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Benefit concert will help students soar to new heights

Chelsey Bishop • Feb 4, 2016 at 4:30 PM

FLIGHT Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, provides funding for an aerospace education program for students of all ages to learn how to fly planes in order to gain self-confidence, reduce fear of flying, and other valuable life lessons. Bill Powley, the founder of the foundation and a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, has made it his life’s mission to spread the joy and excitement of flying planes for the past 25 years.

In order to continue the flights, the foundation is hosting a benefit concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, at the Johnson City Country Club. The entertainment for the evening is former Flight Foundation graduate and rising country star Austin Moody. A Kingsport native, Moody performs original songs, as well as covering favorite country hits from his current home in Nashville.

According to Powley, Moody is the poster child for FLIGHT Foundation.

“Austin was always a polite, respectful student,” said Powley, retired school teacher. “He took all four years of JROTC. He was a member of the physical fitness team and really came into his own as a solo student. This kindled a spark that inspired him to continue his flight training through private pilot and (one that) continues to excite him to this day. I am honored that he thinks so much of this program that he would put so much time and energy into performing a benefit concert for FLIGHT Foundation.”

The rising country star, active pilot, aviation enthusiast and Kingsport native relocated to Nashville five years ago and has been honing his craft of songwriting and artistry while touring across the country. Moody is currently working with Grammy-award winning producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band, George Jones, etc.), music industry heavyweight Mike Kraski and hit songwriter D Vincent Williams ("Moving On," "Just Got Started Loving You").

Moody is passionate about supporting FLIGHT Foundation. After training and flying with Lt. Col. Bill Powley, Moody flew a Cessna 152 solo in July 2009. He continued his training and received his private pilot's certificate in 2010. In addition to the training Moody needed to fly, the foundation taught him invaluable discipline, leadership and motivational skills that he applies to every day life.

"I've always dreamed of flying planes and singing country music and I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to do both," says Moody.

"My dreams of flying came true because of Lt. Col. Bill Powley and his F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation. ... The funding provided from the FLIGHT Foundation provided the accessibility for me to chase this dream. The discipline, leadership and motivation I took away from this experience is priceless and it comes in handy while chasing my dream of being a successful country music artist," he added.

The foundation has sponsored over 3,000 orientation flights for 8,500 students since 1992. Powley has taught 143 teenagers how to solo, which (just like it sounds) is flying a plane by themselves, and has had 11 of those (including Moody) go on to receive their private pilot license.

“This is a unique JROTC high school program to get the kids excited about flying,” said Powley. “I’ve sent seven students to the Air Force Academy, three to West Point, seven to MTSU to be professional pilots, one to Purdue, and some have gone to ATP Flight School to get their transport pilot rating.”

FLIGHT stands for Flight Lesson Instructional Grants Helping Teens. The organization receives grants from the Tennessee Aeronautics Division to promote aviation within the state, as well as donations from local, regional and national sponsors.

“What better way to promote it than to get 8,500 kids up in an airplane, excited to fly,” said Powley. “That’s our purpose.”

Watching the excitement the students experience is what drives Powley to work so hard at promoting the program.

“We have thousands of journal entries that all read pretty much the same thing: ‘This is the first time I’ve ever flown and it was the neatest thing I’ve ever done in my life,’” said Powley. “Some may never fly again, but they’ve experienced the adventure. It takes courage to get up there. To fly an airplane by yourself is a great confidence builder. After their solo flight, the students feel like there’s nothing they can’t do. It sets a stage for success and adventure for later in their lives.”

The foundation prides itself on promoting math and science skills, discipline, leadership, team building, and motivation for the students who embark on the adventure. It also provides the opportunity to accomplish these goals as well as provide the basis for future careers in aviation and service to the country in the Armed Forces. To purchase tickets to the benefit concert, visit austinmoody.ticketleap.com/flightfoundationbenefit/.

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