Sierra Suspends Flight Operations

SierraPilot

New Member
It appears as flyguy posted in another message that this is true.. we are all on hold, and while I can understand their reason.. this was very unprofessional to just cease operations without given us ANY notice this was planned or in the works when it was obvious from this letter that this is something that had discussed and consulted with the FAA and therefore could of told us something and yet failed to do so.


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To All Staff and Students:

As you may have noticed, many significant changes have been occuring. We welcome our new neighbor Business Jet Center of Dallas, Texas, which has taken over Hanger One and will no doubt offer first class corporate aviation service. We have cooperated with Pan Am Internation Flight Academy which will provide training for Korean Air in Livermore. Now we are in a position to announce formally that Corinthian College, Inc., one of the largest private, post seconardy educational organizations in the U.S., will take over and operate the Aircraft Maintenance Training program.

With these changes at Oakland comes the need for many alterations in how we will do business going forward. Corinthian will operate from our current ground school building, the Service Center Hanger, and the Lockheed facility. To make these changes there will be major amounts of reorganization, remodeling, and moving of equipment and fixtures. In addition, the Federal Aviation Regulations under FAR Part 141 and 145 mandate a reinspection of all the changed facilities prior to resumption of flight operations.

Sierra Academy's operations will be based out of 9465 Earhart with maintence at Hanger 2. During 38 years of service to the aviation community, Sierra Academy has undertaken facility moves. However, none have been of this magnitude and complexity. For this reason we have elected, with permission from the FAA, to take a winter break from our normal training schedule to allow these changes to be accomplished.

Flight operations will cease December 8, 2003 and will restart on January 5, 2004. We appologize for the disruption that this may cause, but are without workable options. Our staff has been advised that it is impossible to be involved with moving and remodeling while trying to continue with flight operations. The buildings must be vacated to help the process and ensure the safety of all. [Contact info edited out]

We appreciate that considerable personal disruption will be caused, and apologize for this.Your patience and understanding are greatly appreciated.

Skip Everett
President
 

donttouchanything

New Member
I looked into Sierra several months ago and left with a bad feeling about the organization. Damn, am I glad I didn't plunk down the wad of cash they were asking for.

I feel sorry for the students who are left holding the bad on this one.
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
Well it dosn't affect most of us all that much as it is only a temporary inconvenience. I really feel bad for those that had checkrides scheduled tomorrow and will have to wait until January. It also must suck for those half-way through a ground school session. Fortunately I just finnished private ground school. It will take a while to get back into the swing of things. Nobody is happy about this and I'm quite sure some instructors and students will be leaving and I can't blame them.

Amen about how they sprung it on us. That is very upsetting. And they have the nerve to call it a "winter break"!


Although if it was going to happen I suppose there could have been worse times to do it. Many students and isntructors will be taking vacations this month so that helps. But they really should have given us some warning. I suspect they knew about it for at least a couple weeks becasue they were going to start private (and maybe others I don't know about) ground school in December and for some mysterious reason they decided to put it off until January. What are they hoping to accomplish by withholding this information?
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
Wait a second... Maintence is moving to hangar 2??? Isn't that Ameriflight???
Where is Ameriflight going?
 

SierraPilot

New Member
Hanger 2 isnt Ameriflight.. Hanger 2 is the one with that big sign outside that says Sierra Academy Authorized Repair Center, which is where they store all those old planes they part off, and those jet engines they uses for training the A&P mechanics. I'm kinda curious what they are going to do with that 747 or is it 777 engine.. either way its huge.


Ryan
 

SFLAX

Well-Known Member
All I know is that people are not jumping ship, students and staff. Upstairs staff is staying, if they are going to shut down why wait three weeks just close. As for the 141 stuff (is class rooms and things I do not know),but in order to save money and stuff they have gone to one building, which I love the idea of. Plus with this added savings skip can pocket more money, leaving us with nothing. Ha Ha, just kidding, but I do feel that we need new planes, if we are going to suffer, we should some reward in the end. Plus with the snow that has fallen so far, why not take advantage of it, Tahoe is 2 hours away, no one in PHX or ORL can say that. Plus all students if they actually are aware of their options (which many are not, I for one am) I have already gone with my instructor in a flying clubs plane. So no students training should be interupted.
 

hammer

New Member
Be careful!!! Let's not forget what happened with ATA. First, it was no weekend flying while the runway paving was going on at ORL (never did fly on weekends again). Next, it was shut down for a full week for the NBAA convention. Finally, it was shut down for good. Flight schools like this are not in good shape, no matter what they tell you and want you to believe. Shutting down for a month means a month of greatly reduced expenses. It's a blessing for them. It also means a month where students and staff will be away while management can hold discussions about the future. How much would it suck to come back or to get another message while you are on break that the one month disruption is now permenant? I hope students didn't pre-pay their tuition.
 

need2AV8

New Member
I understand where you are coming from with regard to ATA. Be aware that California has laws that will make it impossible for the students' money to be stolen as it was with ATA. It is wise to place additional scrutiny on Sierra, but just as important to keep a level head. I feel the ATA comparison would be unfair. Numerous activities and improvements are continuing to take place during the break - things that would not happen if there were plans to shut down. In other words, money is being spent to prepare things for operations to resume.

A fact that must be reiterated is that in order to operate a part 141 school, the FAA must approve the facilities such as maintenance, ground school classrooms, and airplanes. With the sale of 2 buildings (maintenance and ground school) the FAA will not allow training to take place until the move is complete and the FAA approves the new facilities. Sierra students, check the front of your syllabus - it outlines in detail what must exist for training. I have no doubt that training will resume.

One last thing, previous posts cast blame on Sierra using the word, "they." Rather than scrutinize everyone by using the word, "they", it would be more accurate to look in the direction of the person who signed the letter issued to staff and students
 

hammer

New Member
Don't kid yourself ... comparing this to ATA is realistic, not unfair. ATA was Part 141 so the FAA was obviously OK with what they could see in terms of operations and standards. ATA bought six BE-76's for multi training a year and a half before they closed. ATA remodeled and added two new classrooms and a new student lounge less than six months before they closed. They bought a $1 million jet simulator less than a year before they closed. Etc, etc, etc. Ask Sierra to open up their books and show you what their financial situation is. If things are fine, they should have no problem with this request.
 

SierraPilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Plus all students if they actually are aware of their options (which many are not, I for one am) I have already gone with my instructor in a flying clubs plane. So no students training should be interupted.

[/ QUOTE ]

Trust me its not from a lack of being aware of our options, but from a lack of funds as Sierra Academy holds ALL of our money. I dont see Sierra running to give us money in fact my experience so far has been its like pulling teeth. They would rather give you the rosey picture that everything is great, dont worry.. go home.. take a break.. enjoy your vacation, while they collect interest off MY money. After all, giving us control of our own money is not benficial to them at all.

If you have gone flying with your instructor you are definately one of the lucky ones..(or have extra cash to throw around) my instructor will have to get a second job to just pay his rent while we wait for Sierra to decide if they want to fork over the cash.
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
Ryan,

I thought the hangar you speak of is hangar 1, which will now belong to business jet center. That engine looks a little small to be for a 777 and a little big to be for a 747. Maybe 757, or 767. I'm not sure.

SFLAX,

Keep in mind that none of the time you accrue at a flying club will be able to be credited to your syllabus. It works great if all you need to do is build time for now, but we'll all still be on the same lesson when we get back. Furthermore we can't take money out of our account to rent planes elsewhere. I for one certainly can't afford much if any time if I have to pay for it out of my pocket, so my training will be interrupted and I'm sure many other's will as well.

Hammer,

I'd like to hear how you think closing for a month saves them money. As with any business, when you close, you make no money. None. Yes, its true that operating costs are reduced when you close but that's like saying, "I'm going to save gas money by not going to work. I won't be getting a paycheck but I won't have to pay for gas."
 

hammer

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Hammer,

I'd like to hear how you think closing for a month saves them money. As with any business, when you close, you make no money. None. Yes, its true that operating costs are reduced when you close but that's like saying, "I'm going to save gas money by not going to work. I won't be getting a paycheck but I won't have to pay for gas."


[/ QUOTE ]

Your logic is flawed ... cost/benefit for a student is different from cost/benefit for a business. You are presenting a cost/benefit scenario for a student (consumer).

Sierra collects student tuitions in full prior to enrollment. They go a month without paying employee wages or aviation fuel, they save money. It's so hard right now for these flight schools to make money that many are in fact, losing money. A month of not paying for fuel and employee wages will save them money. Not long term necessarily, but it will certainly save money for the month they close.
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
That's not quite how it works hammer. Our money sits in an account, much like a bank account. After a training session we are billed, and they take the money out of our account appropriately. We have to authorize anything that comes out of that account. If there is no training going on, all acounts are on hold and Sierra gets no money. They do not collect any interrest from our account.

How does the money get into the account you ask? Either we deposit money into our account, again like a bank account, or money is put into the account by a seprate lending institution. If it comes from a lending institution then we pay interrest to that lending institution. From the point of view of those who bill us, there is no way to tell if the money in the account came from us or from a lender, and how are they going to charge interrest on money that we deposit. If that were the case everybody would pay interrest even if they didn't take out a loan. If I am wrong about this please let me know now because I did not sign any promisory note that allows Sierra Academy to charge interrest on any money that sits in my account. In my case, Key bank and only Key bank is making money off of me not flying for a month.

Furthermore, if they were only interrested in making money off of charging this alleged interrest, then why are they so interrested in saving us in the amount of interrest we pay. Those of us on the Key loan get 3 seperate dispersements so that we only have to pay interrest on the money that has already been disbursed to us. They don't have to do this. They could get it all in one large disbursement and let us get charged interrest from day 1, but since they recieve no bennefit from doing this, they figure they might as well make arrangements to save us money.
 

SierraPilot

New Member
flyguy, hanger 1 is the one maintence is currently in.. the one across the street from the ground school.. Hanger 2 is the one next to the new business jet center.. which is still owned by us.


As for the money.. heres my understanding.. We apply for a loan.. Key bank gives this money in two disbursements to the school.. ie: you get approved for 50,000.. Key bank sends 25,000 on the first one, and 25,000 on the second one or something similar to this. When the school gets the 25,000 they deposit this into our account aka Sierra Bank Account. After a training session we authorize them subtract this amount from our account.

You are correct in that Sierra is not charging us interest.. why would they after all they have our money.. but they ARE collecting interest at the bank with our funds is what I was referring to. I dont doubt for a minute our funds are being held in a interest bearing account. Which means Sierra is collecting interest of our money regardless of what we do.

Ryan
 

need2AV8

New Member
Your facts are flawed. Sierra does not collect student tuition in full prior to starting. $10,000 to start and as little as $500 to $1000 at a time, thereafter. Also, Sierra is currently in the process of dispersing thousands to students and staff from their accounts. Some are using their $$ for living exp., and some for training outside until Sierra resumes flight operations.

Make no mistake, although there will be no CFI wages, AMT wages, or aircraft maint. expenses, most of the remainder of the staff is working. No revenue is being generated. Thousands are being dispersed. Take into account the number of lost students and potential new students lost and it doesn't take long to realize that Sierra will not be saving more than lost. The suspension of flight ops is due to a facility reduction and current ops would be prohibited by the FAA, unlike the aformentioned ATA where equipment was being added.

Only time will tell the mid-range & long term outcome. In the meantime, most of us plan to weather the storm until we can see clearly after the rain is gone.

Hammer, you forgot to mention that the sky is falling.
 

hammer

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
That's not quite how it works hammer. Our money sits in an account, much like a bank account. After a training session we are billed, and they take the money out of our account appropriately. We have to authorize anything that comes out of that account. If there is no training going on, all acounts are on hold and Sierra gets no money.

[/ QUOTE ]

How do you know this? Is the bank account in your name? Can you go to the bank anytime and withdraw the entire remainder of your tuition without any questions asked? At ATA, we got billed after every flight, every ground session, simulator session, etc. yet they still managed to go under.
If Sierra was only charging you each time you do something, why not get the loan dispersed to you directly and then write a check to sierra at the end of the month? We're talking about big money here ... knowing what I know now, it's a hell of a lot smarter to keep that money in your name as opposed to dispersing it in full to a flight school based on their word that they won't be spending it all.

I'm not trying to anger anyone here ... I understand the situation sucks as someone who went through the whole ATA debacle, I'd really hate to see you guys get blindsided like we all did. I know nothing about Sierra, their management, their financial situation .... nonetheless, I have a lot more experience than any of you with what happens after a 141 flight school being funded primarily with Key loans closes. Trust me, it sucks.
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
That's not quite how it works hammer. Our money sits in an account, much like a bank account. After a training session we are billed, and they take the money out of our account appropriately. We have to authorize anything that comes out of that account. If there is no training going on, all acounts are on hold and Sierra gets no money.

[/ QUOTE ]

How do you know this? Is the bank account in your name? Can you go to the bank anytime and withdraw the entire remainder of your tuition without any questions asked?

[/ QUOTE ]

First, I'm truly sorry you got screwed while at ATA.

Second, I know that's how it works because the account IS in my name, I can request to see the balance whenever I want.

Why don't they give me the money up front and let me write a check at the end of the month? Two reasons. One, they want to help me not spend all $50,000 in my savings account on movies and toys, second, federal law requires that educational loans be used for educational purposes only. That included living expenses, but in the state of CA, that's only about $1200 a month. The rest MUST be used to pay tuition, fees, books, etc. Sierra holds the money so that it does go to educational expenses. If they were to give the student's their $50K and let them loose, many would spend the money elsewhere and then they would be in HUGE violation of the laws. So ... it's a protection issue.

It's actually very similar to a regular University. At a university, the financial aid dept. deducts what you owe for tuition and fees from your account, and then gives you the rest for living expenses. The only difference is that universities are a set cost where flight schools are pay per hour used.

Any money left in my account at Sierra after training I get no access to. So, this money gets sent back to Key and I don't pay additional interest on it since I didn't use it and they got it back right away. (Basically the loan is reassessed by me and I decline that amount.)

Hammer, you have every reason to have bad blood with academies, but you seem quite a bit more upset about the Sierra situation than us sierra students. Lets all just chill, wait and see what happens before we freak out.
 

SierraPilot

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Your facts are flawed. Sierra does not collect student tuition in full prior to starting. $10,000 to start and as little as $500 to $1000 at a time, thereafter. Also, Sierra is currently in the process of dispersing thousands to students and staff from their accounts. Some are using their $$ for living exp., and some for training outside until Sierra resumes flight operations.

[/ QUOTE ]

Need2AV8, did you get a Key Loan?? If you did you might want to look at the loan contract they sent you.. it gets dispersed in two lump sums. At least thats been my experience and the experience of others I know who have key loans.

Sierra students getting thousands for training outside Sierra? They had a meeting today to discuss this issue.. unless you know something I dont.. they havent approved a dime yet to any student. Did you talk to Patty today? I cant speak for the instructors as I am not one..but I would be curious if any of them got approved for a disbursement yet. As for living disbursements.. that barely covers my bills, and food, etc.. I sure dont have extra cash to float for outside training unless they wanna fork over some cash.

Flyguy, Sure the ledgers have our names on them and sure they track our expenses and balance in our account and I like you can request a ledger to see whats up with my account, but you got to remember this is just a computer printout from a Sierra computer and not a bank statement from the bank itself. I could collect money from 10 students, get a program to track what they spend and generate a ledger and yet keep all 10 students money in 1 bank account and collect interest on them all. Not a bad deal for Sierra.

Ryan
 

need2AV8

New Member
SierraPilot, my post that started, "your facts are flawed", was in response to Hammer saying that we pay everything up front. In response to your question - no, I did not use a Key Loan. I generated the cash myself from an unbelievable amount of hard work. After I paid $10,000 to start, all I had to do was keep, at least, $100 in account. The point being this: what Sierra requires is NOT the same as what the Key Loan people do. Sierra only wants $100 or more in account once you have started. Friends of mine had Educaid loans that could be divided into 1, 2, or 3 payments. Sounds like your Key loan has 2 payments. In any event, the loan company is deciding payments to your Sierra account, not Sierra. Since I used cash, I decided payments to my Sierra account. Sierra was happy as long as I kept my balance above $100.

As far as dispersing thousands, I should do better to clarify that scheduled dispersements should continue. I would expect that requests for additional dispersements to take about 30 days. I have known of some students to get their $1200/month for living exp. while working. There was leftover money to invest, spend, etc.

If any student is being refused their regularly scheduled living expenses check, I'd truly be surprised. If so, I'd call my loan company and notify them immediately.
 
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