Saturday, June 21, 2014

Eagles View Aviation: Come fly and see what your home looks like from 4,000 feet - Monmouth Executive Airport (KBLM), Farmingdale, New Jersey

Tinton Falls resident Priscilla Hargrave was working in the telecommunications industry in 1989 when a colleague began talking about his hobby of flying planes.

"I became curious to know what it took to be a pilot," Hargrave recalled, and she signed up at what was then Allaire Airport in Wall with her friend Esther Graziano, 77, to take a half-hour demo flight with an instructor. "As soon as we took off, we could see New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City from 4,000 feet up," Hargrave said, "and the whole world changed."

Certificated to fly soon after and disenchanted with her corporate job, Hargrave made a radical career change. "I wanted to leave my job and I really enjoyed flying and the whole process of people learning how to fly," she said. In 1993, she and Graziano, who had also become certificated to fly, pooled their money, hired two instructors, bought two planes and leased another, and opened Eagles View Aviation, Inc.; three years later they absorbed the largest flight school at Allaire Airport when the previous owner closed the business. "We moved our flight school onto the very premises where we learned and have continued to help others learn to fly ever since."

Considered a "Part 61" flight school – where you learn to fly at your own pace – the atmosphere at Eagles View is relaxed and friendly but places great emphasis on safety. "In 1945, the government mandated 40 hours of training to become certified; however, today more hours are necessary although not mandated, particularly since there's so much more to be concerned with in the air since 9/11," said Hargrave, now 66. "With safety being the ultimate goal, most students find they'll get their certification between 60 to 70 hours."

Owning as many as 10 planes at one point, four of which got wiped out in a tornado – "there's an old saying that in aviation, if you want to be a millionaire when you retire, start out with $2 million," joked Hargrave – Eagles View currently has six planes, works with full-time and part-time instructors, and leases two buildings and its airplane tie-downs from the new owners of what is now called Monmouth Executive Airport.

She and Graziano, now 77, who is also a Tintion Falls resident, have never taught flying, preferring instead to manage the business and its finances, but are fully up to speed on the latest aviation laws and safety and technical regulations. "Aviation regulations have always been in place, but we're much more aware of who's flying now; for example, we're responsible for making sure that people who fly planes for instruction are American citizens or, if they're not, that they've been cleared by the TSA," Hargrave said. "Pilots are now also responsible to know the happenings within the New York airspace and must remain in greater contact with Air Traffic Control than before."

What hasn't changed? Flying can still be a pricey hobby, especially in a difficult economy – ringing up at $105 an hour for the aircraft, $40 an hour for the instructor, and $30 to $40 for the gas that will be consumed during an hour-long lesson at Eagles View. But Hargrave noted that "we're one of the lowest-priced aviation schools in the state. There used to be four flight schools on this field and now we're the last one standing," she said, a fact which she attributes to their policy of remaining debt-free and never getting overextended.

Jeff France, 58, a Monmouth County doctor and resident of Little Silver, watched with pride as his son Brett, 22, learned to fly at Eagles View during high school, got his license shortly before college, and went on to become a certified flight instructor with hopes of being a commercial pilot. In fact, France himself caught the bug, picking up flying as a hobby four years ago and even becoming an FAA-designated senior aviation medical examiner at Hargrave's and Graziano's encouragement.

"Flying is a challenge and you have to prepare ahead of time, but it's great to be in your own space controlling a plane – it's an exhilarating feeling and a great perspective," he said . "And Priscilla and Esther are wonderful, good-natured people who take a genuine interest in all of their flight students and help them to be their best."

Though aviation tends to attract more men than women and it's unusual to see aviation schools that are completely female-owned, Hargrave insists that she and Graziano aren't pioneers.

"The true pioneers were women pilots who flew in World War II," she said. "We're just happy we were able to start out on our own, be our own bosses, and do it properly 22 years later. We're fully computerized here but offer a family-oriented environment where people can build experience at a comfortable pace. The learning process is paramount," she concluded, "but ultimately it's about offering our clientele from ages 8 to 80 the joy of flying."


Location: 1717 Route 34, Wall (Monmouth Executive Airport)

Phone: (732) 919-1927


Launched: 1993

Owners: Priscilla Hargrave and Esther Graziano

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