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10/05/2021 4:00 pmParagon Flight Training named among this year’s GrowFL 5o Companies to Watch2021

"11th annual awards program recognizes second-stage business standouts headquartered in Florida"

Fort Myers, Fla. ---October 5, 2021 --- Paragon Flight Training, an award-winning flight training academy based at Page Field in Fort Myers, is pleased to announce its induction into this year’s class of GrowFL 50 Companies to Watch. Honorees in this prestigious group are second-stage growth companies that have between six and 150 employees, $750,000–$100 million in revenue in 2020, and demonstrate a strong commitment to grow beyond second-stage.

In August, GrowFL announced 82 Companies to Watch finalists from more than 600 nominations. The group was narrowed to 50 in a final round of judging by a panel comprised of past honorees, economic development leaders and corporate partners of GrowFL. Companies were judged on a number of criteria including growth in number of employees; impact of the business in the job market; increase in sales and/or unit volume; current and past financial reports; innovativeness of the product or service; response to adversity; and contributions to aid community-oriented projects. “We are honored to be inducted as one of GrowFL’s Companies to Watch,” Christopher Schoensee, owner and president of Paragon Flight Training, said. “Since our founding in 2006, Paragon Flight Training has had a growth mindset—capitalizing on opportunities that help us apply the same best practices of our larger counterparts in order to lead the way in commercial, military and recreational pilot training. As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, Florida provides the perfect setting for us to thrive - with a major expansion currently underway that will fill a critical need to train more pilots, and in turn, support our community.” This year’s Companies to Watch honorees projected continued growth in 2021, with a 62% revenue increase and 49% growth in employees compared to 2020. If their projections hold, these companies will have generated $1.7 billion in revenue and added more than 1,500 employees over the last five years — a 263% increase in revenue and a 206% increase in jobs since 2017. Paragon Flight Training is definitely in growth mode, with a groundbreaking slated for October for an expanded 14,000 square-foot hangar on Page Field in Lee County as well as plans to purchase an additional 45–50 planes, tripling its current fleet. Companies named to the list will be officially recognized at the 11th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Celebration on February 17, 2022, at the Hard Rock Live in Universal CityWalk, Orlando, Fla. Tickets are on sale now. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://growfl.com/flctw21/about-flctw/. About GrowFL Companies to Watch GrowFL Companies to Watch recognizes growing second-stage companies headquartered in Florida. Developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, Companies to Watch is a unique way to honor the companies who demonstrate high performance in the marketplace with innovative strategies and processes, making them “worth watching.” For more information, visit GrowFL. About Paragon Flight Training Paragon Flight is an award-winning flight academy headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. With FAA and SEVIS accreditations, a fleet of nearly 20 planes, and advanced simulator technology onsite, the company trains commercial, professional, and recreational pilots as well as offering military pilot training for domestic and foreign governments. The company is in the process of a 22,000-combined-square-foot expansion slated for completion in fourth quarter 2021. Learn more at ParagonFlight.com. --- Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero EAFocus Communications Tel: 248.260.8466 Email: barbara@eafocus.com
09/22/2021 2:00 pmConsolidation in flight training industry heats up, with international players entering the U.S.2021

"Activity stems from urgency to address global pilot shortage"

Fort Myers, Fla. --- September 22, 2021 --- Amid a summer of delayed and cancelled flights due to staffing shortages and myriad pandemic woes impacting travel, the once sleepy flight training industry is gaining the attention of national and international aviation giants. Christopher Schoensee, president and owner of Fort Myers-based Paragon Flight Training and a keen observer of movement in the industry, says such activity stems from the urgency of addressing the global pilot shortage. 

“Major players like CAE, United Airlines and Skyborne in London are taking aggressive steps to buy up smaller flight training schools in the U.S. for the specific purpose of training more commercial pilots,” Schoensee said. “I believe we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg; for the first time in decades, big players are shifting some of their attention away from government and military pilot training toward privately-owned flight schools that make up a significant percentage of the commercial aviation/specialty training produced here in the USA.”

Paragon Flight Training was founded in 2006; 15 years later, Schoensee, who is a member of the board of directors of the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA), said he’s seen more buy and sell activity in recent years than in the company’s entire history. 

“The flight training industry is highly-fragmented, with many schools producing pilots at different rates and with varying degrees of proficiency.  That unpredictable pilot production, combined with a years-in-the-making pilot shortage and a pandemic, created interest from companies recognizing the opportunity to consolidate market share,” Schoensee said. “Some schools couldn’t handle the temporary slowdown forced by the pandemic and either closed or sold, while other flight schools grew along with the increased awareness of the crippling pilot shortage. It really comes down to grow and compete or get out of the way.” 

Paragon Flight Training is definitely in growth mode, with a groundbreaking slated for October for an expanded 14,000 square foot hangar on Page Field in Fort Myers and plans to purchase an additional 45-50 planes, tripling its current fleet.  

“We’ve had a growth mindset for several years, but it has definitely crystallized as we continue to see tremendous opportunity for premier flight training schools like ours to up our game and lead the way in commercial, military and recreational pilot training,” Schoensee said. “We apply the best practices of our larger counterparts but can be nimble in decision making due to our size.”   

Paragon Flight Training also intends to retain its leverage by continuing to cater to domestic students – currently 90% of its student population. With a modern fleet, advanced simulator technology,  and a reputation for high quality training, domestic students will pay premium rates to gain their pilot certification. Schools with older fleets and technology tend to attract international students via brokers, who also take a slice of the earnings. 

“We are not afraid of the changes sweeping through our industry – we’re investing in the future of flight training and we’re excited about it,” Schoensee said.   

About Paragon Flight Training

Paragon Flight is an award-winning flight academy headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. With FAA and SEVIS accreditations, a fleet of nearly 20 planes, and advanced simulator technology onsite, the company trains commercial, professional, and recreational pilots as well as offering military pilot training for domestic and foreign governments. The company is in the process of a 22,000-combined-square-foot expansion slated for completion in fourth quarter 2021.

--- Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero EAFocus Communications Tel: 248.260.8466 Email: barbara@eafocus.com
06/24/2021 10:00 amGrowing flight training academy is ready to fill industry demand for pilots as carrier strategies for hiring evolve2021

“We are more than ready to provide solutions to the challenge the industry is presenting with the pilot shortage.” 

Fort Myers, Fla. --- June 24, 2021 --- Earlier this week, American Airlines began delaying or canceling hundreds of flights due to a shortage of airline personnel, including pilots, a problem they anticipate continuing through July. Delta Airlines then promptly followed with the announcement that it would hire more than 1,000 pilots by summer 2022. Christopher Schoensee, owner and president of Paragon Flight Training, headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida, said his flight training academy, which is already looking at a record year for 2021, has been strategically gearing up for the increased pilot demand for some time and is ready to help fill the pipeline. 

“The airlines’ model of hiring and training pilots has been evolving. We are seeing interest by the major carriers to consider the benefits of working with technically advanced, professional, private flight training academies that can pivot with the industry to safely, quickly and expertly train the commercial airline pilots of the future,” Schoensee said. 

It was the anticipation of the pilot shortage and the need to accommodate increased demand for the company’s services that served as the impetus for Paragon Flight Training’s ambitious growth plan, which began in 2018 with the investment of additional advanced flight simulators, followed by a two-phased strategic growth plan in 2020 that is now seeing significant results.  

In March 2021, the company entered into a 10-year agreement with Lee County Port Authority, an effort that will triple Paragon Flight’s aircraft fleet operations at Page Field while expanding their training and technology services.  The project includes the construction of a 14,000-square-foot maintenance and MRO facility that broke ground in March, as well as an 8,000-square-foot pilot development learning center, slated for completion in 2022. The company also hired aviation industry insider and former commercial airline pilot, Captain Lee Collins, for additional strategy heft. 

“We have acted aggressively in recent years to build up our flight training might and capabilities and are more than ready to provide solutions to the challenge the industry is presenting with the pilot shortage,” Schoensee said. 

Schoensee noted that email leads coming into Paragon Flight for information on flight training services have steadily increased from strong pre-pandemic levels of 140 - 150 per month to nearly 200 in April and May. Moreover, of those recent queries, nearly 50% are inquiring about training as career pilots, a jump from 35% pre-pandemic, when the majority of queries were for recreational flight training as well as the specialized training Paragon offers for domestic and military personnel.  

“The aviation industry is having a moment, both for negative and positive reasons, but there is no doubt that we are in a pivotal era that will guide pilot training and talent acquisition for at least the next decade. For those who are prepared to be leaders, it’s a great time to be in the industry,” Schoensee said. 

About Paragon Flight Training

Paragon Flight is an award-winning flight academy headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. With FAA and SEVIS accreditations, a fleet of nearly 20 planes, and advanced simulator technology onsite, the company trains commercial, professional, and recreational pilots and as well as offering military pilot training for domestic and foreign governments. The company is in the process of a 22,000-combined-square-foot expansion slated for completion in fourth quarter 2021.

--- Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero EAFocus Communications Tel: 248.260.8466 Email: barbara@eafocus.com  
06/03/2021 2:10 pmParts shortage is impacting the private aviation industry2021

“We are temporarily rethinking our just-in-time inventory approach…”

Fort Myers, Fla. --- June 3, 2021 --- The slowdown of the supply chain in industries around the globe is now impacting the private aviation industry. Christopher Schoensee, owner and president of Paragon Flight Training, said he’s stocking up on aircraft on ground (AOG) and mission critical parts such as spark plugs and oil filters now after seeing the beginning of a shortage and significant price increases in these and other key supplies over the past several months. “The shortage of raw materials and supply chain issues in automotive and consumer technologies, especially with the microchip shortage, are well known, but I hadn’t noticed an impact on private aviation until we ordered spark plugs in early May and were told there was an 8-week backlog,” Schoensee said. “Then, when we went to order filters, the price had increased about 7% in three months’ time, which is not typical at all.” Previously, Schoensee had a just-in-time approach to inventory, but that’s just not practical now, so he’s planning ahead. “We are temporarily rethinking our just-in-time inventory approach, not only because of obtaining the parts, but also due to dramatic increases in costs and delays in delivery,” Schoensee said. “Pre-pandemic, I could order parts today and they would be shipped tomorrow. Now, I have an eight-month supply of all AOG and flight critical parts. I simply can’t risk not having access to the parts I need to run a flight school.” While Schoensee says Paragon Flight can handle the current situation in the interim, it is especially tough for smaller flight schools that were severely hit by the pandemic shutdowns and can’t afford to spend more on parts or to stockpile them. He added that his company has had to purchase a higher price point spark plug – 25% to 30% more than the spark plugs they typically buy - because the standard plugs are on 60-day back order. Further, the parts shortage is requiring additional time by fight school owners to manage the business, given the extra effort needed to regularly check tracking numbers for parts arrivals and keep a closer eye on inventory in general. Waiting anxiously for aviation insurance renewals In the meantime, Schoensee says he and his colleagues in the flight school industry are anxiously awaiting their aviation insurance renewals in July. “2019 renewal rates were relatively modest at 5% to 10%, but 2020 premium increases were an alarming 20% to 25%,” Schoensee said. “It seems that increases would be more measured this year because in 2020 many flight schools across the country merged or went out of business and flight time was down, presumably meaning fewer claims. We’re in a wait and see position now.” About Paragon Flight Training Paragon Flight is an award-winning flight academy headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. With FAA and SEVIS accreditations, a fleet of nearly 20 planes, and advanced simulator technology onsite, the company trains commercial, professional, and recreational pilots and as well as offering military pilot training for domestic and foreign governments. The company is in the process of a 22,000-combined-square-foot expansion slated for completion in fourth quarter 2021. --- Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero EAFocus Communications Tel: 248.260.8466 Email: barbara@eafocus.com