BLOUNTVILLE — Airport Authority commissioners held a special recognition Thursday for retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Powley and his recent induction into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.
Powley, who also retired last June as the leader of the Sullivan South High School Air Force Junior ROTC program, started an aviation education effort more than 20 years ago to get students interested in flying.
“Bill has been a great advocate of aviation but also an advocate of young people getting them into aviation. ... He’s sort of been a partner to our airport,” Tri-Cities Regional Airport Executive Director Patrick Wilson said.
Powley’s education effort is called Flight Lesson Instructional Grants Helping Teens (FLIGHT), a nonprofit foundation responsible for more than 2,300 orientation flights carrying more than 6,800 local students since 1992, in addition to more than 100 solo flights performed by students from 15 regional high schools and one college since 1996.
Powley flew nearly 350 missions as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and is the 2010 national recipient of the A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Science Instructor of the Year Award.
He acknowledged the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission for giving his FLIGHT effort about a half million dollars in grants over the years.
“This all started out here at Tri-Cities Airport,” Powley told Airport Authority commissioners of his FLIGHT initiative. “The people at the tower know I’ve been here every Tuesday for the last 15 years. and asking, ‘Who are you flying today? ‘... It’s been a great ride. I always claim I had the two best jobs in the world — being a fighter pilot and being a teacher.”