PHOENIX — Trying something new after their time in the service... Veterans in the Valley are getting the chance to become pilots thanks to a local foundation. Classes are about to get underway.
"It feels good. It really does,” said Robert Slown.
Flying, Slown believes, gives a unique perspective most people don't get to experience unless from maybe 30,000 feet as a passenger.
"But, being behind the controls and knowing it is you and that machine up there, it feels incredible,” added Slown.
The former salesman finished flight lessons at the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in 2018.
Next month, the foundation is partnering with the Ray Foundation and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to put more veterans in the cockpit through scholarships paying 80% of costs.
"It's structured. I am a veteran, too. I came up. I was in the Marine Corps. So, that structured environment really helped me out. I related to it,” added Slown.
"Almost anyone can be successful at this program if they make up their mind this is what they want to do and invest the time,” said Michael Anderson, UND’s Associate Director of Phoenix Flight Operations.
The veterans will first do about two months of training at the airport then move into a classroom for further training. After about a year and a half, they could become professional aviators and able to help with the national shortage of pilots.
"This is helping get people into the career of aviation, especially veterans, and hopefully could stem a little of the pilot shortage,” said Rex Ginder, UND’s Director of Phoenix Flight Operations.
These scholarships are making dreams become reality for people like Army veteran Cody Middleton.
"Oh, I was ecstatic. I mean, I am so excited to start and ready to go,’ said Middleton. “It made me realize this is possible to do and with the scholarship, I can focus on school and not the finances or anything else."
The foundation is awarding 25 scholarships to veterans for its class which begins March 1, 2022. Veterans wanting to apply for one of the scholarships can learn more here.