New pilot school to take off in Weslaco

Planes sit in the hangar at the Texas Aviation Academy flight school at the Mid Valley Airport in Weslaco. (Courtesy photo)

Texas Aviation Academy owners will soon operate a commercial and private pilot school at the Mid Valley Airport in Weslaco, the city’s economic development arm announced this month.

Texas Aviation Academy, owned by Jeremy Reiley of Harlingen, plans to offer training and certification for students to become private or commercial pilots through its flight school in Weslaco beginning in January. Academy owners signed a 10-year lease to rent part of Weslaco’s airport this month.

“Aviation is not very prominent at all, so we wanted to give back and allow people of the Rio Grande Valley to experience aviation,” said Hunter Reiley, 21, part-owner of Texas Aviation Academy, which owns and operates a pilot training school in New Braunfels.

Texas Aviation Academy pilot instructors will teach at the Weslaco location, the only airport in the Rio Grande Valley housing an FAA-approved Part 141 flight school. The Part 141 designation, a more rigorous and structured program using the FAA’s syllabus, will be offered at the Mid Valley Airport along with other pilot programs.

The Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco rented a hangar owned by the corporation to the academy. Though an incentive, the flight school does not have to pay rent for the first year of its lease, according to EDC director Steven Valdez.

“The first immediate benefit is that the city of Weslaco is offering another educational opportunity,” he said, adding that the academy’s full-time mechanic will also be available to service planes flying in and out of the airport.

While completing training at Texas Aviation Academy, students may also choose to enroll in Liberty University’s online program to concurrently obtain a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and pilot’s license.

“That’s how you grow an airport, by growing pilots and by providing opportunities,” Valdez said.

Hunter Reiley, a graduate of Liberty University and certified pilot, said a dedicated student can become a commercial pilot in as little as two years.

“It’s an awesome program,” he said. “At times, it’s a high-stress environment, but it is extremely rewarding. Some of my best memories are watching the sunset at 3,000 feet. It blows your breath away.”

The academy may be reached at (830) 629-2100 or by email at [email protected]