OWLS HEAD, Maine ― A company that provides flight services for islands in Penobscot Bay has opened a new flight school at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head.
For nearly 20 years, Penobscot Island Air has served as a lifeline to island communities in Penobscot Bay through its array of services, from mail and freight delivery to providing medevac flights. With the new flight school, the trusted company will also teach people to fly planes.
“You go to Bangor, at the big airports, and you see people having their lunch at the end of the runway watching the airplanes fly,” Penobscot Island Air Chief Pilot Scott Story said. “Every kid wants to fly, and what I find out now is that even us, 50-, 60-year-old kids still want to fly. It’s great.”
Through the new school, students will work with certified flight instructors ― who are Penobscot Island Air pilots ― to learn the basics of aviation through both on-ground and in-flight instruction. The curriculum is intended to provide students with the skills and required flight hours to obtain a private pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. If a student wants to gain an advanced license to become a commercial pilot, Penobscot Island Air will also be able to provide this instruction as well.
It’s been three weeks since Penobscot Island Air announced the opening of the flight school and about seven students have already enrolled, according to Story.
Learning to fly a plane might seem like a lofty task, but Story said it can be done by anyone who is healthy, responsible and willing to make the time commitment.
“It’s just like anything, if you put the time in and you’re willing to learn, yeah, you can do it,” Story said.
Obtaining a private pilot license requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight time ― with a combination of supervised and solo flights ― which can be done in as little as six months if someone has ample free time, Story said. But it can also be done over a longer period. Between the aircraft rental and the instructor fees, it would cost about $10,000 to $12,000 to get the training required to obtain a license, Story said.
Opening a flight school was an idea first floated by Penobscot Island Air founder and pilot, Kevin Waters, who passed away in the summer of 2020.
“Kevin talked about it many, many years ago,” Story said. “This was something that he always wanted to do and it seemed like the timing was right.”
Story previously operated a flight school at the airport in Belfast, but ceased operations there when the pandemic began. When Story joined Penobscot Island Air as its chief pilot last fall, Terry Waters, Penobscot Island Air president and Kevin Waters’ wife, said she wanted to move toward getting the school off the ground. Then two new pilots who were certified flight instructors joined the company as well and they also were enthusiastic about the idea of a school.
Terry Waters said it’s heartwarming to see her late husband’s idea come to life and she hopes it exposes more people to aviation.
“I see [the school] as hopefully getting a lot of young people involved in aviation, as a first step, whether it ends up as a career or not, or just a hobby, because that’s what [Kevin’s] love was,” Terry Waters said.