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New Sanford flight school seen as boon

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Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 11:08 am | Updated: 2:41 pm, Mon Feb 18, 2013.

SANFORD – A new, family-owned Sanford company is looking to fill a void in flight training in Maine.

Dash Aviation, which is co-owned and operated by the father-son team of Patrick and Jake Speidel, plans to bring a multi-engine flight school to the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport.

Beginning March 1, Dash Aviation will offer an accelerated program designed for students to come for a weekend and leave with the multi-engine training completed. The two- to three-day course guarantees seven hours of flight time, as well as three hours of training in a Redbird FMX flight simulator.

Both Patrick Speidel, 58, and Jake Speidel, 33, are commercial pilots living in Sanford. Originally from Colorado, the Speidels relocated to the Sanford area eight years ago.

“Because my dad was a commercial pilot, I grew up around aviation,” Jake Speidel said this week. “Small planes and flight training was always there.”

Jake Speidel said he hopes that Dash Aviation can fill a void in flight training in the New England area, with the nearest place to go for this type of training in Connecticut.

“There was kind of a gap in training in the area,” Speidel said.

The manager of the Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport, Dana Parry, presented the details of Dash Aviation’s plans to the Sanford City Council at a meeting on Jan. 22. At the meeting, the council unanimously approved a five-year lease agreement for the company. The lease agreement with the city is $542 a year, and is on par with similar businesses at the airport. The company will pay a separate fee to MAS Hangars to lease a hangar.

Parry believes that Dash Aviation is bringing something unique to the Sanford area.

“They’re both (Speidels) very passionate about aviation, and I think it’s a great opportunity for them, the airport and for Sanford,” Parry said.

Speidel says the usual progression of training for professional pilots begins with a private pilot instrument rating, and then a multi-engine rating for commercial aviation. In order to take this course, a private pilot’s license is required.

“This type of accelerated program is shown to work really well because people can come in for just a weekend,” Speidel said. “I’m hoping we can attract a lot of outside business.”

Dash Aviation is advertising the three-day course at $1,995. When pilots sign up, they will be sent all of the course materials and aircraft manuals to study prior to the course. The first two days will be full days of ground school with an instructor. Speidel believes that some pilots will want to finish the course in two days due to time constraints, but stresses that each student is guaranteed seven hours of flight time.

“Most applicants that are instrument proficient and have studied the course materials provided will be prepared to take their multi-engine checkride at the end of the second day or morning of the third day,” Speidel said on the Dash Aviation website.

A checkride is the final flight test, accompanied by a Federal Aviation Administration-certified examiner, in order to gain the multi-engine rating.

The Redbird FMX flight simulator, which, according to the Redbird website, costs roughly $60,000, is owned by Southern Maine Aviation, a company that has offered single-engine flight training at the Sanford airport since 2005.

The airport also has a third flight-training school, York County Helicopter.

Speidel says Dash Aviation will be renting the Redbird FMX for use in their program. The simulator has the capability to simulate the same aircraft that will be used for the flight program. Speidel recently bought the aircraft, which is a 1980 Beechcraft-76 Duchess, from a similar flight school in Minnesota. Dash Aviation says it is one of the only multi-engine flight training schools to include simulator time in addition to regular flight time.

Dash Aviation will begin by having just one student per week, but has the capacity to accommodate two to three students each week. Speidel spoke of interest from local pilots who heard of the program, and believes that the first six to eight months will be mostly local students. However, they do hope to attract pilots on a national and international scale, and capitalize on the nearby hotel accommodations available for students. They plan to provide hotel rooms at a discounted rate for customers who do not live locally.

Parry said the company can use the surrounding Sanford area as a marketing device in attracting customers. He listed the area’s beauty, activities and hotels as key in their advertising.

“This is a great airport and a beautiful part of the country to learn to fly,” Parry said.

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