Updated March 26, 2020
In early March, Concord, NC-based Part 142 training provider FlyRight launched a new Beechcraft King Air Level D simulator with Garmin G1000 avionics to expand its portfolio of classroom and simulator-based training on the King Air series, Cessna 208B Caravan and Bombardier DHC-8 aircraft. However, with the entire industry now essentially under lockdown conditions from the COVID-19 crisis, the company was forced to implement a rolling furlough program for its 75 employees, requiring each to take one week of unpaid leave before the end of April.
While he’s optimistic the industry will ultimately recover, FlyRight co-founder and President Matt Hapgood hopes those short-term furloughs will be all that is needed. “From my perspective, I think our country will continue in a severe, economically depressed state for at least the next 60 days,” he said. “The big question after that is if we’ll then see a relatively quick bounce back to around 90 percent ‘normal,’ or if it will be slow growth back to just 75 percent. That would have a dramatic effect on our business.”
Business in a Challenging Environment
FlyRight continues to offer initial and recurrent training for charter and business aviation pilots, law-enforcement operations and Department of Defense personnel, although the company has seen an escalating number of training cancellations over just the past week as more clients opt to remain home.
“We’ve experienced over $250,000 in lost revenue from postponed or cancelled training to date, and that will likely grow to $1.5 million over the next 90 days,” Hapgood said. “Hopefully that’ll be the end of it, and we will be back on the road to recovery; for now, we’re running about 50% of our normal training load. When the phone rings it’s not with new business, unfortunately, but rather people calling to cancel upcoming training classes.”
Currency Requirements a Concern
In addition to cancellations, new steps to comply with CDC guidelines for a safe environment in their training center and general uncertainty in the near-term, Hapgood is also concerned about regulatory challenges for his company and its clients. “With FAA personnel all but eliminating time in the field due to COVID-19, regulatory approvals for program modifications or new authorizations for operators are grinding to a halt,” he explained.
Although FlyRight employs approximately a dozen training center evaluators (TCEs) to conduct oral exams and checkrides for clients’ type ratings and certificate issuances, the FAA is tasked with keeping those TCEs current with checkrides and observations. Although the company was able to secure a temporary deferral of that requirement, allowing company personnel to conduct the required checks for one TCE, “we have another TCE checkride scheduled for next week,” Hapgood said. “We’re not sure what will happen with that one.”
Helping Others In a Time of Need
To further assist business aviation pilots and operators, FlyRight will also offer free Level C/D simulator-based landing currency and flight reviews at its training center in Concord. “While the FAA has relaxed some regulatory requirements, these half-day programs will enable pilots to maintain currency and be ‘Ready to Go’ as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are behind us,” Hapgood said.