A bird's-eye view of Taconic Golf Course in Williamstown is part of the aerial tour. More photos from a scenic flight over Berkshire County are available here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The chance to soar over the county is again right around the corner.
Scenic flights and private lessons have returned to Harriman & West Airport this month after Shamrock Aviation closed a year ago. A group of local flight instructors have united in an effort to make sure the newly renovated airport didn't lose those services.
"It's basically all of the local instructors getting together to offer scenic and flight instruction," said Trevor Gilman, one of three pilots who have formed the North Adams Aero Club. "We're not looking to grow it into a major business that is pumping out pilots here. We just want to bring the services back."
Gilman and instructors Mike Sarrouf, who flew for Esposito's Flying Service, and Matthew Champney, who flew for Shamrock, are the basis for the new business. They hope to bring on two more instructors as well.
With all three of them with regular jobs, the lessons and scenic flights in North Adams are not intended to be a full-time gig. Gilman is a corporate pilot for New Hampshire-based Bostonpost Capitol, Champney flys for New Hampshire-based PlaneSense and Sarrouf flies for Republic Airlines based in Philadelphia.
The club has created a website where the instructors will list their available time slots and customers can schedule times, and pay for the lesson or trip, there.
"It gives us another reason to fly," Gilman joked.
The group is leasing a plane for only the hours they use it from the owner of T & M Auto, who recently purchased it for personal use. The group will pay for the gasoline, maintenance and usage of the plane based on their customer's needs.
The plane, a Piper Cub, brings a new license class the instructors can offer. The plane is the first one the airport has had access to in the light sport category. The light sport category is what most beginner pilots would want and comes at about half the cost for all of the training, Gilman said. That category license allows a pilot to only fly planes under a certain weight but it doesn't restrict where he or she could fly.
"You can fly across country with a light sport plane," Gilman said.
The instructors offer three types of certifications with light sport being the first level, recreational pilots the second and private as the third. The plane also allows current pilots to earn tail wheel endorsements — a certain type of gears — and can be rented to those pilots who don't own their own planes. Gilman said the new plane is the only one being rented in the county so when Shamrock left, pilots needing rentals were grounded.
"There is not a lot of options in the area if you want to take some lessons," Gilman said, adding that Bennington, Vt., Airport no longer offers lessons.
Gilman said airport officials have been seeking a way to bring the services back — particularly the flight school — since Shamrock announced it was leaving. This plan finally came together by the beginning of the month and the business has just begun to accept customers and issue gift certificates.
When Shamrock Aviation closed, the airport lost services that company performed. Shamrock owner, Liam Shirley, still owns the building and the Berkshire County Pilots Association reached a deal to rent it. The building served as an office for the airport manager to monitor the radio systems and provide out-of-town pilots information.The city took over fuel sales, which Shamrock had also performed.
"The missing thing was the scenic and instruction," Gilman said.
The next step for the group is to purchase or lease another plane that can hold more people to offer group scenic flights and other types of lessons.