By KANDACE MCCOY
MT. VERNON — After two years of planning, the first ever Light Sport Aircraft Training Academy is now available at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport.
The academy will be offered by SRT Aviation and will specialize in training LSA pilots from across the Midwest, according to SRT Aviation President Rich Carney.
“This academy opens the doors for people all over Southern Illinois and even the outer region,” Carney said. “We’re fully functional and have four flight instructors. We already have several students lined up.”
“We’re excited the airport is able to offer this,” said Mt. Vernon Outland Airport Manager Chris Collins. “This is the future of flight training. The closest one of this kind to us is in St. Charles, Mo., and obviously we’re trying to do everything for aviation here in Mt. Vernon. We want to be the innovators and we think we’ve done that.”
The Federal Aviation Administration created the LSA category and sport pilot license in 2005 as a way to offer more affordability for those who “want to fly for fun,” Carney stated. An LSA is defined as a “simple, easy-to-fly aircraft” that meets the performance specifications of maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds; maximum level flight speed of 138 miles per hour; fixed landing gear; single reciprocating engine; two places for pilot and passenger; maximum stall speed at 51 miles per hour; fixed or ground adjustable propeller; and unpressurized cabin.
He added there are “numerous components” the academy will bring to the community.
“First, people can come from elsewhere to train, stay in our motels and eat in our restaurants while they earn their sport pilot’s license here in Mt. Vernon,” he said. “Additionally, the academy will allow many aviators to access the skies again. These are pilots that need not meet the standard FAA medical requirements, but only the sport pilot medical requirements, (and) who can now return to their first love — flying for fun. All of this translates into dollars spent in our local economy.”
The first LSA available for the academy is a 2009 Jabiru J230, information states, which features an all-glass cockpit, XM satellite weather, traffic collision avoidance and an auto pilot.
To be a light sport pilot, one must be at least 17 years of age, have a valid U.S. driver’s license, pass an FAA Knowledge Test and take ground training as required.
“This has been a long time coming” Carney said. “We’ve seen the need and started actively pursuing it.”
For more information about the Southern Illinois Light Sport Training Academy, you may contact Carney at 244-7746 or visit www.mtvernonairport.com.