published Friday, June 1st, 2012

Flight school prides itself on experience, history

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    Mark Winton pushes a stunt plane from its hangar Friday at Hixson Aviation at the Dallas Bay Skyport.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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Name: Hixson Aviation

Location: Dallas Bay Skypark, 1823 E. Crabtree Road, Hixson

Contact information: 423-842-9845,

Products/services: Flight lessons and rides in five different small aircraft including an aerobatics plane and a World War II Navy pilot training plane. Training for a variety of licenses is available, including aerobatics licenses. Future pilots can get their training and license for $6,000.

Age: Ten years

Flight experience: Co-owners Mark Winton and Bill Rodgers each have backgrounds as Air Force pilots and have worked as pilots since retiring from the armed services. Winton, now 53, first started learning to fly at age 15. "Both of us are very passionate about flying," Winton said. "There's nobody else with the credentials that we have."

School challenges: Winton readily admits he didn't start a flight school for the money, but for a love of flying. "The best way to become a millionaire flying airplanes is to start with $2 million," he said.

History of flying: A former Air Force F-16 pilot, he is the only aerobatics teacher in the region. He said he's always happy to be in the air, but his favorite plane to fly is his Stearman PT-17, a plane built in 1942 and used to train Navy pilots during World War II. "Out of all the airplanes I've flown in my life, this is the most fun one I've ever flown," he said. The challenge of handling an older plane coupled with the sense of history he gets every time he climbs in the cockpit makes flying it a unique experience. "Guys who defended our country in World War II sat in this airplane," he said. "It's a flying museum."

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