A pair of Purdue University aviation students performing their internship duties helped Indiana’s Marion Municipal Airport bring home the state’s coveted 2015 “Airport of the Year” award.
Paul McGuire and Macy Cupp, who are both studying to become certificated flight instructors, brought attention to the airfield by establishing a ground school for high school students, printing brochures highlighting the airfield’s economic benefits, and making presentations to lawmakers.
“They were a major part of getting the Airport of the Year application together,” said Andy Darlington, Air Marion FBO’s chief flight instructor.
Cupp hand-delivered the airport’s application to city officials, and McGuire presented a comprehensive report to lawmakers in Indianapolis during their annual aviation day, although he admitted to a case of the jitters before the demonstration.
“I was in Florida at the time and he called me and said, ‘Jim I’ve never been so scared in my life but I think it went well,’” said Jim McKinney, president of the Marion Board of Aviation. “You know for a 21-year-old man to sit down and write a four-page letter thanking me for the experiences he had, I put it in my desk drawer and it’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” said McKinney, a retired high school educator who was clearly moved by the experience.
Darlington complimented McGuire for his flying and his people skills. “When Jim [McKinney] and I talked about bringing in some interns, he was our first choice. I taught Paul and I could not have had a better student or a more excellent pilot. We really lucked out.”
“I had a great experience working at the Marion Airport,” Cupp wrote to AOPA via email. Cupp said the internship helped her learn how to better communicate with people and solidified her love for aviation.
“Macy is quite the young lady,” said McKinney. ”She was so excited about meeting a big-city attorney at his office and then presenting the material.”
Darlington said pilots who gathered daily at the FBO for the morning's “liars club” discussions enjoyed sharing aviation stories with Cupp and McGuire when the college students weren’t answering the phones, pumping fuel, or marshaling airplanes. “They did a little bit of everything and even got themselves all covered in paint,” he said.
Both interns have perfected their people skills, said McKinney, a quality that helped them deliver a successful inaugural ground school class that drew dozens of participants, roughly twice the number they expected.
“The two best parts about ground school were the first and last days,” Cupp wrote. “The first day I was so happy to see that we had nearly 40 people show up when we were expecting around 15! That day was also very nerve-racking because I had to teach the first lesson which was something I had never done before. It felt great to know I had helped so many people learn more about something they were passionate for.”
McGuire told AOPA he would stay at the airport all day long if he could. “Getting on the runway when the power is full and you get sucked into the seats, it’s an incredible feeling. It just doesn’t get old.”
McKinney said the two Purdue students enriched his life more than he had imagined: “They impressed me so much as mature young people that it excited me and I just wanted to be part of their life. This is something that will be ongoing, not just a one-shot deal.”