• 70°

PCHS Aviation licenses first pilot

When Phil Campbell High School first began offering aviation classes in fall 2019, everyone involved still had several questions about what the program would be able to accomplish.

Less than one year later, the program is reaching a monumental milestone as its first student receives his pilot license.

“It is surreal thinking we came up with the concept less than a year ago, and now we have a student that is going to make a career out of it,” said instructor Jason Evans.

Rilan Garrison received his pilot’s license July 17 and will be continuing his studies in aviation to become a commercial pilot at Auburn in the fall.

“Whenever I was going into my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career,” Garrison said. “It wasn’t until I started this program that I decided this was what I want to do with my life.”

Garrison said he had never even been in a plane before the class at Phil Campbell but quickly fell in love with it.

“I was really surprised by how much easier the actual flying part was than I thought it would be,” Garrison said. “It was just kind of like driving a car, just 3,000 feet off the ground and going 200 miles per hour.”

Garrison now has his private pilot’s license and is working toward a commercial license so he can fly for large companies.

“I think the goal is to one day be a pilot for Delta Airlines, since they are out of Atlanta,” Garrison said.

Garrison said even if he does not become a commercial pilot, other career paths are also open to him with a pilot’s license.

Evans said several students who began flying last year are working toward their pilot’s license, but Garrison was the only one eligible to receive his pilot’s license, because of age.

“His success is really going to shed some positive light on this program and encourage even more students to join,” Evans said.

Evans said the success of Phil Campbell’s program has already encouraged other districts to look at adding an aviation program, as well. Conversely, some students are coming to Phil Campbell from outside of the area just to take classes in aviation.

Evans said the hope is to expand the program to the remaining Franklin County schools as soon as possible, but logistics are still being worked out.

“We are just excited to have a student come through this program and be able to show other students what they are able to do,” Evans said. “He is off to do great things, and we are just happy we were able to be a part of that.”