CHARLESTON, WV, (WOWK) -A new program training the pilots of the future is ready for takeoff at Yeager Airport.
Classes begin later this month at Marshall University’s new Bill Noe Flight School, a major investment for Marshall and the first of its kind in the Kanawha Valley.
Chief flight instructor Bryan Branham says he caught the flying bug early.
“In the Vietnam days I was just a little guy, and so I went by a field in the rural area of South Carolina and there were some guys flying helicopters and so they came over and picked me up and let me sit on a helicopter, and I caught they flying bug,” he said.
After that Branham enlisted in the army and flew Blackhawk helicopters.
He later became a flight instructor at Ohio University.
“The first thing I ask people is ‘do you like roller coasters?’ And if they say no, then I know there’s an opportunity there,” said Branham.
Now he’ll get to teach West Virginians how to fly.
He says everything about the Bill Noe Flight School is new, from the building to the planes, which can seat five people and have a built-in safety parachute and air conditioning.
“We have the safest single-engine airplane for training probably built today,” he said.
As demand from airlines for commercial pilots keeps growing, he says students who complete the four-year program have a good chance of landing a commercial pilot job.
The four-year program costs roughly $78,000.
The Kanawha County Commission recently donated $400,000 to the school, helping the school’s opening this fall stay on track.
“This is a significant economic development not just for Kanawha County but the entire Kanawha Valley; we’re so proud to have Marshall University here in town,” said Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.
Salango says that extra money is helping make students,’ and even their mothers’ dreams of flying ….come true.
“Acceptance letters went out for the flight school and one of the mothers whose sons had been accepted called me and she thanks the Kanawha County Commission for the donation,” he said.
The official ribbon-cutting for the school is on August 23rd.