Meriden-Markham Airport flight school ready to take off

Meriden-Markham Airport flight school ready to take off


MERIDEN — After more than three years without a flight school, Meriden-Markham Airport can once again include that amenity among the services it offers to aviators and would-be pilots.

The Meriden Aviation Center opened recently at the airport on Evansville Road. Mark Poole, one of its three managing partners, said the new business has two students enrolled in Meriden. According to information from the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office, the business registered on March 27 of this year.

“It’s been a really positive experience so far,” Poole said last week. Two flight instructors, both with the highest level of pilot’s licenses, run the business with Poole, and the company houses two training aircraft at the airport.

“For me, it’s the first time being involved on this side of a flight school, though I’ve spent a lot of time on the other side of it,” he said.

Poole and the other instructors all learned how to fly out of Meriden-Markham themselves, and Poole stores his personal aircraft there.

“We’ve been tied for some time to Meriden,” he said.

There hasn’t been a flight school at the airport since it the city took over its operations in 2011. Meriden-Markham Airport was previously operated by the Meriden Aviation Group, but the city opted not to renew the company’s contract in 2010 after it failed to meet benchmarks, did not pay for snow removal and left an empty fuel tank. In 2012, the city paid $72,000 to fill the tank and has since been marketing it as a cheaper alternative to many fueling stations in the region.

This, and other updates to the airport, including snow removal equipment and future improvements to hangars, were some of the assets that drew Poole and his partners to start up the school, and to bring it to Meriden.

“The city has made a big impact down there, and that’s part of what gave us the motivation to take the risk and put something complicated like this together,” he said, adding that the fuel cost “is probably the lowest in the state.

“That helps a lot when you consider the staggering costs to insure a student learning to fly a plane,” he said.

Jake Hurd, a city employee at the airport, said the school was definitely needed.

“It’s been in demand. We constantly get inquiries about a flight school, just from people wanting to get into flying,” Hurd said.

The Meriden Aviation Center focuses first on getting students their private pilot’s license, which is the basic license to fly a plane, Poole said. Instrument training and multi-engine training, as well as further advanced instruction are also offered, as well as options for pilots that need to renew their licenses.

That initial license requires 40 hours in the air as well as the successful passage of a knowledge test and the flight test with a certified administrator from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Because of the time-consuming in-air requirement as well as the considerable expense, students often complete the course over the span of a year or more, Poole said.

“I think a lot of people are interested in the concept of sitting in a chair and flying through the air, but from interest to air sometimes you don’t always see all the same people,” Poole said.

With two full-time instructors as well as part-time help during more popular times of day, the flight school can handle roughly a dozen students, though because of the spread-out way some students choose to complete the course, that number can change, Poole said.

“We have access to other aircraft if needed too, we tried to put ourselves in a position where we can scale along with the demand,” he said.

Both Poole and Hurd said the Meriden airport in particular has some good conditions for learning to fly.

“The airport is pretty level and flat, it’s pretty open; those are always good factors when you’re learning,” Hurd said.

Poole added, “It’s a quieter airport which is good for flight training. You don’t have to get in line to take off and land, which makes a difference.”

The Meriden Aviation Center is a member of the Midstate Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Sean Moore calls the flight school “the second best-kept secret in Meriden.”

“The first is the airport,” he added. “It’s amazing how many business folks and residents come into Meriden and are completely unaware that there’s both a very fine airport and a fabulous flying school as well.”

Moore said a user base exists in the Silver City, too.

“There’s an interesting business crowd who does use the airport,” Moore said. “It’s common to take a client to lunch in places like Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island) and come back. It’s a lovely day in the air, you have a lovely meal, and come back.”

The Midstate Chamber of Commerce is helping to host a ribbon-cutting event for the flight school next week at the airport. (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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