[caption id="attachment_215660" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Delaware Coastal Airport in Sussex County has added a new flight training academy. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
GEORGETOWN —The Delaware Coastal Airporthas added a flight academy to the hangar, as Ocean Aviation Flight Academy has signed a five year lease with Sussex County with options to renew.Launched in 2007, Ocean Aviation Flight Academy now has nine flight instructors and nine airplanes to train its 80 students out of the Ocean City Municipal Airport in Ocean City, Md. The academy at the Georgetown airport will be a second school, expanding the business further along the Delmarva Peninsula.“The airport is an excellent facility, and the growth there is amazing. We’ve always had students coming from Delaware —from Ocean View up to Dover and Wilmington — as well as some internationally,” said Michael Freed, Ocean Aviation owner and pilot. “I think this is a phenomenal opportunity, and there’s room to grow. This has tremendous potential.”The Delaware Coastal Airport sees roughly 60 aircrafts ranging from single-engine piston planes to large corporate jets take off, and logs 35,000 operations per year. The airport has also served as a hub for surprising shipping partners: Walmart, Food Lion and other grocery stores looking to ship food south on the Delmarva Peninsula. Poultry companies like Mountaire also use it to ship products beyond Sussex County. It is one of four public-use airports in Delaware, and the only one that has open land for development. Sussex County officials have been focusing their energy on signing leases for business in the neighboring Coastal Business Park, five miles from the airport with businesses like JennyGems,Great Outdoor Cottages,Creative Floors South, Aloft AeroArchitects and more.Sussex County leadership has also been bullish on improving the airport itself, with expanding the runway to pave the way for larger aircraft into the airport and adding a hangar.“Attracting a top-tier pilot and flight training school has long been on our list of top priorities for growing this airport,” Delaware Coastal Airport manager Bob Bryant said in a statement. “Bringing Ocean Aviation onboard checks one of the boxes on that list, and we believe their presence will enhance the airport and all it has to offer the flying public here in southern Delaware.”A Bronx native, Freed started his flight training in 1974 and eventually received his hours to start applying for major airliners. But with World War II veterans still in the pilot seat, he didn't get any call backs. Eventually, he flew charter and corporate planes.“Back then, the only way you could get in [with airlines] if you went to aviation school in Florida, that’s what we call the Ivies of Aviation. It was expensive, and I was not that kid,” he said. “Fast forward to today, and what’s changed? The military is training a fraction of what they used to, and those who are in the military aren’t leaving. And 75 to 80% of airline pilots are coming from schools like mine.”Ocean Aviation Flight Academy teaches students of all ages, including 14 year-olds who can’t solo fly for another two years to 86 year-olds who always had flying on their bucket list. The flight academy offers a three-year professional pilot program, where students study for their pilot’s and commercial pilot’s license within the first year. After that, students fly 250 hours. Airlines typically start calling candidates at that point, Freed said, but qualified airliner pilots accept those with 1,500 flight hours under their belts.“What we typically do is hire some of these students to serve as instructions so they can get paid to fly, and every teaching hour goes into their logbook as command time,” Freed said. “They’ll be getting to 1,500 hours within 18 months to 2 years.”
Graduates from Ocean Aviation have gone to regional airlines like Piedmontin Salisbury, Republic Airlines and Mesa Airlines. After about four years, Freed said former students move on to major airliners. With Delaware State University’s aviation program 40 miles to the north and Delaware Technical College’s aviation maintenance program, he said he sees where his program can complement that education tract. In fact, about eight years ago, Ocean Aviation was the flight training provider for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“We’ve got plenty of students that are doctors or other fields that plan to retire from their practice and want to fly for airlines. They’re all students, just at different positions in life,” Freed said. “I think we’re going to develop tremendous relationships in Delaware.”
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