FLY A JET: Former USMC Hornet instructors bring you aboard S-211

S-211 Victory Aviation flight school
Marchetti S-211A belonging to Victory Aviation flight school.

"Given the choice, make the safe decision," many pilots say. This motto can be applied to everyone, but becomes essential when you fly above the clouds. During the past years we have met several pilots from famous airlines who were looking for new flight experiences, like flying on a jet. This desire was related to their passion for aerobatic flight or the need to increase their flight management skill. At the end of last year, while we were searching for info about the Italian-built Marchetti S-211 jet trainer, we got in touch with CFI Chris Koelzer. We were immediately attracted by his experience and job and we asked him for an interview. We think he offers the right solution to any pilot who want to improve its ability to fly an aircraft.

CFI Chris Koelzer is the primary S-211 instructor of the Victory Aviation private flight school, he is a former F/A-18 instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps with 2,800 flight hours in the Hornets. During his service in the Marines, he completed two six-month deployments on aircraft carriers and was the commander during six military exercises outside U.S., as well as other important tasks. He has gained experience in leadership, risk management, flight safety, decision-making and much more. 

• Hi Chris, thank you for your time and kindness. We are very interested to know more about you, Victory Aviation and the S-211 jet trainer. How was Victory Aviation born?

We are very excited about this collaboration with Blog Before Flight and we thank you too.

My partner Tom Paquin and I were both US Marine Corps F/A-18 pilots, and we each went into business after leaving the active duty military. I stayed in aviation, as a consultant and small business owner. Tom started and sold two companies - leaders in renewable energy and Diesel Exhaust Fluid.

We established Victory with a vision to leverage our career experiences, as Marine officers and civilian business owners, into building a family of companies. We are equipping each start-up company with military-experienced talent, to enable every Victory family company to create uncommon value in their respective markets. Our Team also included Tom's brother, Chuck, who is a S-211 istructor too. He was a U.S. Navy carrier pilot and T-45 Squadron Commander.

• What are your goals?

Create uncommon value for our clients! “Victory Flight Training” is presently our main effort, employing Marchetti S-211 jet trainers within an FAA-approved program. Victory Flight Training creates uncommon value for our clients by providing military jet skills for any licensed aviator, US and international:

- Turbine high performance intro
- Upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT)
- Full check out and S-211 type rating
- Jet solo and rental
- Formation maneuvering

• Why did you select the S-211 jet?

We selected the S-211 for three important reasons: Quality, Supportability, and Safety:

QUALITY - the S-211’s Italian craftsmanship and NATO-standard components make it the most enjoyable and economical choice for jet training, within a civilian environment in accordance with military standards.

SUPPORTABILITY - its Pratt and Whitney JT-15D-4C engine was also used in Citation business jets, with millions of hours of proven operation. And maintenance support for almost all of the S-211’s components can be obtained at most civilian airports. We consider it the most reliable and sustainable former military jet “warbird” type in civilian operation.

SAFETY - this high quality and maintenance supportability, when combined with professional operational procedures and risk management, enable the highest safety standards of any jet warbird.

• What do you think about the S-211 compared to the other aircraft you flew before?

The S-211 is similar to the T-45, but smaller and of course slower (and more affordable!). It offers excellent visibility and stick-and-rudder responsiveness - its hydraulically-assisted ailerons and well harmonized controls make it a joy to fly.

The S-211 is a jet, but it has very simple mechanical systems, and is easy to fly. Stall and aerobatic characteristics are outstanding. Many of our clients land the jet from the back seat on the first flight. Then they move into the front seat, for a truly unique flight training experience!

Importantly, the lessons that can be so effectively learned in an S-211 can be easily applied to ANY aircraft. Our clients fly all kinds of aircraft - Citations, 777’s, SR22’s, homebuilt RV’s, Cessnas, helicopters, and more. Our S-211 training can challenge, stretch, and improve any pilot’s skills, including stick-and-rudder, decision making, risk management, briefing/debriefing, etc.

• Often instructors are rewarded with the "best instructor trophy", what skills should a good instructor have?

The best instructors, like all human high performers, exhibit a certain mindset. We call it the Victory Mindset, and it combines Vision, Accountability and Normalized Excellence.

VISION: Instructor pilots must commit to a student-centered Vision (or preferable future), of developing each student into a skillful, safe aviator.

ACCOUNTABILITY: An instructor must be willing to be held accountable for their conduct and quality of instruction, as well as their student’s performance. Human beings tend to avoid accountability, but in aviation it is absolutely critical to be willing to humbly accept correction and instruction. The instructor must lead by example; regardless of flight experience, no instructor is perfect, so the instructor must acknowledge their own mistakes (large and small) on every flight. This builds a culture of accountability, enabling the next piece of the mindset…

NORMALIZED EXCELLENCE: Excellence not just once, but habitually. Normalized, excellent performance. Many people accept “good” as “good enough,” but any pilot knows that at some point in your career, “good enough” WILL NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH. It might be a dark, stormy night trying to land on an aircraft carrier… or it might be a turbulent approach to minimums with passengers on board.

The Victory Mindset also applies to life in general-business, work, relationships, marriage, etc. The best way to ensure success in any human effort is through unswerving commitment to your team’s Vision, willingness to accept Accountability, and habitual Normalized Excellence.

• Do you think that training on a jet is more effective than on a turboprop?

Turboprops are great - I flew the T-34C in the Marines for a few hundred hours, and loved it. But for Victory Aviation’s Vision "military turbine skills for any aviator" the turbofan S-211 is far more effective. It gives non-jet aviators the unmatched confidence of controlling a military jet, and it gives jet pilots the best platform for honing their skills, including Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT).

• Some time ago a Navy instructor told me that a pilot must have the right mental approach to fly at best. Can you teach such approach or does it depend on instinct?

I’ll refer to the Victory Mindset again here. You can definitely train someone in Vision, Accountability, and Normalized Excellence. And of course mental and athletic skills are important in aviation, and can be improved through training. But even an amazingly gifted and well-trained person will fall far short of their potential, if they lack the intrinsic motivation to commit to Vision, Accountability, and Normalized Excellence. Motivation, plus Mindset, plus Training. This is universal, in any human endeavor.

• Who are your main students? Civilian or military pilots?

Our clients represent a cross-section of the global pilot population-business owners, homebuilders, hobby flyers, airline pilots, retirees, corporate pilots, etc. Some are seeking a once-in-a-lifetime “bucket list” flight event. Some desire the confidence of controlling a military jet. Some want to experience military-type flying, including formation maneuvering. Some want the unique prestige of the “S-211” type rating on their pilot license. All receive an uncommon aviation experience!

We do not currently work with any air forces, training their military pilots, although several of our clients have had military experience. We have not pursued military flight training contracts with the US Government or its allies, although that could be a growth plan for Victory.

• What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to expand the fleet and geographic coverage of Victory Aviation?

Our plan for Victory Flight Training is controlled growth, while we continue to pursue complementary start-up businesses within the Victory corporate family.

For Victory Flight Training, we will acquire at least two more S-211’s to base on the east and west coasts of the US, and are also considering a supersonic training asset or two. We see value in a European location…maybe Italy? Until then, EU and international pilots can come to Texas. We are based 30 minutes from DFW International Airport.


Victory Aviation’s two S-211 aircraft are single-engine jet trainers manufactured in Italy in the mid-1980’s, and formerly in service with the Royal Singapore Air Force. The S-211 uses a proven Pratt & Whitney JT-15D engine (also in Cessna Citations), and mostly American avionics. One Victory Aviation aircraft has original military avionics, and one has been modified with the Garmin G3X and GTN750.


Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Victory Aviation, Erik Johnston

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