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October 1, 2014

          Contact: Steve Hedges
                       [email protected]

Frederick, MD – The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has awarded its third annual Flight Training Excellence Awards to top flight schools and flight instructors ranked by more than 3,600 flight students who voluntarily reviewed their flight training experience through an AOPA online poll.

AOPA has recognized Paragon Flight of Fort Meyers, FL as the 2014 Best Flight School and Spencer Watson of Manassas, VA as the 2014 Best Flight Instructor. Ten additional flight schools and 10 instructors were named “Outstanding” by AOPA as a result of the poll results.  

“All of us at AOPA would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to this year’s award winners,” said Brittney Miculka, senior manager of pilot community development. “We created these awards to recognize those who instill a lifelong passion for aviation among their students, and who exemplify the best the flight training industry has to offer. It was clear from the customer reviews that these professionals are providing a superior flight instruction experience.”

The award winners will be recognized at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-in in Frederick, MD on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014.

AOPA has also named an Honor Roll of 62 flight schools and 75 flight instructors, all of which demonstrated a high standard of accomplishment and received at least three nominations.

In addition, a Student’s Choice Award was given to the flight school that receives the highest number of positive nominations. For the third year in a row, Aviation Adventures of Virginia won that award with 198 nominations.
The 2014 President’s Choice Award winner is GIFT Academy of Vernon, TX. This award is given by the president of AOPA for significant and innovative contributions to the flight training community. GIFT Academy is aimed at helping female pilots find success in flight training in a supportive setting.

To select the award winners, AOPA invited those who have taken flight training within the last 24 months to take part in the poll. Each individual could nominate one flight school and one flight instructor. The online poll was conducted from June 3 to August 23, and contained safeguards to ensure fairness.

That process yielded an evaluation of 1,447 different flight schools and 1,500 individual flight instructors. The poll consisted of 39 survey questions designed to measure the overall performance of a flight school or flight instructor. AOPA will be sharing individual poll results with schools and instructors later this year.

All the award winners may be viewed on the Flight Training magazine website.  


Best Flight School                  Paragon Flight Training (Ft. Meyers, FL)
Outstanding Flight School    AeroVenture Institute Flight Training Center (Southbridge, MA)
Outstanding Flight School    Airwolf Aviation Services (Greenville, SC)
Outstanding Flight School    Bakersfield Flying Club (Bakersfield, CA)
Outstanding Flight School    Chesapeake Sport Pilot  (Stevensville, MD)
Outstanding Flight School    Houston Flight Training (Cypress, TX)
Outstanding Flight School    Max Aero (Cameron Park, CA)
Outstanding Flight School    Ocean Helicopters (West Palm Beach, FL)
Outstanding Flight School    Southern Maine Aviation (Sanford, ME)
Outstanding Flight School    St. Charles Flying Service (Portage Des, Sioux, MO)
Outstanding Flight School    Valley Aviation (Forty Fort, PA)


Best Flight Instructor                  Spencer Watson (Manassas, VA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Allan Burke (Christianburg, VA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Doris Gatewood (Warrenton, VA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Richard Harowicz (Mountain Top, PA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Bob Hepp (Manassas, VA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Randall Holliday (Bozeman, MT)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Dustin Jones (Cameron Park, CA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Tucker Lambert (San Carlos, CA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Cliff Lanyi (Attleboro, MA)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Jason Schappert (Ocala, FL)
Outstanding Flight Instructor    Blake Spry (Boise, ID)

About AOPA

Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association. With representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States, AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media products. To learn more, visit

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AOPA Communications staff

AOPA Communications Staff are communicators who specialize in making aerospace, aviation and advocacy information relatable for all.
Topics: Flight School, Aviation Industry, Training and Safety

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