A group of miniature aircraft enthusiasts is doing its part to help local students master full-size flight.

The Heart of Texas Miniature Aircraft Club has created a $1,000 annual scholarship that will go to a Texas State Technical College aviation student.

Club President Stephen Bird said the scholarship will fund flying fees for a student. The announcement came at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Aviation Alliance meeting Friday.

Club spokesman Corey Streza, a TSTC graduate, said the scholarship aims to help a student from Central Texas.

“I earned a scholarship my second year similar to the one we’re offering, and it helped tremendously,” Streza said. “Usually in the second year, the light’s at the end of the tunnel. You’re almost done. You can see it, you can grab it, and finances are usually what slow those kids down.”

Carson Pearce, TSTC Aerospace Division director, pointed to data indicating pilots have greater returns on their educational investment than teachers, lawyers and doctors. Pearce also said there is a worldwide shortage of about 22,500 pilots.

Additionally, Boeing Co. has said it needs 612,000 pilots worldwide through 2032.

“Whenever we graduate somebody and put them into the workforce as a pilot we’re meeting a critical infrastructure need in the country,” Pearce said. “The $1,000 scholarship from HOTMAC represents $33,000 in earning potential to the graduate that receives it.”

HOTMAC was formed in 1964 and used sites at Cameron Park and James Connally Air Force Base. Its approximately 100 members now fly planes less than 55 pounds at a 39-acre flying site near Speegleville Park.

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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