Published on San Fernando Valley Business Journal in News on May 30, 2016

By Mark R. Madler

EDUCATION: Students can take final exam in cockpit with local instructor.

Channel Islands Aviation this month started issuing licenses to students who successfully completed its private pilot course. The license allows them to fly non-commercial aircraft.

The Camarillo charter company and flight school was given examination authority by the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows the company’s chief flight instructor David Koble to give a final check to students and award the license.

Sarah Bartush, chief marketing officer for the family-owned business, said that before the flight school got examination authority, an FAA-approved pilot examiner had to be called in to do the final test with the students.

“We no longer have to do that for the private pilot course because our customers, when they take their final flight with our chief flight instructor and if they meet the standards for the course, he can issue a pilot certificate right there,” Bartush said.

Having that ability means a streamlined process for the school but also helps students in that they are doing the final flight check with a pilot they know rather than bringing in an outsider, she added.

Sky: Channel Island Aviation's David Koble, right, with student. 

Sky: Channel Island Aviation's David Koble, right, with student. 

“That can allow for them to perform better,” Bartush continued. “It takes the edge off the stress.”

Channel Islands Aviation received its approval for examination authority in April and did its first check flight the week of May 16. Bartush believes her flight school is the only one given that authority in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Channel Islands was first approved by the FAA as a flight school in 2009.

The private pilot course is among eight offered and requires 35 hours of instruction. On average about 40 students complete the program annually, Bartush said.

The firm is now going to apply with the FAA to receive examination authority on the other courses it offers, starting with its instrument rating course.

“Now that we have the initial approval other courses should come much more quickly,” Bartush said.

New Charter

JetSuiteX started service this month between Hollywood Burbank Airport and Las Vegas and expanded service to the San Francisco Bay area.

The charter service will operate three daily roundtrip flights on weekdays and Sundays between the San Fernando Valley airfield and McCarron International Airport using Embraer 135 aircraft.

Chief Executive Alex Wilcox said that JetSuiteX is going after passengers who want a short-haul flight absent the hassles of flying out of a large commercial airport.

“After all, who wants to spend more time in the airport than in the air?” Wilcox said in a prepared statement. “JetSuiteX was created for people who prefer to fly but want to avoid crowded airport terminals and long security lines.”

Irvine-based JetSuiteX’s model is for passengers to purchase a single seat on the planes or to charter the entire aircraft. It differs from that of Surf Air, which also flies out of Hollywood Burbank with service to Oakland and San Carlos, which operates on a subscription model in which customers pay a flat fee each month and fly as often as they want.

In addition to the new Las Vegas service, JetSuiteX expanded its service between Burbank and Concord, outside of Oakland, to three roundtrips on weekdays from two daily roundtrips. That service started April 19.

JetSuiteX offers departures from private jet terminals and its Embraer aircraft feature 30 seats with legroom comparable to business class on a domestic airline and free Wi-Fi and inflight entertainment streamed to passengers’ personal devices.

Drone Bills

The Valley Industry & Commerce Association Aviation Committee voted on May 11 to oppose a state Senate bill governing the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, in California.

The group is against Senate Bill 868, the State Remote Piloted Aircraft Act, because it is overly broad and could negatively affect innovation in drone development, VICA said.

The bill lays out where drones would and would not be allowed to operate. For instance, drone operators could not fly over state parks or lands and water managed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife without a permit. The aircraft would be allowed in appropriate spaces at an airport or over private property where an owner’s permission has been given.

The committee tabled a vote on a second piece of pending drone-related legislation, Assembly Bill 2320. That bill would keep people with a restraining order or registered as a sex offender from operating drones.