Aire Services, which opened its doors on Guam in April, is currently offering flight lessons for any interested resident, with goals of growing the aviation industry in Micronesia in the years to come.
“It’s always been my dream to give back to the island, not just Guam but the Northern Marianas and also Micronesia,” said Roke Matanane, Aire Services president and a pilot himself for Asia Pacific Airlines. “I fly throughout all of Micronesia so I have a lot of friends all throughout the islands,” he said.
Born and raised on Guam, Matanane had sky-high dreams and had to overcome a number of obstacles to get his necessary flying licenses. Knowing what it takes to get his pilot dreams off the ground, Matanane is now hoping his company, Aire Services, gives aspiring pilots the opportunity to achieve their flying goals without having to relocate like he had to do.
Depending on rank, experience, airline company and location, a pilot can make as much as $350,000 a year. According to various websites, the national average is $78,000 a year.
“The problem is kids think it’s out of reach,” Matanane said.
Aire Services hopes to change that.
Matanane is an example of how attainable a pilot’s license is for a person on Guam. He went to public schools on the island.
After he graduated, he went to flight school in Hawaii, knowing he wanted to become a pilot. He paid his tuition and signed up for his courses but was taken aback when he learned he’d have to pay additional fees to fly. These fees would be paid on top of his tuition. While it was a step back, ultimately, it didn’t deter him.
He consulted with his parents and ended up taking out student loans so he could complete flight school. When all he had was his will, Matanane found a way.
“When you don’t follow your dreams, it’s never going to go away. You’re going to be dreaming for the rest of your life,” he said.
Now more than a decade into his career, Matanane hopes opening Aire Services on the island serves as a jump-off place for future pilots growing up in Micronesia.
Residents, young and old, can try their hand at controlling an aircraft and no experience is needed. Aire Services’ youngest student is 15 years old.
Aire Services offers a discovery flight for $180, which will allow a student to learn basic skills like climbing, descending and turning with an instructor.
“That one flight will kind of give you an idea. ‘Is this really what I want to do? Do I really want to pursue flight? Do I want to go and get loans and be in debt and work this for my future?’” Matanane said. “But at least we’re here to give you that opportunity to take that one flight.”
After his first time in the air, Matanane knew he was on the right path. “You just get up and you go and fly. When you land, you’ll know,” he said.
While there are other flight schools in the states or other nearby countries, the benefit to learning on island is that students don’t have to bear additional costs like lodging or food while living off-island to attend flight school. “Why not do it here?” Matanane asked.
Aire Services, which holds office in the same building as Micronesian Air Cargo in Tiyan, hopes to attract local residents but also the residents in the neighboring islands to learn with them.
Matanane said there’s also a market in Asia the company might also tap in the future, after the pandemic-related restrictions ease.