Ab Initio Training: Self-Sponsored and Airline Sponsored Options


Paula Williams: Just to get started, maybe you can tell us more about ab initio training. What does that even mean?

David Santo: Ab initio is a … I believe it’s a Latin word that stands for from the beginning. What we’re talking about here is how do we develop enough of future aviators, future pilots to meet the global demand. First, let’s talk for a second if I can about the global demand. The numbers that are being put out there by Boeing, they’ve been validated by Airbus industries, they’ve been validated by the US Accounting Office, they’ve appeared in front page news, periodicals like the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today. It talks about needing nearly a half a million new pilots in our industry over the next 20 years.
Ab initio is an old concept but it’s a concept of we may have to start training pilots from zero time to get them qualified to be airline pilots because they’re not coming through the ranks organically, naturally fast enough on their own. Ab initio is a way to streamline the pipeline of people coming into the industry all the way into the front seats of the airliners.

Paula Williams: That makes perfect sense. In a sense that means taking people from their very first lesson. Maybe people who are … You’re looking for high school or community college graduates or anybody in particular? Are there any qualifications to start an ab initio?
I know it says from the beginning but there has to be something at the beginning, right?

David Santo: That really is dependent on the airline and the individual. You really have two types of ab initios. You have the self-sponsored ab initio. This is somebody who is looking to start maybe fresh out of high school or somewhere in the early stages of college. Honestly, nowadays it could be anywhere in their career. We have a lot of people that get into aviation late as a second or third career but they make the conscientious decision that they’re pursuing aviation as a job, as a career field. Really, they are ab initio students. It’s how quickly they dedicate themselves to accomplishing that task and some people will use schools like Cochise College, FIT, the 141 schools. They’ll go there to accelerate either their education or their time building to get done quicker so they can get into the job market.
The other type of ab initio is somebody who’s being sponsored by an airline. Lufthansa has done this for many, many years. Lufthansa hired nationals from Germany. They sent them over to Arizona and they sent them to Flight School really with zero flight experience.
Now there is an advantage to hiring somebody with zero flight experience for the airlines and that is that you screen them not on their skill, you screen them on their aptitude. You’re screening them on are they a good cultural fit to your organization and then you train them to be the airline pilot that you want them to be. There are some benefits there.
United Airlines did this in the ‘60s. Due to the Vietnam War there just wasn’t enough pilots available and they had to recruit people. At that time, Paula Williams, they were using people with private pilot licenses as a prerequisite. It really depends on the airline whether it’s self-sponsored, whether it’s sponsored what that starting point is. The end game is still the same and that is creating a pipeline that is a clear beginning, a gateway, all the way through a career preparation and hopefully placement.

Paula Williams: That makes perfect sense. If I’m going into an ab initio program as a self-sponsored student just to get an idea of what I’m in for, what kind of time and money requirements are we looking at? I know we’re going to talk about this in more detail later but just to get a broad picture of what that would look like.

David Santo: Some of the programs that we’ve worked with can accomplish zero time all the way through the commercial multiengine instrument and a type rating within as little as 12 months. This is based on the student being full time, fully engaged in the ab initio course. If we go through that pipeline they would come into the program having been pre-screened. We’ve seen screening tools like COMPASS which are aptitude tests that help identify before you spend the money whether you have the right stuff, if you will, to make it through the program. Then they complete their private pilot license, they complete their instrument license, they complete their time building for their commercial, complete their commercial license, their multiengine.
Then they come to AeroStar for that finishing school, if you will. We do jet transition training. We do the high altitude, high speed aerodynamics and theory training. We can do CRM. We can do the new ATP/CTP course which is a requirement for the ATP written. Ultimately, our final stage of training of the pipeline is completing the type rating or A320, b737 crew qualification training.


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Flight School Opportunity Webinar Excerpt – Who is Captain David Santo?


Flight School Opportunity Webinar Excerpt – Transcript

Paula Williams – We’ll introduce Captain David Santo who has been waiting patiently, and you’re in Michigan today, are you Dave?

David Santo –  I sure am, Paula.

Paula Williams – Fantastic. We’re really glad to have you here today. You might want to tell us a little bit about your career. I know you’re an airline pilot, and you absolutely love it.

David Santo –  I am. Thank you, Paula, and thanks once again for organizing the seminar. To you and to John both, I greatly appreciate all of your efforts. It’s been great to work with you. I’m sitting here looking at the introductory slide, and I’ve got to update that picture because that’s false advertising. That’s about 10 years old now, and I’ve got a lot more gray hair than that.

Paula Williams –  You look fantastic.

David Santo –  I am indeed an airline captain. I’m an A320 captain for a major US airline. I’ve actually worked for five different 121 airlines over my career and a handful of 135 and corporate organizations as well. It’s been a pretty well-rounded career. I’ve done passenger airlines now. I’ve done cargo operations in worldwide transport flying 747s. I’ve flown Lears and Citations, some airplanes that maybe some folks haven’t heard of like Hansa jets and turbine Beech 18s. It’s been an absolutely fabulous career for me so far and I’m only in the middle of it. I’m looking forward to a long career still ahead of me.

Paula Williams –  That’s fantastic and I think there’s been a lot of noise lately about how, especially in the US, a lot of people are unhappy with an airline career and for different reasons and things like that. I think you show a different side of that coin and show that it really can be a fantastic career if you’re in the right place and the right time and if you just basically follow a path that is smart about how you do that.

David Santo – I think you’re right, Paula. So many people are very concerned on the blogs about the experience that they’ve had in their career. I can honestly tell you the experience that people have had in the last 15 and 20 years has been very challenging. We have to be sympathetic, even empathetic, to the fact it has been a very tough environment for the last 20 years.

It’s also a cyclic industry meaning that when you have a downturn for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction right now is that we are going into what’s projected to be a 20-year boom in the industry. We can’t take the past, last 20 years experience and say this is what the industry is going to be like, it won’t be. It’s going to be much better in the future and that’s what’s really an exciting message for us is to convey that we’re getting into a very good time in aviation.

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How do International Students qualify for training?

Female airline pilots – Is it a good career choice for a woman?

Paula Williams:  Is it a good career choice for a women to be an airline pilot?

Captain David Santo: Yes. Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any difference between the career opportunities for men and women. Specifically, Paula I’ll tell you why: Because the airlines do things by seniority, by date-of-hire seniority. That takes all of the bias out of it. If a men and a women are hired at the same date, they’re going to upgrade with the same opportunities. They’re going to have everything the same right on down the line.  I think women are very successful pilots. I’ve flown with many of them. I think they’re very level headed. I enjoy the opportunity to work with them because they finesse the airplane a little bit differently then I think guys do. As far as the career opportunity, absolutely this is a career where once you get into an airline there really is not going to be a difference.

Paula Williams: Great. Have there been women go through Aero Star program and be successful with that?

Captain David Santo: We have had a number of women go through Aero Star. We’ve had students as young as twenty go through a type rate program. We’ve had a women that was near her sixties go through a type rate program. We’ve seen the success rate really is equal with the guys that have come through. We had a young lady came through our type rate program. I’ve asked her if I could use her name. She said I could. Her name is Julie Meade. She was a Comair pilot. Comair went out of business. She took an opportunity to use work improvement act money from the State of Kentucky and came through. Did a type rating with us, and she has complete the phase one with a major airline to fly the A 320. Is waiting to hear on the phase two interview. We’re expecting to see her hired very quickly, flying an A 320 within the next few months.

“How do International students qualify for training?”  And a bonus question- “In what year will you be making roughly $100,000 a year if you start training today?”

Paula Williams: How do international students qualify for for training at Aero Star?

Captain David Santo: Well, Aero Star’s been a great organization for me because it allows me to share my passion for this industry. I have a real passion for teaching. That’s what got me interested in starting the school. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m directly hands on and involved if a lot of the training on the Airbus side. I certainly am involved in trying to help support the training that goes on on the Boeing side. 
 I think for international students one of the challenges of course is they still have to know how the fly the airplane. Everything’s going to be the same. The second language, English and technical English, I think presents a little more of a challenge for them. You need to have that English proficiency down because you don’t want to be thinking about translating words while you trying to fly the airplane. 
 As far as getting qualified to come into the United States, there’s all kinds of resources available. Faa.gov you can go on that site and find out everything you need to know about converting your licenses, or you can simply call. Elizabeth and myself we provide a lot of career mentoring to individuals that may never come to us for type rating, but we still take a lot of pride, and we help them find a direction. Foreign students absolutely this is a greatest place to train in my opinion. It’s English immersion. All the controllers speak English, wide open air spaces, low cost of renting aircraft relatively speaking. I still think it’s outrageous, but compared to industry or globally it’s still low cost. I think the U.S. Is a great place to train, and I think Aero Star really is a great place to go to finishing school, to grad school if you will, and add your type rating before you go home and seek out that airline job.

Paula Williams: Right. Let me back up. Let’s separate this out and say international students for ab initio training. I know you were talking about international students for finishing school, or your graduate degree or your type rating. Do you want to back up and take a little bit about some of the opportunities for ab initio training? Is it a good choice to come to the U.S. For your complete flight education or should people start where they are and then come here for their type rating?

Captain David Santo: It’s going to depend on the individual, but I’m a little bias. I’m going to say I think the U.S. Offers the best training opportunities for ab initio. I believe that’s a Latin root word that says “from the beginning”. If you’re zero time and you want to go from zero time to completing a commercial multi-engine instrument and an aircraft type rating, there are some tremendous schools here in the U.S. That are positioned not only to help you with that, to provide you with room and board, to provide you with all the testing services and the English immersion that I think is so critical to your success. 
 If I could, I’ll names a couple schools that we’ve worked with. We’ve worked with Florida Institute of Technology, FIT, in Melbourne, Florida. We’ve worked with Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. Here’s a school it’s in the middle of the desert in Arizona. There’s no distractions. The runway is right next to the dormitories, so you literally walk from your dorms, to your cafeteria, to your classrooms, to the flight line. You go fly your training sessions, and walk back to your dorm. I think that’s an ideal situation for learning how to fly and really doing it in minimal time, with minimal distractions, to get you out there and get that seniority number as quick as possible.

Paula Williams: Right. That’s fantastic. I know in Arizona they have 364 perfect days a year. They have no weathered out days.

John Williams: Dave, I’ve got a lot of questions coming in. One of them I just now got to and realize it should have been asked a slide or two back. If a person starts, in what’s left of 2014, goes through all the appropriate stuff, and given everything works right. The question is in what year would you be making roughly a 100,000.00 a year?

Captain David Santo: That’s a great question, John. I think it’s really going to depend on the region of the country and the level of dedication to do what it takes to get that job. Let’s say that Flight School, if you commit yourself full time to going to an ab initio fight school, like the one we mentioned at Cochise College, you’re going to be done with your commercial multi-engine instrument type rating in under twelve months. Now you’re going to want to try to go offshore. If you’re looking for Airbus, Boeing experience if you take a two or three year contract offshore, you’re not going to make bad money by the way doing that. You’ll be back here probably four years down stream. You’ll be ready to enter a legacy or airline that’s flying Airbus’s or Boeing equipment. The entry level pay don’t quote my on this I think it’s somewhere around the 60,000.00 mark depending on what airline you go to. By your third year in the airline depending on you’re work habits, your at a six-figure income.

What are the academic requirements for airline pilots?

“What are the academic requirements for airline pilots?” “Do I have to have perfect grades in science and math?”

We ask Captain David Santo.

Paula Williams: What are the academic qualifications that are required for any of your programs or any programs that you know of?

Captain David Santo:  It’s not that challenging academically.  I know that people like to promote aviation as being a very tough career field.  It’s not.  You do have to be able to memorize.  You do have to be able to study and apply yourself.  You do need to be able to understand situationally the things that are going on around you.  Academic qualifications really almost anybody could be trained to fly, and I think if you’re of average intelligence and average academics, you’re going to successful if you apply yourself.

Paula Williams:  You don’t have to be a straight A student or be really fantastic at science or math or any of the things they told me with I was a kid?

Captain David Santo:  When I was growing up, Paula, they told me that I had be really good at math in school.  Now I think of the absurdity of we’re not really doing algebraic equations while we’re shooting an approach at 200 miles an hour.  If you can ad subtract, multiply, and divide, you’re probably fine on the math, and the science is not much different.

Paula Williams:  Right.  Okay.  That’s a relief to a lot of people an the line, myself included.

Is it Still a Good Career Choice to be an Airline Pilot?

We asked Captain David Santo if it is still a good career choice to be an airline pilot.  This was his answer:

Paula Williams:  Again, if you have a question, please feel free to enter it in the chat window.  We’ll start with some that we had.  Is it still a good career choice to be an airline pilot?

Career choice? British European Airways lapel badge
Does your career choice involve airline wings? – These are from British European Airways.

Captain David Santo:  Well, I think so.  I don’t think people choose to be airline pilots copilots because they think it’s a great career choice.  I think being an airline transport pilot is almost a calling.  It’s a passion.  I’ve dealt with so many pilots, including myself, that I didn’t know anybody in the industry as a child growing up.  My parents were not in the industry, but yet, if you ask my parents they will tell you that this is something I always said I wanted to do.  If you’re following a passion if it’s something you’ve dreamed about doing, it’s a great career choice.  
 That being said, Paula, probably right now is the best time we’ve seen in probably twenty years to be getting into the this career.  We went through a long lull in the industry, and like every cycle as that cycle comes out we’re now going to go into a very long cycle of strong growth, which means there’s going to be high demand and high demand means that there’s going to be career opportunities, betting pay, better benefits really for pilots all over the world.  I am very excited for the young people coming into the industry.  I’m excited for the people that are joining the industry later in their careers.  They want to make a career change in their 40’s or 50’s and become pilots.  Those opportunities are going to be there now too.

Paula Williams:  Excellent.  Well, it sounds like that’s good news.  I know there’s a lot of people who look at some of the old movies some of the old Pan AM ads and things like and they say being an airline pilot is not as glamorous as it used to be.  Is that true or what have you seen?

Captain David Santo:  Well, I think that’s probably a true statement.  It depend on where you’re at in the world.  Here in North America and Europe I don’t think the airline profession is particularly glamorous.  It’s not the Catch Me If You Can movie actor set, but some places of the world it’s still very highly respected career.  I even here in North America and in Europe it’s a very well-respected career.  It’s a well-paid career. Even more so as you accrue hours of flight experience.  I think there’s lots of benefits associated to it that I think the layman employee would not really have the options to do.  Glamorous I’m not sure if I know if it’s glamorous or not, but I would say it’s been a very fun career.  I’ve truly enjoyed it.

Paula Williams:  Right.  You still get to go lots of places.  I think its so great that an airline pilot flies everywhere and still have a lot of perks being able to travel to places even when they’re not working things that other professions maybe don’t have.

Captain David Santo:  If you’re a person who thinks that a career is doing a time card, punching a time card, coming to work at 8:00 in the morning, taking an hour lunch break, and leaving at 5:00, and doing that five days a week, I think that pilot jobs or an  aviation career  is going to be very glamorous job outlook.  We have the best window seat office view in the world at 35,000 feet.  We don’t punch a time card.  We have days off.  We have recurrent flight training, We have a very flexible and almost a very irregular schedule.  There’s a lot of things about it that if you’re something who doesn’t like to be in the mundane grind of every day at work, I think you’re going to find an airline career definitely not your average job.

Happy Halloween! Are You Afraid to Pursue your Aviation Career Dreams?

dreaming of an aviation career
Dreaming of an aviation career? Afraid to take the next step? Come to our free webinar and get your questions answered.

Are you afraid to pursue your aviation career dreams?

It’s interesting how sometimes what we want most and what we’re afraid of is sometimes the same thing.

In the U.S. and other parts of the world, Halloween is a time of year when kids dress up in scary costumes and go door-to-door. Neighbors hand out candy.

Sometimes kids dress up as what they want to be when they grow up. We see little cowboys, astronauts, famous athletes, or even airline pilots.

When I was a kid and I told people I wanted to be a pilot, well-meaning people (like aunts, uncles, and teachers) would say things like:

  • “You’re going to have to be very good at math. Pilots need to know a lot of math.”
  • “You know, they don’t make very much money anymore, and their schedules are crazy.”
  • “It’s very hard to get a job as a pilot in this economy.”


I could have let these things scare me, but when I thought about it, I realized that my aunts and uncles and teachers wanted the best for me, but they really didn’t know that much about being a pilot, because they’d never done it.

The best thing to do, I realized, was to ask people who were actually working at the job I wanted. They could tell me more about what it’s REALLY like.

Here’s your chance to ask your questions of a working airline captain:

David Santo has worked in private aviation and is now a Captain for a major U.S. airline. We will ask him first-hand the questions you want to ask:

  • Do you have to have perfect grades in school?
  • What is the salary and schedule really like?
  • How hard is it to get a job? And what can I do to maximize my chances?
  • And many others.

The online webinar is free, but we do have a limited number of seats, so click here to register today!

Have a question for Captain Dave?   Reply to this email! We’ll ask Captain Dave as many as we can during the session.



Coming to America . . .Helping Foreign Flight Students Navigate Entry into the United States

By Kim Jones

Foreign Flight StudentsTraveling to a new country can be daunting. Foreign flight students travel from their country to the United States, and  will experience some culture shock and might even feel a bit homesick. It’s an advantage to stay with someone who strives to make things easier and feel welcome by providing the caring support and services you need. The same holds true when choosing your flight training organization.

Good judgment when it comes to training means you pick the best value not the lowest price. You cannot rely on the price of your training alone. You need to look at your school of your choice to see what is provided in their total package. Look for a school that takes great pride in being a full-service Flight School. A school that considers not only the training event, but the student’s total training experience. A school that will help you navigate through the many checkpoints of entry into the United States.

At AeroStar we welcome customers from all over the globe. Our typical student is an aviation student who desires to become a pilot flying large jet aircraft. The AeroStar distinction is that we know what is required when it comes to visa and immigration issues to achieve this dream by attending training in the United States. AeroStar recognizes that these requirements to enter the United States are extensive and time consuming to you. We are there when you need that extra lift.

To ensure that international students are well equipped, AeroStar puts in the extra effort in assisting you through this demanding task and aids you in expediting processing. We have done this in part by generating an informational “flight plan.” This flight plan is specifically for foreign students attending AeroStar to successfully navigate the required course for entry into the United States for training at the AeroStar training center. This “flight plan” was developed by the experiences and suggestions of students who have attended AeroStar before you and now are flying jet aircraft for airlines around the world.

The flight plan has several “checkpoints” that each student must complete to begin their training at AeroStar. These checkpoints are required by the United States government to ensure that the student is properly vetted and meets the requirements set forth by United States laws and regulations. These checkpoints are cumbersome and confusing if you do not choose a training school that has the first hand experience and is highly qualified in dealing with the different government departments of the United States. It is so important to select a school that is committed to helping you complete these requirements in a timely and acceptable manner to prevent being denied entry in the United States.

Some of these checkpoints are items such as being processed to receive an I-20 document to begin the visa application process. AeroStar is one of the few advance aircraft training organizations approved to provide you with this document. Another checkpoint is the process of receiving approval through the Alien Flight Student Program administered by the Transportation Security Administration. Other checkpoints deal with how to properly contact and schedule an interview at an US embassy or consulate in your home country. Several more checkpoints deal directly with entering the US and what to expect in this process. Finally, what to do when you have arrived in the United States to begin your jet training. In addition, throughout the “flight plan” AeroStar will provide you with more detailed information as necessary and be there to answer the hard questions that arise by working closely with all the Federal agencies involved to ensure that your interests are represented.

This flight plan is one of the many ways AeroStar is there for you along the journey to your aviation career. Just remember the team members here at AeroStar take great pride in providing you the best training experience in the world and the benchmark for which you will measure all of your future training events in your aviation career. The training you will receive from AeroStar will lay a foundation for building a successful career.

We look forward to helping your aviation dreams become a reality!

Piloting Adventures – the Vintage Airways DC3

by Scott Patton

Piloting adventures - the Vintage Airways DC3 - vintage advertisement Piloting adventures - the Vintage Airways DC3 - advertisement Piloting adventures - the Vintage Airways DC3 Piloting adventures - the Vintage Airways DC3 - Vintage NoseartMy greatest thrill as an airline pilot was not at thirty five thousand feet on autopilot, but rather at the controls of the legendary DC-3 at  eight hundred feet flying out of the west at sunset in a two ship formation and peeling off overhead Key West on a champagne sunset flight as WWII era music played in the cabin.

I had the honor of flying tine DC-3 for a WWII themed tour operator from Orlando to Key West, with fly bys of the Kennedy Space Center and champagne sunset flights over Key West. The theme celebrated VE Day, May 8, 1945, complete with period uniforms, actual Life Magazines and fabulous “Big Band” music set to each leg of the flight.

I will admit, with every takeoff, as those huge 1350 horse power radial engines roared into the sky, and the sound of Benny Goodman music played in the background, there  was a smile on my face every time!

Now as an instructor for AeroStar, I get to introduce people to this fantastic career opportunity. You may get to fly a DC3. You may be flying spacecraft in the future!  We never know what adventures await our students in the future.

What we do know for sure is that your future is much brighter when you prepare and invest in your skills and abilities to do what you love.

We look forward to seeing you in class, and helping your aviation career dreams take flight!


Stories from Our Students and Graduates – First Officer Kenian Jabbour

As the Admissions Director of AeroStar, I learn a lot about our students and their careers.

Stories from our students and graduatesThe career path for pilots has changed in the last few years.  The career path used to be something like this:

  1. Get your multi-engine and commercial license
  2. Become a CFI
  3. Build time as an instructor
  4. Work for a Regional Airline or 121 to build more time
  5. Apply to a major airline or for a corporate flight department

Airlines were also willing to pay for type rating training for new hires.

A more typical (and better!) career path for today’s pilots goes like this:

  1. Get your multi-engine and commercial license
  2. Get your A320 or b737 type rating from AeroStar
  3. Get hired by an overseas airline (many of whom are hiring our graduates!)
  4. Get paid while you build time
  5. Apply for a major U.S. airline (if you like.)

Many of our students do exactly this.

It is good to see people who are so excited about their success.

A few months ago, Kenian Jabbour had had his doubts about our program.   His crew partner was getting his flight training at a competing academy (PanAm) and had been quoted a lower price than AeroStar was offering.   But Keenan toured our facility, compared the quality of the program, and started with us.

Kenian spent 10 days on site with us getting his a320 type rating.   He was hired as a first officer for an airline, and recently stopped by our office while his aircraft was being fueled. They had just returned from France and were planning a trip to Casablanca.

Since then, his crew partner has actually spent MORE money on additional training and was still working on his type rating.

Why do AeroStar students get hired?

  1. Our students stand out from the pack by showing that they’ve made a smart investment in their career.
  2. Our students save time for the airlines because they are already fluent and proficient and no additional training is needed.

A big thank you to Sunrise Aviation for helping students like Kenian get started and referring them to AeroStar for advanced flight training. Together we help aviation career dreams take flight!