Education Alliance’s ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ EDTalks on Thursday being held at Bill Noe Flight School at CRW
By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “At my peak, I’m sometimes flying four times a week. But on a slow week, it’ll be once or twice. Either way is good. When you’re flying four times a week, you’re obviously getting the experience. But whenever you’re flying once or twice, it gives you time to study and have some downtime to relax.”
That’s how Emma Carr describes her work as a student at Marshall University’s Bill Noe Flight School. Carr is pursuing a career in the growing aviation industry in West Virginia.
Marshall University’s Bill Noe Flight School operates a facility at West Virginia International Yeager Airport in Charleston. Marshall’s classroom building and 12,000-square-foot hangar are located on Eagle Mountain Road, just past the Capital Jet Center.
“I [now] have my private pilot’s license, and I’m currently working on my instrument (license),” Carr said. “Recently I went to California with three other students, and we got to experience the Women in Aviation International Conference (through the flight school program). That was a really good experience.”
The Women in Aviation International Conference was held in February in Long Beach, Calif. The 2023 conference marked the event’s 34th anniversary, and featured educational seminars and tours of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Something of a prodigy, native West Virginian Carr obtained her private pilot’s license in record time.
“I tested around 42 hours, which for Part 141, you have to have 35 hours,” Carr said. “For Part 61, you have to have 40 hours. So I was basically on the Part 61 hour-requirement.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Part 141 flight schools “are required to use a structured training program and syllabus [and] may be able to provide a greater variety of training aids and require dedicated training facilities, flight instructor oversight, and FAA-approved course curricula.” Part 61 flight programs allow for a more flexible and customized training experience, but require more flight hours to complete.
“I was happy to get it done that quick,” Carr noted. “I came in (to flight school) with zero hours.”
“My first solo-flight was on the 10th lesson,” Carr added. “That was just a local flight, but then I was able to do a couple cross-country flights. I did one to Parkersburg. Then for a long cross-country flight – a total of three-and-a-half-hours – I went to Morgantown, Parkersburg, Huntington, and then back. That was the coolest experience. It truly felt like I was a pilot.”
The growth within the aviation industry has caught the attention of The Education Alliance, a non-profit organization who advocates for quality public education for all of West Virginia’s school children. Education Alliance President and CEO Amelia Courts said that it was two of the organization’s board members who laid the foundation for the pathway the group hopes to create for elementary, middle, and high school students.
“We began to dig into the opportunities for high school students,” Courts said. “The Marshall flight school, and the other flight schools and aviation programs across West Virginia, have prepared this opportunity for higher education students. Now we have to build a pipeline. We have to get kids interested in middle school – in high school – so that the recruiting aspect is easy on the higher ed side.”
In support of their efforts, The Education Alliance will host “The Sky’s the Limit” EDTalks at Yeager Airport’s Bill Noe Flight School on Thursday. The free event begins at 11:30, and will feature two distinguished speakers: Education Alliance Board Member and 2023 W.Va. State Teacher of the Year Amber Nichols, and Marshall University’s Chief Aviation Officer – and flight school namesake – Bill Noe.
It wasn’t that long ago that Emma was unsure what a future in the Mountain State held for her. Now she hopes the pathway for young people to find a career in aviation continues to develop.
“I was going to go to Marshall, but I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do,” Carr said. “It (flight school) was a super last minute thing. I was planning to do something in the medical field, but that just didn’t feel right for me.”
With the confidence that comes from a quality education, Emma believes there are numerous opportunities for her right here in West Virginia.
“I’m really wanting to do private-corporate flying,” Carr noted. “Companies allow you to live wherever you want, and I think I will have the opportunity to stay in West Virginia with my family.”
“I push and push and push everybody I talk to – this is the best opportunity you can ever imagine,” Carr added. “I don’t even know how to put into words how cool it is. I don’t think anybody truly understands how you feel when you’re flying. You can go anywhere in the world and come right back. Just experiencing different things that you’ve never thought you could – that’s an amazing feeling.”