Leen Vandendriessche (36) and Kay Vereeken (37) started a training centre for airline pilots in Antwerp, called EuroPilot Center.
In view of the rapidly growing success of their company as a result of a strong training philosophy, in combination with noise restrictions at the airports in Flanders and increasing airport taxes, expansion was only possible through a satellite location in the USA. In addition, a software department was set up for creating Pilot Training Apps.
Palm Springs, located in southern California, was deliberately chosen, not only because of the favourable flying weather but also because of the positive economic climate. All this happened at the end of 2015 and was accompanied by the necessary trial and error. “It is almost unthinkable to set up a pilot school in the USA after the terrible events of 9/11 as a non-American,” said Kay Vereeken, CEO.
“It has been a tough fight with few guarantees on both the private and the entrepreneurial side, but perseverance, dedication and never accepting “NO” for an answer were the keys to success!” adds Leen Vandendriessche, COO of EuroPilot Center.
At the beginning of this year, the California company received the highest recognition from the US Aviation Authorities (FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration), as a so-called “Part 141” training agency. In addition, the school on American soil was also accredited by the European authorities. Thanks to this unique combination of American and European recognition, the company now plays on the world market.
“Our airline pilot candidates are trained in California by highly qualified Belgian flight instructors, and this according to a unique training philosophy that combines theory and practice from day one,” says Leen Vandendriessche. “The school in California is 100% owned by Flemish entrepreneurs today, which guarantees absolute quality to candidate pilots. As a result, we succeeded in re-training Belgian (and foreign) airline pilots to the highest standard,” adds Kay Vereeken.
And this success is bearing fruit. All graduated pilots from EuroPilot Center find a job with airlines such as Brussels Airlines, TUIfly, ASL Belgium, Germanwings, Ryanair, almost immediately after the training.
The motto is not for nothing: Personal Training, In Style. From the start, a personal approach was deliberately chosen, with the use of ultra-modern aircraft, glass cockpits, full-motion simulators and software developed in-house.
EuroPilot Center currently trains 30 airline pilots a year, of which around 75% are destined for the European market and 25% for the American one. A large number of important investments will follow in 2019, including new simulators and aircraft.
Recently, the entrepreneurial couple decided to take the general public behind the scenes of the pilot school, and through their Live Facebook section “This is US”, they want to spread information about the job and the training to become a pilot, given that there is often a lot of ignorance about this. The live videos are very popular and were viewed more than 70,000 times online in a few weeks.
“As Flemings, we have a healthy dose of hard work, and the American Dream we live today is the result of hard work, never giving up and continuing to dream,” says Kay Vereeken. Let this be a source of inspiration for so many Flemings who have ambitions, but have not yet taken the effective step, the sky does not always have to be the limit.
Deurne, 7 May 2019