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Scholarships keep flying dream alive in challenging times

The Wings Over the Rockies organization, a nonprofit that operates the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum and is building a futuristic Exploration of Flight campus at Denver’s Centennial Airport, said 51 students are receiving funding for flight training from two $750,000 grants received from the Ray Foundation.

Four of the students whose training was funded by James C. Ray Flight Training Scholarships have earned their private pilot certificates, 15 have soloed, “and the rest are not far behind,” said Wings Over the Rockies President John L. Barry, a retired U.S. Air Force major general.

The program for middle and high school students ages 13 to 18 funds training toward glider, sport pilot, or private pilot certificates. The project is spearheaded by the Wings Over the Rockies Captain Jeppesen Foundation, formed in 2019 “to support Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in being a leader in providing aerospace educational opportunities fulfilling youthful dreams in the spirit of Captain Elrey B. Jeppesen and his legacy.” Jeppesen was the founder of his namesake navigation-services company that is now a subsidiary of the Boeing Co.

James C. Ray (1923-2017) was a World War II veteran, a venture capitalist, and a member of the AOPA President’s Council who fervently believed that “teaching young people the discipline required to learn the science of flight builds character and confidence.”  His foundation has awarded and matched millions of dollars in donations to support AOPA flight training scholarship programs over the years, including $2.5 million in dollar-for-dollar matching grants for the 2020 You Can Fly Challenge. The AOPA You Can Fly program is a collection of initiatives working toward building a larger, more vibrant pilot community.

Some of the recipients of the scholarships awarded through the Wings Over the Rockies organization were eager to share their personal stories of enthusiasm for flight online, Barry said.

He added that another Wings Over the Rockies program called Wingman gives established pilots an opportunity to act as mentors to two to five flight students each, thereby “assisting future pilots as they work their way through the private pilot challenges.”

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