Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pilot’s Choice Aviation: School helps students learn to fly

At Pilot’s Choice Aviation, hundreds of signed T-shirts line the airplane hangar and almost completely conceal the walls. The clothing is decorated in quotes and records the date of when the hundreds of trainees completed their first solo flights.

Although about 500 shirts can fit on the walls, Pilot’s Choice Aviation President Beth Jenkins estimates thousands of shirts have been hung up in the airplane hangar throughout the years.

Jenkins has been the owner of the aviation business near the Georgetown Municipal Airport since 1986. Pilot’s Choice will celebrate its 30th anniversary in June.

“If you want to learn to fly just for fun, you can do that at Pilot’s Choice,” she said. “Or if you want to be a professional pilot, you can do that as well.”

Jenkins earned a degree in business management and was teaching tennis professionally when her dad took her up in an airplane for her 24th birthday. Once she got in the air, she said she immediately knew what she wanted to do for a career.

She estimates she has now spent more than 21,000 hours in the air—20,000 of those instructing others to fly.

“[I fly] to teach, to let people learn how to fly and get the same enjoyment that I have all these years of flying,” she said.

The Pilot’s Choice hangar houses the flight school’s fleet of 12 airplanes for rent and for instruction. Jenkins employs six instructors and two mechanics to keep the airplanes in flying condition.

Mechanic Chris Gonzalez helps keep the fleet in flying condition.

Austin resident Steven Jennings received his pilot’s license in 2006 and flies at Pilot’s Choice twice per week while he trains for his instrument-rating exam in March. Jennings is retired and flies for fun, though he said he is always learning something new.

“There’s a bug there,” he said. “You kind of scratch that itch if you can do it, and if you really enjoy [flying] you continue doing it, and then you try and get better.”

Some of the graduates of Pilot’s Choice have gone on to work for Air France, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, UPS and Delta Airlines.

For those who want to test their hand at flying, the flight school offers 30-minute discovery flights that let customers practice flying with an instructor. It costs $55 to ride in a two-person plane and $89 for a four-person plane.

Devil Dog Squadron

Pilot’s Choice Aviation President Beth Jenkins and about 60 members of the volunteer organization the Devil Dog Squadron care for a World War II-era B-25 bomber as part of the Commemorative Air Force.

The bomber was built in 1944 and spent two years in service. The 22 bombs painted on the side of the airplane represent its 22 missions, and the bomber took down three merchant ships and one imperial ship during its time in WWII.

Jenkins said she sometimes sees veterans light up when they see the plane.

“They’d start telling stories their kids had never heard, and that’s the real enjoyment I get to see when we have this airplane on display,” she said.

The squadron showed the B-25 at the Georgetown Classic Car and Vintage Plane Show on Feb. 27,and it will be on display at the Central Texas Airshow in Temple on May 6-8.

Pilot’s Choice Aviation
209 Corsair Drive
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Story. photo gallery and video:

No comments: