Paragon Flight Training

Celebrating 15 years in 2021, Paragon Flight is an award-winning flight academy headquartered at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. With FAA and SEVIS accreditations, a fleet of nearly 20 planes, and advanced simulator technology onsite, we train commercial, professional, and recreational pilots and also offer military pilot training for domestic and foreign governments.




Educational Services


Lee County


76% increase from
2017 – 2020

Chris Schoensee


Was there an ah-ha moment that led to your entrepreneurial journey or to the evolution of your company?

In the beginning, we were actually in the industrial automation industry and we saw there was an opportunity in aviation. The industry had been lagging as far as technology, customer service, and professionalism. The flight training industry had kind of been stuck in the 1960s; the planes, technology, and the methodology. We saw an opportunity to apply what we did best in the industrial space so we took the leap.

Tell us about your business and the value it brings your customers.

The real value we bring to our customers is a dynamic and customizable learning experience. For instance, with most educational institutions, you’re required to do things in a particular order and start and end on a certain date. It’s a very ridged experience for the student. For this type of industry, it’s very difficult to plug everyone through the same process and if you do, a significant percentage of students will fail. The value we bring to that is that we build custom courses, according to the customer’s experience and skill level as well as their personal needs and goals as an individual.  We make the entire experience obtainable, fun and welcoming.

What is your company’s competitive edge?

What gives us a real competitive edge is our background in the industrial and manufacturing world. We strive to develop processes and systems to ensure we have a set of best practices for each aspect of the student’s experience. It’s extremely similar to if we were running a manufacturing plant, which is something you don’t often do in this space. The flight training space traditionally has seen a lot of people and schools just winging it and hoping it all works out – no pun intended there. At Paragon, we run the business a bit differently than our competitors, and that’s trickled down to our customers. We’re able to offer a product that delivers and executes far greater than many of our competitors.

Explain the culture of your organization. What is it like working at your company?

We bought the company in 2010 when it was very much running like a typical business. We sat down and engineered how we wanted the company to feel and what we wanted it to be like for our team members.

We have about 85% turnover every year and a half. It’s different in this industry because the flight instructors are typically only with a school for a year or so, this is almost like college football, instructing is a stepping stone for them in their career. Once they get their certifications, they’ll come work at a flight school for about a year, and then they’ll go on to the airlines. With the massive turnover this industry experiences, we had to build a culture that was robust enough for our values and principles to be passed along to new instructors that are constantly rotating in.

We try to do things differently in our business. For example, when we interview people, it typically takes a few days to complete the process. We will fly candidates in from out of state and more or less drop them into the school to let them see what happens. They hang out with our staff and at the end, the team “votes them in on the island”. We want to have a buy-in from most of the team, if not all when bringing a new member on board. It’s been wild, but it’s a lot of fun.

Describe some major challenges you’ve found in growing your business.

This industry is unique in the fact that it’s extremely capital intensive. When you’re purchasing equipment, a typical aircraft is anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. The margins are very thin because you’re basically renting a $500,000 piece of equipment for $200 an hour. Utilization must be very high and there’s no room for error. It’s a significant challenge.

Our second major challenge is regulatory. Aviation is one of the most regulated industries in the US, besides the banking industry. We have regular communications, inspections and audits from the FAA, TSA, Department of Homeland Security, and ICE, for instance. All these different government entities are stand-alone and none of them communicate seamlessly so we have to make sure that you’re checking all the boxes that every single one of them wants you to do. At the same time, we’re maintaining a very high-level experience for the student and ensuring they don’t experience delays or setbacks in their programs. It’s literally like the Wizard of Oz and the “magic behind the curtain” so to speak.

Looking ahead, what are some of your goals?

We’ve been going through an expansion of facilities and staffing – really gearing up to put the school on a launching pad. We’ve had our fair share of challenges and slowdowns especially with COVID and other roadblocks like finding the materials to complete the renovations of steel windows. We’re getting through those short-term challenges and soon have everything in place to start a very aggressive growth plan, which will almost triple the size of the school. 

What is your proudest moment as CEO?

I think my proudest moment was five years ago when we partnered to launched an introductory program with a local high school. My business partner, who is also our chief flight instructor started the program working with the headmaster of the school. Once they had the program up and going for four or five months and I had the opportunity to stop in and observe the class. I remember walking into the room and seeing 20 ninth-grade students on their simulators. These kids are 14 years old and they’re talking on the radios like veteran pilots and acquiring skills at an amazing pace. Here we are, opening the eyes of these young people to aviation, and not just being a pilot, but introducing them to other paths like air traffic control or aerospace engineering. I remember walking out of the room having goosebumps. I was just proud of what it was and I will never forget that moment. All-day I’m running the business, looking at numbers, building strategies on how to put things together from a 1000 foot view.. seeing the kids enjoying what flying is really about (having fun and freedom) pulled me back and reenergized me to realize what we’re doing is impacting people in a meaningful way. That was a very proud moment.

What does it mean to you to be selected as a GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees?

We were very humbled. We applied and I didn’t really expect us to make the list. We’re very grateful that we were being considered and even being nominated caught us off guard. We’re very proud of the award and the fact that other people see potential in Paragon Flight and our vision means a lot. It really motivates us to step up our game to be even better than what we’re doing now.

Is there anyone, in particular, you’d like to thank?

I’m very grateful for our clients. I know that may sound cliché but the clients that find us, can go to any school in the world. The fact that they choose us and move here to Southwest Florida for 8 to 15 months of their life, away from their families, and trust us to teach them, it’s truly humbling. I’m very grateful for them letting us be part of their journey. We always like to say that our goal is to develop safe, competent, and confident pilots and it’s a truly awesome responsibility.

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My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is…

"Pigheaded stubbornness. It's persistence over time that creates opportunity, that's it, that’s the secret sauce. You must have that pigheaded stubbornness to keep pushing towards your goals. You can't stop. Honestly, I probably fail 9 out of 10 times but we keep going. I always learn, adjust and keep pushing forward."

Celebrate with the Paragon Flight Training team!

Tickets are on sale now for the 11th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Awards Celebration! Don't wait, they will sell out!