Florence 1 senior receives private pilot license through high school aviation program

The goal for a group of Florence 1 students is to become pilots while still in high school.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 9:19 AM EDT
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The goal for a group of Florence 1 students is to become pilots while in high school.

WMBF News shared this story with you a few months ago as the students took their first flights.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Florence 1 students take to the skies in new aviation program

WMBF News got an inside look at their journey and where they are now.

From classroom simulators to now actually getting up in the air, one newly licensed pilot said it’s all thanks to good instructors and those who believed in him.

Six months ago, Jack Wilson was taken to the skies as a co-pilot, but his eyes were always set on the pilot’s seat knowing from the beginning the journey wouldn’t be easy.

“It’s rigorous and it’s tough,” said Jack Wilson, a senior at Advantage Academy. “It will challenge you, it’s not something that you can just come out here and pick up in one day.”

Wilson is in the Aviation 4 program at Advantage Academy.

Level three and four students have the opportunity to work towards their private pilot’s license through flight training.

“In the beginning, the first thing we do is learn the ground school, so we went there and took a written exam and once we passed that we came out here and started our flight training,” said Wilson. “We start from the basics, you’re learning how to take off the plane, learn how to land the plane, taxi the plane, just the stuff that you got to learn how to do before you can start flying at different airports.”

It’s all made possible by a grant from the FAA: $14,000 dollars for each student to complete the course and training.

Wilson is one of three students who are now on their way to completing the program.

“The main goal is for the students to complete the aviation program,” said Michael Rodriguez,” The Flight Instructor at Advantage Academy. “Ideally from Aviation one and then completing two, three, and four, and starting it from the beginning all the way through the end and having them get their private pilot’s license at the end of the program where they start from really coming in with the essentially no aviation knowledge.”

Wilson is now certified as a private licensed pilot, and credits instructors like Sean Anderson who had his back on the ground and in the air.

“Jack from day one, he was always very committed to the process,” said Sean Anderson, a Flight Instructor for Rise Aero. “It’s a hard process and you have to be 100%, and he was, I think that’s why he was able to finish within 47 hours of flight time. The FAA minimum is 40 hours, typically most people do not finish their license until around 60 flight hours.”

While Wilson won’t shy away from telling you just how rigorous the training and the flight hours are, he said his end goal is what helped motivate him to finish.

“I saw this as just you know the the first step into what could be the rest of my the rest of my life and the rest of my career,” said Anderson. “So, it obviously was very encouraging to be able to push through this and see it to the end and know that I could accomplish something like this.’

Wilson graduates Friday and has been accepted to West Point Military Academy where he will work towards a career in aviation.