School expands during pandemic

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Cameron launched OnCore at Frederick Douglass-Greater Rochester International Airport five years ago, and a second location added in Niagara Falls last year continues to grow. “It’s going like gangbusters,” Cameron said. At the end of October, he acquired the Prior Aviation Service Inc. flight school in Buffalo as OnCore’s third location. The acquisition is a huge step in making modern flight training accessible to anyone in western New York, he said.

OnCore takes a different approach to flight training than traditional schools, Cameron explained. “It’s not just about modern airplanes with glass”—most of the OnCore fleet is comprised of newer Diamond aircraft—“it’s taking a modern approach to flight training.” For example, the school introduces standard operating procedures, stabilized approaches, and cockpit flows to its primary students. “We’re bringing those things to the first 20 hours of flying, so [the students] don’t know anything different—they’ve been exposed to it all along.”

The school also makes good use of simulator instruction. “All of our instructors get formal instruction in how to be an effective simulator instructor,” Cameron said, and other customers can watch from outside the sim.

“Because of the focus on modern flight training, the community in western New York has come flocking,” he added. “People are looking for that level of professionalism, nice airplanes to fly, instructors who bring professional experience to training. People will pay for value.”

One big change in Buffalo is that Prior was a flight school only and did not rent aircraft. “The OnCore business model promotes proficiency. You need to go out there and fly.” OnCore’s model is membership-based. “Our members pay a monthly fee. All current members get one hour free in an [advanced aviation training device] per month. If they’re taking advantage of that, it kind of wipes out the membership fee and increases proficiency,” Cameron said. “We are not a club. We are a flight school. We are here to grow; that requires investment, that requires profit, that requires smart business decisions.”

OnCore maintains an active calendar of safety seminars and other events, and its instructors encourage customers to participate in the FAA’s Wings Pilot Proficiency Program, employing a combination of online and in-person content. “It’s been huge for us,” Cameron said. “I think almost 30 percent of our membership represents rusty pilots.” OnCore’s newer aircraft often are more appealing to a spouse, and the school’s approach to instruction appeals to pilots,

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