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Soaring plans: Greenwood flight school prepares for expansion

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The flight school that stores its planes and uses office space at the Greenwood Airport is expanding, hiring full-time instructors, buying flight simulators and getting more airplanes.

Jeff Air Pilot Services rents planes to students and pilots who don’t own planes and has about 600 customers who fly regularly, co-owner Tom Jeffries said. The flight school has about 100 students at any given time who get flight lessons from Jeff Air instructors, who also teach classes on the ground.

In 2012, Jeff Air rented planes to pilots for fewer than 1,000 hours in the air; but in 2013 that number had more than doubled.

Demand for flight training, both for recreational pilots and people interested in careers flying crop dusters, corporate jets, planes for inspecting pipelines from the air, land surveying planes and airline jets, is driving the school’s growth, co-owner David Jeffries said. Talk of airline pilot shortages and greater interest in recreational flying increased Jeff Air’s business, he said.

Jeff Air has been at the airport for three years and is growing steadily. Father and son team Tom and David Jeffries founded and operate the flight school. Tom Jeffries is a retired airline pilot and works as a flight instructor for Jeff Air. David Jeffries is an airline pilot.

Jeff Air will buy three more airplanes this year. The three simulators the company is buying can cost from $20,000 to more than $100,000 and are machines that replicate the cockpit appearance and experience of flying a light, multiengine airplane. To maintain an instrument rating, pilots every year have to fly to and land at an airport using only the gauges on the plane’s instrument panel, which show pilots information such as how high they are in the air and whether the plane’s nose is up or down. Pilots can pay $200 to $350 per hour to rent a plane or $150 for two hours in one of Jeff Air’s simulators. The Federal Aviation Administration allows 20 out of 40 hours of instrument training to be done in a simulator.

That less-expensive training alternative should draw more students, including those who are just maintaining their licenses, David Jeffries said.

As part of working to attract more flight students, Jeff Air will partner with Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus this fall to provide flying lessons and is working with the college to develop curriculum for flight classes. Jeff Air will provide simulated and in-air training in Columbus.

The goal of adding planes, simulators and instructors is to provide more opportunities for flight lessons and new services to attract more students, Tom Jeffries said.

The school wants to hire up to six instructors who dedicate 40 hours per week to giving flying lessons, rather than maintaining the current system of contracting with flight instructors. Right now, the number of hours contractors work vary, some of them putting in 40 hours or more without being full-time Jeff Air employees.

Many current instructors are retirees, and they schedule flight lessons around their own schedules as well as the students’. If Jeff Air doesn’t hire them full-time, those instructors would continue to work for the flight school by supplementing the full-time staff, he said.

Off the ground

What: Jeff Air Pilot Services

Where: Greenwood Airport, off County Line Road west of Emerson Avenue

What they do: Jeff Air is a flight school that offers lessons and plane rentals to pilots interested in everything from private licenses to all of the classes and flight time necessary to get hired by a commercial airline.

What’s new: The flight school is hiring up to six full-time flight instructors this year, buying three flight simulators to be set up in class space the school has leased in Polk Place in downtown Greenwood and buying up to more five airplanes by 2015.

The following are among the licenses and certifications pilots can earn through Jeff Air’s lessons.

  • Private license: The first step for someone who wants to be a pilot. The pilot can fly alone and unpaid in a small, single-engine airplane, such as a Piper Warrior.
  • Commercial license: After getting a private license, a pilot has the option to train to get a commercial license. The pilot can fly crop dusters and planes for pipeline patrols, charter flights and land surveying, and get paid for it.
  • Airline transport license: The license required, on top of the commercial license, to get a job flying for an airline. A pilot with this license is qualified to fly commuter planes and scheduled airline flights for pay.
  • Instrument rating: The pilot is tested by the Federal Aviation Administration and is qualified to fly planes safely through storms and low visibility, such in a cloud.
  • Multiengine License: The pilot is qualified to fly an airplane with two or more engines. The multiengine license can be added onto the private and commercial licenses.
  • Complex endorsement: The pilot can fly complex aircraft with retractable landing gear, not just fixed wheels.
  • Instrument proficiency check: An annual test for pilots to keep their instrument ratings.
  • Certified flight instruction: The pilot has passed the Federal Aviation Administration in-flight and written exams and is qualified to teach flight lessons

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