Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2020 issue
After years of steady growth, Accelerated Aviation Instruction (AAI) has moved their operation from Albert Lea Municipal Airport (KAEL) in Albert Lea, Minnesota to Owatonna Degner Regional Airport (KOWA) in Owatonna, Minnesota. AAI president and chief flight instructor, Jim Jacobson, said “We simply outgrew the facilities at Albert Lea. We now have four times the classroom space, larger offices and a heated hangar connected directly to the flight school.”
The move to Owatonna not only provided the much-needed space, it also allowed Accelerated Aviation Instruction to upgrade its fleet of training aircraft and modernize its avionics. Accelerated Aviation Instruction’s newest purchase is a Sport Cruiser with dual Dynon displays and a Garmin 650, fresh from the factory.
“The Owatonna Planning Board and the Owatonna Airport Commission, along with airport manager, Dave Beaver, have been great to work with,” said Jacobson.
Owatonna is a great training airport as it has an ILS, the Halfway VOR, and RNAV GPS approaches. Both are great navigational aids in instrument training. Jacobson comments, “I know that we take more of an old school approach to flight training, but I don’t want to create more children of the magenta line. With instrument training, it is much easier to go from round gauges to glass than the other way around.”
Owatonna is less than an hour from Minneapolis/St. Paul for gaining experience in Class B airspace, and within close proximity to Rochester International Airport for Class D experience. As a somewhat quiet airport, pilots are usually number one for takeoff, negating time-consuming delays on the taxiway. The airport is just north of the city of Owatonna on Interstate 35. At the entrance of the airport are three T-38s in U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds colors in a starburst formation.
Flight training is not a new venture for Jim Jacobson. He was a flight instructor and adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University (MSU), Mankato in the late 1990s. While at Mankato, he also coached the MSU flight team and was a member of the Mankato Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. Jacobson instructed at MN Aviation, located in Albert Lea in early 2000, then in mid-2000, he flew freight for PacAir out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In 2007, he rejoined MN Aviation as chief pilot and general manager. He took over the flight school in Albert Lea in 2015 and rebranded it Accelerated Aviation Instruction.
As the business grew, Jacobson found it increasingly challenging to instruct full-time and also attend to all the other issues of running a business. In May of 2019, Clayton Peterson became a partner as business director and part-time flight instructor. Peterson has remained an active CFI for over 30 years.
When Peterson was in college, his two loves were aviation and agriculture. At that time the job market was so tight it was almost impossible to find a job as an airline pilot. His business experience, combined with his knowledge of aviation, makes him an invaluable asset to the company.
As you walk into AAI’s new facilities, you enter from the parking lot, directly into the reception area which includes a large classroom and flight planning area. Down the hall to the right is a spacious room for their flight simulator, a Redbird LD. This flight simulator can be configured as a twin-engine airplane with the traditional gauges and a Garmin 430 and 530, or it can be set up as a Cessna 172 with a Garmin G1000. The Redbird LD simulator has been authorized by the FAA as an Advanced Aircraft Training Device (AATD). The hours logged in this simulator can fulfill up to 20 hours needed for the Instrument Rating, and for up to 50 of the 250 hours required for the Commercial Pilot Certificate. Just down the hall from the sim is a room with cubicles for individual ground instruction. To the left from the grand room are Jim and Clayton’s offices, then down the hall is another large classroom. This room is many times used for CFI classes. Continuing on from there is a large common area with a great view of the airport. Another great feature of the Owatonna facilities is there’s room to grow!
Jim Jacobson is a big believer in accelerated training. He has experienced both hourly training with his time at Minnesota State University and with accelerated training at the former MN Aviation, and now with his own flight school, Accelerated Aviation Instruction.
Jacobson comments: “I have taught flight training both ways – the slow, part-time method over a period of several months, and the accelerated format. I prfer accelerated training much more!
“Progress is so much faster when you can work with the student all day, every day. They have dedicated the time and money to achieve their next milestone in aviation. Students isolate themselves from all the distractions that life and family can throw at them (at least for a short while). This is the way the airlines and the military have successfully trained pilots for decades, so it just makes sense that general aviation does as well.”
Jacobson does caution students that they cannot just take one of the accelerated courses and forget it. “They must keep reviewing, practicing and honing their aviation skills to stay safe and proficient.”
Accelerated Aviation Instruction can help alleviate some of the obstacles to completing flight training.
Time: One of the main reasons people drop out of flight training is that it takes too long going the conventional route. Students either lose interest, or they do not feel like they are making progress. If there’s too much time between flight lessons, they have to repeat lessons previously learned, which significantly adds to their training time and cost. The FAA requirement for the Private Pilot Certificate is 40 hours of flight time. The national average is 75 to 80 hours. At Accelerated Aviation Instruction, the average is 45 hours, with 50 hours on the high side.
Cost: You don’t have to be a genius to realize as the number of hours of flight and ground instruction increase, so do your costs increase. Many people quit because the cost of the flight training greatly exceeds the amount they budgeted for. AAI’s price structure is based on their years of experience.
Scheduling: A recent student completed his flight training at AAI because at his previous flight school, either his instructor or the aircraft was not available. The more training is delayed, the more lessons that will have to be reviewed or repeated.
Distractions: To use an old cliché, “Life sometimes gets in the way.” As important as family, friends and work are, many times interruptions are unavoidable. Because the training at AAI is concentrated, daily distractions can be avoided.
To borrow a quote from Steven Covey, “A goal is a dream with a time limit.” We don’t always hit our time limit, but we are much closer than if we say, “Someday, I am going to do this,” and we never get around to doing it. As we all know, “Someday” is the essence of procrastination.”
In aviation, as well as life in general, the most successful people are the ones who are Contrarians. In short, when everyone walks, you run, and when everyone else runs, you walk. Currently in aviation, it looks like there’s a big slowdown in hiring. So now is the time you should be working to get all the ratings and certificates you need to be competitive in the job market when things start to rebound, and they will.