At age 17, Ramona resident Joel Failla already knows his future will include flying airplanes. “When I was younger, my parents took me to airshows and I grew-up flying...
A Better Way to Learn to Fly
Ramona resident Eric Goforth created a new business model for the Ramona-based Flight Training Center (FTC). As a pilot and a Certificated Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII), Eric already had a nice roster of students learning to fly, but he had nowhere to sit and teach.
Enter Chuck Hall Aviation, a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) based in Ramona, California (KRNM). Already undergoing extensive renovations, the owner and the CFI teamed up to create something amazing. A full service co-working facility designed to give instructors, students and aircraft providers everything they need, in one location.
“We’ve turned the general aviation flight training industry upside down,” said Goforth, who moved to Ramona in 2014. “Students are the priority instead of flight instructors and aircraft owners. Students pay nothing to be part of FTC. No dues, no membership fees. Students pay instructors for their flight lessons and aircraft owners for use of the planes, that’s it.”
The Ramona Flight Training Center was initially operated and managed by Chuck Hall Aviation with Goforth serving as the “director,” though he called himself a “volunteer” as the position is unpaid. The retired information-technology (IT) executive supports himself by giving flight lessons. The FTC opened its doors in May 2021. In the first year of operations, more than 200 people have participated either as a student, instructor or aircraft owner.
At any time, about 25 students are in the process of earning their private pilot’s license or an advance rating; perhaps as an instrument-rated flyer or even a commercial pilot license. Currently owners of 7 planes have been approved by Goforth to be part of the FTC, along with 10 certified flight instructors (CFIs).
The owners are responsible for maintaining their aircraft and the CFIs are independent contractors who work for themselves.
“Our business model is different from anything that exists out there. But, it’s because we’re building a community of like-minded people who love flying more than making a profit. We’re more of a community than a company or an organization".
Goforth confesses to be an “aviation nut and an obsessed, aviation addict.” He was introduced to flying at age 8 by his great-grandfather, who was in his 90s at the time.
“My great-grandfather was the oldest licensed pilot in the country when he took a bunch of us cousins on a trip over the copper mines near Salt Lake City,” recalls Goforth. “We were flying in a six-seat, Cessna 210 Centurion. After my turn was over, I refused to get out of the aircraft so I went on two rides.”
After graduating from high school in Temecula, Calif., Goforth served in the U.S. Air Force from 1993 to 1996. “I joined the military to tour the world but was assigned to Edwards (Air Force Base in California) and never left,” he said.
Following his IT career, Goforth pursued his aviation passion. “I saw a lot of students like me who spent too much money with shady characters who took advantage of people,” he said. “It cost me a lot of money to get my certified instructor license and I resolved to do things differently if given the chance.”
The opportunity came because of the innovation of Chuck Hall Aviation owner Mike Bittinger, who acquired Chuck Hall Aviation in January of 2019, when he agreed to provide office space and hangar space to FTC and suddenly the opportunity had a birthplace. As the FTC grew, in the fall of 2022, it spun out as a standalone business under the ownership and guidance of Eric Goforth and Jeremy Watkins, a fellow airplane owner and FTC proponent.
“We’re having a good time because we love what we’re doing for our students,” Goforth said. “Life is better when you put aside your pride and personal needs and put the students first.”
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