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Flight training at Raleigh Exec Jetport offers opportunities for those interested in aviation

Posted December 21, 2020 1:23 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2021 12:57 p.m. EST

This article was written for our sponsor, Raleigh Executive Jetport.

For retiree Jan Squillace, Raleigh Executive Jetport helped her fulfill a childhood dream.

The regional airport — located just off US-1 in Lee County, between Sanford and Cary — specializes in general aviation, attracting flying clubs, hobbyists, and more to their 6,500-foot long runway.

Home to a number of flight schools and clubs that specialize in training pilots of all skill levels, Raleigh Exec is where Squillace finally got her chance to take to the sky.

"Ever since I was a little kid watching planes fly, I knew it was something I wanted to do — but I actually spent my life as a software developer," said Squillace. "When my kids graduated from high school my husband looked at me and said, 'Well, what do you want to do now?' And so I took my first flying lesson at age 53."

Squillace was already familiar with the Wings of Carolina flying club — a more than 400-member club that provides training and flying opportunities —and upon looking into the organization, signed up for her first ground school lesson. From there, she graduated on to flight lessons and became a full-fledged pilot, regularly flying herself around the country, whether jetting off to visit friends in Texas or to take care of her mother in Florida.

Flying lessons take each individual a different amount of time, and courses can be taken at whatever pace learners feel most comfortable with. In fact, some may complete the requirements in as few as three months. But for Squillace taking care of her kids and a parent in need of care filled up her schedule. By the time she became a certified pilot, it had been about three years from the day of her first lesson.

After completing her training, Squillace continued her Wings of Carolina membership, serving as the safety officer, then president. Eventually, she decided to branch off and create her own club, Odyssey Aero Club. For her, the space and amenities at Raleigh Exec made it easy to branch off and pursue her own passions.

"I'm a commercially rated pilot, and I do a lot of business flying, and I love being able to fly back into Raleigh Exec. It has this lovely long runway and with 6,500 feet, I can land in less than 2,000 feet and have 4,500 feet worth of space to work with for getting in during bad weather or whatever," said Squillace. "They have very modern equipment, and they keep everything upgraded. If something goes wrong, the airport director, Bob Heuts, wants to know about it — he gives me his mobile number, so if I need anything he can know instantly."

The facilities at Raleigh Exec are large enough to host multiple flight groups, so Odyssey Aero Club and Wings of Carolina are just two of the many aviation clubs that call the space home.

At Executive Flight Training, President and Gold Seal Flight Instructor David Williams uses the jetport to train aviators new and old for private pilot's certificates, recreational pilot's certificates, instrument ratings, commercial certificates, and more.

Started nine years ago, the training program is able to use Raleigh Exec and perfectly position themselves among the Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville, and Greensboro areas. With ten instructors and eight planes, the space is well-used.

"Raleigh Exec is a less expensive place to keep a plane by far, and their fuel prices are going to be much lower than options in Raleigh-Durham or Greensboro, for example. It's also not as nearly as busy of an environment, so you can just walk out, get in your plane and go," said Williams. "It's just not quite as stressful, because your very first flight out of Raleigh-Durham, you'll be dealing with all of the commercial traffic and air traffic control. In Sanford, you can get right up in the air and train. You probably get at least an hour extra training per flight at a smaller airport than you would at a large airport, just because you have to leave and come back and wait in line with commercial jets."

For those interested in testing the waters of aviation, take it from Squillace: it's never too late to try. At organizations like the Wings of Carolina and Executive Flight Training, there are always opportunities to train, and students can be as young as 16 years old.

In fact, Williams is currently seeking new students — and for those who don't want lessons but still want their chance to see the Triangle from the sky, he can help with that, too.

"We're available to take on new students and we could take on new students today. A lot of people worry about the cost, and it's not the cheapest hobby you could have, but I usually tell people that for between $8,500 and $9,000, you can go from no experience at all to being a private pilot," said Williams. "And we are a flight school, but our instructors also offer flights to the general public. We call that a discovery flight — you tell us where you want to go in your career, and we'll take you there. If the passengers want to, they can even try their hand at flying the plane."

This article was written for our sponsor, Raleigh Executive Jetport.

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