SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: Savannah Aviation partners with Ricky McAllaster Foundation to provide internships, scholarship to BC Cadets

By Noell Barnidge
Savannah Aviation and the Ricky McAllaster Foundation have partnered to provide the N10RM Internship and Scholarship to Benedictine Military School Cadets.

Benedictine sophomores Walker Sheffield and J.B. Dixon, and freshmen Sam Eades and Hadden Dart, on April 10 were awarded paid internships with Savannah Aviation, a flight training school and aircraft rental company, based on who was the most qualified among applicants. The paid internships are from June 3-Aug. 30. Each intern must commit to at least four weeks. There was an interview process and, of the four, one intern will earn a $12,000 scholarship to attend Savannah Aviation’s flight school, which lasts between six and eight months.

“This is like a gift from heaven, the opportunity that they are ponying up to the table here,” said Mike Carbo, Benedictine Military School Class of 1976, who joined BC’s Guidance and College Counseling Office in November 2022 to help Cadets with career services.

Carbo’s objective is to give back to his alma mater by helping Cadets explore and experience various potential jobs and careers. At BC, Carbo is working to build rapport with businesses in Savannah and surrounding areas that offer internships, co-ops, or other work pathways to create opportunities for Cadets. He talks with Cadets about their career interests and connects them with opportunities that explore those interests and college career pathways.

Carbo went to lunch one day with former Benedictine lacrosse head coach Dick McAllaster, who created the Ricky McAllaster Foundation with his wife, Elison, in memory of their son, Ricky, a Benedictine student who died in an automobile accident at 2:13 a.m. New Year’s Day in 2010. Ricky was 15. During lunch, Carbo told McAllaster about his work with Benedictine.

“Coach McAllaster and I sat down and had lunch and he said, ‘Mike, what are you doing?’” Carbo said. “I laid it out. He said, ‘I want to be involved.’ It’s really been phenomenal since he stepped into the arena here. What we’re trying to do is open up the other alleys that have been shut down. We, in this country, have done a tremendous job of convincing not only the kids but the parents, and everybody involved, that if you don’t go to college, you’re not going to be successful. And these kids have this implanted in their heads. That’s what my whole position is to bring in companies such as Savannah Aviation, and all others in the mix, to come to BC and have chats with the boys and just see what the opportunities are.”

Within a matter of days, McAllaster went to lunch with longtime friend David Scroggs, Savannah Aviation’s director of operations, and talked about Carbo, Benedictine, and the possibility of creating the N10RM Internship and Scholarship, whose motto is “Where dreams take flight, and futures soar.”

“The demographics are that there are a lot of older pilots that are going to be retiring in the next few years,” McAllaster said. “There’s a real need for an influx of pilots. It’s the whole Baby Boomer generation just coming into retirement. The advantage that a (high school) freshman has is that by the time he’s a sophomore, he’s got his (pilot’s) license and he’s going. It’s phenomenal. I think a lot of the misconception of high school and going to the next step is ‘I have to go to college.’ I think that’s a misconception because I think there are so many things out there after high school now. When I was growing up, you either went to college or you had to do a blue-collar job, and you didn’t want to do that. Now, some of the blue-collar jobs are better than the white-collar jobs. I mean, you get out of college with a four-year liberal arts degree, you’ve got nothing. You’ve got nothing.

“I can’t remember a single question that any employer ever asked me about college other than ‘Did you graduate from college?’ They didn’t ask, ‘What was your grade-point average?’ They didn’t ask ‘What did you do in college?’ Any of that stuff. They asked, ‘Did you go to college, and did you graduate?’ I think (going to college) online, while you’re working, is a great hybrid.”

Like McAllaster, Scroggs beams with excitement when he recalls their lunch together.

“Dick and I were just grabbing lunch and catching up,” Scroggs said. “We weren’t talking about scholarships or any of that stuff at first. It just morphed into something pretty nice. But if everyone we know or rub elbows with knows someone who has a plane or is part of aviation, the Wilmington Island group, the whole Savannah Quarters, Landings group, there’s a group of pilots who own their own plane … a lot of their kids go to BC … it actually just morphed into a really good program. We want to expand that next year and keep going.

“Dick made a good point at lunch about giving the kids other options,” Scroggs continued. “When I went to school, you were going to college. That was it. It was either military or college. And those were your only two options. I wanted to play baseball, so I went to college. Part of a four-year degree is the accomplishment of getting that degree. Not everybody is cut out for that. Recognizing that and giving them the options of what you can do without a four-year degree is important.”

Scroggs, McAllaster, and Carbo are big proponents of a student flying to make money and also attending college courses online.

“They’re making money while they’re flying,” Scroggs said. “It’s $30 an hour and you fly a certain number of hours, but the point is there are other options. If you go to college and you spend four years, and you come back and you fly, you’ve missed seven years of seniority. It’s all about seniority in the airlines. Nothing else matters. Not where you went to school. It’s all flight time and getting your name into the system first. That’s what the big push is now. All of these young people now are trying to get their hours in as fast as possible and get their name on the list so they can retire at 45.”

Scroggs said a person can earn “$200,000 a year, $300,000 a year, flying planes. I’ve heard of $100,000 to $150,000 signing bonuses. Now, Delta has a $200,000 signing bonus. You’re usually making $75,000 to $100,000 when you step out of the door and you’re flying right-seat, and they’re training you to be a pilot, and in six months to a year that amount doubles. By the time you make seniority, it’s $200,000 to $300,000, and the upper-crust guys are making $400,000, and that’s your Delta guys that have been there for 20 years with pensions, 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and all the stuff they have.

“Just before the pandemic, Delta, American, all of the big boys, they got ahead of the curve and started giving money to the guys who were just about to retire if they stayed on,” Scroggs continued. “That threw the curve off a little bit, so the next two-to-three years, these guys are going to flood out of that market and into retirement, and there’s going to be another shortage of pilots. Right now, they’re just getting caught up because they threw money at you not to retire, because they don’t have to train them or do onboarding for these pilots. Those guys are about to just flood the retirement market and not fly anymore. (Retirement age) was 65 for 50 years and now they’ve moved it to 67. Those two years are a big deal to the aviation community in growing and building pilots.

“Pilots have a great schedule, even the big leagues,” Scroggs continued. “Seven days on. Seven days off. Depends on the airline. But flying, locally, it’s a $150,000-a-year-job but you’re working one or two days a week. The rest of the time you’re prepping and forecasting for maintenance, something like that. That’s a lifestyle that, if I had a chance to do it all over again, I’d have probably done it differently and spent more time off than going with your hair on fire and trying to be the best at everything. I appreciate a lot of these local contract pilots, and what they’re doing, and the lifestyle that they have. Being a coach is difficult when you have a full-time job. There’s a lot to being a pilot, locally, and then going to regionally, and then to the big leagues, as we call it.”

Scroggs points to Henry Hale, Benedictine Military School Class of 2022, as a shining example of this approach.

“Henry is a perfect example of this process that we’re going through with the internships,” Scroggs said. “Henry knew exactly what he wanted to do when he came to us. He wanted to be around planes, so he started working here and then got all of his certificates and all of his ratings and now he has 500 hours. He’s probably five or six months from going to the next step that he’s doing.”

Hale works as a pilot, flying people to cities throughout the United States. He also takes online college courses. He began the program as a junior at Benedictine, earned his pilot’s license, and was flying solo during his junior year.

“I fly all over the Southeast,” Hale said. “(I’ve flown to) the Bahamas a couple of times. The (Florida) Keys. Miami. Baltimore. That was fun, going next to (Washington) D.C. There’s a lot of special rules when you fly around Washington, D.C. North Carolina. Alabama. I’ve been a little bit everywhere except for west. One day, I’ll make it. I’ve flown to Wisconsin. That’s about the farthest north I’ve been.”

Hale said his dream was to play in the National Football League, but flying has been his lifelong passion.

“I had every other kid’s dream: ‘Oh, I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to play for Georgia.’ Stuff like that,” he said. “But it was always in the back of my head – my dad had a plane – that it would be cool. That pilot mustache, I think that would look good on me. I started doing research. I thought, ‘Let’s see what a pilot’s life looks like.’ There are tons of opportunities. You can just work charters every three days to the Bahamas, or maybe somebody hires you to fly their jet and you spend four weeks of every year in Bora Bora, or you can go to the majors and make the big bucks.

“I’m still doing my college classes online. They’re definitely not that exciting,” Hale continued, smiling. “Here (at Savannah Aviation), interns are going to be cleaning planes. I also worked as a mechanic. I enjoy working on the planes. That’s also something that (interns are) going to be doing. They’re going to learn how the plane works. That’s going to give them a step up, too.”

Scroggs said BC students in the N10RM Internship program will have the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of a $12,000 scholarship to obtain their private pilot’s license.

“The expectations will be set in the beginning of what we expect of them,” Scroggs said. “They’ll know exactly what they need to do. This is different from normal summer help.”

Why is it called N10RM? The N10RM Internship and Scholarship brochure states “we seek to pay tribute to Ricky McAllaster in a profound manner. The most fitting tribute is to christen this scholarship and internship in his name. N10RM holds significance beyond its designation; every pilot understands the profound importance of a tail number. A tail number encapsulates the journey of an aircraft and will weave a narrative for each recipient of this internship/scholarship among the BC student community. For those who are not pilots, every tail number starts with an N followed by a number (10 was Ricky’s lacrosse number) followed by two additional letters or numbers (RM for Ricky McAllaster).”

The internship structure is as follows:

Week 1: Introduce interns to the flight school, its operations, and safety protocols; familiarize interns with the layout of the flight school, including hangars, and administrative areas; introduce interns to the basic principles of aircraft cleaning, including safety precautions and equipment usage; interns shadow experienced staff and observe cleaners in action to learn techniques and procedures; attend a mentor lunch each week from a certified flight instructor (CFI) where they can ask questions with someone new and about their experiences.

Week 2: Hands-on training that involves interns actively participating in cleaning aircraft under supervision, including the exterior, interior, and cockpit; detailed training on the proper use of cleaning equipment, including brushes, detergents, and safety gear; feedback sessions from supervising staff to help interns improve their techniques and efficiency; mentor lunch with CFI; tour of the ATC tower.

Week 3: Continue working and prepare for the scholarship selection process; interns take on more responsibility for cleaning tasks under supervision; quality control in which the focus is on maintaining high cleaning standards and attention to detail; prepare for scholarship interview.

Week 4: Assessment that includes presentations/committee interviews in which interns will present their experiences and lesson learned during their internship to flight school staff; interns will receive a certificate of completion acknowledging their successful completion of the internship program.

“For the scholarship portion, that will be a more intense process,” Savannah Aviation’s Courtney Morin said. “In their last week here of their internship they will go through an interview process with three of our employees, and we will select the scholarship winner. That will be a little more intense interview process.”