Flight Safety - Changes are needed!


New Member
I have refrained from posting on this sight in the past but after reading the last post from "CharlstonCFII" I feel there may be a need for another opinion about FSA. First of all I love the academy and KNOW that I received the best training in the industry while I was there. However, I do think that there are some things that can and should be done to keep new students coming in and the flow of instructors moving through. Let me start by saying that it is unfortunate that Flight Safety who is the BEST in the industry for flight training has a lower enrollment than a lot of other schools out there. There are a few very good reasons why this is. First, the ads that we place in the magazines do not give any information about the school. The ads should have some pictures of the students, aircraft, SAAB 2000 etc. I hear that most people including myself only found out about FSA from word of mouth. That is not enough!!! I have had people tell me they do not even notice the ads in the magazines. Lets remember that Marketing is the key to any business. Second, I am sure I will catch some grief about this one; I think the management should limit all instructors to their 800-hour contract at this time. When they complete their 800 hours they should be sitting on at LEAST 1100/400. Those numbers are marketable and they can always pick up a few hundred more hours instructing somewhere else. It is only fair to the rest of the students coming up behind them who dropped 55K with the hopes of being hired as a CFI. I have heard that a lot of really qualified people have been turned down after the CFI interview. I know that Flight Safety is not hiring them so they can keep the wait list down but the wait should be the students choice if they have worked hard and are qualified to be there. What kind of message are we sending to the new students or POSSIBLE new students? Everyone knows that students want to instruct where they completed their training. As far as the ASA program, I do not believe that Flight Safety can do much about that because ASA is in control of that particular situation. I do believe that Flight Safety should do something to work out some agreements with other regionals. I am not talking about 25-30K programs either. If Pan-Am can set up interview agreements at 700 hours with 8 carriers the first year they are open then I am certain that Flight Safety with their reputation in the industry can do the same. The question is why haven't we? Our students deserve it. I have never seen so much pride for one school in my life. Every student there loves Flight Safety. Here's another one for marketing. Our prices are TOO HIGH. Flight Safety has had 3-4 price increases since early 2000. With the economy the way it is you should be lowering the prices to compete with other schools. Price is a big issue for every potential flight student and their parents right now and we are losing those students too less expensive schools. Yes our training is better, but think back to when you were a pre-private looking for a school. Did you really know the difference between adequate and excellent flight training? Price is a huge consideration right now. 350-400 students at 45K is a heck of a lot better than 150 at 55K. I think Flight Safety got used to the high profit margin when they had 550 students enrolled and has failed to realize that you cannot keep raising the prices to compensate for the lower enrollment. While we are on the subject of money, How about a raise for our hard working CFI's. They deserve it. It is kind of a slap in the face to receive $14/hr out of $55/hr. I think $55/hr is the highest I have seen in the industry for instruction. Why? There are smaller schools that charge less and pay their instructors more. These are just a few thoughts on what can and should be done to resolve our low enrollment situation and to take care of the people that make this business possible, the students. This is just the opinion of one person with an MBA to back it up. If the "heavies" are reading this right now, I hope you consider what I have said. It all makes sense. You do not need an MBA to figure it out. Had these issues been taken care of a year ago when I was there I would probably be instructing at FSA rather than somewhere else. I am close to being marketable so it really is water under the bridge for me but think about the current students and the possibility of losing future students if these issues continue. Word of these issues are spreading fast. A bad rep in the industry can take a long time too shake, ask Pan-Am.

I know you have the best of intentions and I agree with some of your points, but let's think of the economics.

Lower tuition + higher CFI wages = good bottom line? Nope!

Everything in aviation is seniority based...it sucks to be on the list, but like everything else in aviation....it's about timing!

FSI choses to stay above the fray of competing ads in a magazine. You can't win those arguements because a lot of these schools lie. FSI has a reputation to consider and it wouldn't do to have "THE AIRLINES ARE HIRING AND NEED YOU!" to have as a headline. Quiet dignity is the smart path, but there are things marketing can do. I think they're doing a lot of new things now. Marketing FSI as an alternative to grad school. That's the best idea I've heard in a long time.

Chunk, my points are valid. Every one of them. Have you ever heard of the upside down pyramid? This means that you put the employees who are at the front line (instructors) at the top and upper management at the bottom. These are the people who are directly responsible for the last impression on the customer. Our instructors should have been given a raise a long time ago. A two or three dollar raise will not hurt FSA one bit. In business, first you take care the customer and then the employees who are in direct contact with the customer. The owner of the company gets paid last. As for the tuition, it is too high. If you knew anything about business you would know that the wrong thing to do is RAISE the tuition to maintain the high "short term" profit margin you have become acustom too. Flight Safety got a taste of the hiring boom in aviation a few years ago and now they think they should continue to see the same high profit margin. Think back to the mid 90's when FSA had fewer students than they do now. Can you recall what the tuition was then. Trust me when I tell you that they have fewer students as a result of their continuing price increases. Any CEO can tell you that. About the seniority issue, limiting the instructors to their 800-hour contract would help bring in future students and give those who paid good money a chance to build some instruction time that otherwise may not have had the chance thanks to the lack of students. Flight Safety is losing potential students because they know there will not be a CFI position at the end of the road. The only thing I will say about the ads is that they go un-noticed. FSA never has and never would have to lie in their ads. Just simply show the school and a brief description of the programs. I will agree with you that most of the other schools ads are very misleading. As for Pan-Am's 700-hour interviews, they are real. They may have been put on hold for awhile like our ASA program but they are real. I do not think they do a very good job of preparing the students for the interview but that is my opinion. Bottom line is that there are things that can be done. Do not think that Flight Safety cannot afford to give their CFI's a raise or that lowering the tuition back down to where it should be will break them. Most of the facilities and aircraft are paid for. Like every other school they are trying to reep the awards of the aviation boom. I think FSA is simply afraid of change.
Like Chunk, I do agree with some of your points but not all. As far as the 800-hour thing I see good arguements on both sides of the fence. The advertising ad's I do agree with. Some ad's that show our exceptional facilities and aircraft couldn't hurt. The ASA program is about the most solid and well put together program I have seen. I am not sure how long Pan-Am will be able to hold on to thier programs givin their declining reputation. Be patient, things will pick up. I do keep in touch with our marketing department and our career counselor on a regular basis. they are alway's working hard to put together programs for the students and instructors. Anyone can call and talk to them at any time to get an update of what is going on. Just remember that Flight Safety will not put their name on it unless it is solid. As Chunk said they have a great reputation in the industry to uphold. ILS
I would like to disagree with some of the points made by other posters. The CFI's do not need another raise as this will only be paid for by price increases to students. The reason that many FBO's charge less and pay more is related to overhead and benefits. FSI instructors get paid vacation, sick days, Free Medical Insurance, etc., most FBO instructors get nothing.

As for overhead, our nice facilities including maintenance, library with computers and microsoft lab, book store, class rooms, and cafeteria does not come for free. A FBO can get by with a few planes and an airconditioned trailer for briefing. Think of FSI as a university complete with a campus. All this stuff isn't free.

FSI is one of the only flight schools that does not have ads in magazines covered with airline logos and "guaranteed interview" written all over them. There is a reason for this. It is because much of what you see is lies. The only major complaint that anyone has about FSI is cost. Even people who bitch about the school admit that it is one of the top flight schools. If it is such a good school and they don't put this in their ads there is a reason. Most of those airlines are not hiring now. FSI has many high time instructors who have done their 800 hr contracts and airlines are not exactly beating down their doors. People will slowly get hired but in the current industry the "guaranteed interview" with an airline who has no plans to hire is a waste of time.
My thoughts on IMCFlyin's recent post:
I have refrained from posting on this sight in the past but after reading the last post from "CharlstonCFII" I feel there may be a need for another opinion about FSA. First of all I love the academy and KNOW that I received the best training in the industry while I was there. However, I do think that there are some things that can and should be done to keep new students coming in and the flow of instructors moving through. Let me start by saying that it is unfortunate that Flight Safety who is the BEST in the industry for flight training has a lower enrollment than a lot of other schools out there. There are a few very good reasons why this is. First, the ads that we place in the magazines do not give any information about the school. The ads should have some pictures of the students, aircraft, SAAB 2000 etc.

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I'm not sure that a lack of pictures of students, aircraft and simulators in magazine advertising are an adequate explanation for FS's woes. I'll tell you the experience, or more correctly, non-experience, I had touring FlightSafety.

During my first telephone contact with FS, I almost had to beg for information about the program from the frustrated non-flying CFI paying his dues working in the marketing department. After a frustrating 10-15 min. on the phone I hung up not planning to ever contact FS again. This is in contrast to the personal attention and detailed information I have received at Comair, Panam and a few others.

After planning my visits to Comair and Panam I decided it would be silly not to tour FS because it was right on the way and I was sure that the Academy was better than it was being sold to me. So I called and set up a tour date in the hopes that the bad impression I had received on the phone was an anomaly.

My girlfriend and I were met at the reception desk by another (not the same) non-flying CFI paying his dues in the marketing department. We then went on our uninformative tour of FlightSafety. There seemed to be no structure to the tour; we walked from station to station on the tour, following our guide, who never told us what was coming next and barely told us anything about what we were seeing at the time. While we were on the ramp, he just climbed into a plane without saying a word and sat down. After about 30 seconds of waiting for him to invite me to climb in or at least tell me what the heck he was doing in there I took the initiative to go see what he was doing. I sat down in the plane and after another 30 seconds of silence I tried to make small talk to keep the conversation from becoming even more uncomfortably silent and then climbed out. On the way back to the marketing offices I asked him why he had chosen FlightSafety. He said something like, "because it's the best school there is!" What kind of answer is that? I'm trying to make my decision based on tangible facts and not on who can cheer the loudest for their school.

When we returned to the marketing offices he asked us to have a seat in the waiting area. After about 5 min. he introduced us to someone from marketing and I invited us into her office so I could finally find out some information about FS. The marketing representative told us that FlightSafety didn't use the hard sell approach. Maybe they should try at least some kind of sales approach.

I walked out of the FlightSafety tour knowing little more than when I walked in. A big disappointment. However, since reading the jetcareers.com discussion groups I am not surprised at my tour experience. It seems that FS students just think their school is the best and that the only reason anyone would pick another school is through some kind of misunderstanding or through a huge mistake. Questioning why FS is the best does not elicit anything other than "rah rah"s and "go team"s! If other prospective students are getting similar impressions of FS they are also probably not knocking down the door to sign up.

Sometime soon I may decide to join the ranks of poorly paid pilots flying expensive aluminum tubes filled with passengers and flammable liquid over populated areas. When that happens I'll be happy to fly with any competent pilot, even if he got his training at an academy other than FlightSafety or - gasp - an FBO in his hometown while feeding his family.
Too bad you had a bad experience, because my own experience was amazing. I too took the tour after getting word of mouth advice from many pilots with a number of airlines.

I have trained at FBO's, other schools and ended up at FSI. They will teach you how to be, think and act like a professional pilot. It is expensive but yes, it is the best. It takes longer than some schools and there are no guarantees, but that is because they are honest. If you want gimmicks go somewhere else, if you want to learn how to fly and work hard to be the best you can, go to FSI.

Sure there are other good options but for the all around comprehensive environment and training, there is no place like it. I am now working as a CFII, not in Vero, but the things I learned during my time there has already saved my life and career many times over. It gives you about the most solid foundation of knowledge and skills that you can get in my opinion. It takes even more work after, but with a solid base you can handle anything.

Good luck and hope you find a place that is right for you.
Secretapproach, It is unfortunate that your tour was not what you had expected. Do not let one guy who couldn't give a good tour make your decision for you. I did my homework when I was just getting started. I toured Flight Safety, Pan-Am, Embry Riddle, and ATP before choosing Flight Safety. When I completed the CIME program here my wife and I had to head back out west for her job with Intel Corp. I completed my single engine commercial add at a somewhat descent FBO. Then I completed my CFI at Westwind Aviation. What I soon realized was that I was not getting near the quality of training I had recieved at Flight Safety. So after discussing another move across the states with my wife, we both agreed that the best decision would be to go back to Flight Safety. So here I am finishing my MEI and waiting to interview with ASA. Was it worth the move "again"? Heck yea it was. Flight Safety runs a tight program. The facilities are top notch and the instructors know their stuff. I am not quite sure what you missed in the tour but I can tell you this. Flight Safety is known for their multi engine instrument training. You will have a leg up on the average student who does their instrument in a single. I think if you start asking pilots who currently fly with the regionals or majors about which school to attend, you will find your answer when you present them with the choices. If there is anything you would like to know about the program, aircraft, pro's or con's of safety VS other schools drop me a message and I will forward you my #. By the way, I know that the Flight Safety pride as some people call it does get a little out of hand on the posts sometimes but I do think that it is pretty cool to be able to walk around campus and see everyone so happy with their decision to be here. Not very many schools can say that. Good luck, ILS
As far as fixing things here at FSI, I don't know that you necessarily hit the right points. I can't comment on the advertising, as I think it is appropriate, they have full page ads in most mags I see. They also have programs you may not hear about, where they send employees to colleges and conventions to talk about the school. I think enough people know about this school, but you are right, the problem is cost. Now, as far as cost, as said above by someone else, you are paying for a product here. Now I am not a big rah rah FSI person, but the maintenence is incredible, the equipment is always in top shape, repaired quickly, I mean I have flown 1K+ hours as an instructor here and about the only problem I ever have is a rough mag or a staticy radio. The facilities and the resources to the students are really very good, and to some extent you have to pay for that. Its just not a low-cost operation. And that said, I really don't believe that the profits are all that high here, good or bad. The instructors are decently paid, with benefits, fuel cost, mainetenece, and maintaining all the support staff is just not cheap. I don't see the econ. sheets but you get the idea. One of the main reasons this place appears so costly is that you are buying 60-70 hrs of multi as a student, thats the simple down side of it. 60-70 hrs at $250 an hr is what drives the price up. People don't realize though that you can do your instrument and initial commercial in a single engine if you choose, which would save you thousands. Its an alternative, and its not heavily advertised, but its there.

Secondly, being a high time instructor, you know I am going to give you some opposing opinion to the 800 and out thing. I am not going to say much about it, as about 3 months ago I gave a long speel on this web-site, but in what kind of backward world would you boot the most senior people? Do airlines cut from the top when furloughs happen? No, absolutely not, for obvious reasons. The only time you may see the most senior people cut in anything is when somebody less experienced would do the same job for cheaper, and thats not the case here as all are paid equally. As an instructor here, you work and work to MAKE IT TO THIS POINT, to where you can use the multi time and connections to get a good job. Why would I work 800 hrs to go fly at an FBO somewhere? The whole point of instructing here is to go to an airline or equivilent from here, and you only get that opportunity around 1500 hrs. You are making your point from the point of view of a student, and to some extent its true, the wait list keeps people away. But you have to understand that this is a good job, and if you had worked here a long time, you would not want to leave it for a step down. And to be honest, you shouldn't have too. Whats going on is an industry wide thing, and everyone has to bite the bullet. I would like to be at a regional by now, but I too have to wait my turn. Its like that in anything. So if some person doesn't want to come here and bide their time like everyone else is doing, maybe they are better off doing something else. Its easy to point fingers and say senior instructors, or senior airline pilots, or somebody is the source of the problem, but thats not it at all. Flight training is a rung in a tall ladder in this industry, we are part of it and will always be, so if things aren't well at the top they won't be down here.

I would also like to say that quality people are turned down for being hired as a CFI, and it has always been that way. Even when I got hired and times were good, people I thought would be very good were turned down. I don't know why I was picked and why others weren't, b/c I didn't think there was a difference. Its a crapshoot, all you can do is your best, and if it doesn't happen then it doesn't. But I hope no one that got turned down here is discouraged b/c it has nothing to do with the person necessarily.

Next, I think this place has done a great job with their senior instructors and connecting us with airlines. We are not "guaranteed" interviews like other schools, but they do make the effort FOR us. They really treat us right. Kelly Evans has done an amazing job, sending resumes, making connections, and doing everything in her power to get us hired. If you are reading this Kelly we all thank you, and for management for creatign her position. She keeps us updated, talks to all the regional hiring depts, sends packets of resumes, and you know what?-- people have really been getting hired the last few months. Airlines call us, all we do is keep updating our resume and giving it Kelly. We are all very happy that the school is doing this for us. So, as far as making connections with airlines, I think that is already part of the process.

All and all I think management here has done the best they can, and i give them credit. I don't always agree with it all, but, I respect their postion. Its tough times, and tough decisions have to be made and have been made. They are not in an easy position, and to say that this and that are the problems is not giving them enough credit. From the instructor standpoint, they could have booted us senior guys, or the junior guys, or just any of us, but they have tried hard not too. We are all thankful for that. They have not cut the services and amendities that make this school good (maintenece, library, etc). Its just a tough time, and I don't think the solutions are so clear cut.
I agree with a lot of what you say.

One of the price increases while I was instructing was allegedly due to a raise for the IPs (at least that is what some students were told). Of course, we didn't get any raises while I was there.

There are plenty of IPs who would love to leave, but there is just very little open in the market right now.

A bigger problem from the IP point of view is the fact that there are so many IPs that, based on what I have seen, it takes about two years to fulfill the 800 hour contract. IPs are living below the poverty level in many cases, with only one or two students. And what to do while those students are in step 2?

I would not recommend that anyone sign a IP contract with FSI at this point.

(BTW try using paragraphs to make your posts easier to read)