In its Aug. 5, 1939, paper, the Bulloch Herald reported on a bid by the Georgia Teachers College to gain approval to offer an aviation course. Earlier in 1939, the college was designated as a possible training center for aviation students by the Civil Aeronautics Authority in Washington, D.C.
Formal approval by the University Regents would make GTC a training school in the CAA's new Civil Pilot Training Program, with ground training courses to be given at the college and practical flying work done at Statesboro Airport.
As early as 1934, plans were made to build a new municipal airport. After the U.S. Department of Commerce approved two prospective sites for the airport in 1935, Bulloch County's business and civic leaders arranged to lease a 93-acre tract in 1936 to construct the airport.
A 4,000-foot grass landing strip was cleared, and the first airplane hangar was built. Initially known as the Bulloch County Airport, the facility celebrated the first landing of a locally owned aircraft on Nov. 21, 1936.
According to the Bulloch Herald, shortly thereafter, the owners of this aircraft formed the Statesboro Aircraft Corporation on Dec. 12. As part of their corporate business plan, they then began offering local citizens private aircraft flight instruction.
Not surprisingly, when contacted by the paper, C.P. Olliff, president of the SAC, said, “It will mean a great deal to Statesboro if this (GTC aviation course) goes through.”
On Aug. 19, 1939, Dr. Marvin Pittman, president of GTC, was notified by Robert H. Hinkley, the chairman of the CAA, that Statesboro had been selected as an institution for the Civil Pilot Training Program.
In October, the SAC purchased a new 50-horsepower Taylor Cub plane (with steerable tail wheel and hydraulic brakes) to meet government requirements for participation in the program. In addition, Larry Dobbs of SAC received a special pilot's rating so he was qualified to train the students. Dobbs, who had been flying since 1927, now had a proficiency rating at the same level as the U.S. Army's own pilots.
More than 50 students applied for the program, which prompted GTC officials to request the class quota be raised from 15 to 30 students. Fred Elsie and W. Hutchins were the flight inspectors; Bill Carpenter of the CAA was the grand school instructor; and Dobbs was the flight instructor.
The first 10 students selected for the program were Asa Barnard of Glennville, Kranson Holloway of Swainsboro, Clay Waller of Tennille, Norman Speery of Reidsville, Haywood Morrisson of Thompson, Gesmon Neville of Statesboro, Leroy Cowart of Atlanta, John King of Hazlehurst and Harrill Nelson of Reidsville.
On June 27, 1940, the Bulloch Herald reported that six of the students had earned their pilot licenses: Nevill, Waller, Barnard, Cowart, Speery and Nelson all were passed by CAA inspector F.O. Easley Jr.
Ewell Pigg, a science and math instructor at GTC, soon was giving ground training, as well as offering courses in aviation history, structure, engines, radio, civil air regulation, meteorology and air navigation.
The next group of students to sign up for the aviation program included Homer Blitch, Frank Aldred, James Tillman and Carrol Beasley, all of Statesboro; Delmar McGovern of Graymont; Chesley Whitley of Ocilla; John McArthur of Vidalia; and Edward Brown and Bobby Brinson, both of Brooklet.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.