Central Flying Service Honored for Flight Training Milestone

Aug. 17, 2017

When Mike Jones, chief Flight Instructor and Kristine Beard, a flight training student, taxied onto the runway today at the Central Flying Service Flight School, they made Arkansas aviation history.

That flying lesson marked four hundred and seventy-five thousand (475,000) hours of flight training at Arkansas’ oldest and one of the nation’s longest continually operated flight schools.

When a young Claud Holbert (age 29) founded Central Flying Service (CFS) in 1939 it was a civilian flight training school. Soon, Army Air Force pilots would be trained there. Eventually, the Holbert family would build CFS into the nation’s largest FBO (fixed base operator), as private aviation facilities are known, measured by facilities ‘under roof’/square footage.

On hand to witness and honor the flight training milestone were National Air Transportation Association (NATA) Executive Vice President Tim Obitts and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Safety Team Program Manager, Heather Metzler.

CFS Chairman & CEO, Dick Holbert, a son of Claud Holbert, received an award from the FAA commemorating the hours of training and 78 years of continuous service to U.S. aviation, training pilots for war and for the growth of America’s commercial aviation industry, and NATA bestowed its ‘NATA Aviation Milestone Award.’

“When NATA was founded in 1940, Central Flying Service was a charter member,” according to Obitts. “It is with great pride that the association honors one of its earliest members with our NATA Aviation Milestone Award. We commend CFS for their commitment to developing one of the most valuable resources for the industry, our professional pilot supply. CFS is a NATA member that is really making a difference in attracting future pilots.”

“We are proud of our company’s long and distinguished history and honored to provide critical pilot training for the aviation industry. We deeply appreciate the recognition and presence of NATA and FAA here to honor us and to share this significant occasion,” said Dick Holbert.  “We continue our commitment to train pilots and provide a steady source of graduates for years to come.”

Founded for the express purpose of providing flight training for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s initiative to build a cadre of pilots in anticipation of America’s potential involvement in war, the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) was created. CFS was successful in securing the contract in affiliation with Little Rock Junior College (now University of Arkansas at Little Rock). The civilian contracts were converted to War Pilot Training (WPT), when the U.S. was attacked by air at Pearl Harbor and war was declared.

The CFS Flight Training program has been in continuous operation since. From 1982 to 1992, CFS managed the Henderson State University degree program in aviation. Most recently, CFS provided the

flight training for Pulaski Technical College’s associate degree program until PTC’s merger with the University of Arkansas system last fall.