July 16, 2008

Flight School Opens at Whitley County Airport

By Samantha Swindler, The Times-Tribune, Corbin, Ky.

Jul. 16--Kent Shilling's dream of owning his own flight school became a reality through bird feeders, beach towels and wind chimes.

Shilling, who recently opened a flight school out of the Whitley County Airport outside of Williamsburg, raised his capital by purchasing knick-knacks from Specialty Merchandise Corporation and reselling them online through a Web site for DVK Distribution -- so named because DVK is the airport code for Danville.

"I buy it from a warehouse in California -- little figurines, garden statues and what-all, then sell it through a Web site," Shilling said.

With money from DVK, Kent Douglas Shilling was able to purchase his first airplane and begin Douglas Aviation.

"I've always wanted to be a pilot," he said. "I was enlisted in the Navy, got turned down for fighter pilot five times... bad eye sight, bad hearing. I actually got accepted once and they sent me to Pensacola, and I had a head cold and when the guy told me to pinch my nose and blow, one of my ears didn't pop."

Because instructors told him he'd blow an eardrum as a fighter pilot, Shilling decided to give up on a military career, but not a career in aviation.

After an honorable discharge, he became a commercial pilot. Shilling has a master's degree in aviation safety from Central Missouri State University and has served as a corporate pilot and staff instructor with CMSU. Last year, he started Douglas Aviation from Danville, and looked for area airports where he could teach students looking for a private pilot's license.

"I took a map and swung a 30 minute flying circle out of Danville, and sent a letter of introduction to every airport in that circle," he said.

Among those airports were Campbellsville, Richmond, Somerset and Williamsburg. The London-Corbin Airport already has an established flight school, he said.

Potential pilots must log at least 40 flight hours according to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), but Shilling recommends 50-60 hours for his students, who are encouraged to take lessons about three times a week. That's frequent enough to get regular practice without overloading students with information.

The total cost -- including flight time, the FAA written exam, books and fees -- usually comes to about $6,000 to obtain a private pilot's license. Most of Shilling's customers are small business owners, he said, who are looking for an easier way to handle work-related travel. Instruction can be done in Shilling's airplane or the customers' own. Businessmen can have instrument instruction conducted on business trips, sparing them the expense of dedicated instruction flights.

For those who aren't interesting in seeking a pilot's license but who just want some time in the air, Shilling offers sightseeing and photography tours, in which he can fly over your house or neighborhood.

For more information on lessons or plane rides, visit www.douglasaviation.org or call 859-757-1235.


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