Saturday, August 22, 2020

Two pilots bring flight training back to Wellsboro Johnston Airport (N38), Tioga County, Pennsylvania

Mike Bowser stands with the Cessna Skyhawk that he uses to train pilots.

Wellsboro, Pennsylvania - Two pilots, one certified to fly helicopters and the other fixed-wing aircraft, have brought flight training back to the Wellsboro Johnston Airport, located at 112 Runway Road in Delmar Township, about six miles from Wellsboro.

“I am giving lessons to anyone who wants to learn how to fly,” said Mike Bowser, Jr.

Currently, Bowser is the only certified fixed wing flight instructor, instrument and multi-engine flight instructor, and advanced ground and instrument ground instructor at the airport to train current and future pilots.

He offers all levels of fixed wing flight instruction from private pilot to commercial pilot and flight instructor as well as training for instrument ratings, flight reviews (required every two years for every pilot), instrument competency checks, and refresher training for rusty pilots.

“In addition, I can provide introductory flights or flight experiences for those that simply want to try flying a small airplane,” said Bowser.

"I had always been involved in aviation because of my love of flying,” he said. Bowser learned how to fly in the late 1960s while attending Montana State University. “I would do whatever kind of work was available at the airport to help pay for my flying lessons."

As a 20-year-old, Bowser earned his commercial pilot’s license in 1970; graduated in 1971 from Southeastern State University in Oklahoma with a BS degree in Professional Aviation, and earned his flight instructor license in 1972.

“I flew professionally for several years doing flight instructing, charter flying, and as a commuter airline pilot,” he said. Bowser then attended the University of Pennsylvania Dental School of Medicine, graduating in 1977 with a DMD degree and opening a dental practice in York, Pa.

For more than 40 years, Bowser has held the crown jewel of pilot ratings, an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, the highest certification the Federal Aviation Administration awards a pilot. The ATP rating is for those who make a lifelong career of aviation and are knowledgeable in aeronautics, aviation law, physiology, aeromedical factors, meteorology, and aerodynamics.

In addition to operating his dental practice, Bowser continued as an active flight instructor from the 1970's through the 1990's.

In November of 2017, after retiring from dentistry, Bowser and his wife moved to the log home they had built near the airport in 2013 so they could spend time visiting his parents, Nan and Mike Bowser, Sr., who lived in Wellsboro.

“I started working as a flight instructor in 2017 through Craig Musser, Wellsboro Johnston Airport manager and president of his own company, Canyon Aero, LLC,” Bowser said.

In the summer of 2018, Musser relocated to Williamsport and took his Cessna 172 trainer with him.

"That left the Wellsboro airport with no plane that could be used for training or be rented by qualified pilots who did not own a plane to do the required two-year flight reviews and instrument pilot certifications,” Bowser said.

With the support of the Canyon Pilots Association and the Grand Canyon Airport Authority, Zack Martin of Covington formed Aviation Essentials, LLC in 2019. Financial backing from four association members allowed Martin’s new company to purchase a Cessna 172 Skyhawk to use as a trainer in April of this year.

“The members of both organizations want this to be a success,” said Bowser, who first met Martin at the August 2019 Canyon Pilots Association meeting.

“Zack is interested in offering training services on how to operate the Cessna 172. I am hoping that others will do that, too,” Bowser said.

“I plan to extend my helicopter flight instructor rating to include fixed wing aircraft so I can teach people how to fly the Cessna,” said Martin. “To accomplish that, I need to do a checkride. I meet all of the FAA’s other requirements.

"During the checkride, an FAA examiner will be in the cockpit watching what I do to ensure that I have the needed skills to be certified as a fixed wing flight instructor," continued Martin. "My goal is to get that done by this fall. Some day, I would also like to buy a helicopter and teach people how to fly it.”

Martin grew up in Canton, Pa., joined the U.S. Army, and began learning how to fly helicopters in 2008. In 2013, he became a certified helicopter flight instructor. After being on active duty for seven years, including serving from 2011 to 2012 in Afghanistan and being stationed in Alaska and Alabama, he joined the Pennsylvania National Guard for two years.

“My first civilian job was flying a helicopter with the Geisinger Life Flight program,” Martin said. “I am now flying a helicopter for the Blaise Alexander auto dealerships."

“In 2016, my wife and I moved to Wellsboro and started farming on a small scale, mostly on rented ground. In 2019, we bought a farm in Covington, which is where we live now and are growing certified organic grain,” Martin adds.

Those who would like to learn how to fly have to be at least 16 years of age to take flight training and 17 to be a licensed private pilot. The minimum requirement is 40 hours of flight time to get a license, including at least 20 hours of flight training and 10 hours of solo time.

The airport also has a flight simulator that can be used to supplement flight training.

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