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VALLEY BUSINESS / CHARTERING A NEW COURSE AT VAN NUYS
AIRPORT

Flight Schools Often Grounded by Unfavorable Economics

Trends: Drop in number of students and increase in charters has hurt teaching industry.

December 07, 1999|BOB HOWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The greater profits to be reaped from the jet business, and the continued demand for hangars and jet services, have prompted the boom that has meant less space available for flight schools--even those that can manage a profit.

Although the charter and corporate jet boom hasn't been a worry for Orbic Helicopters Inc., the 10-year-old company has recently faced tough times, according to Orbic President Chris Templeton.

Orbic once depended almost entirely on Japanese students, but the Japanese stopped coming when their country slipped into a recession, so Orbic has had to find local students.

"We're a small operation. We only have about 10 students. We only had about 15 at our peak," Templeton said, adding that Orbic is down to three helicopters from four because of the drop in enrollment. Students pay $10,000 to $12,000 for a course of training that takes two months to a year, depending on how often they can attend.

Templeton said Orbic makes much more profit on other facets of its business than it does on the flight school. The company offers helicopter tours of the Southland, provides charters for photographers, and is used often by the film and television industry for aerial footage.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Student Pilot Slump

The number of student pilot licenses issued in the United States declined for most of the decade.

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Source: Federal Aviation Administration

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