Summit Aviation of Belgrade Montana received the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) Flight Training Excellence Award for 2012. The award recognizes flight schools that provide an optimal training experience and encourage flight training best practices.
Summit Aviation operates a fleet of Diamond DA20, DA40 and DA42 aircraft. Owner Ben Walton remarked “Clearly this award is a testament of our Diamond Aircraft training model, flying with some of the safest and most efficient aircraft available. We are proud of our fleet and our team of highly professional instructors.”
Regarding the DA20 and what it has meant to the growth of his flight school and success of his students, Ben writes:
In 2005, the flight school was growing exponentially, requiring us to consider a fleet of aircraft. My plan for a new Cessna fleet was reconsidered after a friend convinced me to fly a Diamond before moving forward. I flew a DA20 and was immediately sold on its safe flight characteristics, economy, modern design and fun factor.
Fun to fly is very important to me as a flight school owner. After many thousands of hours in training aircraft, it’s easy to lose the thrill of flight. Our beautiful mountainous environment combined with the incredible visibility and fun flight characteristics of the DA20 has been a major key to our success. Student and CFI retention is well above average with our school.
The first DA20 was a tough sell to the students initially because it just didn’t look like other aircraft. After a couple flights with a few willing students, it wasn’t long before the bulk of our fleet was converted to Diamonds. The DA20 proved to perform better at our high elevation airport than other aircraft in our fleet. We could climb and cruise faster and at half the fuel burn.
We found that the DA20 nearly cut our fuel, maintenance and insurance in half from what we were seeing with the 172s. The ability to offer a brand-new aircraft for the same rental price as the competitors’ 30-year-old trainers gave us the leg up needed to succeed. We were also able to get through difficult economic times and high fuel prices, due to the fact our aircraft were so inexpensive to operate.
After more than seven years of operating Diamond aircraft, we have experienced an incredible safety record. The low stall speed, docile flight characteristics and strength of the airframe have contributed to our safety. Every pilot makes mistakes. It helps me sleep at night knowing my students are flying the most statistically safe training aircraft available. Success as a flight school is due to many factors. Our amazing staff, good business practices, effective advertising, safety programs and a focused effort have helped us succeed. I do believe, however, that if I did not take my friend’s advice to fly the DA20, our school would not be the success it is today.
To learn more about Summit Aviation, visit their website at http://www.flysummit.net/