If you ask Scott Hinton how many planes he’s qualified to fly, he’ll likely offer you a sweeping gesture in his office. His hand will likely make a half circle, indicating all of the models and photographs on his walls and shelves.
“A Piper Cub (1947) was my first,” says Hinton, manager of the Elizabeth City Regional Airport.
Hinton lives and breathes aviation. He says he’s fortunate enough to have a vocation and avocation in the same field. Hinton can’t get enough of aviation.
“I love this airport,” he says. “I hang out at this airport.”
And he does hang out there, a lot. You see, when Hinton isn’t running an airport that generates $144 million annually into the local economy both directly and indirectly, he’s playing there. He has his own plane housed there, and he loves hanging around other pilots, talking aviation, keeping his head up in the clouds.
Hinton was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, about one mile from the Wright Brothers’ memorial there. It was a fitting place for someone who just can’t get enough of the skies to grow up.
And so it goes that Elizabeth City and all of its focus on aviation is a fitting place for him to have a career and raise a family.
The Daily Advance: How did you become interested in aviation?
Scott Hinton: I got my first airplane ride when I was 7 years old. My friend’s father was an aircraft broker. He was demonstrating a plane that was for sale and took Tom and I along. From that moment on, that’s all I wanted to be, a pilot.
TDA: How old were you when you obtained your pilot’s license?
SH: Sixteen. I was in the Civil Air Patrol as a kid. If it was aviation, I wanted to be there. … I did it in one week’s time. I went to Civil Air
Patrol Solo Encampment at this weeklong school they would teach cadets to fly power airplanes. At the end of the4 week, if you were competent, your instructor would solo you.
TDA: Talk about your choice to be a professional aviator.
SH: The Army had a program called Warrant Officer Training. I applied for the program between my junior and senior year (of high school). I was sitting in drafting class and there was an announcement for me to go the counselor’s office. He said, “Call your recruiter.” I got selected. I walked out of class, out of school and down to the recruiter’s office. … I graduated high school in 1982. By August 1983, at 19, I was an army pilot. I am blessed to have never made a career decision based on pay.
TDA: What types of aircraft are you qualified to pilot and what did you have to do to qualify for each one?
SH: I hold an airline transport pilot rating for helicopters and multi-engine airplanes. I have a commercial license for single engine planes. I’m also authorized as a flight instructor for airplanes and helicopters.
TDA: Describe the sensation of flying from take off to flying, to landing.
SH: Freedom, and you don’t need a lot more than that. “You could take a mile of runway and it could take you to the world!” The beauty of what you see causes you to leave your troubles behind.
TDA: Aviation has been touted as an economic driver for this region, why is it so important and what opportunities will it bring to the area?
SH: Eleven percent of our workforce is connected to the aerospace industry. In Pasquotank County, $50,000 is the average pay for aerospace workers. We have a developed and talented workforce. We have a workforce, we have a military presence, we have a developed culture in aviation in northeast North Carolina. You have a great location to live. If someone was to consider a career in aviation, what are the opportunities they might have to look forward to?
TDA: If someone was to consider a career in aviation, what are the opportunities in he or she might have to look forward to in this region?
SH: I think in the next 15 years kids are going to have the opportunity to work in manufacturing, design and engineering. Now if they wanted to be a pilot, they can learn that here at Elizabeth City State University.
TDA: What are the greatest challenges facing the future of the Elizabeth City Regional Airport?
SH: From an infrastructure standpoint we are limited. I have 10 acres inside the fence line to be developed. … We want to be able to smartly use the limited resources we have. We want to be able to develop the airport in a neighborly, friendly way.
TDA: You are one of the pilots who flies the plane made famous during the Berlin drops of World War II. How did you get started flying the Candy Bomber?
SH: The first year they were here they were going to take the airplane down to Puerto Rico (to house it) and I was asked by the foundation to be a guest pilot. I joined the foundation and trained as a pilot. I’m one of six pilots.
TDA: Flying seems to occupy a great deal of your life but what else do you enjoy doing with your time when you don’t have your head in the sky?
SH: I’m either up at my church involved with our tech team running the soundboard or doing classes for my master’s degree (in management leadership).
TDA: What would you be doing career-wise if you didn’t work in aviation?
SH: There are two things, had I not been a pilot. One of my favorite things in this job is to go to Washington D.C. and meet with legislators. I think I would have loved to get a degree in political science and been a legislative staffer.
The other is I love running sound.
TDA: Describe your greatest accomplishment in life.
SH: I don’t think I’m there yet.