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Sky Chief: Williston man reaches for the heavens

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

Since the dawn of time man has longed to soar high above the earth as free as the eagle and as powerful as the falcon.

When Ryan Foote was a collegian, he found out he could do just that and ever since, the sky has been his love and passion.

Foote and wife, Kemi, have recently opened Sky Chiefs Aviation at the Williston Municipal Airport.

Complete with a new modular building, Ryan teaches others the skill of flying while Kemi keeps grounded with bookkeeping and customer service.

The Footes operated their school at Gainesville Regional Airport but decided last year to make the move to Williston. City Manager Scott Lippmann was instrumental in helping them make their dream a reality and now they are settled in and ready for business.

Sky Chiefs now has two airplanes and everything from the book work to flying among the clouds is included in Ryan’s classes.

“It’s his passion,” Kemi said of her husband. “It’s what he lives for.”

Kemi says so far the experience in Williston has been excellent and they’re happy with the airport, its FBO and the staff.

She points out that a flight school can have a major impact on a small town.

“If people learn to fly and love it, then they’ll want to buy their own plane,” she said. That means more hangars and more revenues for the city.

The FFA requires 40 hours of flight time before licensing, she said, but most students take 45-47 hours.

“That’s because if you don’t do it often–every day–every time you get in the seat it’s like a refresher course,” Kemi said.

It’s cheaper in the long run, she added, to do it quickly but that means lots of studies at home as well as flying every day.

“Some students have natural ability,” she said, “and 42 hours is about the quickest we’ve done here.

“We’ve always strived for the personal touch,” she said. “We’re family run. We’re not big boys. Everything we are is in this school and we want to share the joy of flying.”

To showcase their new location, the Footes will offer an open house and free flights May 17. The flights are offered on a first come, first serve basis and are given in conjunction with EAA’s International Learn to Fly Day. 

For more information, visit skychiefsaviation.com.