One local businessman sees a hidden asset at the Elkins-Randolph County Airport and thinks the opportunities could lead to economic growth for the county and the region. With short- and long-term goals, he hopes to change the way aviation is viewed in the area.
In July, Mark Reynolds opened Elkins Aviation, a full-time flight school, in order to move back to his home county and help the airport reach its full potential. The need to provide instruction to locals who want to learn how to fly wouldn't necessarily sustain itself over time, Reynolds explained. To keep the business going, he plans to receive national accreditation. He thinks the low cost of living in the area provides a chance to capitalize on a future need for pilots across the nation and the world.
Around 2012 many airline pilots will have to retire at age 65, therefore leaving positions open for a new crop interested in taking the helm of a plane. Reynolds foresees future pilots coming to area to learn the ways of flying and in turn contributing to the local economy.
(CU and The Inter-Mountain/Carra Higgins)
CHECK — Mark Reynolds, owner of Elkins Aviation, checks the instruments in his airplane at the Elkins-Randolph County Airport. The Elkins native hopes to expand services and flying instruction opportunities in the area.
Already, locals have shown an interest in learning to fly with Elkins Aviation. Since beginning the business, six new people have joined the Elkins Pilot's Club and are working toward a pilot's license, he said.
Reynolds hopes to forge a partnership with Davis & Elkins College that would allow students to obtain a bachelor's degree and a pilot's license. He's also considering classes that would enable students to learn about airline maintenance and repair.
One of his biggest goals, however, is to re-establish services that would link Elkins to major airports such as Pittsburgh, Dulles and Charleston. Already people fly into airports in Lewisburg and Clarksburg to access area ski resorts. Reynolds says these individuals would likely choose a closer airport if given the opportunity.
Professionals in the area could cut their travel time and increase productivity by choosing to fly to meetings or work destinations, Reynolds explained. Instead of spending a large portion of the day traveling to places such as Charleston, Reynolds says a 20-minute flight to and from enables busy men and women to have more time for themselves or work.
Reynolds is also looking to attract individuals from southern states who want to learn how to fly in winter weather and mountainous terrain. By offering package deals, he says the pilot could take lessons while family members spend time at local resorts or bed and breakfasts.
So far, response from the community, the Elkins-Randolph County Airport Authority, the Randolph County Commission and Elkins City Council has been very supportive, Reynolds said.
He hopes to begin a dialog with business owners and others in the community about how Elkins Aviation and those in the area can work together.
Reynolds has more than 10 years experience in aviation and his certificates and ratings include airline transport pilot, certified flight instructor, certified flight instructor instrument, multi-engine flight instructor, advance ground instructor and instrument ground instructor. He also worked as an assistant chief flight instructor at Fredrick Flight Center.
Reynolds can be reached at 304-460-1192 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.