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Flight schools providing scholarship to help student pilot finish lessons
Joel Hall
Joel Hall checks out the instrument panel of a Cessna before taking a flight to Waycross. Photo by Pat Donahue

Not long after receiving a scholarship check to help pay for his flight school costs, Joel Hall was back at the controls for another sojourn in the skies.

With MidCoast Regional Airport fixed base operator Stan Heath and Mark Hansen of Hansen Aviation alongside, Hall was given a $1,500 scholarship toward either of the two flight schools operating out of the airport.

Hall, 18, has been taking flight lessons since October 23, having taken his first discovery flight with Hansen. Hall’s dad was an aviator in the Marine Corps.

“Since then, I’ve always wanted to fly,” the younger Hall said. “I’ve always wanted to be part of the aviation community.”

With his dad in the Marines, the Halls lived in Okinawa, and the younger Hall recalled the long flights there and back to the U.S.

“Just those flights there and back, and all the times I’ve been in airplanes, I’ve always loved flying,” he said.

He has 24 hours of solo flying under his belt and needs another 16 to take his pilot license’s test. He’s also headed to Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in August, with plans on becoming a certified flight instructor and teaching others how to fly.

“We really encourage young people to get interested in aviation,” Heath said. “And if they are, this is a jump start.”

Aspiring pilots can solo as early as 16 years old and earn a pilot’s license at 17. The costs of lessons, plus plane rental and fuel, can run from $10,000 to $15,000, so the aviators at MidCoast Regional have started the annual scholarship to help a young pilot earn their wings.

“We’d like to see the growth at the airport and see young people get into aviation,” Heath said. “There are thousands of jobs in the aviation industry. There’s a shortage of commercial pilots. There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”

“The industry is hiring like crazy,” Hansen said. “You need to put the hours in and you’re just about guaranteed to get a job with the airlines. And is a college degree required? No, it is not.”

MidCoast Regional Airport also offers unmatched advantages for pilots, Hansen added.

“This is just about the perfect airport for flight training,” he said.

Of the airports four runways, two are 6,500 feet long and can accommodate some of the largest planes in the military fleet, including the C-17 Globemaster, Heath noted.

The airport also has grown in popularity with local civilian pilots. There are 7,000-8,000 operations a month at the airport, and aircraft owners from Savannah, Tybee Island and Richmond Hill have turned to MidCoast as their home base. Even Gulfstream’s chief test pilot flies out of MidCoast Regional, Heath said.

“MidCoast has really grown over the last four years,” Heath said.

One of MidCoast’s advantages, though, is it isn’t the Savannah airport. Hansen pointed out if you’re taking flying lessons, you could be waiting to take off at Savannah – and that means paying for the fuel getting spent and the instructor’s time.

“You’re renting the airplane and the flight instructor from the moment you sit down. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying or not,” he said. “We don’t have those delays here. That’s a great thing.”

MidCoast also is towered and non-towered airport, so pilots in training get used to working both kinds of towers. Hansen also boasted of MidCoast’s hangars as being less expensive and its fuel also being cheaper than at other airports.

“It is an under-utilized, untapped resource for many people,” he said. “The biggest disadvantage is people don’t know it’s here.”

airline scholarships
Stan Heath, with Mark Hansen alongside, presents a $1,500 scholarship to student pilot Joel Hall. Photo by Pat Donahue
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