When Part 107 was enacted almost four years ago, a group of entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to create a new revenue stream for their businesses. Flight schools in particular saw an opportunity to jump on the unmanned bandwagon, an area of aviation that until then, was off limits to traditional pilot training.
One school in particular caught our attention in those early months and we wrote an article about them highlighting the challenges of training a group of pilots, who would never be required to operate a drone, obtain a Part 107 certificate. Once again, we reached out to Robert Cunningham of Lone Star Flight Training in Conroe, Texas to find out about the challenges of teaching unmanned aviation in the era of Covid-19.
“When it comes to training manned aviation, the choice was clear: social distancing could not permit two people in a small general aviation aircraft, spending hours literally rubbing shoulders,” said Robert. “But the situation with Part 107 was completely different, and my wife Mary and I decided to create a methodology that would allow us to continue training students and helping them receive their Part 107 certificates.”
Robert made the difficult decision to suspend manned aviation training in early April, and has only recently, at the beginning of May, reopened for this kind of teaching.
“With Part 107, the situation was different,” Robert explained. “We were able to reduce the size of the classroom, separate the students, wear masks, disinfect everything twice a day, and in general implement sanitizing policies that would ensure a safe instruction environment.”
Lone Star has been an FAA accredited test center for years, and they pride themselves in offering a safe and clean environment in which students can take the various exams required by the FAA for acquiring different levels of pilot certificates.
“It bothered me immensely to read people saying that the FAA test centers were all closed!” Robert said a bit exasperated. “We are open and have always been open. We have implemented policies in our test center that are similar or even stricter, than our training facilities, to protect the health of our customers who come to our place to take their exams.”
The fact that Part 107 does not require two people to cram into a tight cabin and breathe on each other for hours, has helped Robert and Mary to continue the necessary labor of love that it takes to form the next generation of unmanned pilots. While they slowly work toward reopening their manned training facility following the re-opening guidelines established by the State of Texas.
“We are receiving calls from all over the USA, as far as California, requesting information about our training programs,” Robert said enthusiastically. “It’s an exciting time for us here in Texas, where we hope things go back to normal as soon as possible. Lone Star Flight Training is open for business and we are happy to report that flight training, considered an essential service, is coming back to life.”