Vail Valley Bizwatch: Alpine Flight Training offers flight training
Business name: Alpine Flight Training.
Location: Eagle County Regional Airport.
Date opened: June 2010.
Owners: Loren and Jennifer French. (Loren provided the following information.)
Contact info: Call 970-401-5105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What goods or services do you provide? We can provide any level of flight training, from a person’s first flight in an aircraft to working with a student to achieve a commercial multi-engine license to fly for a living. We also provide scenic flights, aircraft rental and frequently work with people who are already licensed pilots and just need to learn safe mountain flying techniques. We often help pilots who stopped flying years ago and now want to get current and begin flying again. We also provide options for financing flight training, and we are approved to work with non U.S. citizen students.
What’s new or exciting at your place? We have a new plane in our fleet, a seven-passenger twin-engine Piper Seneca. This new aircraft has substantially expanded our capabilities. We can now provide multi-engine training for private, commercial and instructors. This means a students can achieve any level of fixed-wing license here at Alpine Flight Training. Additionally, we have received the necessary authorizations from the FAA to conduct scenic air tours over the Vail Valley and Roaring Fork Valley. We can accommodate groups from one to six people on our tours.
While all that is exciting, the business is just excited to watch students achieve their goals. We’ve had a good year, with 21 new pilots getting their private pilots licenses, and a number of pilots earning instrument ratings. We have a fair number of young students 14-18 years old also currently learning to fly, and that’s pretty neat to watch as well.
What strategy do you use to differentiate your business from your competition? Several key elements differentiate Alpine Flight Training from its competitors. The first is the quality of our instructional team. It’s not uncommon, especially in metropolitan flight schools, to find instructors with no prior aviation experience (instructing is their first job in aviation) and minimal flight experience teaching new pilots. You won’t find that at our operation.
Most of our instructors have more than 10 years of diverse aviation experience. Prior to teaching here, they were airline captains, freight pilots, corporate pilots, crop dusters, even aircraft designers. Now they teach flying because of their love of aviation. Having a team of instructors enhances the learning, and our students receive a more well-rounded education. Having a team of instructors to work with also means greater scheduling flexibility.
The second key differentiator is our fleet of aircraft, both the variety and the quality of aircraft and maintenance. Our diverse fleet means we can provide training from private to commercial multi-engine, something no other school in the Rockies can provide. We work aggressively to maintain our fleet and frequently upgrade our planes — new interiors, new engines, new avionics. I frequently get comments from visitors that our rental aircraft are some of the nicest they have ever flown. Lastly, the biggest differentiator between our business and other flight training options is our efficiency in getting students across the finish line. Because of the volume of training we provide, we’re very adept at understanding how to get a pilot to completion.
What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your customers? I like to stay closely tied in to where every student is in their training. I want to know that every student that came through the door learned 100 percent of what they needed to in order to become a safe and competent pilot.
What can your customers expect from you? Our customers can expect a great experience with us. We work had to maintain rates that are competitive with the Denver market, and certainly the best value anywhere in the Rockies. They can expect to reach their goals, whether that’s learning to fly for recreation or as a new career.
Tell us a little about your background, education and experience: All of our instructors have interesting and different backgrounds and experience, and that’s one of the reasons our team is so great. I have a BS in aviation from Utah Valley University, and pilot’s licenses for a variety of fixed wing aircraft including gliders. I also am licensed to instruct a diverse range of students from initial flight training for a private license to commercial multi-engine instrument or even train people to be instructors. I’m a Gold Seal FAA Certified Instructor, a NAFI Master Instructor, and also an FAA designated safety team representative. I originally learned to fly right here at the Eagle Airport in the mid-1990s and have worked in a variety of roles in different aviation businesses.
What is the most humorous thing that has happened at your business since you opened? Frequently I get calls from parents who want to treat their son or daughter to a flight as a birthday present. On one occasion, an older gentleman called me saying he wanted to send his grandson on a flight for his birthday. He told the young man that I was a baggage handler and I was going to show him around the airport.
The entire thing was pre-planned, the airplane keys were to be left in the ignition on one of our planes, and I was supposed to take this young man on a walking tour. At the proper time grandpa slipped away to use the restroom, and I was to point out the keys left in the ignition and suggest we take the plane for a “joyride.” At first this young man thought it was a swell idea, however by the time we got halfway down the runway and 50 feet in the air, the birthday boy was getting a little nervous — “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”