High flying plans for Tucson flight school

Change in air and on ground for Ryan Airfield
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Posted at 12:28 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 00:17:58-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Looking to bounce back better after the COVID pandemic? How about bouncing from life on the ground to a career in the air?

For people who dream of becoming a pilot, their dreams could land at Ryan Airfield, the Tucson Airport Authority’s field west of the city meant for smaller planes.

Tim Amalong of Arizona AeroTech says, “So we're probably do training for, say 120 to 150 students plus a year, annually right now. That will be growing, and I have 12 aircraft at this point.”

A building on the west side of Ryan Field has been vacant since a flight school left there thirteen years ago. Now Tim Amalong is renovating it to move his two flight schools from Tucson International and consolidate them at Ryan.

The Tucson Airport Authority is encouraging the move in part because Amalong’s operations at TIA need to make way for a new runway designed to help the large airport move its diverse mix of planes with better safety and efficiency.

Mike Smejkal is the Airport Authority’s Vice President for Planning and Engineering. He says, “Both airfields can accommodate flight training but Ryan does provide some benefits of being out there, not having to mix with the F-16 from the Air National Guard and the commercial traffic probably makes that initial pilot training certainly a little bit easier, and they have a little more, they have a lot more availability in the airspace out there it's not as congested.”

Workers have been installing enough shaded shelters near the instruction building to keep 22 planes out of the weather. Soon Arizona Aero Tech’s aircraft will make the short hop from TIA to begin training at Ryan.

Simulators now in Tim Amalong’s classrooms at TIA will begin training pilots at Ryan.

Even with COVID-19 depressing travel worldwide, there’s still a shortage of pilots and a demand for good training. Tim Amalong says some furloughed airline pilots became his instructors for a while but they’ve been called back to the airlines.

He says demand for corporate pilots is up because COVID concerns are driving some travelers onto private flights.

“We provide fuel for jets coming in here all the time and it's anywhere between one to three people in the jets, I mean it's just it's not a lot of people that just that's what their preference of travel at that point was. Some of them were older people, and they just didn't want to be around an airliner that was packed with a lot of people, a lot of passengers.”

Tim Amalong says about 60 percent of his students aim to become professional pilots, the others are living the dream of flying their own plane for pleasure. Now both groups will prepare for the pilots seat at Ryan Field.