DENMARK TOWNSHIP — A free flight ground school — which will help potential commercial pilots take their first steps — is coming in June to the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport and there are still seats available.

The Wadsworth-based Aero Trek Flight Academy has 13 seats available for their ground school, which will run from 6-8 p.m. at the airport on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 4 to July 25. Those interested in applying can do so at www.flyhzy.com/aei or call the airport at 440-576-9271.

The $34,000 to pay Aero Trek Flight Academy, as well as promotions through Leadership Ashtabula County, isn’t coming from the airport’s budget, which officials this week said will run out of money sometime this fall, but was paid for through private donations, said Airport Authority Board of Directors President Dwight Bowden.  

The course will offer a certified flight instructor for a 30-student program, which will include a half-hour of flight time, Bowden said.

The ground school will cover topics such as cockpit management, weather, emergency procedures, aircraft systems, navigation, air traffic control and airport operations. It will be taught by Tyler Crandall, a Kent State certified flight instructor.

The ground school course will prepare each student with the knowledge base to pass their written Federal Aviation Association exam, according to an informational from the airport, and represents the first step in becoming a commercial pilot.

“Education is always good, but hopefully we get enough students to go through the ground school with an interest in flight training,” Bowden said. “This could allow Aero Trek or someone else to come in and start a flight school. Flight schools create their own need for aircraft maintenance and that is a potential additional source of revenue for the airport.”

Laura E. Jones, executive director of Leadership Ashtabula County, who is also vice president of the Airport Authority Board of Directors, will be the program director.

“We are welcoming any and all applicants, but we are over half full,” she said.

The aviation industry is in need of employees and this program will offer a free educational opportunity for people in Ashtabula County to take advantage of, Jones said.

Upon successful completion of this program, each student will have the opportunity to take the FAA Private Pilot written examination, Jones said, which is one of two steps in obtaining a private pilot certificate.

“There is so much opportunity,” she said. “We have this facility right here in the community. Why not give the people an opportunity to learn more? We saw this as an opportunity to be inspirational and further educational opportunities.”

More than a decade ago, Kent State University Ashtabula had floated the idea of opening an aviation maintenance program at the airport, but those plans were grounded in 2009 after the college determined it wasn’t economically viable. 

The Kent main campus does offer a flight program, which is a full, four-year bachelor of science degree in aeronautics, but so far there aren’t any new plans to create a partnership between the university and the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport.

“We approached Kent State more than once trying to get a maintenance or flight school here at the airport and it just didn’t work out,” Bowden said. “So, with private money, the Airport Authority has partnered with Aero Trek.”