Retired US Army 160th Special Operations and Reconnaissance helicopter pilot, Thomas Jones, is not ready to land his wings just yet. Originally only seeking a hangar at the Springfield Airport for his son and their helicopter, Thomas was asked to open a flight school in Middle Tennessee. With a lot of interest, but little knowledge of owning or starting a business, Jones connected with the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Pathway Lending.

“I attended a few of VBOC’s workshops which were very informative. Reggie, the VBOC Director, helped me write my business plan and gave me direction on where to get funding to start the flight school, he is phenomenal. Pathway Lending responded quickly and loaned me the funds to purchase the aircraft we needed.”

Smooth Sailing

After opening in August of 2019 with a loan from Pathway Lending, Highland Rim Aviation soared beyond their month projections within the first week and in just one day, they exceeded the flight time they expected for the month. Highland Rim offers flight training, aircraft rental and maintenance. With six flight instructors and a fleet of nearly 15 aircraft, Highland Rim offers flight instruction for private pilot, commercial pilot, instrument and multi-engine, certified flight instructor and rotary wing transition.

“Working with Pathway has been seamless and easy. As a first-time business owner, they answered all my questions about the business loan and steered me in the right direction to be successful.”

Taking Off

Highland Rim is contracted with the government for transitioning rotor pilots to fixed wing, with the initial projection to teach 8 students a month. They are now training over 150 transitioning students each month. Jones also plans to work with the local Robertson County schools in a flight program to teach teenagers how to fly.

Jones is planning to build out and expand the 6,400 square feet flight school to accommodate the flight instruction demand. In 2020, Highland Rim will work with a Part 141 Program which will allow them to take all G.I. bills, veteran and VA benefits as tuition. They have also been asked by two universities to participate in online classes and to teach foreign students, where students will gain in-person training at Highland Rim.

Highland Rim has students coming from out of state, as far as Colorado,  for intense private pilot training as they are rated the #1 COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) preferred provider, a program for tuition assistance for active military seeking civilian certification and licensing.

Clear Skies Ahead

“It’s a great airfield to have a sight at. It is the perfect flying spot and the location is great and centrally located to Nashville. We are 32 minutes from Ft. Campbell and are not as crowded as surrounding airports. We never know who is going to show up.”

Jones’ veteran-owned business is also a family affair. Aviation runs in the family and Jones’ three children are heavily involved in the flight school and fly as well.  “I’m excited to have Thomas run this flight school,” says Springfield Airport Manager, Jamie Jones. “Flight schools are the heartbeat of these small aviation airports across America.”  Small flight schools are like family and provide 1-on-1 training to the students that truly make a difference to these pilots.

As a longtime resident of Robertson County, Jones launched Highland Rim Aviation in Springfield, Tennessee to help meet the nation’s demand for pilots and to fulfill a dream of his. With Pathway Lending on their side, the sky is the limit for what is up ahead for Highland Rim Aviation.

To plug into resources for transitioning military members and veterans, connect with the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Pathway Lending and for funding, check out Pathway Lending’s loan catalog.