Of East Texas
Half Million Dollar Aviation Training Facility In The Works for Athens.
December 14th, 2022
Updated November 21st, 2023
SkySchool of East Texas, which began operations at the Athens Municipal Airport in earnest last year, has secured funding for the construction of a half million-dollar aviation training facility at the Athens Municipal Airport in Athens, Texas. The facility will boast housing for up to five single engine airplanes. The flight school plans to implement nationally advertised “fast track” aviation training programs to students interested in the pursuit of aviation as either a hobby or a career. The flight training facility, which SkySchool intends to name “The John E. ‘Jack’ Edmondson Memorial Flight Training Center” will also feature a classroom, administrative office, flight crew lounge and flight simulator bay as well as a break room.
“Athens is an often-overlooked prime location for aviation training and an ideal place to learn to fly.” said John Sealey, the owner and chief flight instructor for SkySchool of East Texas. “We are near enough to the DFW metroplex that students interested in fast-track training can justify the trip, but we are a small enough airfield and municipality that we are not hampered by exorbitantly high operating expenses, which results in lower training costs for the student.” Sealey continued. “The flight school is also local to those of us in East Texas who don’t wish to travel a great distance to learn to fly.” Once fully operational in its new facility, Sealey indicated that the school will be able to conduct Private, Instrument and Commercial Pilot training more efficiently than ever before.
In 2021, during SkySchool’s first full year in operation, the flight school flew approximately three hundred training sorties from the Athens Airport. According to Mr. Sealey, “That was far more than I had honestly hoped or planned for.” This summer, SkySchool added an additional instructor, Mr. Aaron Barefield, to the roster due to the growing flight operation which currently sees approximately 50 training sorties per month. “So far through 2022, we have experienced a 100% pass rate amongst our student body averaging one new certification every 90 days. This is a testament not only to the professionalism and quality of our training but to the dedication and hard work of our individual students who are frankly, some of the most dedicated and intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” Sealey said.
Sealey outlined several goals for SkySchool of East Texas which he hopes to meet next year. Among those goals already mentioned above; enlarging the fleet size, adding a full motion Advanced Aviation Training Device Simulator as well as bringing in more instructors were additional objectives that SkySchool hopes to accomplish by this time next year. “Already, we have partnered with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to begin training under their new AOPA Flight Training Advantage program called AFTA, which allows instructors to advance students more efficiently through their training, while monitoring progress, skill growth and assignment completion in a highly organized digital manner through an iPad app which can be used both in the air and on the ground during training.” Sealey added.
The business benefits for the airfield and for Athens should not be understated, with more students comes the need for more instructors and admin staff. Not only have fuel revenues for the airport increased by an additional $30,000 a year, but local mechanics have been swamped with the new business brought to them by the flight school’s inspection and maintenance needs. These revenues would only increase with the flight school's expected growth. With the introduction of nationally advertised training, local hotels, restaurants, and small businesses should also benefit in the increased patronage from students who travel to a rapidly growing Athens, Texas for aerospace training.
A firm construction date for the facility has not yet been established, however, meetings with the airport board and city officials have taken place, building plans are completed, and a plan set in motion so that construction on the new facility can reasonably be expected to begin sometime in the Spring of 2024. Following completion, SkySchool intends to conduct a ribbon cutting ceremony followed later by a grand opening event. Those interested in learning more about aviation training with SkySchool are encouraged to visit the flight school’s website at www.SkySchoolEastTexas.com or call 903-283-0388.