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Flight school closes

new one takes off

May 29, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Donald Koontz was looking forward to cashing in his Christmas gift from his son, a certificate for a one-hour "discovery flight" from the Hagerstown Aviation Academy, when he encountered a small problem.

Hagerstown Aviation Academy no longer seemed to exist.

"I tried calling the number and they told me it was out of service, and then I had a fax number and I sent them a fax, and on April 7, I sent them a letter," Koontz, 74, of Chambersburg, Pa., said Monday. "It's been over 30 days and still no response."

That's because Hagerstown Aviation Academy closed March 22, according to Hagerstown Regional Airport Business Development Manager Greg Larsen.

It has been replaced by a new flight school, Hagerstown Flight School LLC, whose owner said he would honor the $75 gift certificate.

The closure of Hagerstown Aviation Academy followed a change in ownership of that business late last year, Larsen said.

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Larsen said it was looking like the airport was going to have to shut down the Aviation Academy operation when the owner notified airport officials in March he was closing it.

Attempts to find contact information for that owner were unsuccessful.

Shortly after the Aviation Academy shut down, one of its instructors, Aaron Harrison, contacted the airport about his desire to start a new flight school.

"We were going to lose students to Frederick and Carroll counties," Harrison said. "I said, 'Let's get the ball rolling and make this happen.'"

Larsen said Harrison was quick to provide the airport with the necessary documentation and airport officials are pleased with the new flight school's operations.

"I'm confident, and I think (Airport Manager Carolyn S. Motz) shares my confidence that we have a good provider and operator in Hagerstown Flight School, and I'm very optimistic that Aaron Harrison is going to succeed here," Larsen said.

When told about the unredeemed gift certificate, Larsen contacted Harrison, who agreed to honor it.

Koontz said he was glad he would be able to take his discovery flight after all.

He scheduled the flight for June 6 or 7 and said he plans to take his girlfriend with him to fly over Antietam Battlefield and Sharpsburg, his hometown.

"I've been over the ground, but I've never flown over the top," he said.

Koontz said he has always enjoyed flying, has taken a hot air balloon ride and went skydiving for the first time at age 74.

Larsen said discovery flights, or short tours in small aircraft, are a good introduction to what it's like to fly in a small plane.

"Hopefully, the outcome is they have a wonderful experience and they say to the operator of the discovery flight, 'Hey, I'd like to take flying lessons,'" Larsen said.

He said anyone else with unredeemed gift certificates to Hagerstown Aviation Academy may contact the airport or the new flight school to work out something.

Hagerstown Flight School LLC is at 18515 Henson Blvd. in Hagerstown and can be reached at 301-712-6052. Its website is http://www.hagerstownflightschool.com.

The flight school is having an open house today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Harrison said.

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