Flight Training Scholarship awards announced

October 1, 2013

AOPA has announced the winners of the 2013 Flight Training Scholarships that will be awarded at AOPA Aviation Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 10 through 12. 

The scholarships are awarded to student pilots working toward an initial sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. Each of the eight recipients will receive a $5,000 scholarship under the award program launched in 2011 under AOPA’s Flight Training Student Retention Initiative and expanded for 2013.

Increasing the number of scholarship awards from four to eight for 2013 was made possible by generous donations to the AOPA Foundation, said Brittney Miculka, manager of flight training initiatives for AOPA’s Center to Advance the Pilot Community.

The Jimmie Allen Flying Club Scholarship

Ashley CollinsAshley Collins, a college freshman from Silverton, Ore., has been name the recipient of the Jimmie Allen Flying Club Scholarship. She took her first flight in February 2013 and by August had logged more than 40 hours of training toward a private pilot certificate in a Cessna 150. She is also working toward certification as an airframe and powerplant mechanic—and has already helped build an experimental aircraft in a high school program. 

"Being the dreamer that I am, I have chosen a career for the unordinary, so I will be as creative as possible to make my career aspirations come to life," she said. "I know that I have the drive and determination necessary to do whatever possible to reach my life goal."

That dream is "to one day be a pilot who knows everything possible about all aspects of aviation, including mechanics, and to be in the sky and feel at peace with everything." She also expressed a dedication to share her passion for aviation by helping others achieve their dream of flight.

Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship

Tyler StidhamTyler Stidham of Wheelersburg, Ohio, is the 2013 recipient of the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship. A high school senior, Tyler is already steeped in aviation tradition, having soloed on his sixteenth birthday and now working diligently toward his private pilot certificate in a Cessna 172. (He has also flown in five other types of general aviation aircraft.) To help pay for flying lessons he has even worked bailing hay on his flight instructor’s farm.

Promoting aviation is one goal toward which he wants to put a private pilot certificate to work. "I want to take kids flying and teach the community about all the wonderful aspects of aviation, through tours and possible seminars," he said. "I currently take kids to my local airport and show them around; thus far I have taken two school groups out to the airport." He estimates that he may have already offered aviation inspiration to more than 130 young airport visitors.

Gina Santori Flight Training Scholarship

Diana SauderDiana Sauder of Owasso, Okla., has been named the 2013 recipient of the Gina Santori Flight Training Scholarship. Known as a frequent volunteer for projects in her general aviation community—even before she began flight training—Sauder, 41, works full time while she also attending Tulsa Community College for an associate’s degree in aviation science technology.

Interest in aviation began to dawn for Diana in 1992 when she worked as a line girl at Tulsa’s Harvey Young airport, she said. But it took many years, and overcoming some significant life challenges, before she arrived at "a turning point in my life" that opened the path for her to pursue her aviation dream "to fly professionally in any capacity."

Flight training has already provided Sauder a broad spectrum of experience: She has logged time in the Piper PA-38 Tomahawk, and more recently in Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft. Sauder is known as a team player who shows concern for the well being of others and is—as one of her supporters put it in a recommendation—"always eager to help in any situation."

Richard Santori Memorial Scholarship

Keaton MeltvedtKeaton Meltvedt of Summerville, Ore., the 2013 recipient of the Richard Santori Memorial Scholarship, has wanted to be a helicopter pilot since an introductory ride at age 13. (There are photographs of him at the age of one year, clutching a toy helicopter, he said.)

With his focus on becoming an emergency medical service helicopter pilot, Keaton has already taken big strides toward that objective, becoming certified as an emergency medical technician while he was still in high school. Now a high school graduate and "fully engaged" in flight training in Robinson R22 and R44 aircraft, he has already had the experience of one of his night cross-country training flights become a real-life rescue mission. During that flight he spotted a fire approaching nearby homes. "My instructor called 911 while I circled the homes attempting to wake the residents and alert them of the danger. Fire departments responded, and were able to extinguish the fire. Local and national news agencies covered the story and interviewed both myself and my instructor," he recalled.

Morton Bass, Esq. Flight Training Scholarship

Nick MinxNick Minx of San Diego, Calif., is a police officer, student pilot, and an AOPA member since 1995. Now he has also become the 2013 recipient of the Mort Bass Flight Training Scholarship. His family is well steeped in general aviation: Nick’s grandfather had as a flight instructor none other than Paul Poberezny, late founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association.  Now, Nick envisions a long-term goal of working in general aviation as a member of his police department’s Air Support Unit. He also has a passion for vintage aircraft (his favorite airplane is the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver). 

"My parents raised me to believe we should have a mindset of service or putting others first," he said.  "I think this led to my desire to serve my community by becoming a police officer." Minx also prizes volunteering, noting that his goal of taking riders on introductory flights and flying pet-rescue missions honors the volunteer pilots who made aviation accessible to him.

Lou Torres Flight Training Scholarships

Sam DuncanEver since he was a child peering over an Air Force base fence and attending every aviation event he could with his father, retiree Sam Duncan of Yellville, Ark., has wanted to fly. Now at last, the goal may be in sight for him as a newly announced 2013 recipient of a Lou Torres Flight Training Scholarship. Duncan hopes to become a flight instructor some day. 

In the meantime, it’s no exaggeration to say that aviation has been part of his family. Duncan, the son of a World War II B-17 flight engineer, has a son of his own who is a helicopter mechanic, another who has begun training, and a daughter who works at a Marine Corps Air Station. Duncan himself is a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and he is restoring a Cessna 150 under the supervision of an aviation mechanic. He hopes the completed aircraft will become his trainer. Duncan, a photographer and filmmaker who has taught at a small college, is also helping a local high school science teacher develop a program to promote interest in aviation. "Nothing excites me more than aviation. I read and talk about it at constantly," he said.

Ryan McFarlandRyan McFarland of Fort Worth, Texas, is also a 2013 recipient of a Lou Torres Flight Training Scholarship. He has been moving "full speed ahead" with the training, with the goal of earning his private pilot certificate by spring 2014. While saving up for flight lessons, he studied for and passed his FAA knowledge test. In December 2012 he soloed in a Cessna 152—but then a medical setback of his own caused several months of delay and the depletion of financial resources.

It was an introductory flight invitation from the pilot of a medical transport helicopter that provided McFarland with the inspiration to enter aviation. "I was so thankful to the pilot and crew for being so welcoming and for sharing their passion for flying. I asked what I could do to thank them. All they asked was that I pay it forward in the future and take someone on their first flight after I get my license," he said.

McFarland also feels deep gratitude to the volunteer pilots from Angel Flight who provided transportation for his mother, who became ill in 2010 and lived far from where she needed to go for medical treatments. Once McFarland earns his private pilot certificate, he said, "I will volunteer to help those who need transportation to doctors and hospitals. So many people need these services but there aren't enough pilots to help."

Ceci Stratford Flight Training Scholarship

Rodney McKnightThe Ceci Stratford Flight Training Scholarship for 2013 has been awarded to Rodney McKnight, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and helicopter mechanic who completed online ground school while deployed overseas. McKnight is from New Orleans; after Hurricane Katrina dealt his family a severe financial blow, he wanted to do something to help.

"Among others, that was one reason I joined the military," he said, explaining his determination "to see to it that my little brother Samuel Rasaan McKnight would still be able to participate in after-school activities." Helping the family get back on its feet has been a priority for McKnight, which meant that his flight training in a Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee, had to take a back seat. "This scholarship will not only grant me the opportunity to continue my flight training, but also inspire other young aviator enthusiasts to pursue their dreams of becoming pilots no matter what the circumstances may be," he said.