Aviation schools take flight

Saturday afternoon, two aviation schools celebrated their opening with an open house at the Conway airport.

Innovative Flying, LLC will lease space at the airport-which the county owns. Pilots can sign up for classes to get licenses from basic flight to commercial.

"We're taking people signing up today. We've already had a few signatures,""John Graham John Graham, President of Innovative Flying and Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics says.

The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, or PIA, opened their home base at Conway airport in February. They are also opening a maintenance school program our of General Aviation at Myrtle Beach International, accommodating up to 25 students their first year.

"It makes your more competitive to know how to fly and maintain planes. Also most private pilots like to maintain their own planes," says Peg Jackson with PIA.

Jackson says they've already had 11 people sign up for maintenance classes.

The schools will not only bring the obvious planes and students, but experts say it will also bring jobs and tax dollars. In an earlier interview with airport director Michael LaPier, he said its because there's a need for pilots.

"What we see and the school sees is the growing trend in the need for new pilots in the industry," he said. "Pilots are getting older lots of them are retired military and they were flying for commercial operations for some time. There needs to be a replacement cycle."

Innovative Flying is capping admission at 20 students their inaugural year in the Grand Strand, but hope to accommodate 50-75 by the second year.

In 2009, North American Institute of Aviation went bankrupt and left part of the Conway Airport, off highway 378, vacant. The infrastructure, like dorms and facilities are still on that property.