Want to Fly High, CF? Consider Local Flight Schools.


More CF students choose the Associate in Arts degree than any other. Many have a plan to go on to a university after graduation, but sometimes a pathway hasn’t fully taken root yet and it’s easy to feel stuck. If you’re struggling to find a career path, aviation may be a good option for you. It’s hard to imagine the modern world without aviation. Not only does it allow the speedy transportation of goods and people, but it has also brought a significant impact on global education by creating new professions.

Aviation is an exciting and dynamic industry with many opportunities for growth ranging from flying aircrafts to aircraft mechanics to aerospace technicians. Three flight schools are located at the Ocala International Airport, just down the road from the CF Ocala Campus: Ocala Aviation Services, Epic Flight Academy and Fly Dynasty.

“You can start flying at age 14. You can solo and get your license at 16. You can get your private pilot’s license before you can get your driver’s license. You can literally start flying as early as that and high school to college age is a great time to start,” said Matthew Grow, director of the Ocala International Airport. “There are loan programs where you can get loans to help get all of your ratings and build time and those are great resources to students. You don’t even start paying them back until you graduate and that’s the best way to do it.”

While there is not a specific academic pathway at the College of Central Florida catered specifically for aviation, there are courses students can take and pathways that they can follow to pursue this area of study.

“I would recommend the student be in one of our A.A. pathways and then tailor it to meet the pre-requisite courses that the university requires for aviation,” said Chad Christlieb, an educational advisor at the college. “In addition to that, we offer engineering pathways and we do have different science pathways like biology, chemistry, and physics that can be a great help to students.”

In doing this, students are given the opportunity to take matters into their own hands and craft their own path that could be easier for them to commit to in the long run and if there are students who are not yet sure of where exactly they see themselves in the future, it gives them the chance to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses. For some extra academic material while studying at the college and taking the desired courses, all the flight schools accept international students and Epic Flight offers mechanical training. In addition to this, the flight schools offer discovery flights for those who may be unsure of whether flying a plane is for them.

“If someone is kind of wavering on whether or not that would be a good path for them, it is an excellent resource for them to take advantage of. It is a good idea to get exposed since if they do pursue that, they will be in a small airplane, spending hundreds of hours inside of it, so it may be a good idea to be comfortable with that. It is a great, great way to open the door to the industry,” said Grow.

There are tons of different areas and professions in the field of aviation that are available that do not require sitting in a cockpit. The aviation sector has great potential for growth and the growing demand for air travel represents major opportunities. Air traffic controllers and airport operations are included and professionals with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have the ability to grasp those potentials and contribute to these breakthroughs.

“A lot of different schools will offer degrees catering to aviation,” said Grow. “You can get a bachelor of science in your professional pilot studies. You could go and get an aviation management degree, like I did. And that basically opened up a bunch of doors. So, you can go pro pilot, you can go aviation management. I know that some people go and get aviation engineering degrees. I know some people that went and got meteorology degrees and applied those.”

“I’ve lived under a practice area that I practice with now as a student and I’ve spent my life looking at planes and have always admired them,” said James Huston, a CF student who attends the Ocala Aviation Services flight school. “I thought it was amazing how we can put humans thousands of feet up in the air and think “Wow, there’s a person inside there.” I was actually terrified of heights before I got into my first aircraft, which was a big passenger jet and I’ve always loved the concept of flying and that’s what made me get into it.”

Huston has taken key skills from his academic endeavors and applied them to his aviation prowess and vice versa.

“Learning all this stuff has increased my ability to study more effectively and has allowed me to tackle more projects and assignments more easily and more efficiently. It heavily helps with communication skills, coordination, and critical thinking. It also gave me the chance to make new friends and meet new people as well as hearing and sharing stories with people that I never met before. It is a huge help with networking.”