When Kay King, President/CEO of the Morehouse Economic Development Corporation addressed the audience at the public announcement of the expansion of Flying Tiger Aviation into Morehouse Parish, she highlighted the fact that the announcement came one day behind the 93rd anniversary of the first demonstration of crop dusting by an airplane.
Ninety-three years and one day later, Bastrop stands poised to be at the forefront of the standardization of agricultural pilot training and training for both manned and unmanned aerial application systems through the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence, a contemporary flight training center for aerial applications in agriculture and other industries, which is being established at LDCC in Bastrop.
When LDCC Chancellor Barbara Hanson addressed the crowd, she spoke about Northeast Louisiana's role in the history of aviation as the birthplace of Delta Airlines, and said that it was fitting that this tradition of entrepreneurship would continue here.
"We are excited about this opportunity," Hanson said. "We look forward to growth in this area, to continued partnerships."
When Mo Rolfs, chief operations officer for Flying Tiger aviation, spoke, he highlighted the need for a standardized curriculum in this area.
"Our phased approach is to partner with LDCC to bring a standardization to ag pilot training curriculum," Rolfs said. "....to bring academic rigor into the environment that will allow us to turn ag pilot training into a standardized program like any other type of pilot training. From there we would like to evolve into a two-year program. If you want to get a degree in something like agronomy or agribusinesses while earning an ag pilot's license, you can."
Long-term plans could also include partnering with four-year universities for two year plus two year programs. These programs allow a student to earn an associate's degree at a community college and then continue on to a university for a bachelor's degree.
For Morehouse Parish, all of these possibilities could bring about additional opportunities for growth as operations expand.
According to King, this announcement will be the first of many connected to the current expansion.
Mayor of Bastrop Arthur Jones expressed the progress forward best in his statements.
"A year ago this was a dream," Jones said, "and it is finally coming true. It's a reality. This building was built under Mayor Bond, and it was built for aircraft training. This is the first time it will ever be used for that. I know the citizens of Bastrop and Morehouse Parish will be happy to have it here.
"They ask me how Bastrop is doing. It's great. It's getting a whole better. After this, I can see it coming back."