Flight School Comes to Lanett Regional Airport

Published 10:05 am Saturday, March 23, 2024

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LANETT — Lanett Regional Airport has been largely undiscovered by the commercial aviation industry, and that’s just fine with flight instructor Matthew Bourguignon, owner of the Blue Skies Above Flight School, which is now based at Lanett Regional.

“You have a wonderful facility here in Lanett,” he said. “It’s clean and comfortable with few distractions. I was at the Columbus Regional Airport for two years, and this has been a pleasant change of place from that.”

Bourguignon also has some extensive experience at the airport in Auburn. Both Columbus and Auburn are very, very busy places. It’s difficult to conduct a flight school when there’s lots of air traffic coming and going. Being able to take off in a plane and land it are the critical functions in flight. It’s difficult to schedule that at airports that are constantly busy. It’s far easier in Lanett, and the new 5,400-foot runway is a fantastic place to do that.

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“Blue skies above” is a catchphrase Bourguignon picked up from the instructor who taught him how to fly almost ten years ago. It’s a tradition he’s continuing through the name of the flight school. “Blue skies” is a term pilots use when talking to other pilots. It’s a way to get across that one pilot is wishing another a safe and uncomplicated flight.

More than three dozen students have sought training from Blue Skies this year at Lanett Regional. The instructors are Bourguignon, Training Coordinator Samantha Mott, and flight instructors Joe Neil, Russ Rose and Paul Prim.

They are committed to providing their students with the highest quality of flight training. All have a passion for flying and extensive knowledge in the field.

“Lanett Regional is such a great place for teaching and learning,” Bourguignon said. “It’s not too busy, and our students love to come here. We want to start them as Young Eagles and steer them to becoming licensed pilots.”

Launched in 1992, the Young Eagles program has dedicated more than 30 years to giving youth in the eight to 17 age group their first free ride in an airplane. It’s the only program of its kind and has the sole mission of introducing and inspiring kids in the world of aviation. 

Thus far, more than 2.3 million young people have enjoyed a free introductory flight through a Young Eagles program. The first lesson for the youngest Eagles is to be sure to stay away from the “shiny things” and the “spinning things” whenever they are on the runway near a plane that’s preparing to take off or coasting to a stop.

“The most important thing we teach is risk management,” Bourguignon said. “And our utmost concern is always safety, safety, safety. We follow all industry standards. We always have two instructors per plane. A pilot instructor will always sit to the right and a student to the left when they are in a plane. We are well insured by a company from the Birmingham area and meet the industry standards. We are also covered by workers comp.”

“We love to fly over West Point Lake,” he added. “The lake just seeks to smooth out the air, especially during the summer months.”

Bourguignon knows that Lanett Regional is still a work in progress but is on its way to becoming a first-class airport and a significant asset to busy airports in places like Auburn, Montgomery, LaGrange and Peachtree City.

The taxiway is half finished. The southwest side is complete, but the northeast extension is needed. That’s in the master plan for the next few years. An access road from Phillips Road would greatly help getting to the airport from I-85. That’s also in the planning phase. There’s also a need to store both aviation fuel and jet fuel and to lease the hangar and tie-down spaces.

Bourguignon is a native of upstate New York but loves being in the west Georgia-east Alabama region and being a part of a coming thing like Lanett Regional. In addition to being a flight instructor, he’s also an IT specialist and has his own service company.

“I am really happy about what has been done at this airport,” he said. “It’s a great place to have a flight school, and there’s a lot of interest out there in learning to fly a plane. We have three Cessna 172s here. They are ideal planes to teach anyone to fly. We are looking at getting a fourth plane.”

There’s a three-step process involved in enrolling in the Blue Skies Above flight school: (1) get in touch with a Blue Skies team member, (2) visit the flight school at Lanett Regional and see their planes and (3) start flying.

The flight school can be contacted at flyblueskies.com.