Recently we posted a guide on how Wayman Aviation Academy will manage the current situation with COVID-19. These are unprecedented times, not only in the Aviation industry, but in the whole world. Luckily enough I was able to sit down with Vice President Wayman Eduardo Luy and Tony Shen, President of Wayman Aviation Academy. How do they plan on navigating our Academy during these times?
COVID-19 has taken the world by storm over the last few months; We all know what’s happening. There is no hiding from this. Many things have changed fast in the last weeks. Unprecedented times in the Aviation industry?
Eddy: This is uncharted territory, however we’ve been through difficult times before. In Wayman’s 33 years we’ve gone through 9/11, 2 hurricanes in 2004 & 2005 that destroyed 10 planes combined, and the 2008 economic crash. We’ve rebuilt this school 4-6 times already.
Tony: If we look at this challenging time from a pilot’s perspective, we really need to do two things. First, the standard things we should do to take care of our students and staff just as pilots following an emergency checklist and procedures to protect the passengers and airplane. In addition, we should also follow our instinct based on our experiences to take more creative actions like what Capt. Sully did in the Hudson river miracle, to best adapt to this unprecedented situation, which is something that no checklist can help with.
Tony, you used to fly yourself – When did you start your airline career exactly?
Tony: I started as a First Officer flying Beech 1900 in 1999 with one of the regional airlines in Florida.
You have been through the 9/11 & 2008 economic recession – How did you experience that from the perspective of an airline pilot?
Tony: Those are painful times for airline pilots. They remind us not only how vulnerable the airline industry is, but also how the world is all connected.
What was your biggest take away from that experience?
Tony: Aviation always comes back stronger than before after a hard-hit crisis.
“We stayed busy during that down-turn and came out stronger.”
Tony – in your 21 years of flying you were a training manager and a Captain on the Airbus A330. Basically – leadership positions. Besides that you earned an MBA at Duke University. You have been leading our Academy, together with the Wayman team. What do you believe is essential in getting through times like these?
Tony: Communication, Planning, Execution.
One of our mechanics working on our aircraft
Eddy – You have been with our Academy since the beginning. Like you said, Wayman was there in 2001 and during the recession in 2008. How was that handled?
Eddy: 9/11 was difficult, we had 3-6 months of very little to no flying. The school slimmed down to a skeleton crew and survived off of the written exams required by the new Department of Homeland Security’s TSA inspectors. It was a difficult time for aviation as a whole. In 2008 we worked closely with partners that were processing a large group of students. We stayed busy during that down-turn and came out stronger. As pilots we have to plan ahead, prepare for flight, and then adapt to conditions along the way. There will always be deviations, reroutes, and weather; even on the best made flight plan.
What was your biggest take away from that experience as part of Wayman during those periods?
Eddy: Pilots are resilient and adaptable. The industry has always been a series of ups and downs. We have been through good times and difficult. You can be the best prepared pilot, but a lot of what we deal with in life comes down to timing.
“Aviation always comes back even stronger after a hard-hit crisis”
How will you apply what you learned during that period in this situation?
Eddy: Each situation is unique. It is difficult to perfectly copy the strategies and techniques that have helped us to overcome previous difficult moments. For example, we are a very different organization. We have more than 42 aircraft, 4 times more than we had in 2008, and more than 30 instructors and numerous employees. In the past we were much slimmer to start with. What we learned and have maintained is to own all the planes in their entirety. You will find that schools with large fleet service loans are going to double. Since we own all the planes, we don’t have that particular pressure.
Let’s take a look at our operations, from now on, what precautions are we taking as an Academy to keep our students safe and flying?
Our dispatcher, Daniel & Alfredo following CDC guidelines
Eddy: Sanitary is the word. The plane is cleaned throughout the day. They are cleaning the yoke, switches and knobs that we use to control the plane. Along with good hand washing and regular cleaning of the maintenance crew, the aircraft is kept very hygienic. Currently, the school only operates 1 to 1 flights. All basic and 1 to 1 oral classes have been connected. We are limiting the number of people in the building to only those going to or coming from a flight. Too bad because we are so proud of our new 10,000 square foot training facility. It is strange to see it empty.
What do you see as the main challenge and opportunities during these times?
Tony: The big challenge is how we provide our students with the best training they deserve in the midst of this unprecedented situation. The greatest opportunity is; if we do it right – and I believe we will – we will become a stronger Academy after this.
Let’s jump ahead; the coronavirus is over, you park your car next to the building, you get out. What do you see?
Eddy: I see the building busy and full of activity. Turning down will affect many of the shaded operators. They will not survive the recession. Students will value our stability and honest and transparent policies.
Anything else you want to add / address for our readers and future students?
Tony: Aviation always comes back even stronger after a tough crisis. The 2008 recession is a great example. The aviation outlook will be even brighter after all this.
Do you have a question for Tony or Eduardo? Feel free to post it in the comment section below. And we will get in touch with you.