7519 – Flight sims, crop dusting, and becoming a pilot with Jon Moore

My guest: Jon Moore, Director of the Institute of Aviation

One of the best aviation schools in the nation is located here in East Central Illinois. In this episode I talk to Jon about how you can become a pilot, the industry’s pilot shortage, flight simulators (professional and Microsoft), turbulence, and more.


Parkland College Institute of Aviation
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This is an automated transcript which likely contains minor errors.

Steve Holstein (00:28):
So I saw on your website that 13,000 students have graduated from the Institute of aviation. Where are they now?

Jon Moore (00:37):
Well, the ones that are still flying professionally could be doing anything that you would consider professional flying. Of course, you know, major airlines, regional airlines. There are some of them, the chief pilot of flight star next door is a Institute. Graduate corporate is something you might not think of a lot of times where say caterpillar has their own flight department and their own airplanes and their own pilots. And they can fly executives around. Or maybe if you’re a business owner and not quite as big as caterpillar, you might want to charter a plane. Once in a while in flight star has airplane owners, did they work with, and then they offer charters for those kinds of people too. And then, you know, crop dusters of course, is something that, uh, young pilots will try their hand at. It’s not something for, for us old guys.

Steve Holstein (01:32):
I mean, crop duster looks like the civilian equivalent of the blue angels.

Jon Moore (01:36):
Yeah, exactly. You ever seen him get in the plane, they have their flame retardant suits and their helmets. It’s like, they’re getting into a fighter plane and you think they need it. They’re doing this low level aerobatics. Yeah. And

Steve Holstein (01:47):
A lot of times they’re coming right at you, you know, you’re driving down the road, they’re, they’re coming right at you. And there’s, you know, a big set of electrical wires to they’ve got to watch out for. So I noticed, so, so you talked about all the different types of pilots that somebody could become. Um, on the Facebook page for the Institute, there was really basically a job listing sort of a one days post of all these different airlines that I, most of which I’d never heard of. So I’m assuming a lot of them are regional airlines, smaller airlines, but there were a ton of jobs.

Jon Moore (02:17):
Well, yeah, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the words pilot shortage, but back until the day COVID hit, there was a worldwide pilot shortage where, and it’s driven by, you know, major airlines have, um, pilots who are approaching age 65 and so they have to retire. And so the major airlines hire from the regional airlines, the regional airlines can’t keep pilots more than three or five years. And so they hire pilots from, you know, flight instructors from a school like this. And, and so as long as you have the draw from the top, the pipeline moves quickly. So if you go to school

Steve Holstein (02:56):
Here, you graduate. I that you guys help new pilots find jobs because so many of these airlines are looking. They probably come knocking on your door all the time, saying, who do you have? Who’s

Jon Moore (03:09):
Graduated. They do. And a pilot graduating from the program here, we’ll have about two, 300 hours of flight time. You need a thousand to 1500 hours of flight time to get into a regional airline. And so a pilot has to work for a couple of years before there’ll be eligible to go to regional. And a lot of them work as flight instructors. So our program is different than a lot of Parkland programs because we have right now, we have three faculty members and all of the rest of the instructors are really non-tenured, um, faculty who are just in it for the short term until they build their time and they go, so we have a really large turnover of the younger, uh, flight instructors who are starting their career.

Steve Holstein (03:56):
John, how long have you been here? How long have you been the director at the Institute of aviation for Parkland college director?

Jon Moore (04:02):
Since January, I’ve been associated with the Institute since 2008, I retired from the Navy, decided I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up and I came here, uh, to start flight instructing. I worked at the Institute for six years, and then I went off to the regionals for three and a half years. And then I came back into 2017. And, um, I was just working as a faculty here until the director position opened.

Steve Holstein (04:32):
So you were in the Navy, but you didn’t fly in the Navy, correct. So you were in the Navy and you often thought about it and then eventually you pulled the trigger and, uh, got your pilot’s license. Once you got out of the Navy,

Jon Moore (04:44):
Started working on it, uh, about five years before I got out. Cause it was one of those things that I had dreamed of when I was a, a boy and it, the thought just never left my mind. And so eventually I, I decided to pull the trigger and go take a flying lesson years

Steve Holstein (05:01):
Before your Navy career ended, you were thinking about it ending. You were like, all right, I gotta, I gotta figure out what I’m going to do. And how many years did you spend in the Navy

Jon Moore (05:09):
20 years? But, you know, I wish I could take credit for having planned out my transition between careers as eloquently, as masterfully as you described it. But it was just a hobby when I started kind of a boring story, how one thing led to another and I ended up being qualified to teach right before I got out.

Steve Holstein (05:26):
So once you get enough hours to work for a regional airline, like we see the, to get from here to Chicago, many times you’re on a smaller, regional type,

Jon Moore (05:35):
I would say less than 76 seats, um, in any plane is going to be regional airline.

Steve Holstein (05:41):
And you did that for three years. Where, what, where were you flying to? And from where are you bouncing all over the place where you just out of champagne

Jon Moore (05:47):
Was based out of Chicago on a regional airline, but I would fly from, you know, sometimes from Atlanta to Seattle or from Calgary, Canada to Mexico city. And so you go all over the place in north America, do you miss it? I miss the flying, but I don’t miss the lifestyle. Yeah. Being a pilot on a transport airplane is really like working in the transportation industry. And so you’re focused on making money for the company you’re focused on while safety always you’re focused on making the schedule and, and presenting a good face to the customers. But as far, and, and some of the flying is interesting. I mean, it’s a blast to fly out of O’Hare airport or Denver or San Francisco or a, you know, name any, any number of Kalispell, Montana, or, um,

Steve Holstein (06:48):
I heard Lincoln, Nebraska is an amazing airport to fly out.

Jon Moore (06:51):
I’ve been to Lincoln, Nebraska many times, but you know, you feel like you’re a worker in the transportation industry and you fly very conservatively, but there’s nothing like training in a small airplane and practicing an engine failure and extracting the maximum performance that you can from an airplane. And it’s almost like one step above being a crop duster. It’s just something like when you have the skill of being a pilot, there’s nothing like exercising that skill in a small airplane, close to the ground. And it’s really a lot more of a, uh, I don’t know the thrill of being a pilot than what you get in a 76 passenger plane at 35,000 feet plus. Yes.

Steve Holstein (07:39):
You know, you’re working with, you know, these people who have this sense of wonder, I mean, the first time that a student gets into the seat and you’re rolling down the runway, that’s got to put a bit of a smile on your face too. As an

Jon Moore (07:50):
Instructor, there’s something really satisfying about that, about watching someone increase their skill level, all because that you spent time with them in an airplane, which is the thing that you like to do. One of the top five things on your list of favorite things to do anyway, and you get to kind of pass the joy along to someone else. So

Steve Holstein (08:09):
If I, um, sign up for the school of aviation Institute of aviation, what’s the process,

Jon Moore (08:15):
Well, you have to get a medical certificate and that’s one of the first things you want to do is get checked out by an FAA doctor to see that you can fly in and be ashamed to spend a lot of money on flying, then find out that you can’t, but then, um, you know, come to an airport and, um, getting an airplane it’ll probably cost you, I don’t know, $20,000 to get your private and then the same amount to get your instrument and commercial. So

Steve Holstein (08:43):
All in, if I want to become like a full blown pilot instrument, you know, I eventually want to fly for a regional, we’re talking about a $60,000 investment,

Jon Moore (08:53):
Probably $60,000. And then, well, then you’ll need to, um, learn to fly a multi-engine plane. And that’s another 10, $15,000 investment at least. And then if you want to be a flight instructor, that’s another investment. And if you want to work here, you have to be an instrument instructor. Then after that, you pretty much have all the qualifications necessary to go to the regional airlines. And more and more of the regional airlines will, will pick you up from the point of you being a commercial pilot with 1,015 hundred hours of flight time, multi engine and single engine ratings. And they’ll take you the rest of the way, make you an airline pilot. Do you ever just have

Steve Holstein (09:36):
People show up and say, I want to learn to fly. And, you know, once I get my basic non instrument pilots license, I just want to rent a plane. Occasionally. That is that like old school is that even possible anymore? There’s

Jon Moore (09:49):
A lot of people who come here and just want to be able to fly small airplanes.

Steve Holstein (09:54):
And then when they graduate or they at least get the basics down, do they then literally rent by the hour planes? Right.

Jon Moore (10:03):
Well, we don’t rent planes. There’s a place up in fresco where you can rent a plane, but airplane rental is not as common as it used to be. And the insurance costs, um, or, or some of it of driver for that, but just airplane ownership in general is more expensive than it used to be. So what we were

Steve Holstein (10:24):
We’re, we’re gonna hop into the flight simulator here in just a little bit or not into the flight Scimitar, but we’re going to move into that room. And just a little bit, you know, I’ve got technology here on the desk in front of me. Is there an app or two that you always recommend to a non pilots, uh, to download

Jon Moore (10:39):
And well, well, I guess non pilots would probably want to download FlightAware. You can download FlightAware and plug in CMI and see planes that are taking off and landing at champagne. And you can even see the Institute airplanes doing, doing rectangles in the traffic pattern.

Steve Holstein (10:58):
It would be funny if, cause that’s in real time, right? Yeah. Yeah. It would be funny if the name of the person flying, I could put that up on my 55 inch screen, big screen TV in my office and go, Hannah, go make, make that turn. Good job FlightAware. I think I’ve heard of that before. You’ve been flying now for a couple of decades. How has the technology different for the pilot?

Jon Moore (11:19):
Well, when I started flying, of course the GPS navigation was, um, becoming more prevalent in that and that trend has increased to today and it’s really replacing the previous generation of navigation, you know? And you think about it. Um, previous generation navigation is what I would call ground-based. So you have some navigation transmitter on the ground somewhere. We have, uh, one at champagne airport and it’s easy to go directly to one of those things or fly and, uh, uh, course away from it. But let’s say you want to go to from Chicago to, um, San Fran, the, the route that you might get there between ground-based navigation aids might be kind of a zigzag, but if you have a GPS navigator where you know where you are and you know where you want to go, it’s not, it’s not so simple to say that you can go there directly, but you can take a lot of zig-zags out of your flight path. And it’s really preferable to do that. And so GPS as a navigation system has gotten a lot more robust. You know, there’s more satellites now, the satellites are more capable, less susceptible to, um, jamming interference.

Steve Holstein (12:37):
I mean, if I can put FlightAware on my smartphone and see planes flying, I mean, the technology in the cockpit has got to be as good or better. Where if you’re up there at however many thousand feet, are you essentially looking at yourself as well on a screen, a little bitty blip of an airplane and, oh, I see another airplane over there on the other side of the screen, is it similar or is it, is that

Jon Moore (12:56):
Too technology like, like 80 SB, if you ever heard of that is the technology that allows the plane to send it. It’s transmit it’s position and ground-based receivers pick it up and through the internet, send it to your cell phone. You wouldn’t really have that information when you’re in the cockpit, but you do have other ways to receive that ASB information. So yeah, w if you have the right equipment, you can see other airplanes that are around you that are similarly equipped. It’s funny that airplane, uh, like airframe and engine technology really hasn’t changed much in the last 50 to 70 years. I mean, the engines that we have in our planes now are basically very low tech, very simplistic and redundant and reliable, but you know, you’ll never find electronic. Well, I won’t say never, but we don’t have electronic fuel injection or variable valve timing or anything that you find in your little Honda, four cylinder engine. And one of these Piper airplanes, it’s just, um, magnetos and, uh, choke lever, which we call mixture. And it’s all very, very manual. You

Steve Holstein (14:09):
Know, we were talking about engines and the mechanics, the people who work on the planes, there’s probably an ongoing need for them. Well,

Jon Moore (14:16):
Yeah, absolutely. There was a mechanic shortage too, because all the mechanics that are the baby boomers are all getting to retirement age, framer, not forced retirement like the pilots, but still, you know, they’re getting older, they’re going to leave the workforce. And so I know there’s a, there’s a draw for, for mechanics too.

Steve Holstein (14:35):
So we’re in the flight simulator room. Is this a room? Is this a lab? What do you call this? If you want to call it

Jon Moore (14:41):
A lab work sounds more technical, more efficient.

Steve Holstein (14:44):
So I walk in, you walk into the flight simulator room here and you see two giant flight. There’s two seats in each one, and then you have a wraparound three-dimensional screen. And so tell me about that. Well,

Jon Moore (14:57):
Yeah, the giant part probably is the screen. If you just look at the cab itself, they’re not much bigger than the other ones, you know, it’s, it’s nice to have a visual and really most of what you do in these simulators is instrument training. Their real value is instrument training. And so seeing things like, um, zero visibility, when you’re in the cloud, do we just have, uh, a grayed out display and then you break out of the clouds on, on an approach and you see the runway in front of you. And that’s one of the, you know, very dramatic things that you can experience in a simulator. That’s very, very close to what you experience in an airplane.

Steve Holstein (15:35):
So, oh, so these are simulators and, um, how these are mostly for instruments. I see I’m looking at a screen now. Uh, I see what looks like the airport here. I see clouds in the sky. I see a runway. It looks like this plane is ready to take off. So you can see

Jon Moore (15:50):
That there’s also some value for someone just starting out in their pilot training. And what’s it like to operate an airplane? And maybe it’s a little bit less risk, a little bit less pressure on the person learning to just come in here and try it all out and do a trial run before you get in the airplane and do the same thing. It does this like vibrate and everything. Um, no, there’s no motion in it.

Steve Holstein (16:12):
I was just curious because that’s gotta be a neat feeling then when you do the flight simulator, and then you take that next step to a real airplane, that’s, you know, the flight simulator can only do so much. Then

Jon Moore (16:22):
Give me the wrong impression. We, we take students to the airplane the very, very beginning, and then there are no programmed simulator sessions before they get in the airplane. But yeah, there is a dramatic difference. And, um, mostly it’s internal, I think. And you know, you’re talking to a live air traffic controller and there’s really no pressure.

Steve Holstein (16:43):
So if you’re the instructor, I see two seats. Well, you get in the fight simulator with the student.

Jon Moore (16:48):
No, normally the instructor will sit at the instructor station here and all of these have instructor stations and the student will sit in the left seat of these two seat simulators.

Steve Holstein (16:58):
Yeah. So this is a, you know, for those listening, there’s a table off to the side with a couple of monitors. So you’re able to monitor their progress. Do you ever throw a thunderstorm their way on a beautiful, yeah. Yeah,

Jon Moore (17:07):
You can, you can put thunderstorms in there. You can put cloud layers, you can move them to, uh, different parts of the country. You could go to any airport in the United States, probably many airports in the world here. And so you can do a lot with the instructor station. You can make things fail on the airplane and you can make things fail in the simulator that you would, that would be risky to, to fail in an actual airplane. So you can really experience some things in a simulator that you might not ever get a chance to see in flight.

Steve Holstein (17:36):
You can throw some geese their way if you want. Right. Yeah. All right. So the simulator is part of the process on day one, you said that, you know, you’ll be in the cockpit of the plane throughout the instruction. You’re going to keep coming back to the simulator for things, especially, you said instrument, most the courses

Jon Moore (17:52):
Have a little bit of simulator time built in somewhere between two hours and eight hours, I think is a maximum. And it’s usually at the, at the instructor’s discretion. So you might want to introduce some things in a simulator before you, um, take them out and do the same thing in an airplane for some tasks that are more complex. Other times you might get to a day where the clouds are below 200 feet and you can’t go flying so well, let’s get in the simulator today.

Steve Holstein (18:20):
There is a tech here, he’s working on the flight simulators. So they are not in operation. He’s waving to us. We’re at 30,000 feet. It’s very comfortable. And the tech just walked into the cockpit. It’s a little unnerving what’s so do you get it, I guess, occasional upgrades and things like that, right? What’s a typical maintenance upgrade thing that he’s doing. Oh, really? Yeah. It’s very

Jon Moore (18:39):
Rare to have a tech here. And it’s nice that we have these Frasca simulators with fresco right up the road, because on the rare occasion that we do have a problem, we can give him a call and I called him this morning and he showed up just a half hour ago. And so, but yeah, most, most of the time we can run these for months and years and we don’t need any, um, any attention on them. We get to do like a yearly kind of cleaning, um, preventive maintenance, but they, they go a long time by themselves. If we just happened to have a problem with each one of these in the last week or so

Steve Holstein (19:14):
It was the windows 11 upgrade. Wasn’t it that’s been bugging some people. All right. Um, Microsoft has a flight simulator. That’s pretty well known, you know, is it boring to real pilots? No, not at all. Really? Yeah. It’s actually pretty good, huh.

Jon Moore (19:28):
Well, I think for me, part of the joy of flying is looking out the window wherever you are. And, but sure. I’d like putting it up on a 55 inch screen and, and flying around and seeing what you can see out the airplane window

Steve Holstein (19:44):
In my office, I have a big screen TV and I don’t put anything on it when I’m working in there except YouTube has live streams of fish tanks. So that’s what I put out.

Jon Moore (19:55):
That sounds like kind of what you would put up for a cat. Like my cat would really enjoy that.

Steve Holstein (20:00):
So my dog is a, is a, is a fish tank fan. And your cat is probably a Microsoft flight simulator, a fan. Then since that’s what you put up on your 55 inch, probably in fact, his cat is flight simulator rated. So, you know, so when you’re getting ready to take off, I see the pilot walking around the plane. Um, what are they looking for in you? And I’m assuming you’re doing that. Whether you’re using a training plane, one of the Pipers out here, or you’re getting ready to take off in a big old 7 77, what are you, what are you just looking

Jon Moore (20:33):
At? You’re looking for just anything unusual, you know, is there a spot on the airplane that if I look closer, maybe it’s a dent. Maybe it’s a bug, just anything unusual in there. There are certain things that, that you for that you check to make sure are there or not there.

Steve Holstein (20:51):
I always think it looks cool. I just it’s like, okay, here, this is my plane. I’m walking around it. I’m going to check it out. Don’t rush me. I’ll get in the cockpit when I’m darn good and ready. And I think there’s a sense of, um, relief because it’s like, okay, that’s the person that’s going to be sitting up front.

Jon Moore (21:06):
He checked it. He’s happy with it. I trust him. Could you imagine doing the same thing before you drive your car out of the driveway, do a thorough walk around with your hands on your hips. Get out of the tire pressure gauge, open the hood up. Okay. That’s

Steve Holstein (21:21):
Right. Meanwhile, the kids are in the minivan screaming. Let’s go, let’s go.

Jon Moore (21:24):
I’ll take this Chrysler for a drive. And

Steve Holstein (21:28):
You know what? We probably should do that occasionally with our vehicles, right? The risks are low.

Jon Moore (21:32):
What happens if your engine quits in your Chrysler minivan? Well, you just kind of glide off to the side of the interstate. Okay. Couple

Steve Holstein (21:39):
More questions. Turbulence is what freaks people out is turbulence in the smaller planes. Does it freak you out less because you’re in the front seat and you know, it’s just, it’s just turbulence, right? I mean, to us in the back of the plane, it’s a little freaky, but you’ve been on the regional airlines. So does it worry you that much? Or, you know, Hey, the planes are built.

Jon Moore (21:59):
No, it doesn’t worry me at all. It’s, it’s just, um, a minor annoyance when you’re trying to twist the knob and you’re, and you can’t get your arm to stay where it is, but I mean, it really doesn’t affect how the airplane flies and planes are built to endure that it’s really nothing more than a minor, minor distraction.

Steve Holstein (22:18):
Okay. And then the other question I had is what if I want to learn to fly a helicopter? Where do I do that?

Jon Moore (22:22):
I don’t know. I’m not interested in learning to fly helicopters. Well, good.

Steve Holstein (22:27):
Well, I appreciate your time. This was fun. Thank you. We’re gonna, we’re gonna wrap it up now. And um, if anybody’s interested in the Institute of aviation, they’re on Facebook and there, they also have a website through Parkland college. So thank you, John. I appreciate it. My pleasure. Hey, if you’d like to reach me, my email is steve@holstein.ceo. If you’d like to check out older episodes, you can find them in your podcast app or@holstein.co. If you’re listening to this podcast in an app like Spotify, Google podcasts, or apple podcasts, I encourage you to press the follow or subscribe button. And if your podcast app offers a way to provide a review, I would greatly appreciate that. I’m Steve. And this was the Holstein company podcast. Thanks for listening. Have a great week. And I will see you around town.