Without a warning, the clear sunny day morphed into a rainy and foggy mess. The picturesque mountains against blue skies which had looked so inviting seconds before took on a more sinister air. Lightning struck and thunder rolled in the distance. The fog thickened to almost zero visibility. The scene turned to night with lights from houses and a runway blinking in the distance. In a flash, the plane was teleported back on the ground to a runway in front of clear skies again.
I was sitting in the pilot’s seat of a high-tech flight simulator, while WCC Aviation Ground Instructor Captain Romeo Layug demonstrated how easily he could “play God.” With a few mouse clicks, he changed the scenario settings for the aircraft, including visibility, time of day, weather conditions and turbulence level. The view outside the plane’s cockpit instantly changed to mimic the actual environment and weather conditions.
The ALSIM AL200 MCC is a flight simulator used for Jet Orientation Course and Multi-Crew Cooperation Courses. According to Captain Layug, this is one of the best flight synthetic training devices because you can easily change the settings to simulate a wide range of scenarios. The machine can make you feel like you’re taking control of various aircrafts, from a single or twin piston engine to that of a twin turbo prop aircraft or even a light jet aircraft.
The simulator’s electric control loading system allows pilots to experience highly realistic and reliable flight sensations. While on the ground, the foot pedals controlled how the aircraft maneuvered left and right. I was told to pull a lever to increase power, pull on the yoke of the steering wheel, and suddenly the plane took off! Navigating the levers and controls actually felt like being in the cockpit of a real plane. After cruising for a few minutes, my objective was to aim for a white structure in the distance, angling the plane just right so that it would land straight. Thankfully, it was a smooth take-off, flight and landing.
While flying in the simulator felt like playing a very high-tech video game, most visitors can’t use this just for fun. This multi-million dollar machine is one of the most important pieces of equipment in WCC Aviation, one of Asia’s leading flight schools. The students’ mastery of the different scenarios here is what ensures safe and secure flights for thousands of airline passengers.
Piloting this high-tech simulator, flying as a passenger in 2-seater and 4-seater Cessna planes, and getting a stunning aerial view of the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan were highlights of our media visit to WCC Aviation. Based in Binalonan, Pangasinan, WCC runs WCC Aeronautical and Technological College, where currently about 500 local and foreign students from all over Asia are enrolled.
During our visit, I found out that some of the pilots who graduated from flight school didn’t really start in a career in aviation. One captain shared that he first worked as an engineer for a few years to save up to study to become a pilot. While the tuition fees for flight school may seem steep at first, the return on investment is huge. Many foreign students come to the Philippines to get a degree, since the tuition cost here is still much lower than what they would spend in their home countries.
Within the school campus is a functioning airport facility, an 850-meter airstrip, classrooms, modern simulators and facilities to enhance the learning experience. They even have a fly-in hotel catering to aviation students.
Formerly known as a sleepy crossroads town, which travelers just pass on the way to Baguio and other northern provinces, the aviation company is putting the town of Binalonan on the map. The school is the brainchild of licensed pilot and instructor Captain Ramon V. Guico, III, who also happens to be Binalonan’s mayor. At a young age, Guico dreamt of putting his hometown on the Philippine tourism map. His passion for aviation and public service became a way to create a synergy between public and and private efforts and help boost the local economy. The airstrip that served as WCC Aviation headquarters was established in 2005 while the school campus in Binalonan opened in 2008. From only two hobby aircrafts and two students nine years ago, word quickly spread and a batch of 60 trainees from various ASEAN countries followed right after.
As a pilot and public servant, Guico says his perspective is always at the “macro level”. Getting an aerial view of the town has helped him see the patterns of development the town needs. Since the school launched, the influx of students has created a demand in the local economy for public transportation, dining destinations and lodging houses. It has also attracted big companies to set up shop in town.
“The demand for pilots and aviation specialists is on the rise in thousands of domestic and international flights worldwide,” Guico shared to members of the media.
Source: Infographic on the State of the Aviation Industry
Guico shared that the aviation school is part of the larger vision to develop Binalonan as North Luzon’s “University Town.” With the number of educational establishments present, its laid-back environment, almost zero crime rate and accessibility through the new Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Binalonan is gearing itself to become “an educational haven and gateway for commerce in Eastern Pangasinan.”
“In more than seven years of educating aviation professionals, we have produced more than 500 commercial pilots. It also goes for our flight attendants and aircraft mechanics who are now actively working in airlines,” He added that many WCC graduates have moved on to become pilots for commercial airlines all around the world.
WCC Aeronautical & Technological College
WCC offers complete and state-of-the art aviation hands-on curriculum and ensures students of the safest facilities and best instructors that trainers can get to advance in a world-class career in the aviation industry. Aside from the flagship Pilot Academy of the College of Aviation, WCC has a College of Engineering and Aviation Technology, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Tourism, and Flight Attendant Course. Their programs and courses include BS Aviation Major in Commercial Flying, BS Aviation Major in Aviation Management, BS Aeronautical Engineering, BS Aircraft Maintenance Technology, BS Tourism and Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Technology.
The whole complex is made up of a main hangar and several buildings spread around including the WCC Aerotech College Building, with classrooms, a library, administration office, audio-visual/lecture room, a briefing/debriefing room, WCC Repair Station and Powerplant room. There’s also Simulator Building with dedicated rooms for the flight simulators used for classes and flight training. Aside from the ALSIM AL200 MCC used for Jet Orientation Course and Multi-Crew Cooperation Courses, which I got to try out, WCC Aviation also has the Elite PI-135 Basic Aircraft Training Device, which can be used by students.
EL PINOY FLY-IN HOTEL & RESORT
During our stay, we were checked in to the El Pinoy Fly-In Hotel & Resort, a two-level establishment with 80 rooms located within the complex of Binalonan Airfield. The hotel is mostly utilized by WCC’s aviation trainees with a room-sharing arrangement, though they are also open to the public (rate: P1,800/day if rooms are available). The rooms provide basic but comfortable quarters for trainees who need to focus on their studies in school.
Since the place has a swimming pool, fitness center, function rooms, garden venues, bar and restaurant in the clubhouse, it’s also ideal for family and group outings, parties, special occasions, company seminars, team building and events. Right next to the grounds is a mid-sized football field.
WCC operates a fleet of 30 trainer aircrafts of varying capacities in their fleet. Aircraft models include a Cessna 150, Cessna 152, Cessna 172, Pipper Warrior, Pipper Senecca 1, TECNAM P2002JF, TECNAM P2006T, LET 410 UVP-E and TECNAM P2002JF.
The Tecnam P2002JF in particular looks like a Top Gun worthy fighter jet.
The aircrafts range from tiny vintage looking 2-seater planes that are used for flight training and personal use to the more modern 19-seater passenger plane under SKY Pasada that’s used to fly commercially. WCC Aviation can arrange chartered flights to Basco and Itbayat in Batanes from the Tuguegarao airport. Aside from offering chartered flights to popular island destinations like Boracay and Puerto Princesa, they also fly to destinations not usually serviced by commercial aircraft and low cost carriers such as Palanan in Isabela.
For all those people who still haven’t found passion in their day jobs and think they have what it takes to be a pilot, it’s not too late. WCC is currently innovating their flight training programs including a Flexi-pIlot program designed for professionals looking for a career change, which provides more flexible training hours.
Interesting bit of trivia. Apparently, there’s no height requirement to become a licensed pilot as long as you can reach the controls. While some airline companies and other countries might have their own height requirements, being shorter actually has its benefits for smaller aircrafts. There’s also a ratio of 1 female to 20 male students in the industry to become pilots. The whole experience left me thinking that the industry could really use more female pilots. 🙂
Think you have what it takes to have a career in aviation? Check out this online quiz.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Binalonan Airfield, Binalonan-Dagupan
Highway, Bgy. Linmansangan, Binalonan,
Pangasinan, Philippines 2436
For inquiries, call (632) 912-3333 or (632) 913-8384.
For reservations to El Pinoy Fly-In Hotel, please contact:
Telephone: (+6375) 562 6200
Fax: (+6375) 562 5423