Chicago Flyhouse Blog

What a Year: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Posted by Flyhouse on Mar 25, 2021 11:30:00 AM

We could see it coming.

On March 20, 2020, the state of Illinois declared a “Stay at Home” order. Just four days later, on March 24, we debuted our first Flyhouse Online Training course.

At the time, Flyhouse had two exciting live classes planned for April: a public class in California at a wire rope vendor’s shop, and a class with Local 10 in Buffalo to train high steel riggers. We were excited about both and really disappointed to cancel. Our cruise ship clients were also shutting down and we quickly realized that life was changing in a big way. We made the call to pivot to online learning.

We quickly took our normal class content and broke it into specific topics to create a robust online curriculum. Within a week or two, we committed to classes 5 days a week. Eventually we cut back to four days per week to allow time to develop new content and that schedule continued until the end of 2020. Our current two course/one day per week model seems to match supply and demand and will continue until that changes.

While we anxiously await the opportunity to offer in-person classes again, Flyhouse Online Training will be a permanent part of our program going forward.

Flyhouse Online Training - Course Stats:
157 total classes offered
96 free and 61 Premium
40 class topics
9 free and 31 Premium
13,344 instruction hours
approximately 10,000 of those on free classes
6,240 total class attendees
among 1700 individual trainees—the average trainee attended 3-4 sessions
Flyhouse Online Training - Trainee Stats:
52 countries
on six continents, from 46 US states and 7 Canadian provinces.
59 IATSE locals, including many participants belonging to the largest locals in the country in New York and Los Angeles
151 trainees
including riggers, electricians, and others, who collected ETCP renewal credits through Flyhouse Online Training
- 8% of all active ETCP riggers
- 68 trainees earned 10 credits or more—the number needed to recertify
1,620 total renewal credits
earned by trainees, with an average of 10.7 credits per person 
1,700 trainees
on our weekly email list 
973 members
of the Chicago Flyhouse Training Forum Facebook group 


Ed Leahy, Flyhouse’s Head Trainer and Cruise Ship Division Manager (and ETCP Certified Rigger and Recognized Trainer) shares his personal reflections on the year that was.

When I consider the past year and the rise of our online training program, gratitude is the first emotion that comes to mind. I am immensely grateful that we had the opportunity to be of service to the industry and that there was an audience who was interested in what we were trying to do. The pandemic has given rise to a wide variety of training opportunities and it is humbling to see so many people choose us as one of their sources of information. On a personal level, as I have said to classes many times, having a reason to work hard during this time when so many can’t be working was a true lifeline. When there is always a class to prepare for, there was no time to worry about the pandemic, the election, the holidays. I think we are all starting to see the silver linings in the pandemic now. There have been a lot of surprising positives for me. I got to train more this year than any other, which meant I was able to refine my skills and build my own wisdom and understanding. I got to listen to and train with some very smart people with deeper expertise than I possess. I got to learn what I didn’t know – an area where we can all do better! I got to serve our industry and help to build up our community. 

Best of all, I got to connect with a colossal number of new friends and colleagues. I have new friends on six continents thanks to these classes, and in many cases have been able to build those friendships up beyond the class experience. It has been wonderful to get to know what people do and how they do it. Learning what would help them do their work better and safer has been an intriguing journey and one which I look forward to continuing. All of our participants have helped to prove that online training can be effective and fulfilling and that it deserves a lasting place in our industry.

The list of people deserving of thanks is far too long. It includes anyone who has come to class. That said, I have to point to Mark Witteveen and all of the staff at Flyhouse for allowing me to try the experiment of online classes and for supporting the classes by helping to share the knowledge they have. Our admin team, sales staff, project managers, install technicians and fabricators have all made appearances in class and provided a different perspective on the work we do. Our associate trainers have helped share the class load and brought their own take on our class content. Beyond Flyhouse, so many industry professionals have helped by adding their voices. Many thanks to Gareth Conner, Dave Carmack, Joe Golden, Phil van Hest, Jeff Reder, Adrian Forbes-Black, Will Todd, Tom Lilly, Elliot van Laere, Steve Adelman, Ethan Gilson, Kelly Voysey and Ken Veach. We also have to give a shout out to Ohio Northern University for the frequent loan of their theater and its counterweight system for use in our classes.

It was the worst of times, but also the best of times (to invert Mr. Dickens). It was a horrible year, and a year filled with new connections. I consider myself beyond lucky to have built something at a time when so much was stagnant—and luckier still that the thing I built was helpful to others. We will continue to add to our offerings and grow this community in the months and years ahead so that this awful year can be remembered for more than just the awful things. 

In Part 2 of our look back, we'll share what some of our trainees have to say.

Topics: News, Training