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Making the grade: new computer network allows Springdale flight school to shorten time for pilot's license.

What once took weeks can now be accomplished in seconds, thanks to a computer network based in Bloomington, Minn.

Mustang Aviation Inc. of Springdale, in cooperation with Drake Training & Technologies of Bloomington, is now operating a pilot testing center capable of processing test results almost instantaneously.

The Federal Aviation Administration written exam is required before a student pilot can take his final check run with a qualified examiner, the last step in acquiring a pilot's license.

Before Mustang Aviation began offering the computerized processing of the FAA exam last month, tests were mailed to the FAA's office in Washington and processed there, forcing students to wait 3-4 weeks for results.

Through Drake's FAA-authorized computer network, the students' tests are processed almost instantly upon their completion and results are graded and returned to the students in a matter of minutes.

By eliminating the waiting period, Mustang Aviation is able to graduate students in a shorter period of time, according to the school's director, Nicholas Norwood.

A full-time student, spending 4-8 hours a day in classes and training, can graduate from the program with a private pilot's license in four weeks, says Norwood.

The professional pilot's training program, including private, instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings, takes between 5-6 months, he adds.

The flight school, which moved to the Springdale Municipal Airport from Jonesboro two years ago, employs six full-time instructors and nine aircraft.

A total of 22 full-time students and 15 part-time students are studying at the facility. Students from Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Kenya and Egypt are housed in the school's boarding facility, near Springdale Country Club.

The school offers a complete aviation library and special flight planning room in addition to a flight simulator, capable of reproducing any instrument approaches or procedures.

One reason the school has so many foreign students, all destined to work as professional pilots in their own countries, is the school's ability to issue, as authorized by the FAA, visas to non-immigrant students.

Flying Fees

The expense of flight schools in their own countries is another reason, says Norwood.

"It's kind of a national phenomenon," he says, explaining that the availability of aircraft and lower fuel costs in the U.S. make studying in this country more attractive to foreign students.

For example, the cost of training for a private pilot's license can cost around $3,000, including room and board, says Norwood. The training period for the commercial pilot's license runs around $20,000, he adds.

"In most of the European countries, it costs basically twice that much to get your commercial license," says Norwood. The cost of commercial pilot training in Japan runs close to $80,000, he says.

"One of the nice things is the money it brings into this economy. Usually the money is from outside the country."

Another added factor in bringing foreign students to the U.S., says Norwood, is the requirement of most major airlines that pilots flying across international borders speak English.

"English is the international language of aviation," says Norwood.

Norwood, 35, came to northwest Arkansas in the 1980s as business manager of a Fayetteville law firm. With roughly $10,000 spent a month on transportation costs, the majority of it on flights, Norwood quickly realized there had to be a cheaper way to travel the state.

"We said, 'Why don't we see if we can start our own aviation department,'" says Norwood, who ran Esquire Aviation for several years for the law firm before purchasing Mustang Aviation and moving it to Springdale.
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Title Annotation:Mustang Aviation Inc.; Drake Training and Technologies
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 10, 1992
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