Immigrant Entrepreneur Helps the City of Flint Pilots Soar with Innovative Training Programs

Qamar Ahsan first came to Flint when his wife was interviewing for medical residency programs in 1993. The couple, both from Pakistan, liked the idea of living in a smaller city, and she accepted an internship in internal medicine at McLaren Regional Hospital. It was a wise choice. The family moved to Flint in 1994 and, 25 years on, has no plans to leave. “We have felt welcome here,” says Ahsan.

It has been a good choice for Flint, as well. His wife, Dr. Lubna Ahsan, has remained at McLaren as an internist; all three of the couple’s children are entering the medical field — one is a new doctor, one is an aspiring dentist, and one is studying pharmacology — and plan to stay in the area; and Qamar started a business that now adds some $2.5 million to Flint area payrolls.

I call this city my home and I want to make a positive impact here.

Ahsan’s business is AeroTrain Corp., an aeronautical engineering firm that creates functional airplane mockups used to train aircraft mechanics. An avionics engineer, Ahsan came up with the idea in 1994 as a way to stay home with their young child when his wife began her residency.

“During my career I had also taught pilots, engineers, and technicians, so I knew what was required and what the instructors are looking for that they cannot find,” he says. “This is where I thought my knowledge could be useful.”

Ahsan’s first project began as an idea from a school. Ahsan worked around the clock for months to create a design, then found manufacturers in Flint to build the prototype: an autopilot system attached to a 12-foot wide model airplane. When students adjust the mechanics, the plane responds. “Students should be able to understand how the autopilot works,” says Ahsan.

Today AeroTrain produces more than 88 different training programs and has customers in 33 countries. It has 16 full-time employees in its Industrial Park office, and contracts upwards of one million dollars annually to area fabricators. Anticipating continued growth, the company recently purchased 6.6 acres to build a new Flint office.

“I call this city my home and I want to make a positive impact here,” Ahsan says.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…