Aero Recip Customer Profile

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Harv’s Air Service: An Aero Recip Customer

So you want to learn to fly. How do you choose a flight school? Do you believe everything that the flying school’s advertisements tell you?

It’s tough competing for students. Aviation is cyclical and there are more pilots than available jobs. Yet Harv’s Air Service is not suffering from a lack of students.

Harv’s Air is located 2 miles south of Steinbach, at the Steinbach South Airport. Why would `wannabe-pilots’ drive to Steinbach, a small city located 33 miles southeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and 35 miles north of the Canadian/American border?

What makes it special?

Award-winning Harv’s Air Service promotes itself as “Flight Training with a difference”. Owner Harv Penner frankly states that the school compensates for its somewhat out-of-the-way location by “exerting ourselves more” and tailoring flight training to their students’ needs. They pride themselves on speaking honestly to hopeful pilots about career opportunities and knowing the names of all their students. They even recommend that students try out a few instructors and select the one that best fits their personality. Over and over I heard that Harv’s Air really does try harder to please.

Harv’s Air has been around since 1972 and has always been a family-owned and operated flying school. Harv Penner bought the airport and hangar along with an aircraft buy/sell business. Flight training grew out of that. Today, they rarely sell airplanes; the main business is flight training, although they also have an air taxi service (Navajo).

In the beginning, Harv trained customers on their own aircraft. The first school plane was a Yankee. “My Dad started by himself, offering just Private Pilots Licences and added courses from there. About 1975 we got an Apache as the first twin. I’m guessing we’ve owned at least 100 airplanes over the years”, recalled Adam Penner.

The school turns any perceived disadvantages to advantages. For instance, there is only one runway, and mostly grass at that. Says Harv, “You learn to fly in crosswinds and you get grass and pavement experience. Real world experience.”

There is no control tower: a downside for those who want radio work. But as Harv points out, 98% of the airports in North America are uncontrolled and there are 3 controlled airports close by. Because it is situated away from Winnipeg, Harv’s Air boasts that it has a practice area all around the airport, “no commute”, he advertises. Also, because Harv owns and operates the airport, they have an aerobatic box above the airport, no landing or handling fees, a short taxi way (remember flight students pay the same amount for taxiing or flying), and basically no restricted airspace – all good news for cash shy students.

Adam told me that they offer accelerated but very comprehensive courses for all licences. Renovated and expanded in 1991, the school’s facilities are modern and clean and include 5 briefing rooms, a large classroom with an a/v system, dispatch area and pilot lounge.

To provide students with a variety of experiences, the school has 5 different types of airplanes. Its mixed fleet of Cessna, Piper, Beech and American Champion is equipped with the latest in avionics. Being a tail-dragger pilot myself, I was pleased to learn that Harv’s could provide instruction on tail-draggers – not too many flight schools can.

Harv’s also offers a basic and advanced aerobatics course. This 5 session course checks students out on a Pitts S2B with manoeuvres such as Dutch rolls, chandelles, lazy eights, aileron rolls, loops, split S, Immelman, spins and barrel rolls. There is also a 10-session precision aerobatics course that includes all of the above plus Cuban eights, reverse Cubans, hammerhead stalls and snap rolls, to name a few of the extras.

For the last 20 years, Harv’s Air Service and Providence College have provided training for missionary pilots. There is a diploma and a degree program. Said Adam, “Today many of the pilots fly for MAF and JARRS, plus a slew of smaller organizations”. In 1998 Harv’s began a business aviation diploma.

So, whether you are looking for Recreational, Private, Commercial, Multi-engine, IFR, Instructors ratings or other specialized training, Harv’s Air has it all, including a Designated Flight Test Examiner on staff.

Harv’s Air has vision. It has the only computerized ground school system in Canada (and in French too). This was a smart move. There are many advantages to web-based training.

Many students do not have the time to mark off two evenings a week for ground school. Harv’s can provide fast, inexpensive distribution and universal access. Students can learn anytime and anywhere from any type of computer. Students save valuable time by having instant access to training via the internet. They have complete scheduling control, and can fit training to their schedules 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Their students come from all over: 40% from Winnipeg, 30% from elsewhere in Canada, 20% are international and 10% are local. There are brand-new, fully-furnished accommodations for 18 students located right at the airport.

Unlike some flight schools, Harv’s Air has grown over the years and consistently shown a profit. There is no doubt that the Penner family has done something right.

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