When he was 16 years old, Bill Powley was asked a very poignant question about military academies by his father. “He came into the bedroom I shared with my brother one evening and asked me if I had my choice, which military academy I would choose, the Air Force Academy, West Point or Annapolis?” Bill said. Up to that point all Bill had thought about as a young man growing up in Baltimore was playing baseball. That question to the high school junior planted a seed that led to a very successful career - and it also created a passion that has been shared with thousands of young people all over Northeast Tennessee.
As a senior, 17-year-old Powley chose the Air Force Academy and headed to Colorado Springs to see what they had to offer him. Once there he realized that he could become a pilot, so he began to prepare for what would become a career that changed his life and helped him to positively influence thousands of young people around him.
After his undergraduate work at the Air Force Academy, Powley went to Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Lubbock, Texas where he flew the T41, T37 and T38 during his year-long training. Ultimately, Powley flew 347 missions in an F4 and A-7 during his two tours in the Vietnam War. At the end of his career, he was flying F-16s but decided that he needed to move on to another chapter of his life.
Powley became the Air Force Junior ROTC instructor at Unicoi County High School and later developed the program at Sullivan South High School in Sullivan County. “I came up with the idea to fly JROTC cadets to help recruit more students for our program,” Powley continued, “and then I started the non-profit F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization to help raise funds that provide flight opportunities for thousands of students across Tennessee.”
Through F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, corporations, organizations and individuals who need a tax deduction can provide support for a program that builds self-esteem, confidence and the ability to have a career in the aviation industry.
F.L.I.G.H.T. is an acronym for Flight Lesson Instructional Grants Helping Teens and is directly responsible for approximately 530 students per year achieving flying time with Colonel Powley. Over the last 17 years, 10,000 students have aimed high in the skies over Northeast Tennessee under the supervision of this experienced and passionate pilot.
Flying helps students with character development and improves their leaderships skills, according to Powley.
“When I see students’ faces when they return from flying and read their journal entries about how this has been the most exciting thing in their lives, it gives me a lot of personal satisfaction,” Powley added. “When my solo students step out of the plane after flying alone, I know the experience that they just had is one of the greatest confidence builders that they will ever have.”
Powley’s student flight program is a way to interest young adults in aviation careers at an impressive time in their lives. The F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation departs from Greeneville, Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Elizabethton and Chattanooga airports with three students flying on each trip. Ultimately, students can work with Powley to receive their pilot’s license and be on their way to a rewarding career.
To learn more or to become involved with the F.L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, go to flightfoundation.com contact Colonel Powley at [email protected]