CRESTVIEW The future of the north county aviation sector looks positive, according to industry-related business owners who hosted a March 22 open house at Bob Sikes Airport.


CRESTVIEW The future of the north county aviation sector looks positive, according to industry-related business owners who hosted a March 22 open house at Bob Sikes Airport.



Near the framework of fixed-base operator Emerald Coast Aviation's new terminal, flight instructor Mike Pahel pitched flying lesson packages to prospective students.



Jim Dahling learned about opportunities in aircraft repair while chatting with David Clark of open house co-host Carolina Aero Prep, a new Okaloosa Air Park tenant.



The company will begin offering aviation airframe and power plant  commonly known as A&P    mechanic testing and training courses in two weeks.



"I'm thinking about retiring soon and am looking for some part-time work," Dahling said.



Carolina Aero's class schedule is designed with people like Dahling in mind, Clark said.



"We'll run two classes," Clark said. "We have one during the week for the guys who can take off and one on weekends for the guys who work."



Henry Smith Jr., newly stationed in the area with the Air Force, investigated education opportunities at open house co-sponsor Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and ECA flight instruction packages with Pahel.



"I was glad to see they have an airport here," Smith said. "I want to learn to fly."



Niceville resident Sam Dawson flew his Cessna L19 "Bird Dog" to the open house. The plane dates from the 1950s and was used as a spotter during the Vietnam War, he said.



Fort Walton Beach resident Jim Taylor showed his daughters Preslie, 6, and Riley, 11, around some of the aircraft on the apron, and later they experienced ECA's Redbird flight simulator.



"Dad's a good pilot," Riley said afterward.



Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.