Up, up, and away! Mississippi airport now offering flight lessons

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

Anyone who wants to learn how to fly an airplane need to look no further than the Natchez-Adams County Airport, which now offers flight training program.

A grand opening and ribbon cutting for the new flight school was celebrated on Thursday evening just as the youngest — and likely the most experienced — student Grayson Guedon completed a check-ride and landed safely at the airport.

The 2023 Cathedral High School graduate’s father, Noble, is a certified pilot whose son aims to follow in his footsteps.

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A check-ride, more formally called a practical test, is the Federal Aviation Administration examination, which a trainee must undergo in the United States to receive an aircraft pilot’s certification or a rating for additional flight privileges.

Guedon flew with Frankie Kicklighter, a certified flight instructor who received his flight training in Daytona Beach, Florida. He recently joined the Natchez Flight Training program as an instructor.

The program began a little more than a year ago as a passion project of Jay Massey, Aaron Smith and another certified flight instructor and South Carolina native, Sam Herald, said Massey.

Herald worked with Smith’s father, Doug, and later began training Aaron and Massey. The program grew from there.

“This started from a need,” Massey said. “(Aaron Smith) brought Sam down to instruct a few of us, four or five of us. By the time he left for training, there were 10 or 12 of us. At that point, we said we could start a flight school. Not knowing a whole lot about it and going with Sam’s guidance, we started Natchez Flight Training.”

Massey thanked the airport commission and officials for their support of the project.

“Everywhere we went for help, we’ve gotten it,” he said.  “They realize what a great piece of infrastructure this airport is, not just for Natchez-Adams County but the entire community. I’m amazed at what shows up here. It’s an economic benefit not only to Natchez but also Vidalia on occasion. The airport needs to be supported and that’s what we hope our little company does, support the airport in a simple way by creating new pilots.”

Joining Thursday’s ribbon cutting with the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, airport commission, students and flight instructors were members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Natchez Aldermen, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft.

“This is going to take Natchez to new heights,” Gibson said, pausing for the audience to laugh at the pun. “I am amazed every day at what is happening in Natchez. … The future of this airport is just great. When we look back at years past and compare it to now, … what this is going to mean for tourism and local businesses. Every day is a step forward out here. Thank you for stepping out on the wing, so to speak.”

Herald said that to be trained to become a pilot, one must be a U.S. citizen and be at least 16 years old, at least 17 years old to qualify for a private pilot license. They must also complete a minimum of 40 PIC (pilot in command) hours, though most pilots complete an average of 50 to 60 hours, with an instructor and complete the written IFR test.

Natchez Flight Training offers a discovery flight lesson for $100 to anyone interested in exploring their interest in flying, Herald said. The flight typically lasts an hour or more.

“It’s a way to see if you like it,” he said.

Natchez Flight Training is a six-day course with five instructional days and a check-flight on the sixth day. The course utilizes a Redbird flight simulator allowing the trainer and instructor to pause, rewind, fast forward and accelerate the learning process so that no instructional time is wasted.

For more information, contact Natchez Flight Training at 601-541-9740 or visit www.natchezflight.com.