The country with the highest number of pilots per capita has got the fifth flight school. The Reykjavik Flight Academy became the new start point for future pilots on the island with a population of around 380 000 people. RFA is the first flight school in Iceland, which was opened according to the simplified procedure as Declared Training Organization (DTO). Co-founder of Reykjavik Flight Academy Hjörvar Hans Bragason told Flugblogger how he turned from pilots’ seat to flight school office.
We met in the corner of the general aviation area in Reykjavik airport, where most of the flight schools offices are situated. The recently opened Reykjavik Flight Academy is based between the former old flight school “Þytur“ hangar and another training spot – Geirfugl. RFA exists in the hangar 26, which is famous as the nest of „Vængir” (Icelandic “Wings”) aeroclub.
Flugblogger has found young co-founder of the newest flight academy inside the hangar, sitting at the table with laptop and bright runway edge light as a reading-lamp. Hjörvar Hans Bragason is 28 years old, has two kids and wife. He started to fly in 2012, switching to commercial aviation two years later. He was flying on Boeing 747 for ACMI airline Air Atlanta Icelandic and then went to WOW air on Airbus A320 and A330, where he worked until the airline collapse in spring 2019. In overall he gained 3000 flight hours. He said the decision to start the flight academy came to his mind eventually after the collapse of the WOW air.
– Why we are sitting in “Vængir“ hangar? How the aeroclub is linked to the new flight school?
Because we have found this flight club “Vængir“ with my father Bragi Sigþórsson and another two guys – Júlíus Björn Þórólfsson and Þórólfur Magnússon – back in 2013. When we started the flight club, airlines had 500 flight hours requirement for pilots, who want to apply. When WOW air came and started to expand very fast, they lacked pilots and decided to reduce the necessary number of hours. After that nobody tried to fly so many hours anymore as it was before. I could see that the planes in the club did not fly as much as they used to. Nobody doing it just for fun, because it is too expensive. I decided that I need to do something to make planes fly more. The only way I was thinking was to start a flight school.
– How did it come that you become the head of the flight academy?
In WOW air I met captain Robert Ödlund, he is a former chief pilot from Sweden. He has an extensive amount of experience starting flight schools, being an accountable manager and head of training. He knows a lot about regulation and everything when it comes to paperwork. He had started four flight schools in his career. One day I was flying with Robert a long-haul flight, I think the destination was San Francisco and asked him about starting a flight school. He gave me some good information, and said there is a change in regulations, which now says we do not have to have ATO – Authorized Training Organization, but only need DTO – Declared Training Organization.
– What is the difference between ATO and DTO?
The main difference that in DTO we can teach PPL only, not CPL or ATPL. On the other hand, there are fewer requirements for opening a DTO, it is cheaper to get all the necessary papers from the state and maintain it. So, Robert told me, that if I do it, he will do it with me, because he also wanted to start a DTO. So, we did it together and registered it in ICETRA. Finally, they approved everything, and we started the first DTO in Iceland. It is fun and amusing for us.
– How difficult it was to start a new flight school?
Well, thanks to “Vængir“, we already had planes and hangar, insurance and maintenance up to and running. Therefore, we already had half-way through. Then we just established a theoretical course and everything around it we needed to do. If I had to start a school from the beginning, buying planes, finding hangars and prepare a theoretical part, I probably would not do it. It is a lot of work and you need to be lucky to get a hangar. It is only me and Robert were investors of the flight academy. Each of us owns 50 per cent of the company. “Vængir“ leases the hangar, and we use it for briefing, also we can use the classroom in AOPA-Iceland house for theory classes.
– Tell me about your fleet. How many aircraft do you have and what types?
We have three planes: Cessna 150 (TF-TWO), 152 (TF-AVA) and 172 (TF-FFL). We are not going to lease more aircraft for the moment. In the future we plan to teach ATPL and go for ATO, then we obviously will need instrument-rated planes and probably multi-engine. But this plan is not for the nearest future. We have been looking for some options for helicopter training, and we definitely would like to do it. Hopefully, we will offer PPL helicopter training, but it is going to be way more expensive than PPL(A) on planes.
– How many instructors do you have now?
Together with theoretical instructors, we have around 10 people. We might hire two or three this month or next month. I need to hire at least one, but hopefully, I will hire two or three.
– How many students do you have and where are they from?
Well, I started to make advertisement in late July, then we started in August. So far, we have 13 students. Only half of them are Icelanders by nationality, but most of them live in Iceland. Also, two students came from Slovenia and one from the Czech Republic. Usually, we have to limit 10 people on this course.
– In terms of business, what is your perspective?
For now, we have DTO and we are doing only PPL. Besides teaching new pilots, we are doing single-piston license renewals, when guys come here to renew their ratings and introductory flights. The introductory flight lasts 30 minutes with an instructor. It costs 13 000 ISK. A lot of people signing up for that. We hope to offer a theoretical course for ATPL in the nearest future, but we have not started the process for this yet. We had a quite big interest from student to do it.
– Your academy is the fifth flight school on the island. Is the Icelandic market big enough for so many flight training organizations?
Yes, I think the market in Iceland is big enough to have five flight schools. There are many students, having an interest in how to learn to fly. Even if it is only PPL.