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OCEAN ISLE BEACH—Those wanting to take flight and soar above the clouds don’t need superpowers to do so. Discovery Flights are offered through Ocean Isle Beach Aviation, a fixed based operation at the Ocean Isle Beach Airport.
A Discovery Flight is a one-time flying lesson introducing a student to the world of aviation.
Bill Leppert, a certified flight instructor, manages the Discovery Flights at Ocean Isle Beach Aviation. Before taking flight, he guides students through several pages of steps and preparations checking everything from weather to gas levels, turning on all switches, announcing presence on air to other pilots in the area are all done by the instructor and student and other pre-flight tasks.
Students are taught how to steer the plane onto the runway, put the plane into full throttle and ascend into flight. Once in the air, Leppert lets the student take complete control of the aircraft and fly without his help. Students flying out of Ocean Isle Beach Airport will see Brunswick County from a breathtaking 3,000 feet aerial view.
After about an hour, Leppert helps the student make the descent back onto the ground. Discovery Flights cost about $80, and are open to people of all ages.
Many people interested in working toward a pilot’s license begin with Discovery Flights. A person must be at least16 and have a student license to fly solo and at least 17 to apply for a private pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A medical examination is required to make sure all applicants can safely operate all parts of an airplane.
“If you can ride a bike or drive a car, you can fly a plane,” Leppert said.
A minimum of 40 hours of flight time is required prior to the written test with at least 10 solo hours. Depending on the amount of time devoted each week to flying, it can take anywhere from two months to one year to complete all requirements.
Leppert said it takes more studying of the written knowledge than it does to learn how to fly, as the final written test is more in-depth. All applicants must be able to read, speak and understand English, which is the international language of aviation.
Leppert has been flying for 15 years, and became interested as he was once dreamed of becoming an astronaut. He has flown in the Navy as an instructor in the nuclear power program, flown aerial surveyors, skydivers and many private clients.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” he said of flying.
With commercial air travel preparing for space, his childhood dream of being an astronaut has now become a possible reality.
“Who knows, I may actually end up being an astronaut someday,” he said.
Leppert has three certifications—a certified flight instructor, a certified flight instructor with instrument certification and a multi-engine instruction certification.
“I can take you from no flight to being able to get to you the point where you can get a job with an airline” he said.
Leppert turned flying into a full-time business about three years ago, and was anxious to teach flight instruction in the Carolinas. Once he heard of Ocean Isle Beach Aviation, he talked with its owners, Tim Jackson and David Hill, about basing a flight school there. Hill previously said Ocean Isle Beach is often a stopping point for many pilots flying down the East coast.
“We find a lot of them staying overnight,” he said.
The 10,000-square-foot facility has fax and Internet capability, rental car service, a weather station and a 24-hour pilot’s lounge complete with showering facilities.
Leppert said people stop in every day to ask about lessons. His clients range in ages and all fly for different reasons, but more are turning to aviation as their main means of travel, as it saves more money on gas. Leppert’s plane gets better gas mileage than his Jeep.
But as more people fly, it remains the safest form of travel, Leppert said.
“The FAA keeps it safe,” he said. “Pilots know a lot more about their planes than most drivers know about their cars.”
For more information about Discovery Flights, contact Leppert at Ocean Isle Beach Aviation 579-6152 or directly at (843) 437-7731.
See video of the flight below: