Deidra Toye, owner and CEO of AeroStar Training Services, is taking pilot training to new heights at Kissimmee Gateway Airport.
Deidra Toye remembers watching planes taking off and zooming overhead as she grew up in a small community outside of Orlando. Her passion for aviation soared when she accepted a customer service position at a local flight school. There, she was exposed to the future of airline pilot training.
Today, she is the owner and CEO of AeroStar Training Services at Kissimmee Gateway Airport, just down the road from where she grew up. She takes pride in training the next generation of airline pilots and instructors from all over the world.
A Passionate Approach
Producing well-trained pilots is Toye’s greatest passion and the mission of AeroStar. The full-service airline professional training center was founded in 2008 to provide a complete arc of airliner simulation training. She initially joined the center as the company’s COO, but leapt at an opportunity to invest in the company, and today, she’s the sole owner and CEO.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the proportion of women holding CEO roles in aviation is three percent, as compared to 12 percent in “other industries.” For Toye, being a female CEO in aviation is an opportunity to bring fresh thinking and passion to the role. Her approach centers around encouraging an ownership mindset when it comes to her staff and students.
Toye’s passion for aviation transcends every aspect of aviation, even to where she probably doesn’t approach a flight quite the same way that most passengers do. “When I board a plane, and everyone else is putting their luggage away and settling in, I’m wondering what type of plane it is, and how fast it will go.”
For her there’s no better feeling than glancing forward and finding one of her former students at the helm. “It’s really rewarding to look up at the cockpit and see someone you’ve trained. You know you’re safe. You have this feeling of confidence.”
Flight Plan for Success
The success is in the statistics: AeroStar has one of the FAA’s highest pass percentage rates on the Airbus and Boeing type ratings. The pass rate is so much higher than the average that the FAA actually questioned it. “So we invited them to take one of our courses. And not only did they take a course, but they ended up contracting with us for two years to train the FAA. That was very rewarding, because you know you’re doing something right when the FAA is contracting with you.”
Toye credits her trainers and examiners. “They have a passion for teaching. They love it.” And the students love the approach as well. “It’s hands-on and interactive. They get the students involved.”
Training the Next Generation
Getting new pilots into the pipeline efficiently is especially critical at present. With a looming pilot shortage in all sectors—commercial, private and business—there’s never been a better time to be on the forefront of aviation training.
“AeroStar has a critical mission set forth, to be able to tackle this aviation pilot shortage crisis.We can take pilots from zero hours, all the way through their airline career training program, and use our simulation here on site to prepare them for the real-life environment in an airline.”
In fact, Aerostar is the only school in the Americas that can train pilots obtaining a Private Pilot License to a complete Airline Transport Pilot License and type ratings on A320 or B737 under the same roof.
Community Growth and Leadership
“We wanted to stay in Central Florida and build on simulation training. It became a question of what airport could facilitate our growth,” explains Toye. Kissimmee Gateway Airport offered incentives, but there was also plenty of room to grow. It quickly became obvious that her hometown was the best spot to build for the future.
She also found the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee to be incredibly supportive. “Anytime we had a problem with our building during construction, we’d get them on the phone and they’d find someone to help us. Even if it was totally out of their department. They always found a way to make it happen for us. When I talk to leaders in other industries, in other cities like Las Vegas or Ft. Lauderdale, and they ask how it’s been to work with the city, I tell them they’re amazing.”
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Toye credits city leaders with a growth mindset, which translates to support and a willingness to help business leaders solve problems. “It’s the best decision we ever made, to stay in Central Florida,” she shares.
A Lofty Vision
While she’s proud of the company’s accomplishments thus far, Toye isn’t content with stopping here. She sees the potential for expansion as practically endless. Looking ahead at the next five years, there are plans to create something not found anywhere else in the country. “We’re building a very unique campus here,” she shares. Her vision includes a training center that encompasses classroom and conference space, as well as bays for simulation and aircraft maintenance.
But even more exciting is a planned student lodge, complete with dining facilities. Currently, students stay at area hotels or other rentals. “We will be the only school where students can do not only their training, but they can eat, sleep, play, and do everything right in one place.” Toye believes this will hold a great advantage for AeroStar’s students. “They’ll be able to bond with their classmates.” It’s nice to have everyone on campus from a safety perspective, too. “Sometimes, for the parents of our international students, their greatest fear is their children’s safety in a faraway country.” Offering on-campus lodging with a meal card, transportation, and 24-hour security enables them to send their children for the training, confident that they’ll be okay.
This will set AeroStar apart. “We will be the only school in the nation to have everything onsite, from private pilot training, to an Airbus and Boeing training certificate, and lodging and dining for our students,” Toye says.