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, Fla., 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. 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 received 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, Texas. The president of AOPA presented the award 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.
In the Midwest, St. Charles Flying Service (Portage Des, Sioux, MO) was named Outstanding Flight School.
In addition, the AOPA Foundation has awarded $65,000 in flight training scholarships to prospective pilots from eight states as part of its program to expand the pilot community and support flight training
The Able Flight Scholarship, whose mission is to offer people with disabilities a unique way to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training, was awarded to Ellen Howards of Boston, Mass. Ellen was born with spina bifida occulta, which caused severe scoliosis in adolescence, requiring surgery. Howards is an adjunct professor at a Boston area college, and earned her pilot certificate after training at Able Flight’s program at Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology.
In the Midwest, The Richard R. and Gretchen E. Harper Scholarship in memory of Richard R. Harper, was presented to Kurt Clemenz of Fishers, Indiana.
AOPA President Mark Baker presented the awards and scholarships during a Pilot Town Hall at AOPA’s Homecoming Fly-in at its headquarters in Frederick, Md., October 4, 2014.