By Ellery Jividen
Just a few yards from the Oxford Golf Course fairway sits a strip of asphalt that is quickly becoming an integral part of Oxford tourism and business. The Airport at Ole Miss, located at 1 Airport Road off of Molly Barr Road, services the Oxford-University area.
Charlie Philips has been a licensed pilot and flight instructor for 40 years. His sense of adventure and self-proclaimed “hell yes” attitude led him to a life of challenges.
From becoming bilingual in Spanish and putting it to use by moving to Costa Rica, to picking up rock climbing, Philips has always believed in taking on challenges.
The allure of flying was revealed to him early on.
“I went to an air show when I was like nine or ten, saw the Thunderbirds. To my self, I just said, ‘I want to do that one day,’ and I did.”
Philips left a career working for a commercial airline in 2008 with the hopes of having more freedom.
“I don’t make as much money doing what I do, but I am happier,” he said. “I’m not on a schedule. I can turn down trips if I want to. I could go to Costa Rica tomorrow if I want to.”
Classified as an “open qualified” pilot allows Philips to fly most any civilian airplane. This classification came from many years of training and flight school.
For those looking to attain a private pilot’s license, the services of a flight instructor like Philips are needed.
“It’s like building a house – start with a foundation and go from there,” he said. “You get your private license, which is basically a license to learn. Then most people get their instrument rating, which allows you to fly in the clouds. And then, you can get your commercial (license) which allows you to be paid to fly.”
Instructor fees, plane rentals and an out of pocket cost of $8,000 is typical to acquire a private license.
Philips has seen many changes in the industry, including the price of a plane rental rising from $9 an hour to $135 an hour.
Tools like flightplan.com have taken piloting into the modern age. With features like data analysis, finding the cheapest fuel plan, even filing a flight plan with FFA, flightplan.com is one of many programs that help pilots utilize satellite airports.
“If you want to go somewhere like Dallas or Houston, a bigger city, flying into a bigger airport is more of a hassle,” Philips said. “A lot of times, if you go to a satellite airport, it’s cheaper and easier to access.”
Increased regulations have made flying safer and more efficient. Philips explained that developments in radar, GPS, and weather tracking have taken away any excuse for unnecessarily risky flights.
“Our number one priority is safety,” he said. “It is always safety.”
Phillips said pilots today must learn to interpret a large amount of data because of technology.
The panel of the Seneca Piper 2000 is an array of knobs, gauges and displays all working together to give the pilot an accurate and complete picture of the conditions. Mastering the understanding of piloting has becomes second nature for Phillips. Just like any other skill, it can be fine-tuned through practice and education, he said.
With all the attention the university gets, it is no surprise people want to see it for themselves. The influx of visitors on home football game days led the airport to utilize a temporary traffic control tower.
Though the airport cannot support a plane big enough to fly out the whole football team at once, Ole Miss football has impacted business.
“Flying into the Oxford Airport is very simple,” said Philips. “There is a ramp fee, but if you buy fuel, it is waived.”
The ramp fee can vary depending on the size of the aircraft, and a tie-down fee is charged for overnight stays.