American Flyers began training pilots in 1939. Not long after, WWII broke out in Europe, making aviation critical in a new way. Airplane manufacturers doubled their efforts and began producing more airplanes with better avionics, increasing the demand for well-trained pilots to fly them. This was a demand that American Flyers was ready to meet, training large numbers of pilots on the crucial instrument skills they would need to fly with precision and accuracy.
American Flyers Meets America’s Need for Trained Pilots
The company’s excellence led to the incredible responsibility of training military pilots, a testament to our unwavering commitment to producing highly skilled aviators. American Flyers played a crucial role in the war effort, instilling a sense of responsibility and a commitment to excellence that still permeates our training programs today.
After the war, American Flyers rose to new heights by venturing into the airline industry, establishing our own airline in 1949. American Flyers operated a fleet of iconic aircraft for over two decades, including legendary DC-3s, Lockheed Constellations, Electras, and modern Boeing 727s. This era marked a pioneering age in aviation, as American Flyers transported notable figures such as First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson and the internationally adored Beatles.
However, in 1971, American Flyers decided to sell the airline division to Universal Airlines. This shift marked a turning point, as the company refocused its efforts on flight training. Recognizing the growing demand for skilled pilots and the crucial importance of training future aviators, we embraced the new mission with unwavering dedication.
Monty Montgomery, Rudy Frasca, and Aviation Training Enterprises
Soon after the war, a different flight school was started by Monty Montgomery. This school was called Aviation Training Enterprises (ATE) and was located across from the Chicago Midway International Airport.
Monty Montgomery had been a simulator instructor in the United States Army Air Corps. This was during the time when flight simulators were a brand-new concept. In fact, the army mounted these simulators inside train cars and moved them from base to base to conduct the simulator training, with pilots training in the simulators while they were in the train cars. It was during this time that Montgomery met Rudy Frasca. Frasca was also a simulator instructor, and they forged a close friendship.
Once Montgomery and Frasca separated from the army, they each went their own way. Montgomery founded ATE and purchased surplus simulators from the army. As the airlines of the day did not have their own simulators, ATE provided instrument training for the airlines as well as simulator rides for the Boy Scouts of America. Instrument training was also starting to make its way into general aviation, so ATE provided general aviation pilots the opportunity to obtain and enhance their instrument skills. This was critical because the instrument infrastructure was in its infancy, and there were very few, if any, redundant systems in either the aircraft or the airports of the time.
During this period, airways were identified by a series of dots and dashes. Non-directional beacons (NDBs) were prevalent and used by most aviators; very high frequency omnidirectional ranges (VORs) were recently declassified from the military; airplane vacuum systems were powered by venturi tubes; and pilots actually had to know – and were tested on – morse code.
Frasca started designing simulators for civilian use, but his challenge was that no schools wanted to buy simulators. So, he approached his old friend Montgomery with his new simulator concept. As the story goes, Montgomery borrowed a few thousand dollars from his in-laws and purchased the very first Frasca simulator, serial number 001. This simulator is on display at the Frasca Museum.
Armed with new simulators and former military instructors, Montgomery established the world’s first and most influential instrument training school. There were no books and very few instrument procedures in place. Montgomery and his team wrote the books and developed many of the instrument procedures that pilots still use today.
Aviation Training Enterprises and American Flyers Join Forces
A significant milestone came in 1980 when Aviation Training Enterprises (ATE) acquired American Flyers, creating one of the nation’s largest flight schools. Through this merger, the company expanded its reach and capabilities, reaffirming its position as a leading institution in aviation education. With strategic locations in Houston and Dallas (TX), Scottsdale (AZ), Morristown (NJ), and Pompano Beach (FL), American Flyers ensures aspiring pilots have convenient access to unparalleled training opportunities.
By the late 1980s, American Flyers had over twenty locations. The primary reason for being so widespread was due to our popular and effective written preparation courses. The courses are still offered once each month at all current locations.
Among other approvals, American Flyers was one of the first flight schools to receive approval for training veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and we were also one of the first flight schools to receive FAR Part 141 approval from the FAA.
First to Introduce Online Training Courses
When the late 1990s rolled around, the internet was becoming popular. American Flyers was the first flight school to develop online training programs. These included the first online Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC), as well as courses for private, instrument, commercial, CFI, and ATP certifications. From there, we developed live video chat sessions for students to complete one-on-one ground training with their instructors while on the road, at home, or in the office.
As our online presence grew, American Flyers realized we no longer needed as many brick-and-mortar locations for our students. While students were becoming more mobile and were comfortable bringing their offices with them via their laptops and cell phones. Thus, American Flyers decided to consolidate our northern schools to the south, where our students could bask in the warm weather and fly in the sunshine during winter.
American Flyers has never forgotten its principles or its drive for quality education. From the top down, we strive to do what is right and what is in the best interest of our students. Thus, our mission statement is “training pilots since 1939.”