So what happened to LangaAir? LangaAir was, up until five days ago, a flight school. I happened to work there as a flight instructor. I wasn't doing it as a career choice. Let's just say that I was between jobs and looking for something different to do while I waited for things to turn around. I was eighteen years old the last time I gave any flight instruction. A lot has changed since then.
The last plane I flew before making the switch to flight instructing was an Airbus 320. Going from an A320 to C172 is a bit of a culture shock. I hadn't flown a single engine aircraft in over thirty years. Once I accepted the fact that this was going to be my new office, I started to enjoy it. One thing I've learned while accumulating close to 18,000 hours is that, for the most part, airplanes fly the same. You pull back on the controls and the plane climbs. You push forward and it descends.
Things were slow at first at Langa. LangaAir, which had been in business in Alton, Illinois for some twenty years, had just expanded to Chesterfield at the Spirit of St. Louis airport after the demise of another flight school several months earlier. Scott Langa, the son of original owner Irv Langa, was running the operation at Spirit. Scott is a smart, hard working, ambitious, and honest individual. I was immediately impressed with what he was able to accomplish in such a short time. The fact that he was able to expand at all during one of the worst economic downturns in four decades says a lot. Let's face it, flying isn't cheap. But Scott knew the business and knew how to attract customers. And little by little the customers came. There were the renters: pilot's already qualified but in need of an aircraft to rent. There were the club members: these were qualified pilots who wanted to fly more than just once or twice a year. And then there were the students.
In the short time that I was at Langa I saw every type of student: the career minded eighteen year olds; the twenty-something adventure seekers; the older mid-thirties and mid-forties students who had always dreamed about learning to fly and now were in a position to do just that; and even some who were too young to actually get a license but had parents willing to shell out $200 an hour just so they could occupy their kid's time with something constructive. Every week potential new students walked through the doors wanting information about learning to fly. From my perch looking on from the outside it looked like Scott was doing everything right. All you had to do was Google flight instruction and St. Louis and LangaAir was the number one search result. Links to the LangaAir web site were everywhere. Every pilot in St. Louis and anyone who ever even remotely thought about learning to fly received a flyer in the mail. At Spirit we were set up to give the FAA required knowledge tests. We offered training in G1000 equipped Skyhawks. We even had one of the newer Elite simulators installed so we could give simulator training on days when the other planes were grounded due to weather.
So what happened? I really don't know what happened. I suspect that an overly ambitious expansion and a tight credit market are to blame. I don't fault anyone in the company. Everyone I met was top notch. For those who are affected by this turn of events, I hope that things will work out in your favor. I hope to see everyone flying again soon.
The picture to the right is one of my students who had just soloed. We gave him a new "I just soloed at Langa" shirt.