Aviators, start your engines: Hattiesburg is now home to a new pilot training center.
On Monday, officials held a grand opening for a Cessna Pilot Center at the Bobby L. Chain Municipal Airport. The flight school, the second of its kind in Mississippi, is run by Majestic Aviation and currently has about 30 students on board.
Glen Pace, co-owner and flight instructor at Majestic Aviation, said the training center is necessitated, in part, by the expected shortage of pilots in the near future.
“Also, the retirement age for (airline) pilots is mandatory at 65,” he said. “So a whole bunch of them are getting ready to retire, and that’s creating a large shortage. Then the new regulations for airlines has made it very difficult as well. So that was a huge factor in (opening) the center.”
The Cessna Flight Training System trains pilots via its Cessna Sport/Private Pilot Course, which features scenario-based, interactive instruction programs. Students receive training from the ground up, including supervised and solo flights and online curriculum for groundwork.
The course can take anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on how often the student attends training.
“The ideal is probably a minimum of two times a week,” said Chris Canon, regional sales director for Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of the Cessna aircraft. “Most people have full-time jobs, so you fly when you can and study when you can, and probably six months is a realistic time frame for getting your pilot certificate.”
Upon completion of the course, students will receive a Federal Aviation Administrationlicense and will be certified to fly single-engine aircraft. The course is open to anyone interested in receiving that certification, regardless of experience, and students who are enrolled online with Liberty University or Kansas State University can get college credit upon completion of each FAA rating obtained.
“This course is designed for a zero-time person who knows nothing about aviation,” Canon said. “They can come in and learn all about the science and mechanics of flying.”
Student Nathan Bates, who is working on his private and instrument rating, is already on his way to completing the course.
“I’ve absolutely loved it,” he said. “As far as the instruction, it’s very personable and down to earth, kind of like in a language I can understand really well, but at the same time it’s very professional.”
The center was made possible with the help of David Dearman, a Hattiesburg businessman who purchased several planes for the airport to use.
“I buy apartments complexes in other states, so sometimes I need a pilot to fly me places,” Dearman said. “Glen was flying me around basically whenever I was buying property, and we got to talking about (opening a training center), so we decided to do it. I just felt like it was a needed thing, and that it would be good for Hattiesburg.”
And in Canon’s opinion, Hattiesburg was a perfect choice to host a new training center.
“Hattiesburg is really an oasis for aviation,” he said. “Right here in southern Mississippi there’s just a lot of general aviation and business aviation with all the companies like Southern Tire Mart and Sanderson Farms operating a lot of airplanes.
“Those places need pilots, and so Majestic Aviation has the ability to train pilots to feed into those systems. There are a lot of reasons why (the training center) is a big deal for Hattiesburg.”
At a glance
Cessna Pilot Center