Professional Aeronautics Certificate (PAC)


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DESCRIPTION

The Professional Aeronautics Certificate (PAC) is a 21-month (two academic years) accelerated program designed for students seeking a fast-track pathway to a professional flying career. The PAC program is certified under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 61, and using best-in-class technology, the PAC program positions graduates ahead of their peers by training them on the most advanced equipment available.  

Specifically, students will learn to fly in Cirrus SR20 technologically advanced aircraft (TAA). Students will also learn to fly in advanced aviation training devices (AATDs) certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with Garmin G1000, the most advanced avionics system in general aviation. The program leverages Boeing’s Jeppesen flight-training syllabus and Boeing’s ForeFlight® electronic flight bag (EFB) system, which is general aviation’s most sophisticated in-cockpit information resource (see “Equipment” section below for full details).

Educational components include ground school, flight training, and home study, all of which are critical to gaining employment as a professional aviator. The total time commitment for the PAC program is approximately 20 hours per week while enrolled and is designed to facilitate exciting career opportunities for traditional college students, returning adult students seeking a career change, military Veterans, and high-school juniors and seniors who want to dual enroll and get started early to capitalize on an explosive hiring market in professional aviation.

The PAC program progresses students through ground-school courses and flight training to earn the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licenses and ratings required to become professional aviators. In this program, students earn their private-pilot license in the first fall semester and their instrument flight rating in the second semester (spring).  Summer is spent building hours and there is no ground school.  In year two, students will earn their commercial-pilot licenses during fall semester and their certified flight instructor (CFI) and certified flight instructor instrument (CFII) ratings.  After graduation in May of year two, all graduates will be offered an interview to be hired as instructor pilots at Wisconsin Aviation.  Those who are offered positions will spend the next 18-24 months building 1500 hours to qualify for airline employment.

During the first two 16-week semesters, ground school will meet from 6:00pm to 9:00pm CT one night per week on a day to be determined (TBD), and each student will be assigned a 2.5-hour time block, first come, first served, on Mon, Wed, and Fri (MWF) or Tues, Thurs, and Sat (TThS).  Students will be expected to be at the airport every other day 5 minutes BEFORE the start of their flight time, which will be 7:00a - 9:30a CT, 9:30a - 12:00p CT, 12:30p - 3:00p CT, or 3:00p - 5:30p CT. Make-up flights will be scheduled on Sundays and whenever extra flight spots open, so students who enroll in this program are expected to be 100% committed at all hours of the day, seven days per week., and a strict attendance policy will be enforced to ensure successful program completion and to maintain a core of students who are committed to the work ethic needed to secure great careers in professional aviation.  Second-year ground school will also be one day per week for three (3) hours at a time to be determined (TBD), and the same 2.5-hour flight blocks listed above will be assigned MWF or TTHS on a first-come, first-served basis.

PAC graduates will typically enter the aviation workforce as certified flight instructors eligible to be hired by Wisconsin Aviation as well as other flight schools in Wisconsin and around the United States. Flight instructors typically spend 18-24 months teaching private, instrument, and commercial students, building flight time and gaining valuable experience required to qualify for commercial pilot jobs with corporate flight departments, air freight operators, regional/national commercial airlines, or other professional aviation careers.

PROGRAM DEVELOPER AND PAC MANAGER

ChrisJohnsonProf. Chris Johnson, PhD, CFI, CFII, MEI
Prior to becoming Program Manager for the Madison College Professional Aeronautics Certificate (PAC), Dr. Chris Johnson was an Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is the world's largest aviation university.  He is an Air Force Veteran, commercial pilot, and certified flight instructor (CFI) with instructor-instrument (CFII) and multi-engine instructor (MEI) ratings.  He earned a PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2012 where he worked for over 12 years and built the foundation of the PAC program.  Dr. Johnson also owns www.PilotTrainingSystem.com, which is the aviation industry's only FREE online ground school with nearly 70,000 YouTube subscribers, and www.ClimaDrive.com, which is an advanced weather simulator developed with FAA research funding to teach pilots to make safer decisions.  Pilot Training System and ClimaDrive are integrated into the PAC program along with the most advanced trainer aircraft and flight simulators (see details below) to produce the industry's most highly qualified graduates who will be sought after by airlines and corporate flight departments.

FLIGHT SCHOOL MANAGER

ChuckAllenMr. Mike Jacobs, CFI, CFII
Mike’s passion for flying began in 1989 when his employer at the time sent him on a commercial flight to California. He started flight training soon after and obtained both his private and instrument certifications in 9 months, which is the same, accelerated timeline that he has helped build into the Professional Aeronautics Program explained below. In his early career, Mike owned an out-of-town business and would fly himself back and forth between home and work. Mike fully embraces the value of using aviation as a productivity asset for business leaders, and he brings that mindset to the flight-training culture of Wisconsin Aviation. After many years working in various managerial positions, Mike retired and obtained his commercial pilot license and certified flight instructor (CFI) with an instructor-instrument (CFII) rating to pursue his passion for flying and to teach flight lessons full time. Mike began his career with Wisconsin Aviation in January of 2015, and he became the Manager of Wisconsin Aviation’s Flight School in early 2022.

GROUND COURSE INSTRUCTOR

HannahSilberDr. Hannah Silber, PhD
Dr. Silber taught as a teaching assistant for a few years (2015 - 2018) while finishing her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). She is now in her 5th academic year of teaching at UW and serves in a Teaching Faculty role in the Industrial & Systems Engineering Department as part of a career track for becoming a Full Teaching Professor. During her 5 years of teaching, Dr. Silber has built courses from scratch at UW. She has taught a private-pilot ground school at Brodhead Airport and an instrument ground school at Wisconsin Aviation, and she taught the private-pilot ground school that is part of this Professional Aeronautics Certification program when it was housed at UW in 2018. Hannah uses in-class simulation and has created various blended-learning activities and content to help simplify and solidify complex concepts for her students. She uses immersive teaching methods in her engineering courses as well as her ground-school courses, and she has an impressive 98% endorsement rate for students applying to take their FAA written exams. Dr. Silber is passionate about helping her students prepare for their oral exams and FAA check rides, and she strives to help students truly understand the abundance of complex material that is required to be a competent and safe pilot.

COURSES

MATC-TruaxThe total program cost is estimated to be $119,678 (see "Cost" section below), but actual costs will be determined by the flight hours required for each student to achieve flight proficiency in each course. Ground school will be taught at Madison College’s Truax campus. Flight training is provided by Wisconsin Aviation’s Flight School, located at 3606 Corben Court, Madison, WI, just north of the campus on the East Ramp at Dane County Regional Airport (formerly known as Truax Field).

Private Pilot Certificate, Airplane
The first semester of the PAC program is designed for students to earn their FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Students will study all subjects necessary to become a private pilot. Lecture topics include aircraft structure, mechanical systems, flight instruments and avionics, aerodynamics, aircraft performance, aviation meteorology, airport operations, navigation, aeromedical factors, rules, and regulations. The blended learning format allows for in-depth subject matter discussion centered around PC-based simulation scenarios with classroom presentation of aviation principles taught online via eLearning. 

Instrument Rating, Airplane
The second semester of the PAC program is designed for students to earn an airplane Instrument Rating. During this semester, students will study the subjects necessary to become an instrument-rated pilot so that they can legally fly in clouds and under other restricted visibility conditions. Lecture topics include Federal Aviation Regulations applicable to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR); air traffic control; IFR navigation; IFR enroute and instrument approach procedures; aviation weather reports, forecasts, and observations; hazardous weather detection and avoidance; safe and efficient operations under IFR rules in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC); aeronautical decision making; and crew resource management. The blended learning format allows for in-depth subject matter discussion centered around PC-based simulation scenarios featuring classroom presentations of aviation principles taught online via eLearning. 

FemaleAirlinePilotCommercial Pilot, Airplane
The third semester of the PAC program is designed for students to earn a Commercial Pilot Certificate for airplanes. During this semester, students will study to master those subjects necessary to become a commercial pilot. The commercial pilot certification is the minimum level of qualification required by the FAA in order to work for compensation transporting cargo or passengers, as well as performing other operations such as aerial surveying, air tours, skydiving operations, search and rescue, and many more. Lecture topics include Federal Aviation Regulations applicable to commercial pilot privileges, limitations, and flight operations, as well as more in-depth advanced coverage of the topics learned during the first two semesters.  

Certified Flight Instructor + Instrument Instructor
The fourth and final semester of the four-course PAC program is designed for students to become FAA Certified Flight Instructors (CFI) with an Instrument Instructor (CFII) airplane rating. During the course, students study the subjects necessary to become flight instructors capable of teaching other student pilots pursuing their own certificates and ratings. This course focuses on the fundamentals of instruction and teaches students how to develop lesson plans and teach the subject matter they themselves previously learned during their own training. At the end of this semester, students will be qualified to take the commercial pilot, CFI, and CFII written and practical examinations and thus complete the PAC Program. Successful graduates are then able to become employed by any FAA-sanctioned flight school as an instructor where they'll be able to build hours toward the 1,500 hours of flight experience required to apply for an ATP certificate required to fly for scheduled air carriers. This period normally requires 18-24 months of full-time instruction work.  

EQUIPMENT

N814 panel

Students in this program will be trained using Garmin avionics, and the Cirrus SR20s used for flight training (cockpit shown above) Equipment2are equipped with Garmin 400 and 500-series GPS systems and autopilots. The Cirrus SR20 is a high-tech trainer aircraft, and it comes equipped with a parachute system that can be deployed during certain emergency situations, which is a safety benefit that is unique to this aircraft. TAAs are the most sophisticated available for ab initio flight training to prepare future pilots to operate today's commercial airliners and corporate jet aircraft. These high-performance planes include modern avionics suites and other advanced operating systems, helping to ensure that graduates are highly sought-after recruits by regional air carriers and corporate flight departments.

The PAC program also employs an Elite PI-1000 flight simulator. Students are able to log flight time in this FAA-certified advanced aviation training device (AATD) that simulates Garmin G1000 avionics. The AATD is certified for students to log up to 20 hours of flight time for their instrument rating and up to 50 hours toward their commercial pilot license.

Equipment4Finally, the PAC program utilizes electronic flight bag (EFB) technology whereby students flight with their own personal iPad loaded with the market-leading EFB application, ForeFlight (see ForeFlight's website here). ForeFlight runs in Apple iPads and is the most advanced electronic flight bag software available. It allows for holistic flight planning, in-flight navigation, flight logging and records and documents management, so our students begin flying just like the professionals from day one.

COST

The cost of the program, which includes ground-school tuition, approximately 255 hours of flight time, and course materials is estimated to be under $120,000 per student. Each semester, flight fees and ground-school tuition must be paid to Wisconsin Aviation prior to enrollment (approximately 25% of total program cost per semester). The cost breakdown is as follows:

Course Tuition + Syllabus Flight Fees Exam Fees Other Fees TOTAL
Private Pilot $590 + $100 $20,704 $200 + $800 $1240 (EFB) + $1400 (Headset) $25,034
Instrument Pilot $590 + $100 $25,433 $200 + 800 N/A $27,123
Commercial Pilot $590 $26,429 $200 + $800 $240 (EFB) $27,669
Instructor Pilot $590 $19,350 $2700 N/A $22,640
Multi-Engine (ME) N/A $7,993 $200 + $900 $240 (EFB) $9,333
ME Time Building N/A $7,878 N/A N/A 7,878
          $119,677
FAQs

What’s the job market for professional pilots?
Right now is an ideal time to start flight training.  The pilot-shortage crisis that the industry faced in 2017, 2018, and 2019 returned in 2023, and the workforce shortage that is forecasted for the foreseeable future is prompting airlines to pay higher salaries while lowering entry-level minimums. The PAC program is a 21-month program, after which graduates become instructor pilots for another 18-24 months.  Once they have gained those all-important flight hours (1,500 hours minimum), they can qualify to apply for an Airline Transport (ATP) rating, making them eligible to be hired by airlines in less than four years from the program start date.

What is a typical career pathway?
CirrusTrainingAfter graduation, most students typically work at flight schools training other students while gaining the flight experience required to meet minimum qualifications for the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating, an FAA requirement for scheduled air carrier pilots and corporate aviation departments operating jet aircraft. Wisconsin Aviation Flight School will certainly be looking to retain a good percentage of the graduates for training subsequent classes of student pilots enrolled in the PAC Program. Based on national averages, flight instructors can expect to earn $32,000-$45,000 per year plus benefits, and after 18-24 months of flight instructing, graduates typically move on to be first officers at regional airlines and charter flight departments, earning salaries of approximately $80,000 per year starting pay plus benefits and a signing bonus.  Career pilots enjoy yearly raises and career progression that put the average salary after two years at over $122,000 per year, and captains of international airlines earn $300,000+ per year working 10-13 days per month.

How are commercial pilots different from airline pilots?
Airline pilots fly scheduled passenger or cargo flights and must hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating, the highest FAA pilot rating. However, all pilots must first start by earning their private pilot license, getting an instrument rating (to fly in the clouds and low visibility), and then obtain a commercial pilot certificate before they can apply for an ATP rating. There is also a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience required to hold an ATP, so commercial pilots most often choose to become flight instructors and then work at a school teaching new pilots while building their hours before taking the ATP exam.

Why choose this program over a 2-year or 4-year degree?
This program is an accelerated, targeted, vocational program for aspiring professional aviators. Whether you are a high school student whose dream it is to be an airline captain or a returning adult student looking for an exciting new career path, this part-time program (estimated time commitment of 20 hours/week) affords the flexibility to work/study or simultaneously pursue a degree while working towards a professional aviation career.

How much does this program cost?
The cost of the program, which includes ground-school tuition, approximately 255 hours of flight time, and course materials is estimated to be under $120,000 per student. Each semester, flight fees and ground-school tuition must be paid to Wisconsin Aviation prior to enrollment (approximately 25% of total program cost per semester). The cost breakdown is as follows:

Course Tuition + Syllabus Flight Fees Exam Fees Other Fees TOTAL
Private Pilot $590 + $100 $20,704 $200 + $800 $1240 (EFB) + $1400 (Headset) $25,034
Instrument Pilot $590 + $100 $25,433 $200 + 800 N/A $27,123
Commercial Pilot $590 $26,429 $200 + $800 $240 (EFB) $27,669
Instructor Pilot $590 $19,350 $2700 N/A $22,640
Multi-Engine (ME) N/A $7,993 $200 + $900 $240 (EFB) $9,333
ME Time Building N/A $7,878 N/A N/A 7,878
          $119,677


How does the cost compare to other similar flight programs?
We encourage our students to compare prices because we are confident that ours is one of the most competitive in the market. The PAC program allows students to minimize both time and cost in achieving their professional pilot qualifications. Similar programs in the Midwest that offer premier flight training in the SR20 include Purdue University and Western Michigan University. These programs cost nearly twice as much money and take twice as long to complete. Although these programs are designed to provide a college diploma, their four-year duration and costs greatly exceed that of the PAC. In fact, the two largest flight schools in the United States, Embry-Riddle and the University of North Dakota, cost between $250,000 and $350,000 to complete and require four years' minimum of full-time commitment. Our 21-month program can be completed in less than half the time and costs less than half the amount of these programs, and our graduates can simultaneously pursue any degree they choose and/or work part time during training and still make it to the airlines a full two years before graduates of these competing programs.

What does a weekly schedule look like?
This program is built to maintain 9-12 hours of contact learning with instructors each week, and it is expected that students will spend at least another ten (10) hours of personal home study and flight preparation, for an estimated 20 hours per week on average. Students will spend three (3) hours in class one day per week. Additionally, students will be scheduled for three (3) 2.5-hour flight lessons each week. While the ground school courses are scheduled according to the academic calendar at Madison College, the flight training will not (i.e., no lengthy "breaks"). Students will coordinate closely with their instructor on scheduling, and staying on track will require commitment to work around schedule interruptions with variances caused by such things as weather and aircraft maintenance. Students should be prepared to make up cancelled flight lessons on any day of the week, including Sundays if required. Other outside commitments will need to be scheduled accordingly, and students must be flexible and ready to fly when the weather and aircraft availability allows.

How do I finance this?
Unfortunately, government-backed loans are not an option for flight training because they are for other strictly academic programs. However, some banks, credit unions, and private lenders offer loans for aspiring professional aviators, and some airlines are offering sign-on bonuses big enough to pay back loans in full.  Be sure to contact your preferred lenders as well as ours:  Flight Training Finance (https://www.flighttrainingfinancellc.com/) and Stratus Financial (https://stratus.finance/apply-pilot-student-loan/). Eligibility depends on your credit history and in many cases requires a qualified co-signer. Scholarships and grants are also available at https://www.wisconsinaviation.com/flight-school-rentals/aviation-scholarships-grantswww.FlightScholarship.info, https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/learn-to-fly/aviation-scholarships, https://www.natafoundation.org/education/scholarships/, and https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/doing-bus/aeronautics/education/aved-scholar.aspx. Also, seek out non-aviation scholarships that may consider and reward your background, interests, and community service.

Can I use my GI Bill/Veteran benefits?
Unfortunately, GI Bill benefits cannot currently be used for flight fees under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 61, but we are working to achieve the requisite FAR Part 141 certification that will allow GI Bill benefits to be used for flight fees.

Are there physical/medical limitations to becoming a pilot?
Yes! All students must obtain a Class 1 medical certification and submit a copy to Wisconsin Aviation prior to enrolling in this program.  A Class 1 medical certification ensures future employment as Airline Transport Pilots (ATPs), so applicants who need a Class 1 medical should contact Dr. Ashley Anderson at ashley.anderson1@mac.com immediately before his schedule fills up because students are required to submit a copy of their Class 1 medical prior to enrollment in this program.

Is insurance required?
Currently, Wisconsin Aviation provides insurance coverage for students renting their aircraft for dual flight instruction or solo plane rental. Specific coverage details can be provided by the flight school.

How do I sign up?
CLICK HERE to apply.