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Executive Compass Flight Institute expands with new Calgary location

By Ben Forrest | April 12, 2024

Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 19 seconds.

Delana Hockey, lead dispatcher for the Springbank campus, greets visitors at the facility’s grand opening. ECFI Photo

Amid the cacophony of thudding hammers and whirring buzz-saws from an upstairs classroom renovation, Delana Hockey couldn’t help but smile.

This kind of construction noise was disruptive, but easy to bear; the excitement around her overwhelmed the clatter.

“I think ‘a fair bit’ [of excitement] is an understatement,” said Hockey, lead dispatcher at Executive Compass Flight Institute (ECFI)’s new Alberta campus at Calgary/Springbank Airport.

“Everyone is extremely motivated … they’re very eager. It’s a fun experience to work in, and to be around people who are so happy.”

ECFI Springbank has a double-wide hangar that houses one Cessna 172 aircraft and a Piper PA-34 Seneca that splits time between Alberta and B.C. ECFI Photo

The new Springbank campus, near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, is the first major expansion of ECFI since the flight school opened at Pitt Meadows, B.C., in 2022. The company’s rapid growth is driven in part by a flood of applicants hoping to capitalize on the global pilot shortage — both college-aged students and older pupils looking for a second career.

“There’s just so many opportunities,” said Hockey, one of seven employees at the ECFI Springbank campus. “Once you get your licence, there’s so many roles that you could go into, whether it’s being an instructor or working for an airline, or medevac.”

ECFI is also seeing interest from several older students looking to buy their own aircraft and hoping to avoid a lengthy waitlist to get their private pilot’s licence.

There are already three flight schools at Springbank — Calgary Flying Club, Mount Royal University and Springbank College — but ECFI still saw it as an ideal expansion site.

A flood of interest in pilot training is driving ECFI’s expansion into Alberta. ECFI Photo

“The day we opened those doors, people were walking in and saying, ‘Is there a waitlist? How long is it going to take me to get flying?’” said Hockey. “They’re in the air, they’re getting it done. They’re not having to wait those 18 months.”

ECFI held the grand opening for its Springbank facility on April 8, welcoming about 75 visitors to tour its 2,000-square-foot office and classroom facility, as well as a double-wide hangar that houses one Cessna 172 aircraft and a Piper PA-34 Seneca that splits time between Alberta and B.C. The school plans to eventually have between five and six planes, plus a flight simulator, at its Springbank location.

“We’re using the latest and greatest technology in terms of scheduling and booking students, and the technology within the aircraft,” she said. “It’s been quite welcoming here. We have a really good relationship with the airport authority.”

Already, the Springbank location has four flight instructors working with 30 students; the plan is to increase the number of staff and pupils soon to keep pace with demand. ECFI is also betting its Alberta location will be a draw for students hoping to catch on with airlines in Calgary, drawing on the experience of flying in unpredictable weather near the Rockies.

About 75 people gathered at the grand opening of Executive Compass Flight Institute’s new campus at Calgary/Springbank Airport. ECFI Photo

“It’s just such a different experience, and such dramatic weather conditions that change within five minutes,” said Hockey. “[It’s] providing students with that opportunity to really bring in what it takes to be a calm pilot and be able to adapt.”

As renovations continue at the Springbank campus, further ECFI expansions may follow.

“They’re really looking at expanding not just in Alberta but across the country,” said Hockey. “There’s definitely at ton of opportunity and definitely a lot of places that I think could benefit from another flight school.”

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