Longtime pilot finds ways to keep students flying during COVID

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Home built simulator keeps students at Cypress College flying. Courtesy photo

Cypress College made news last year when it became the only institution of its kind in the USA to install a high tech 737 Max simulator, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous one-million-dollar donor.

Before COVID, the airlines were begging for pilots and with the simulator, enrollment ballooned at the college.

According to Capt. Ed Valdez, Chairman of the Travel and Aviation Department, the growing array of flight simulators was expected to produce “better pilots” as technicians and flight instructors can now simulate a wide range of situations.
Then disaster struck as a series of 737 crashes grounded the aircraft until this past week, when the Federal Aviation Administration finally re-certified the aircraft for commercial flight.

Valdez said this week that although Cypress College will get the procedural and software fixes to the 737 Max, COVID has long prevented students from returning to campus.
This has not stopped flight lessons, said Valdez, “but I really had to think on my feet.”

Using a series of aviation web sites, Google earth and unique programming, Valdez learned how to create a do-it-yourself simulator that allowed students to take lessons via Zoom and other online technologies.

“Students can learn cross country procedures, airport to airport techniques, flight planning, etc.,” said Valdez, saying he learned so much about the hardware and software, that he’s already installed his self-made flight simulators at Fullerton, Torrance and other locations, where students can learn to fly.

He said the screens, monitors, computers, and software are all encased in aluminum and truly, said Valdez, “I kind of like this better than classroom.”
Going forward, he said, students will be able to learn to fly on campus or online. Online students are obviously limited to one-at-a-time, he said.

Valdez is a longtime airline Captain for United Airlines. He is curerently on leave from the airline and will take an early retirement to focus on his new venture.
By necessity, the man who helped buildt the first 737 Simulator thinks his self-made version will soar.

Virus or not, said Valdez, using a bit of ingenuity will keep virtual airplanes in the air. With this new self-made version, he said “flight schools can continue to fly.”