there as a mechanic for 2 months, then I got a call to fly Boeing 727's. I had a few, not many, maintenance delays/cancelations as a student, and the maintenance that is done, is done to airline standards. Before I worked at Comair, I was an airline mechanic, with airworthiness release, and a designated inspector for every ATA code on all of our planes except ATA 49(APU's) and ATA 31(Pitot Static). People thought I was nuts for leaving a good airline maintenance job to come down to Comair Academy to work for less money, but it worked out well. Comair keeps its planes in good shape, I wouldn't fly there if I didn't think so.
I am whats known as a former student of Comair Academy. I had many problems with CAA, some real, some imagined. The aircraft were not one of the real problems, they were maintained very well. The only gripe I had with the aircraft was the lack of panel lighting, due to blown bulbs or whatever, and CAA's demand that I fly simulated IFR at night. It makes things a little more difficult when your under the hood AND in the dark. Solution: My flashlight in my instructors idle hands.
Other than that, the aircraft filled their mission.
If the instrument lights don't work, the plane CAN NOT be operated IAW(In Accordance With) the FAR's. If it is on the aircraft, it must either be functional, or written up. If you get ramped by the FAA with INOP equipment not written up, grab your ankles and kiss your tickets good bye!

If anyone questions your judgement, simply ask to see the MEL, other wise quote,

"FAR 91.213

Inoperative instruments and equipment.

(1) Instruments and equipment that are either specifically or otherwise required by the airworthiness requirements under which the aircraft is type certificated and which are essential for safe operations under all operating conditions."

Which leads to, Was the aircraft certified with instruments lights? Yes. So what must the lights do under the FAR part which the plane was certified under?
"FAR 23.1381
Instrument lights.

The instrument lights must--
(a) Make each instrument and control easily readable and discernible;
(b) Be installed so that their direct rays, and rays reflected from the windshield or other surface, are shielded from the pilot's eyes; and
(c) Have enough distance or insulating material between current carrying parts and the housing so that vibration in flight will not cause shorting.
A cabin dome light is not an instrument light."

Do the lights work? No. Write it up.
One more thing, don't get snotty about refusing to accept the aircraft, simply fall back on the position that you are protecting yourself, AND the company/school from a significant violation. You know, promote teamwork and stuff, kind of, co-operate, graduate, and don't screw up type stuff. You have to have a good attitude, but maintain your integrity.
Thanks Wannabe2, 727PFE and 172_Captain for the info. If anyone else has any experiences to share I'll keep watching this thread. The more schools I've research the more confused I get. I'm sure I'm not the only one. These discussion groups have been a great help!
You're correct sir. I once had a flight cancelled by an instructor, at a different flight academy, for a missing placard on the right side of the instrument panel.
I feel that I took the wrong approach with my instructor and group leader at Comair concerning the lack of panel lighting on the 172's. I did eventually refuse to fly at night in simulated instrument conditions and the reason I gave was my inability to see the instruments and radio controls, which was the real reason. I took a firm stance on this issue with the group leader at Comair and in return he took a firm stance and stated that I would fly at night which implied "like it or not" to me. There were several extenuating circumstances governing his decision in my opinion. 1.Sanford ATC requested that Comair help alleviate some traffic congestion by scheduling (more) IFR training in the evening. 2. By the time I found the lights were inoperative we were into my scheduled time block (flight cancellations should be at least two hours in advance). 3. Speculation on my part here: The group leaders and instructors were being encouraged, with pay incentives, to increase monthly equipment hours. 4. Others students were flying the same airplanes at night, why should I be the exception.
I did bring up the safety issue eventually but it was probably too late, by now I suppose they thought I was afraid of the dark. My main concern was money. If I completed a lesson unsatisfactorly for any reason it had to be repeated at the same $124. per hour x 2. I wanted to give myself every opportunity to pass every lesson and the lack of panel illumination was a real hinderance when flying multiple approaches and time was critical in getting set up.
What did happen is I flew at night, instructor with flashlight and I fell out of grace with the group leader and instructor. I did try to be diplomatic about the issue and in retrospect maybe I should have mentioned the safety issue or regulations first instead of last but, in reality safety and reg's was'nt my prime concern and neither was it with Comair in this perticular matter.
Doing your instrument rating at night is a better experience for the student all the way around. Not only are you getting to log night flying time, but ATC is much more user friendly at night. They will just about give you any approach or hold you want to do without the mega long vectors you would get during the busy day hours (which saves the student a ton of money). I did almost my whole instrument rating at night and was very glad for the experience of getting the very service oriented ATC at night. It's nice when after shooting an approach at KORL, ATC asks us if we would like to shoot an ILS at KMCO (Orlando Int'l)(a nice treat). When the student sees that centerline and touchdown zone lighting for the first time, they all get that same "little kid in a candy store smile". You definitely don't get that during the day. Now for the downfall of flying at night; It's dark! Even shooting approaches in a brand new seminole that has awesome lighting the other night, I needed my flashlight to see certain things on the approach plate. There are dark spots in every cockpit. As for the instrumentation, if a bulbs burnt out, write it up and have maintenance change it out. You're the PIC, don't take a plane if it's not airworthy. I've never had a problem with maintenance at Comair changing out bulbs. In fact, I think they keep G.E. in business. The planes fly a lot, the bulbs do burn out, especially if the panel lights are left on and are burning the entire time they are flying during the daylight hours. As for cancelling a flight, if it's a maintenance issue, there is no "two hour in advance" rule. That's for other issues such as illness (which is a very reasonable time frame). If you know you are going to have a maintenance cancellation two hours in advance of getting the plane, I would say you could give Karnac the Magnificent a run for his money. And 172_Captain, why the name change?
And 172_Captain, why the name change?

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I sold my Long Eze last week. I had 172_Captain as a reserve name so I figured I might as well use it.

As a foot note to your post Jpilot, I did found the maintenance people at Comair Academy were very helpful and friendly. The problem I kept running into with the lighting issue on 172's at Comair was that all of the 172's had lighting issues. When it came to changing planes I usually opted for the radio stack illumination and lived with a few dark instruments. Sometimes I could swap bulbs around (post lights), sometimes it was a dead socket. Where I ran into problems is when there were no planes available for swapping. That's when I butted heads with my instructor or group leader.
Like I said before though, aside from this issue with lighting and night flights I had no problems with the aircraft at Comair.
...I took a firm stance on this issue with the group leader at Comair and in return he took a firm stance and stated that I would fly at night which implied "like it or not" to me.... I did bring up the safety issue eventually but it was probably too late, by now I suppose they thought I was afraid of the dark....

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I know that this thread has been dead for a while, but I just had to bring up a point:

If you're at all like me, your eventual goal is to be PIC of an airliner, flying for a major carrier. If that's the case, never, ever forget that your first priority is safety. You will get pressured, in training and in your career, to keep going even when something doesn't feel right. Maintenance issues at the on the wings...a warning light in flight. As PIC, it's up to you to take responsibility.

Perhaps 99 out of 100 times (or even 999 out of 1000), not having night lighting may not be a big deal. But what about that 1 time when it's what leads to an accident?

Just my opinion, feel free to disagree. But I think we should all remember what our eventual goal of all this training is, and what we'll be required and expected to do once that goal is reached.