Learn to Fly: Private Pilot Ground School

Did you know that Cypress has one of the very best aviation schools in SoCal? Our program is a hidden gem. In just two years of training, Cypress graduates go on to well-paid aviation careers (upwards of $60K). Want to know more? So did we. Edilberto Valdez – an industry expert, experienced captain, professor, and instructor to NASA pilots (!) – gave us a bit of info on our pilot certification program and aviation course offering…

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aviation 5(Captain Edilberto Valdez) 


What is your career background?
I have a total of 35 years experience in aviation. I’ve served as a commercial pilot for United Airlines, and chartered private planes for corporate clients. In addition to teaching courses at Cypress, I also instruct NASA test pilots training to fly Gulfstream jets and teach international flight procedures (how to fly throughout the world).

How did you start teaching at Cypress?
I started to get involved in local education as an aviation program advisor at another institution. Through that experience I was offered a teaching opportunity, which then opened the door to a full-time faculty position here at Cypress. I think Cypress is a fantastic place to work and great community resource. I feel fortunate to be in a position where I can connect my passion for flight with my love of teaching – it’s rewarding to help others find careers in the field.

What makes our aviation program stand out?
We really do have the best, most innovative flight-training program around. Our technology is the most advanced you’ll find in the Greater O.C. / L.A. region, and our curriculum practices are proven. We are known in the industry for producing great pilots… and quickly, too. In fact, most of our graduates save around $6,000 in obtaining their private pilot license – they acquire and build their skills so efficiently and solidly that they are able to launch careers immediately with certification as a flight instructor.

What kind of jobs do students get after certification?
There’s a large need for pilots across private and commercial industries. Our aviation program has been around since 1967. Over the decades we’ve built strong relationships with area employers so there’s a direct path for Cypress graduates to high-paying careers with commercial airlines, charter firms, military operations, or private instruction companies.

What is the industry pay like?
It varies depending on the niche. As a private instructor, hourly pay can range from $20 on the low starting end to $50+. If you work in the charter or commercial sectors, however, that scale will look different – salaries tend to range between $100,000 – $300,000. And the hours are relatively favorable.

Pilot License-01

What are the perks of pilot life?
You get to fulfill a desire to fly; travel; have a flexible and variable schedule; enjoy different scenery; work with people of many backgrounds; and have a good income – that last factor is important… regardless of the job you take, you’ll be able to make a livable salary.

What kind of individual does well in the program?
Those who have always had an interest in flying do well. That’s for starters. What differentiates the best students from the rest is natural drive, curiosity and a broad interest in a variety of subjects (aviation is a multidisciplinary field that touches on physics, navigation, trigonometry, mechanics, as well as technical and procedural details).

What attracted you to flying?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with flight. As a kid my eyes were always scanning the sky…. I’m grateful to work in a field that I’ve always loved.

I would encourage anyone with an interest in flying – of any age or background – to sign-up for one of our classes. February 1, 2016 will kick-off spring semester so it’s the perfect time to start. We still have a few spaces in our beginner ATC – 132 Private Pilot course as well as our Commercial Pilot Seminar.

Class schedules and registration can be accessed via myGateway.

For those new to the college, apply here.

For additional information on the Cypress College Aviation Program, please contact Captain Edilberto Valdez at evaledez@cypresscollege.edu

Also, check out the CC Aviation Program’s official, newly launched Instagram page for cockpit views and landscape beauty!

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(Captain Edilberto Valdez)

Cypress College’s Career Technical Education Division programs are among the highest ranked in the country, contributing to Cypress College’s reputation as one of the very best public community colleges. Recent 2015-16 accolades include:  

  • #1 in the U.S. | Top Toyota T-TEN Auto-Tech Program in the Nation.
  • #2 in C.A. | Top Two ESL & Basic Skills English Programs in California.
  • #3 in C.A. | Ranked as a Top Three California Community College (Schools.com)
  • #3 in the Region | Ranked Top Three in Greater Los Angeles & Orange County for Student Transfer and Graduation Rates (EdSmart.org)
  • 15 of 113 | California Community Colleges piloting a Bachelor’s Degree (Mortuary Science)
  • #17 in the U.S. | National Ranking on MTV-U’s website “Rate-My-Professor”
  • Top National Licensure Exam Pass Rates | Perfect state licensure pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Abdomen; Diagnostic Medical Sonography (OB/GYN); Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Physics; and Mortuary Science: Sciences. 90%+ state licensure exam pass rates for students in the following programs: Dental Assisting; Mortuary Science (Arts); Radiology Technology. And 85%+ state licensure rates for students in: Health Information Technology; Nursing; and Psychiatric Technology.
  • 2/3ds of the Class of 2015 qualified for transfer to a UC or CSU institution.
  • 75 Orange Empire Athletics Conference Titles
  • 25 California Community College Athletic Association State Championship Titles
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