The Professional Aeronautics Certificate (PAC) is a 21-month (four academic semesters) accelerated program designed for students seeking a fast-track pathway to a flying career as a professional pilot. The PAC program includes ground courses and flight training for private pilot certification, instrument flight rating, commercial pilot certification, certified flight instructor certificate, and instrument instructor rating. Students enrolled in the program should plan to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week for ground school, flight training, and home study during two (2) academic years, completing the program in approximately 21 months. Program graduates will be FAA certified as flight instructors eligible to be hired by Wisconsin Aviation as well as other flight schools in Wisconsin and around the United States. Graduates then, commonly, will spend 18-24 months as instructor pilots teaching others, 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.
Students interested in enrolling should click here.
GROUND COURSE INSTRUCTOR
Dr. Charles Edward Allen
"Chuck" is a 17-year Veteran and retired Major of the Air National Guard with over 3,600 flight hours of flight experience. During his Air Guard service, he flew Cessna Citations, Boeing 727s, and the KC135 Air Refueling Tanker, including 23 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm.
Additionally, Chuck is a retired physician after 25 years in family practice in the Milwaukee area. A DPI-certified broad-field science and chemistry teacher, Dr. Allen has served as an Associate Lecturer in the UW-Milwaukee system since 2007, teaching chemistry and biochemistry to medical students.
As a general aviation pilot, he has both FAA flight and ground instructor certificates with more than ten years' experience as an aviation instructor in several different light aircraft types. Chuck is employed as a part-time instructor pilot with Wisconsin Aviation and is the Chief Pilot for New Beginnings Aviation Ministry, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching teenagers to fly and promoting aviation as a career path.
Dr. Allen is an experienced, enthusiastic instructor committed to promoting success through education. He has dedicated himself to helping teens and young adults understand that their best path to achievement is found in learning. He is passionate in sharing his love of flight and the potential that a career in aviation holds for individuals willing to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence.
Ground school is taught at Madison College’s Truax campus. Flight training is provided by Wisconsin Aviation’s Flight School, located 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. In addition to the ground course tuition fee paid to Madison College, students will be paying flight training fees to Wisconsin Aviation for the practical airplane training required to earn a private pilot certificate. Flight fees are estimated to be approximately $15,000 for 60 hours of flight training time in a Cirrus SR20 but can vary, depending on how long it actually takes for the student to master each flight lesson and achieve proficiency.
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. In addition to the ground course tuition fee paid to Madison College, students will be paying flight training fees to Wisconsin Aviation for the practical airplane training required to earn an instrument rating. Flight fees are estimated to be approximately $15,000 for 60 hours of flight training time in a Cirrus SR20 but can vary, depending on how long it actually takes for the student to master each flight lesson and achieve proficiency.
Commercial 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. In addition to the ground course tuition fee paid to Madison College, students will be paying flight training fees to Wisconsin Aviation for the practical airplane training required to earn a Commercial Pilot Certificate. Flight fees are estimated to be approximately $17,500 for 70 hours of flight training time in a Cirrus SR20 but can vary, depending on how long it actually takes for the student to master each flight lesson and achieve proficiency.
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. In addition to the ground course tuition fee paid to Madison College, students will be paying flight training fees to Wisconsin Aviation for the practical airplane training required to earn instructor certificates. Flight fees are estimated to be approximately $15,000 for 60 hours of flight training time in a Cirrus SR20 but can vary, depending on how long it actually takes for the student to master each flight lesson and achieve proficiency.
The aircraft used in the PAC program is the Cirrus SR20. The airplane is classified by the FAA as a Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) with cockpits similar to those pictured above. As training airplanes, TAAs are the most sophisticated platforms available 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. Students in this program will need to have a personal iPad for flying and will use ForeFlight (see ForeFlight's website here), the most advanced electronic flight bag software available, just like the professionals.
Click here for more information on the Cirrus SR20.
The cost of the program, which includes ground-school tuition and approximately 250 hours of flight fees, is estimated to be $65,000 per student. The total cost of tuition paid to Madison College for ground school is $2,116 ($529/semester), and flight-training fees, which are paid directly to Wisconsin Aviation, are estimated at $62,500. The hourly aircraft rental rate for the SR20 is $210/hour, and the flight instructor fee is $59/hour. Flight fees for each semester are estimated as follows: Semester 1 - $15,000 for 60 flight hours; Semester 2 - $15,000 for 60 flight hours; Semester 3 - $17,500 for 70 flight hours; Semester 4 - $15,000 for 60 flight hours. Other expenses include an iPad, aviation headset, electronic flight bag software, aeronautical charts, flight calculator, and exam fees. All additional requirements are detailed in each course syllabus. Financing may be available for those who qualify (see FAQs below for financing details).
What’s the job market for professional pilots?
Right now is an ideal time to start flight training, with most industry experts forecasting the pilot-shortage crisis that the industry faced in 2017, 2018, and 2019 to return by the latter part of 2022 or first part of 2023. The PAC program is a 21-month program, meaning student pilots beginning now will complete training by mid-2022 and then go on to be 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 needed for employment with scheduled air carriers or corporate flight departments and be ready by 2024, when airlines will likely begin actively recruiting again to meet the demand for qualified pilots.
What is a typical career pathway?
After 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 between $30,000-$35,000 per year plus benefits. Once employed with a regional carrier as a first officer, one can expect to be making $60,000-$65,000 per year and $80,000+ upon advancing to captain. Pilots working for major air carriers like American, Delta, United, and Southwest can expect to make over $100,000 per year, with senior captains earning well in excess of $200,000 annually.
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?
In addition to Madison College tuition of $2,116 ($529/semester; click here to sign up), flight fees have been estimated at $62,500 over the course of two academic years. This estimate is based on 250 total hours of training (dual and solo) and will increase if additional dual training hours are required to achieve proficiency. The total amount of training required cannot be precisely predicted and is somewhat dependent upon an individual's natural aptitude, commitment to study, and retention of the information presented. During training instructor pilots will be conducting ongoing assessments, and there will be stage checks along the way as the program proceeds. This allows both the instructor and student to make a judgement as to whether there is a good probability of successful completion before expending large amounts on flight fees. Wisconsin Aviation employs a multi-disbursement payment structure with deposits made on account, drawn down as flight lessons are conducted, replenished as funds are depleted without going negative, and all unused funds returned at conclusion of training.
Are there other expenses?
Other expenses include the cost of an iPad, aviation headset, electronic flight bag software, aeronautical charts, flight calculator, and exam fees.
How does the cost compare to other similar flight programs?
The singularly focused 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 TAA include Purdue University and Western Michigan University. 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 well over $100,000 to complete and require four years' minimum of full-time commitment. Our 21-month, half-time program costs far less, 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.
Why do I need to make a $10,000 deposit?
The $10,000 deposit is required to secure your flight slot. There are a limited number of positions available for flight training, so we need to be assured that each student enrolling is 100% committed to completing the PAC program and is financially prepared to manage the expenses associated with practical flight training. Students should be prepared to expend a minimum of $62,500 in flight training fees (plus the additional expenses mentioned earlier) over the 21-month timeline. Your $10,000 deposit is required in order to be admitted into the program and will be deposited into an individual account with Wisconsin Aviation. The account will be debited at the end of each lesson and is required to be replenished when necessary to avoid going negative as training is conducted. Flight training services cannot be provided if the account goes negative and will result in a delay in training or dismissal from the program. There may be a limited number of work-study opportunities available for students interested in Customer Service Representative or Line Technician positions at Wisconsin Aviation as they have openings (inquire within), and those positions may provide discounted flight training costs with a required minimum number of hours worked each week.
What does a weekly schedule look like?
Students will spend four (4) hours in-classroom (or via distanced eLearning) time each week, normally two hours on Tuesday and Thursday (exact time schedule TBD) and should plan to be scheduled for an average of three (3) flight lessons each week (approx. 6 hours total). 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. The approximately ten (10) hours of contact learning with instructors will usually mean at least another ten (10) hours of personal home study and flight preparation, for an estimated 20 hours per week on average. Other outside commitments will need to be scheduled accordingly, and students must be flexible and ready to fly when the weather and flight schedule allow.
How do I finance this?
Unfortunately, government-backed loans are not an option for flight training as they are for other strictly academic programs. Some banks, credit unions, and private lenders offer loans for aspiring professional aviators. In addition to your own local banker, be sure to contact corporate lenders such as Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, and Lending Tree, all of which have specific loan programs geared toward aviation schools. Eligibility depends on your credit history and in many cases requires a qualified co-signor. Other resources include AOPA Aviation Finance and Pilot Finance. There is information available regarding scholarships and grants that may be available at FlightScholarship.info and on AOPA/NATA's websites. 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, not at this time as this training is currently provided under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 61.
Are there physical/medical limitations to becoming a pilot?
Yes! A person must be able to pass a Class 3 FAA medical exam to become a private pilot. Commercial pilots typically require a Class 2 medical, and ATP pilots usually require a Class 1 medical (see the FAA website for more details: https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/get/). DO NOT COMPLETE a MedXPress application before consulting a qualified physician. Individuals who have a history of medical illness and have or are currently taking medication are advised to ask Wisconsin Aviation for a referral. These individuals will want to consult an FAA-certified Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) who is an expert in these circumstances.
A listing of AMEs can be found here: https://designee.faa.gov/#/designeeLocator (Designee Type = AME) to inquire about your eligibility to become a professional pilot. More information about prohibited medications can be found here: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/aam/ame/guide/pharm/dni_dnf/ and here: https://www.aviationmedicine.com/medication-database/
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?
First, enroll for the ground course at Madison College. Once enrolled, contact Wisconsin Aviation, present proof of enrollment with Madison College, and submit the required $10,000 flight fee deposit to the flight school. Students interested in signing up, click here.
How do I pay flight fees?
After enrolling in a course at the link provided above, contact Lisa Braun (firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-268-5024) to set up a flight fee account and make the required deposit by cash, check, credit card, or bank transfer.