LAKELAND — A decade after opening, the Central Florida Aerospace Academy is seeing its investment in aviation education pay off.
A major reason? Academy alumnus Cole Harris.
Harris, who graduated in 2015, recently opened Central Florida Aircraft Services, a full-service aircraft maintenance company. Harris, 23, operates the company out of a hangar at Lakeland Linder International Airport.
“Central Florida Aerospace Academy was great,” Harris said. “Nobody in my family is involved in aviation, so if I hadn’t gone to school there, there’s no way I would be doing what I do today.”
Airport Director Gene Conrad said Harris is the first academy graduate to open his own business at Lakeland Linder.
“[Cole] brought everything full circle,” Conrad said.
Although Harris was on the pilot track at the academy, he started working for Aircraft Engineering Inc. in Bartow while still in high school. Harris shifted around a few other maintenance companies and discovered he could make a “pretty good career” in maintenance rather than flying.
“I realized that there’s a big potential, potentially large gap that was going to get filled,” Harris said. “A lot of these maintenance shops, their owners are getting really old.”
There are shortages across several