Highland News Leader

Scholarship named for local pilot will help others learn to fly

Larry Mills, 54, a native of Marine, Ill., who had been living in Crescent City, Calif., and three others were killed when their medical transport plane crashed in the early morning hours on Friday, July 29, 2016 into a rugged area of northern California. A scholarship has been established in Mills’ name.
Larry Mills, 54, a native of Marine, Ill., who had been living in Crescent City, Calif., and three others were killed when their medical transport plane crashed in the early morning hours on Friday, July 29, 2016 into a rugged area of northern California. A scholarship has been established in Mills’ name.

A scholarship for those looking to earn their wings has been established to honor the life and career of a pilot who gave his life helping others.

The Larry Mills Aviation Memorial Scholarship was was established Jan. 12 with the Highland Area Community Foundation (HACF) to help qualified young people gain experience in aviation and aerospace.

“I taught Larry to fly in 1982, and we had flown with each other on many flights and attended EMT classes together,” said Bill Weder, scholarship fund chairman. “Larry and I, along with his close friends, had many other adventures together. Over the years, I came to know Larry, his family and many of his friends very well. Everyone who knew him agree that he was a very special, unique person whom we all miss.”

Mills, 54, who had been living in Crescent City, California, and three others were killed when their medical transport plane crashed in the early morning hours Friday, July 29, 2016 into a rugged area of northern California.

Mills, who had more than 30 years of flying experience, was piloting a twin-engine Piper PA31 for Santa Rosa, California-based REACH Air Medical Services’ Cal-Ore Life Flight, transporting a patient from Crescent City Airport to Oakland International Airport when he reported smoke in the cockpit. Air traffic controllers lost communication with the plane shortly after.

The scholarship will be used to send two aspiring aviators, ages 14-18, through glider pilot training at the Silver Creek Glider Club near New Douglas or from the St. Louis Soaring Association, which operates out of Highland-Winet Airport. Three other young people, ages 9-18, to space camp in Huntsville, Alabama.     

“Larry would be pleased that we are honoring his memory in this way. He always had plenty of patience with everyone and donated his time at a youth camp teaching young people to sail,” Weder said. “Larry had planned to attend the Air Force Academy and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, just like the first recipient of his scholarship is doing now. Larry had also attended space camp in his youth, just as his future scholarship recipients will be doing.”

Phillip Coulby of St. Jacob, who plans to attend the Air Force Academy and is currently a member of the Civil Air Patrol, was the first scholarship recipient and is currently taking pilot training in Highland. Mitchell Bluhm of Alhambra is the second recipient and has just started pilot training Silver Creek Glider Club.

Weder said the goal is to raise $12,000 for the scholarship by the end of July to get more students in the air.

“Thanks to several $1,000 donors, as well as several $50 and $100 donors, we have a good start towards our goal of $12,000 to fund our two young aviator’s flying lessons and send three candidates to Space Camp. Additional funds raised beyond our goal can be used for additional scholarships and memorials,” Weder said.

Donations can be made via PayPal, with a credit or debit card, through the HACF website, hacf.org. Or, if you prefer, a check payable to “Larry Mills Aviation Memorial” can be sent to the Highland Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 571, Highland, IL 62249. All donations are tax-deductible.

How to apply for scholarship

To apply Larry Mills Aviation Memorial Scholarship, send the following: applicant’s age, interests, experience, hobbies and plans for future education, as well as contact information. Mail the information to: Larry Mills Aviation Scholarship, c/o Bill Weder, P.O. Box 397, Marine, IL 62061.

For more information, contact Bill Weder at 618-530-5809 or sales@billweder.com.

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