Two new flight simulators have arrived at the Vanderhoof College of New Caledonia campus to aid a new aviation course which officially started this September.
The bush pilot training course is the first of its kind in northern B.C. and was due to begin in May but was pushed back to September.
The two new Redbird simulators will help training pilots to get their wings at a reduced price.
“The simulators are an extraordinary training aid,” said Ty Roberts, CNC’s Program Planner for the Aviation Business program.
“State-of-the-art technology allows us to do training that is very difficult and expensive to do in an airplane by itself,” he said.
Use of the simulators are billed to students at $50 an hour whereas an hour going up solo on a plane costs close to $150.
The simulators, worth over $180,000, allow a student to fly anywhere in the world and under a variety of different conditions, including snow, thick cloud or a lightning storm.
The simulator can also put you in various emergency scenarios such as an engine stall.
Three funding partners came together to purchase the simulators – Western Economic Diversification, Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund and the Northern Development Initiative Trust
Roberts, a pilot with 33 years flying experience, says the simulators are extremely realistic.
“When you use these simulators, your behaviour is the same as if you were in a real airplane,” he said.
CNC is delivering the academic side of the program, that includes university level courses in business.
Guardian Aerospace, headed by pilot Eric Stier, will provide the real flight training.
Roberts says the Vanderhoof area is an extremely efficient and safe place for new pilots to train.
“It’s very close by to the types of air strips that are in the mountains that you are going to be going into on your first job,” he said.
He added that having the mountains not far away and a large number of small, unimproved bush airstrips, provides the conditions that pilots need to learn to fly in very early on.
“You get mountain winds, and the illusions of terrain and flying in mountains in rain and those sorts of things,” he said.
Learning to fly in such conditions means pilots who complete the program can, pretty much, fly anyway.
“The program here really is about becoming very good at flying single engine airplanes in visual flight conditions – we would think that this program would train you to work anywhere,” said Roberts.
The aviation course currently has only one student enrolled but had room for 12-16.
Roberts hopes the course will be full in in three or four years time, at which time it will become financially self-sustaining.
“We do expect it is going to take a few years before the course is fully subscribed to … we hope it can run on a cost-recovery basis in the 2013 class,” said Roberts.
The first student enrolled in the course is Trevor Muxlow, 25, from Prince George.
“It’s always been a dream to become a pilot ever since I was a little kid, but I never thought it was a possibility until this program came to the north,” said Muxlow.
After hearing about the course, Muxlow dropped his plans to go into engineering and came to Vanderhoof. So far he has about 10 hours of real flying experience, he says the simulators are extremely helpful to his training.
“The simulators are really awesome and they give an almost real life experience,” he said.
“It’s good to put us in those real life emergency situations that we couldn’t necessarily practice up in air.”
Tuition fees for the two-and-a-half year program stand at $62,700. $50,000 of that is for flight school with Guardian Aerospace, which includes 200 hours of flying. The remaining sum pays for the college tuition.