SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
OPA LOCKA – The Florida Memorial University (FMU) Aviation and Safety Department ushered in a new era of excellence on Sept. 28 when more than 100 guests joined university officials and students at the Opa-Locka Airport to help dedicate the newest addition to the South Florida skies.
On a windy, blue-sky day, the new aircraft was taxied around to the canopy at Miami Executive Aviation where Dr. Henry Lewis III, FMU president, hopped out and addressed the enthusiastic crowd of elected officials, university representatives, airport executives, flight school personnel and FMU aviation students.
‘Dreams take flight’
“We are here to serve notice that Florida Memorial University is a place where dreams also take flight,” declared Lewis. “This new airplane allows our students to gain experience on state-of-the-art equipment and provides the greater community with stellar aviation professionals.”
The orange-and-blue Cessna 172 SP with top-level avionics is a single-engine, four-passenger aircraft that will allow students to earn various pilot licenses and instrument ratings. Mychal Martin, a recent FMU aviation graduate, was at the controls. He is now a certified flight instructor at Endeavor Flight Training, Inc.
“I never thought it would get to the point that FMU would have its own plane,” Martin said. “I felt very empowered and deeply honored to celebrate the moment.”
Lewis applauded the generosity of the U.S. Air Force and the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust; both entities provided grants to underwrite the airplane.
Locals can learn
In an effort to uplift the community, FMU is making the plane available to customers interested in flight lessons through Endeavour Flight Training, Inc.
“We’re offering new possibilities to our community by giving future aviators access to our plane,” Lewis announced. “Local residents will be able to take flight lessons at affordable and competitive prices.”
Since its inception in 1985, the Aviation and Safety Department has created a pipeline for high-quality aviators and airport-management professionals. It confers bachelor degrees in Aeronautical Science with a concentration in Flight Education, and Airway Science with a concentration in Airway Science Management. Additionally, the program launched an Air Traffic Control major and a Homeland Security minor last year.
“We spared no expense in developing this aircraft,” said Capt. Arnold Tolbert, FMU aviation program chairman. “We take great pride in producing a first-class product with first-class
Tolbert, a retired decorated military and commercial pilot, is charged to guide one of the region’s most exhaustive Aviation and Safety programs. Tolbert smiled broadly as one of FMU’s own, who has already made history in his own right, spoke at the press conference.
‘On the map’
Barrington Irving, an FMU graduate, earned fame as the first Black and youngest pilot to successfully embark of a solo flight around the world. The Guinness World Record holder noted, “This is a great day for our program.
“The FMU Aviation program is growing and soaring. I wish I had access to this type of plane while I was a student,” said Irving. “We are finally on the map. I hope to log a few flight hours on this plane.”
For more information, log on to www.FMUniv.edu.