Local high schoolers soar during Aviation Week

Denise Bryan, left, Director of the Fairfield County Airport, hosted these three local high school seniors: Lily Hawkins, Austin Clark and Smyra Thomas to participate in the airports annual discovery flights. Back row: flight instructors. | Photos: Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – Three local high school seniors experienced flight from behind the yoke on Monday, April 24, as part of Fairfield County’s celebration of South Carolina Aviation Week, April 23-29.

The high school students, Lily Hawkins (Richard Winn Academy), Smyra Thomas (Fairfield Central High School), and Austin Clark, (Midlands S.T.E.M. Institute) were recruited to participate in the discovery flights by Fairfield County Airport Director Denise Bryan C.M.

During the flight experience, each student flew alongside a certified flight instructor for about an hour.

One of those instructors, Zachary Wisor, explained what the students’ flight experience included.

“I did the take-off and landing, then I let the student have the controls of the plane for about 45 minutes. We first flew over to Lake Murray and then the student did a few maneuvers like banking to a 45 degree angle, flying in different directions and flying very slowly,” he said.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to continue to show students in our county the value of a career in aviation,” said Bryan. “We have a pilot shortage, and the solution to that shortage is a robust pipeline for aviation workforce development.”

Education and economic impact are at the core of Aviation Week as students and others are introduced to viable career options. There are numerous flight schools and educational institutions in South Carolina poised to train the next generation of pilots, aviation maintenance technicians and skilled aircraft assemblers, Bryan added.

S&S Aviation, owned by Brian Steed, donated the aircraft, fuel and flight instructors’ time for the discovery flight operation. It is the company’s fifth year participating in this program. S&S Aviation is the airport’s fixed-base operator, providing flight instruction, avionics and aircraft maintenance.

South Carolina Aviation Week is a statewide celebration of the economic and education impact of airports and the aviation industry.

Dr. Tracie Swilley, FCHS principal, left, sees Smyra Thomas off on her first ever flight.

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