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Perry Sloan (right), airport manager of Morehead-Rowan County Airport, discusses techniques with Marshall Kirk while practicing landing and taking off on a training flight. Sloan thinks he is often more excited about his students' achievements throughout training than they are. Nine months after Sloan took over as airport manager, the airport has thrived as a hub for new and veteran flight enthusiasts.

Up in the air

story by Megan May

Few people are lucky enough truly to love what they do for a living. Perry Sloan is one of those people.

Perry’s curiosity led him to an introductory airplane flight when he was 19 years old. He had no plans to pursue a career in aviation, but after that flight he was hooked.

“It was wonderful, just the feeling,” he says. “Before I got out of the plane I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Perry is currently the airport manager and flying instructor at the Morehead-Rowan County Airport. He also works on airplanes as an FAA-certified airframe and power plant mechanic.  He is responsible for checking fuel quality on the airport's fuel farm, completing and filing FAA-mandated paperwork, and performing 100-hour maintenance checks on the airport's planes. With all these hats his days are full, and since starting at the airport nine months ago, he hasn't had a full day off.

The heart of Perry’s work, however, is sharing his love of aviation with his students. In the right seat of the cockpit of the airport's Cessna 172, Perry rests his left around the student's back. The student is practicing "touch-and-goes," repeatedly taking off, circling in the airport's landing pattern, landing, and motoring back up. It's bedrock practicing, and the student is intensely focused. Perry quizzes the student as they circle, and his eyes light up as the student understands a point he’s making. Perry says oftentimes he gets more excited about his students’ incremental successes than the students do themselves.

“I can’t put it into words," Perry says. "It’s wonderful. It’s a really good feeling. You’re helping them achieve something that most of them have always wanted to do and you’re right there with them. I think that’s wonderful.”

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Perry checks fuel quality at the airport at the beginning of his day. Morehead-Rowan County Airport has a self-serve refueling station, similar to how a driver would refuel a car.

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Marshall pulls a Cessna 172 out of the hanger in preparation for a lesson with Perry. Marshall started the program three months ago and hopes for a career change into aviation.

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Perry looks out a side window during a flight lesson with a student. When Perry took his introductory flight at 19 years old, he had no intention of becoming a pilot but was rather feeding a curiosity. Before the flight was over he knew he wanted to build a career in the field.

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The Morehead-Rowan County Airport is seen through the back window of a plane as Marshall circles the runway to practice landing and taking off. Marshall is one of 20 students who take lessons at the airport, 16 of whom are under the direction of Perry.

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Joey Keeney takes off on a solo flight. Flight students must complete at least 40 hours of flight time before receiving their license.

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Joey (left) and Perry prepare for a flight lesson. Joey took his introductory flight when he was 18 years old, but says now he really has the time and resources to earn his pilot's license.

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Working with his hands is something Perry craves on a day-to-day basis. He retired in 2007, but the next year was back in the workforce teaching at Bluegrass Community College. Since starting his job at the aiport nine months ago, he has yet to take a full day off.

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As the airport manager, much of Perry's day is devoted to phone calls from students, airport board members, the Federal Aviation Administration and prospective clients.

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Jeff Lawson pushes his plane into its spot after a solo flight. Lawson bought his plane about a year ago, before beginning flight lessons.