Edwin Banks, 79, and Roger Kennedy, 58, have been co-owners of the Jasper Flight Training Center, housed at Sanders Aviation on Bevill Field Airport, for the last three years.
“I love instructing more than flying corporate or anything because you have a chance to give back something you have received,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said they offer instruction for most types of flying certification, from a private pilot’s license to commercial airline transport. So far, they have had more than 30 students.
Banks added the center also offers a plane to rent, which he and Kennedy hope will entice the many pilots in the area who haven’t flown in a while.
“Anyone that is qualified is welcome to rent it,” he said.
Both Banks and Kennedy said teaching people to fly doesn’t pay a lot and most flight instructors take the job simply to accrue the time to become a commercial pilot.
Banks and Kennedy said they have more than 25,000 hours of flight between them.
“We can offer a lot more to these students,” Banks said.
Banks and Kennedy have known each other since the 1970s, when they met at the old Walker County Airport.
Banks took a job as a commercial pilot in 1966 and later was an instructor at flight centers in Montgomery, Orlando and Des Moines. He also worked as an instructor at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
Banks also worked for 22 years as a corporate pilot for Drummond Coal Company and retired as the company’s aviation manager and chief pilot.
Kennedy became a flight instructor for Alabama Aviation Center in Ozark shortly after he graduated from the center in 1987. He also flew for American Eagle Airlines in Nashville. When the company wanted to send him to Miami, he took a job as an underground miner for Drummond. He retired from the Shoal Creek Mine at 55.
Kennedy said having a flight center in Jasper offers several advantages compared with other parts of the state. For example, Banks said the average time it takes to taxi down the runway at Bevill Field is around 5 minutes, compared to about 15 minutes in Birmingham. Kennedy also said the airspace in Walker County has less traffic than most areas in the state.
For more information about the Jasper Flight Training Center, call Banks at 205-522-0539 or Kennedy at 205-300-1310.