Crooks in Chicago

b_r

New Member
Cripes...this article was on the FRONT PAGE of the Tribune this morning. It's long but very interesting.

I got my private through commercial at American Flyers. I know a few great guys still instructing there, so I feel for them, but not the crooks who manage the place. Bums are going to get what's coming to them, hopefully in lost revenues where it will hurt the most.

I guess I made a good choice in not going to their CFI academy.

The moral of this story is,
Beware of flight schools who:

1) Think professionalism begins and ends with wearing a tie
2) Will charge you $115 an hour (+ instructor fee) for a 1960's 172 with no GPS and avionics about to fry. (And will also charge you the same price for the newer R models, as a "savings")
3) Say they have the shortest route to the airlines.
4) Claim they'll save you time/money and the "hassle" of an FAA flight test. (There is ONE standard for all certificates and ratings, and that is the FAA PTS!)
5) Can keep a large staff of individuals around who neither instruct, perform maintenance, or any other task vital to the operation of providing quality instruction.
---------------------------------------------------------------

Tribune Article:

FAA report rips DuPage flight school
Records falsified to pass students, investigator finds

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune transportation reporter
Published November 2, 2003

A DuPage County-based flight school, one of the largest in the country, has falsified training records and issued pilot licenses to students who failed written exams and final cockpit "check rides," according to a Federal Aviation Administration report.

American Flyers Inc., which is headquartered at DuPage Airport in West Chicago and has 14 other facilities nationwide, "abuses its authority and constitutes an immediate threat to the public health and safety," said the FAA's report.

The report, obtained by the Tribune, was written by a local inspector. The FAA regional office is reviewing the investigation, which is still considered open.

The flight school, which is contesting the FAA's findings, denied any violations that would compromise safety.

The FAA report alleged more than 50 violations involving students awarded private pilot licenses or commercial pilot licenses at American Flyers schools at DuPage and Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling, as well as in Ft. Worth and Addison, Texas; Morristown, N.J.; and Islip and White Plains in N.Y.

The findings raise questions about the oversight of flight schools, which are producing a growing number of the nation's airline pilots.

Until the downsizing of the military, 70 percent of airline pilots came from the armed forces and 30 percent from general aviation.

The numbers are now reversed. And the FAA, concentrating most of its resources on monitoring safety in the airline industry, has cut back its oversight of general aviation.

The FAA investigation of American Flyers identified former personnel at the school who signed statements saying "they have direct experience in seeing ... the manipulating of scores of those taking and failing knowledge tests."

Donald Harrington, American Flyers chairman, said the company may be responsible for paperwork violations. But he blamed the company's problems on "an overzealous, rogue FAA inspector."

"I am not going to say some of his allegations were not accurate. We are not perfect, and we did not do all of our paperwork perfectly," said Harrington, who is principal owner of the school, established more than 60 years ago.

"But it's totally impossible to change a failing grade to a passing grade," Harrington said.

"It just didn't happen. Our personnel have no vested interest in cheating."

No terrorism links

The investigation did not focus on possible terrorism links and uncovered none, an official said.

The FAA probe alleged American Flyers provided incomplete training to clients, manipulated records and allowed ill-prepared students to pass flight exams.

American Flyers is one of a limited number of schools permitted to give its students exams, an authority granted in the early 1990s.

Allowing a school to train, test and issue pilot licenses, officially called airman certificates, has raised conflict of interest concerns by some.

Students who go to schools without that authority are tested by FAA examiners or independent pilot examiners.

The FAA report gives several detailed descriptions of how the school allegedly advanced unqualified student pilots.

A 40-year-old female flight student from Homewood received a private pilot license from American Flyers on Feb. 17, 2002, even though the school's assistant chief instructor who gave the test found the student's performance unsatisfactory, the FAA report said.

Before the test, David Huser, American Flyers' vice president, instructed the school's assistant chief instructor to pass the student "regardless of the outcome," according to the FAA probe.

The student failed the test. But the instructor did as told and passed her, according to the FAA investigation, which was based on statements of American Flyers employees and students, as well as documents.

A source at the school said American Flyers' officials feared the woman would stop paying for lessons if she failed.

"She was getting frustrated over her lack of progress in getting her private [license] and threatened to pull out of the school," the source said.

Asked about the student's case Friday, Huser said: "I wouldn't have any comment on that. There is no allegation to that effect that has been brought to my attention or the company's attention."

No attendance records

In some cases, American Flyers students were given credit for courses for which no attendance records existed, according to the investigation.

At the American Flyers' facility in Houston, there was no record that 30 students who took written tests attended required courses, the FAA found.

A similar failure to document required coursework for 23 students was found at the school's DuPage center, the report said. "Issuing airmen certificates after incomplete training calls into question the entire educational and evaluation process," the report said. "American Flyers has, essentially, a cash-for-license system."

During the summer of 2002, American Flyers graduated six flight instructor applicants, although their training records show they did not complete course requirements, the FAA report said.

In at least some cases, the students were not aware of the irregularities until being contacted by the FAA.

"My particular class was awesome, though I saw other people who were not as happy," said Scott Lystrup of Altoona, Wis.

Lystrup, 39, a lobster wholesaler, said he is not flying or instructing full time now.

Lystrup said he first learned about problems with his training at American Flyers after he received the second of two instructor ratings from the school and the FAA contacted him asking for a copy of his logbook.

"Obviously I was very concerned because the FAA inspector said he was checking into discrepancies," Lystrup said, adding he didn't hear again from the FAA.

The FAA's flight standards district office at DuPage Airport conducted the investigation. The FAA's regional office is now reviewing it.

"This is an open review, which means final decisions have not been made," said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

Possible action against American Flyers includes fines, elimination of the school's in-house testing authority, or even revocation of its operating licenses.

The inspector general's office in the U.S. Department of Transportation has entered the American Flyers investigation, in part to ensure the FAA probe remains on track, according to a source.

Designated pilot examiners who tested American Flyers students cooperated with the FAA investigation.

"All of us out here have been providing example after example to the FAA investigators," said an examiner who requested anonymity.

"We got into this because the quality of American Flyers applicants has been poor."

Another examiner said school officials summoned examiners to a meeting and "screamed bloody murder about us being unfair. But the reality is that a lot of American Flyers students, who pay premium prices, come out of there thinking, `I am just great.' If you have someone who is bad and doesn't know they are bad--like an inability to deal with wind or poor skills flying instrument [landing] approaches--they generate a whole new series of problems for everyone else."

After learning of the investigation, American Flyers complained to FAA headquarters.

"We went to Washington and asked some friends at the FAA to intervene on our side," Harrington said.

He said he made the request because the FAA inspector overseeing the school was not treating the school fairly and was citing it for unwarranted violations.

At American Flyers' request, the FAA took the inspector, Denis Caravella, off the investigation in August after nine months of work and appointed another inspector.

The move came only weeks after Luanne Wills-Merrell, manager of the FAA's DuPage office, wrote to Harrington on July 25: "This office has received information which leads us to believe that knowledge testing and practical testing conducted by American Flyers Inc. ... may have been compromised."

Integrity concerns cited

David Hanley, who directs the FAA's flight standards offices in the Great Lakes region, wrote to Harrington a week earlier citing "ongoing concerns about the integrity of your written testing process."

Many of the cases the FAA investigated involved people working toward flight instructor ratings that would enable them to teach beginners to fly.

Other American Flyers students were working toward their advanced pilot licenses in the hope of landing jobs with airlines or corporations that operate a fleet of planes.

On July 22, 2002, Senga A. Butts of River Forest received a commercial pilot license from the flight school's Palwaukee facility in Wheeling.

He received the license despite a finding by an assistant chief instructor that his performance was unsatisfactory, the investigation found.

The instructor's logbook contained the comment "no way" in describing Butts' failing performance, according to the report.

The FAA review uncovered the situation and Butts, then 27, received additional instruction.

He eventually earned his commercial pilot license.

"I was eventually found to be proficient, but the FAA wanted me retested because the wrong person signed my logbook," he said.

Butts said the foul-up caused him to undergo unnecessary stress and he blamed American Flyers.

"I thought the training I received from American Flyers was good, but the school really dropped the ball with the paperwork they messed up on," he said.

"When it came for them to find my records, they miraculously disappeared."

Some independent flight examiners said allowing a flight school to test its own students creates a conflict of interest.

"There is obviously an inside interest when a staff member administers the test," said E. Allan Englehardt, a designated pilot examiner and a Boeing 777 captain for United Airlines.

Harrington said his school is one of the few approved by the FAA to examine its students.

"It's uncommon because you have to earn it by maintaining unbelievable record-keeping systems and impeccable airplanes," he said.


Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
 

mcooper

New Member
Did you catch that one quote....

"All of us out here have been providing example after example to the FAA investigators," said an examiner who requested anonymity.

"We got into this because the quality of American Flyers applicants has been poor."

LOL Damnit!! Those new students came in not knowing how to fly. How dare they!
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Oh man, that sucks!

I didn't even know they were still around. I remember when I gave them a resume back in 1994 in San Jose, they said, "Hey, we've got a spot as a ground school instructor open!"

I asked, "Great, but when do I start flying?"

"Our ground school instructors don't fly, but maybe if you can make enough contacts in ground school, you can maybe get a student or two on the side!"

"Have a nice day!" I said, "Good luck with your interviews today as well!"

Then I went back to my car to dig for enough loose change to buy a bean burrito from Taco Hell.
 

b_r

New Member
funny thing is Doug, you probably found more change in your car than you would have made in a week there.

That's one good decision you made!
 

Jason

Well-Known Member
"We got into this because the quality of American Flyers applicants has been poor"

MCooper - I think that probably means that the applicants for pilot certificates that these DE's examined were not up to par. I'm pretty sure they were not referring to 'applicants' as in applicants to the school.

Jason
 

Back_Course

New Member
It's a good thing that the media NEVER gets the facts wrong in a story about aviation. I think it's ironic that a DE that charges $400 for a checkride, then $400 more for a retest thinks a 141 school has a "conflict of interests".
 

iceman21

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
It's a good thing that the media NEVER gets the facts wrong in a story about aviation. I think it's ironic that a DE that charges $400 for a checkride, then $400 more for a retest thinks a 141 school has a "conflict of interests".

[/ QUOTE ]

There are many holes in that article. Namely, no names to those who make quotes, with exception to one FORMER FAA official, and the owners of the company. Everyone one else wants to be anonymous because they walk through those doors and issue the same pilot certificates that AF issues.
 

flyn_ace_99

New Member
Well there is usually at least a little truth to every story.

Makes me glad that I didn't choose to go there. The price alone for single engine time was unbelievable. I have come to learn that taking the time to look around is a great idea ( I learned that one from Riddle). Lets just hope that I made the right choice to go to ATP. Some people like them, some don't. I have just come to realize that they are FBO style where the student is responsible for what she learns and if you want to know more than what is required for the written, you will probably have to find that information on your own. But I'm cool with that.

Lets just hope all goes well.

Marilyn
 

kellwolf

Piece of Trash
I ALMOST went to American Flyers, too. They have a school in Kissimmee. I also thought about ATP, but the $35K is a set price, even if you already have your instrument and about 150 hours.
 

flyn_ace_99

New Member
I agree that that can be a problem for those who already have thier Instrument, but it is good for those of us starting out. If we require more training then we don't pay for it. On the other hand, if we kick ass and do well then they keep it. I suppose it is a good job reward for being able to instruct. And since the check rides are done by the FAA, there is no question on whether or not they were proficient.

Wish you luck!

Marilyn.
 

pavelump

Well-Known Member
Well, I guess that's a couple locations that I won't have to visit with my resume now...

I have a friend who is going to A.F. for his CFI. He told me that he was pretty unhappy with them because they quoted him a price of somewhere around $3000 for the CFII and CFI. But the fine print is that it only includes 10 hours of flight time. I know that I spent a whole lot more than that at FlightSafety, but I also flew 40 hours in a well maintained, fully functional airplane (25 - CFI, 15 - CFII). I can't imagine even being able to talk and fly at the same time in just 10 hours much less pass two checkrides!

I always thought that FSI's paperwork was overkill, but not anymore...

And as far as self-examining goes, sure it's a conflict of interest (the DE's bank interest that is
)

Dave
anybody need a CFI/CFII in Chicago?
 

iceman21

Well-Known Member
AF's CFI Academy can be done in 10 hours of flying. I used 8.2 hours total, including the CFI-I checkride. My -IA checkride took me over 10 hours by .5

There are many things wrong with that article, namely the reporter's absence of research.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
I did my initial CFI in 6.8 hours of flight time, including 1.6 for the checkride...and I didn't even do an accelerated program! That was at a local FBO, with real life going on.....

Some schools will tell you that it takes 20...30...40 hour to learn this material. That's because they want the cash, plain and simple.

There's nothing you don't already know how to do...just gotta say what you're thinking out loud (hopefully, you're thinking while you do it...).
 

pavelump

Well-Known Member
Well, I suppose that we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

I probably could have done my CFI-I in 10 hours, but certainly not both CFI-A and CFI-I.

The instrument instructor rating was a hell of a lot easier (for me) because you are teaching someone who already knows how to fly (somewhat) and you don't have to worry about him going into a 75° bank when you tell him to make a turn to the left. Or this is a good one, when I said, "Put the throttle up 2" (meaning 2" Hg), my examiner jammed the throttle control forward 2 inches (literally).

I just know that I was nowhere near the point where I could effectively teach a zero time pilot after 10 hours of instruction.

Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, good luck to all of us CFI's and students and beware of something that seems too good to be true.

Dave
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I just know that I was nowhere near the point where I could effectively teach a zero time pilot after 10 hours of instruction.

Maybe it's just me.


[/ QUOTE ]

Nah, I agree with you. I started typing a post saying basically what you just did, but then decided to scrub it. Besides, Mtsu already thinks I sit around waiting for an opportunity to disagree with him...
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
I just know that I was nowhere near the point where I could effectively teach a zero time pilot after 10 hours of instruction.

Maybe it's just me.


[/ QUOTE ]

Nah, I agree with you. I started typing a post saying basically what you just did, but then decided to scrub it. Besides, Mtsu already thinks I sit around waiting for an opportunity to disagree with him...




[/ QUOTE ]

Darn, he got me!!! Next time you're around Tennessee, give me a call, you get a drink on me for that one.
 

iceman21

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]

I just know that I was nowhere near the point where I could effectively teach a zero time pilot after 10 hours of instruction.


[/ QUOTE ]

The CFI academy is 1 month long, I was there from 7am-7pm. 8 hours of the time I was getting instruction. The emphasis on teaching is done on the ground. So I do agree that you could not effectively teach a zero time pilot with only 10 hours of instruction in an airplane.

You got 10 hours in the airplane on top of nearly 160 hours of ground instruction.

The most effective learning is done on the ground anyway, not in the airplane.
 
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