BY JILL COLE, AMERICAN FLYERS PRESIDENT
American Flyers started in 1939 and has since had a reputation for being the global leader in aviation education. In addition to many “firsts,” we were the first flight school to offer instrument training. We were faced with a unique challenge because at the time, the general aviation manufacturers were not producing IFR GA aircraft. That changed as we started to place our orders. In addition, we were the first school to introduce flight simulators into its training program. Frasca Simulators built their Simulator #1 for American Flyers in 1953. We still use Frasca Simulators today in all of our training programs.
In today’s “glass cockpit” environment, we have realized that many of the fundamental skills associated with learning to fly on “round dial” aircraft are forgotten. Because of cost and new technology, today’s GA manufacturers are not providing an option for “round dial” airplanes.
That all changed with a discussion with Piper Aircraft company. A few years ago, we reached out to Piper to find out what they had to offer. Soon after that call, Simon Caldecott (Piper CEO) and Hans Stancil (head of North America for Piper) visited with us. During that discussion, Simon asked us, “What do you need?” Shocked because no aircraft manufacturer ever asked us that question before, we explained our thoughts about going back to basic flying, round dials and aircraft that were more suited to training than personal aviation. Our meeting ended, and we agreed to stay in touch.
The following year we agreed to follow up with Piper at Oshkosh. Again, both men sat with us and explained that they combined what other schools and we had asked for and made a new airplane based on the Piper Archer. They introduced us to the Piper Pilot 100i. As we were seated in the aircraft, it became clear that this was an airplane built for training. There was a single rear seat that was centered so an observer could have an unobstructed view of what was going on up front. Forward cabin vents increased airflow and cabin cooling.
As we were studying the changes to the airplane and discussing our ever-present desire for “round dials,” Hans reached over to the G3X screen and switched the presentation from glass to “round dial.” It was at that moment we knew this was a game-changer.
American Flyers is excited to announce that we will be accepting the first eight Piper Pilot 100i aircraft in October of 2020. We strongly believe that this new aircraft will be an excellent complement to our training programs and philosophies.
Mike Bliss, the Chairman of the American Flyers National Safety Board, explained that the Piper Pilot 100i is two airplanes in one. This airplane will enable us to maintain our policy of “round dial” training for the Private Pilot Certificate and the first half of the instrument rating. This philosophy helps to increase situational awareness and reduces the potential dependence on automation. In other words, it creates a stronger pilot by reinforcing the basic skills and foundations necessary to become a safe and proficient pilot.
Rick Farmer, the National Director of Maintenance for American Flyers, explained that the updates made to this aircraft in respect to both its structure and avionics, make it an ideal training aircraft from a maintenance perspective. Components are easily accessible for mechanics. The warranty and parts support is excellent and will enable us to minimize downtime for routine maintenance and inspections.