Lee Jones wins Certified Flight Instructor of the Year award award

September 08, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Lee Jones of Aero-Smith Aviation in Martinsburg, W.Va., recently won the Certified Flight Instructor of the Year award for the Federal Aviation Administrations Eastern Region.
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — George Smith knew for a long time that Lee Jones had the three ingredients that make great flight instructors — personality, skills and a love of flying.

Smith, owner of Aero-Smith, a company that keeps corporate and private planes flying at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, said he tried for months to get Jones to work full time for his company.

Jones, 60, of Leetown, W.Va., Aero-Smith’s chief flight instructor, recently won the Certified Flight Instructor of the Year award for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Eastern Region, based in Baltimore.

“This (award) is no small thing,” Smith said. “It’s a major accomplishment. There were 2,000 applicants nationwide.”

The FAA operates in seven regions across the country. The Eastern Region covers the Eastern Seaboard.

Each region presents an award every year.

One of the award’s criteria deals with youth training programs. Jones has advocated for aviation for a Boy Scouts Explorer Post and is involved in the Young Eagles program with the Experimental Aircraft Association. He advises pilots on safety issues informally and in classes.

Jones took up flying “for fun 20 years ago, and it just blossomed,” he said. “I had no idea it was going to end up like this.”

He said he gets his highs “whenever I realize that a student is getting it, when that light bulb goes off, when he has mastered the airplane.”

He has taught more than 40 pilots.

Jones and Aero-Smith’s three part-time instructors teach an average of 15 to 20 students at any given time. The flight school owns three single-engine training planes.

Jones’ personal plane is a 1974 four-seat Grumman Traveler.

He served in the Army from 1979 to 1986, then worked for a blood laboratory in Hagerstown for two years. He moved to a pathology lab at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., until 1991 before returning to the Hagerstown facility, where he stayed until 2007.

“I had taught in the Army and I liked it, so I decided to put it together with my love of flying,” he said.

Smith said he has not always made the right decisions in his life, “but hiring Lee was a great decision. I knew he was the right person for the job, a perfect fit.”

Aero-Smith’s 20 full- and part-time employees teach flying, fly charter planes, do aircraft maintenance, and fuel and move aircraft around, said spokeswoman Kathy Brosius.

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