Michael Mead training future pilots to be ready to fly once airline industry recovers

Matt Hollinshead,
Michael Mead, a 2013 Farmington High School graduate, is training new pilots as an instructor with Roadrunner Flight School at Four Corners Regional Airport.

FARMINGTON — With fewer people opting to travel for any trips or getaways — let alone by the way of flying — amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry’s simply trying to survive.

But that’s not to say things can’t take off again in the future.

That’s what is keeping Michael Mead’s spirits up while training the next group of future airplane pilots.

Mead, a 2013 Farmington High School graduate and certified flight instructor, started teaching classes through the Roadrunner Flight School at Four Corners Regional Airport back in August. It’s essentially an apprenticeship for those looking to become pilots.

And because the industry has slowed down in 2020, Mead said it’s now “a fantastic time” for one to complete the necessary training to become a pilot.

“If you wanted to be a commercial pilot, it takes about three years: a year of training, two years of being a CFI, and then you’re off to the airlines,” said Mead, who holds a commercial pilot license. “Even though (the industry is currently) slow, they’re still going to be starving for pilots whenever we get back to it.”

Mead, who spent the prior three years training in Salt Lake City before coming back home, said he’s teaching future pilots how to fly planes safely and help them develop a deeper understanding of the details beyond just the Federal Aviation Administration’s general requirements.

“I learned how to do things by the book out of a really big airport… it held me to a higher standard,” Mead said.

Mead’s training method is simple: go from zero experience to being a certified commercial pilot.

“We’re teaching them about the systems of the airplane, including the fuel, the ailerons, flaps, everything about the plane, about the forces that act on the plane, about weather,” Mead said. 

Mead said his classes also involve simulator-type training for more of that “real-world feel.”

“It’s more hands-on training… say you and I are going up flying, it has dual controls. You’re going to be doing most of the flying, but I’m there to make sure we don’t die.”

The natural progression Mead envisions starts with training to become a private pilot at, say, a regional airport, later evolving to fly one of the big-name airlines like Southwest or United.

Meads also sees Farmington as a good area for would-be pilots to train in because of the winds, altering temperatures as well as the airport’s geographical terrain not being on flat land.

Four Corners Regional Airport is pictured, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Farmington, New Mexico.

“You have wind either hitting the end of the mesa in coming up or coming down. You have to be prepared for it,” Mead said, adding it can help keep pilots from getting complacent. “Coming back in whenever it’s bumpy and you that have inclement weather, within reason, that’s how you become a true pilot. You learn how to work the plane through those situations… Here is as good as any place to learn.”

Mead said he spent about $75,000 for his own training as a certified pilot and garnered experience as flight school instructor out in Salt Lake City, but his classes are roughly half that cost for the exact same training.

Training sessions are being held daily from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., plus 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

For more information or to enroll, email

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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