The Prior Aviation Service Flight School in Buffalo has taught local pilots for more than 59 years. It now has a new owner who wants to expand flight training opportunities for local students so they can get a career in the aviation industry.
"In two to three years, the airlines are going to have the same pilot shortage. The demand for private and corporate charters will continue to grow," said Todd Cameron, owner of Rochester-based OnCore Aviation LLC.
OnCore Aviation acquired the Prior Aviation Service Flight School at the end of October 2020 for an undisclosed amount. Cameron said work is underway to create larger office and classroom space, and coordinate curriculum with instructors at both the Niagara Falls and Buffalo Airports.
The new schools will feature state-of-the-art flight simulators and modern aircraft with high-tech 'glass cockpits' that are equipped with joystick-style flight controllers. According to Cameron, the newer planes are much easier and safer to fly for students.
OnCore has been operating at the Rochester Airport for five years and includes private, military, and commercial pilots among its graduates.
While OnCore does offer people of all ages a chance to get their private pilot's license, the schools also have advanced courses so someone can attain their Airline Transport Pilot's License (ATP) to fly cargo and passenger flights for pay.
Todd Cameron said he is working to increase flight training options for Buffalo/Niagara-area students who might be interested in careers as a pilot, mechanic, flight controller, or aviation business manager.
Getting a private pilot's license takes about 55 hours and costs between $13,000 to $15,000 dollars. However, there is scholarship money available through various sources, explained Cameron, for students who are looking for help in paying the costs.
Becoming a commercial pilot costs much more and requires 1,500 hours of experience, which can take a couple of years to attain.
Interestingly during the pandemic, OnCore Aviation has seen a high interest in flight training.
"So many people I have talked to this year have said 'You know, I'm working remotely and the kids are off to college, or I got a degree in something that I am not enjoying, I have always, always wanted to fly'," explained Cameron.
The OnCore owner said another thing that will be new to his Niagara Falls and Buffalo Schools is the students will have the opportunity to rent planes so they can remain current on their flight skills.
Todd Cameron is also the Director of Flight Operations for the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo.
He spearheaded "Operation Thanks from Above" this past May. That flyover featured World War II airplanes from the museum, including a C-47 transport ("Whiskey7") that was part of the D-Day invasion of Europe, as a tribute to WNY essential workers.
Ground operations at the Buffalo airport that had previously been supplied by Prior Aviation have now been taken over by a separate company called TAC Air.