We caught up with Michael Smith, an L3Harris Flight Academy student using Chapter 31 VA benefits (vocational rehabilitation) to fund his training, and to find out more about his military and aviation journey.
What branch of the military did you serve in and what was your time of service in the military? What did you do?
I started off in the Air Force in 1975 at the age of 17 and served until December 23 1989. However, I went back into the Army Reserves from June 2010 until August 2012. I spent time in Afghanistan from January 2011 until September 2015 and ultimately left the Reserves after this time. I started working on F4 Phantoms and had many others under my belt by the time I got out, such as F111s F16s C141s C130s etc. I am an A&P by way of the Air Force.
How did you hear about L3Harris Flight Academy and why did you choose us to train at?
I looked online for schools that fit the criteria I was looking for, and even had the VA give me names of potential schools in my area. None had what I was looking for. I wanted the ability to get my certifications without having to get a degree along with them – I just wanted the certs! The impressive fleet of aircraft, the fact that the maintenance was on-site (to an A&P this was really a good thing), and the student-to-instructor ratio all played a role in helping me choose L3Harris for my training.
What were the steps you went through when applying for VRE?
Researched the subject, placed an online application and after being evaluated (review of my medical records) I had an online conference and waited on a yes or no.
What advice would you give to a fellow veteran who is interested in applying for VRE for flight training?
Get professional help! There are VA counselors that will walk you through the process. There is also a lot of online info on the VA's website.
Would you recommend L3Harris Flight Academy to a fellow veteran? Why?
Already have! A friend and fellow aviation classmate from California who loves aviation like me. I know he would love it here where - unlike where we were - there is no shortage of aircraft and Instructors. Shortest possible time between two points! That's L3Harris to me.