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Wheel's Up!

Middle Tennessee’s Next Generation Of Pilots Are Earning Their Wings At Tennessee Flight Training

As a music producer, Chris Erlanson’s job was to listen to artists talk about their dreams and vision, then help them achieve them. That’s not too far removed from his role as the owner of Tennessee Flight Training (TFT).

“When people walk through the door, they have a dream. They want to do something bigger than themselves and that’s what aviation is,” says Erlanson. “God did not intend for us to fly. But in an airplane, if you want to climb, you will climb. If you want to come back to earth, you will come back to earth. Airplanes are really just extensions of our dreams."

Erlanson never aspired to be an aviation professional while he was working for a record label and a management company. Flying was just something to do, an escape while he was away from the music business. He didn’t realize what it would turn into until he
acquired what was then Nashville Flight Training in 2014. “I bought the flight school as a side investment. It was never intended to be my main vocation,” says Erlanson. “But the more I became involved in aviation, the more I enjoyed it. It gives me great joy, watching kids come in not knowing what a propeller is and a few years later they’re working for an airline. It’s as if I live vicariously through
them, seeing them go from knowing nothing to becoming aviation experts.”

Today, Tennessee Flight Training has operations at Nashville International Airport (BNA) and Maury County Regional Airport (MRC). Between the two fields, it serves hundreds of students ranging from aspiring aviators to experienced pilots who are training for advanced certifications. But even the absolute beginner goes airborne at the first lesson. “We try to make sure that every first lesson is actually in the airplane,” says Erlanson. “The reason is that you weren’t drawn to aviation because you wanted to learn math or
formulae. You’re going to learn about legal and regulatory and math and physics. But we want to keep it fun, too, so every opportunity you have to be in the plane, you’ll be in it with your hands on the controls.”

Students also flock to TFT because aviation jobs pay well and there is a nationwide pilot shortage numbering in the tens of thousands. This explains why students come from all walks of life, including a growing number of aspiring female aviators.
Erlanson has assembled a staff of 40 that includes 26 certified flight instructors, mechanics, regulatory experts and administrative personnel. With 13 aircraft of various performance levels and an FAA-certified simulator at each airport, students have access to all the equipment they need whether they’re pursuing a pilot license or seeking to become an Airport Transport Pilot, a designation required to fly for a commercial airline.

Erlanson says that TFT has a number of advantages compared to flight schools that are housed in university settings. “One of our strengths is that we provide a lot of flexibility,” he says. “Some students want to train twice a day, six days a week. Others want to train only once or twice a week. We’re able to accommodate all of them. It’s not so much the lessons as it is the proficiency. The FAA has strict guidelines in terms of minimum proficiencies and technical skills.”

That aligns with something else that’s inherent to flight training that Erlanson says cannot be compromised. “Aviation is a meritocracy,” he says. “If you come to me with a million dollars, I can’t sell you a license. A license cannot be purchased online with a couple of clicks. It has to be earned.” And in Middle Tennessee, aspiring pilots are earning their wings at Tennessee Flight
Training. TnFlightTraining.com

"If you want to climb, you will climb. If you want to come back to earth, you will come back to earth. Airplanes are really just extensions of our dreams.” -- Chris Erlanson

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