‘Hire’ calling: Skyborne looks for instructors


Skyborne Airline Academy’s training center at the Vero Beach Regional Airport will conduct a “Hiring Day” on Saturday, hoping to attract certified flight instructors, aircraft mechanics and flight dispatchers.

Especially flight instructors.

The academy is so eager to expand its faculty that well-qualified applicants could get hired on the spot and be on the payroll two weeks later.

“We want to grow,” Dan Peterson, new managing director of Skyborne’s Vero Beach campus, said last week. “But our mission is to train cadets to become airline pilots, and we can’t grow without flight instructors.”

Actually, Skyborne has managed to grow, anyway, as a global pilot shortage has spawned a fierce demand for flight students.

In the nearly six months since Skyborne celebrated the grand opening of its refurbished facility here, the academy’s enrollment has more than doubled – from 140 students in April to 350 now.

In fact, with room for only 314 cadets in its on-site residences, the academy has been forced to house three dozen students in off-campus accommodations.

Peterson said the Vero Beach academy has a waiting list of another 100 potential students who want to enroll.

“The demand for new pilots is huge,” said Peterson, hired last month to replace Ed Davidson, who retired after 15 months with Skyborne here. “We want to help meet that demand, but we’re all about quality. We want to maintain our 4-to-1 student to instructor ratio.

“To do that, we need to hire more instructors.”

As the week began, Skyborne, which was founded at the Gloucester Airport in the United Kingdom in 2018 and acquired Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach in May 2021, had 60 instructors working on its local campus.

Peterson said he needs at least 80, and that’s merely to cover the current enrollment – not the additional students he expects to enroll early next year.

“That’s why we’re doing the hiring event,” he said. “We might need to do it monthly, depending on the response we get. I’m even thinking about doing a weekly ‘Walk-in Wednesday,’ if that’s what it takes.

“In a perfect world, I would hire 10 flight instructors each month for the next four months.”

Peterson, who served in the U.S. Air Force and Utah Air National Guard for 23 years before retiring as a commander in 2008, said he would welcome ex-military and former airline pilots who are medically qualified and have the required Federal Aviation Administration certification to fly.

In addition, Peterson said, he’s hoping to hire four additional aircraft maintenance technicians, who hold FAA-issued Airframe and Powerplant certificates, to inspect and maintain the academy’s aircraft.

Skyborne’s Vero Beach fleet consists of 53 Piper-built training aircraft – and that number will increase to 60 by the end of the year.

Peterson said he has advertised the hiring event, which is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., on social media and on industry websites. He and members of Skyborne’s staff will be available for questions and interviews, and the facilities will be on display.

This isn’t his first experience with increasing enrollment.

Peterson, who has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Utah State University, had spent more than 20 years in senior educational roles, most recently as president of Herzing University’s Online Division, where he rapidly grew the Wisconsin-based school’s student population and launched five new programs.

In August, Skyborne, which has quickly earned an international reputation as one of the most respected commercial-pilot training schools in the industry, added Delta Airlines to its growing list of flight-training partnerships with major and regional carriers, including United Airlines’ Aviate program.

Skyborne also has established partnerships with SkyWest, the nation’s largest regional carrier; Endeavor Air, which operates as a Delta Connection; and Envoy Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airline and formerly known as American Eagle Airlines.

In addition, the academy has agreements to train pilots for two charter airlines.

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