A Future Taking Flight

Pilots-in-training find their wings with Southern Aviators and the Executive Regional Airport

Things are taking off at the Port of South Louisiana – including new pilots trained on site at the Executive Regional Airport.

In February of 2019, Southern Aviators Flight Training, LLC opened for business, filling a much-needed void in the area and providing a new service to the airport and the surrounding River Parishes region. The school is currently providing high-quality flight training services to anyone who wants to learn how to fly, whether they’re looking to pursue a career in piloting, to pick up flying as a hobby, or just to boost aviation ratings. An accredited member of the Flight School Association of North America, Southern Aviators also offers discovery flights, commercial transport flights, scenic flights and city tours.

Founder Quintin Gerard Wilson is a man of many talents, having studied under the renowned jazz master, Ellis Marsalis, in addition to working as a recording artist and a pilot. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a professional saxophonist, he returned home to his Louisiana roots and pursued a degree in Business Administration and Management at Southeastern Louisiana University.

When he decided to look for a new challenge outside of the world of music, starting a flight training school was a natural fit.

“In many ways, it’s a lot like music,” Wilson said. “It’s never the same and is always changing from day to day.”

Wilson said that music and flying have always been his two main passions. The south Louisiana native took his first flight in Los Angeles in 1998 and said he has been hooked on flying ever since. When Wilson was learning to fly, his favorite task was mastering the flight training curriculum and meeting the goals set forth by his flying instructor. He said he hopes to bring that same joy and sense of achievement to his students.

“There is no greater feeling than passing an FAA check-ride, so I want all those who ever dreamed of safely navigating an airplane from one place to another to experience the joy of this tremendous accomplishment,” he said.

Wilson spends nearly all his free time at the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport, where he maintains, cleans and flies his 1974 Cessna Skyhawk 172M. As a tenant of the airport himself, choosing the Port as the location for his school made perfect sense to him, as he knew that every necessary resource would be available in one place. He said he is fully invested in the future of the airport and appreciates his flight training school’s role in that vision, a sentiment shared by Paul Aucoin, Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana.

“Southern Aviators adds another piece to the puzzle and is helping to attract more people to our airport,” said Aucoin. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and to make the airport better and more attractive, and this fits right in with our growth plan.”

With a completely new transient hangar, extended runways, improved taxiways, and 10 more hangars set to be built within the next eight months, the growth plan that Aucoin envisions is taking shape with new endeavors like Wilson’s. The Port’s new airport assets are already being put to good use, even while further developments are still in the works.

“We have people in industries up and down the river using the airport to land and visit plant sites and even to conduct business in our boardroom, right there in the airport.” Aucoin said. He added that executives from Noranda Alumina and Marathon Petroleum Corporation regularly pass through the regional airport to take advantage of a wide range of perks, including the cheapest jet fuel around and zero landing fees.

As the airport continues to grow, Aucoin said the addition of a flight school has become less of a luxurious new amenity and more of a necessity.

“As we continue to expand, we will need this program,” said Aucoin, who had been getting call after call over the years from people looking to earn their pilot’s license. Now, anyone interested in getting their license no longer has to seek an education at another airport, thanks to Wilson’s vision and hard work.

Prospective students, or anyone looking for more information about the school, can visit SouthernAviators.com or call the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport main office at (985) 652-9278.

Quintin Gerard Wilson, Founder of Southern Aviators Flight Training