Summer Internship Series: My Sundowner Summer

My Sundowner Summer
Graham Blehart ’19Sundowner aviation logo

My name is Graham Blehart, a senior International Studies major and Spanish minor from Chicago, Illinois. This Summer I had the privilege of working, as an intern, amongst the staff of Sundowner Aviation at the Fairfield County Airport in Fairfield, OH.

Sundowner Aviation is an aviation flight school that also runs the local Fairfield airport and aircraft maintenance shop. They are crucial in keeping the location running and up to FAA code and regulations. It is commonly referred to in the industry as one of the nicer mom and pop flight schools and small airports in the Ohio area. The staff works every facet of the business, working as flight instructors, traffic monitors, maintenance workers, cashiers, and salespersons. The Summer months are the busiest for Sundowner, with the most traffic in all senses of the word. These busy months are some of the most important for organizations akin to Sundowner, as small flight schools rarely profit and quite commonly push to simply break even. This issue of profit leads into one of my main projects for the summer. However, first I will go into how the internship affected my future and the more routine tasks I did working with the group.

This experience is invaluable to my future career in the aviation industry. Prior to my internship, I was a bit concerned as to what my future held, however, now I know that it involves the world of aviation. In my internship I was able to assist with millage inspections, tracking flight hours as well as miles, flight scheduling, daily flight inspections, fueling, and general customer and office interactions. Each of my tasks reaffirmed my interest in the field, each important in their own way, having me leave the airport with a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment. The projects I worked on also occupied a large amount of my time and acted as great learning experiences.

One particular project involved helping with plans to liquidate the school’s aircraft to private owners who would then lease the aircraft back to the school on a need to need basis. Small aviation schools rarely make a significant profit and it isn’t uncommon for them to lose money in the long run. This format of leasing the planes would save the business thousands of dollars. On the subject of profit, a different project I worked on was going through a portion of the flight school in which I saw first hand how the program was run and where they could improve their program as well as increase their profits and savings; doing this in methods that still ensured aircraft were kept in top notch, safe, condition safety being a dangerous corner that is often cut by certain flight schools to attempt to save money. Another project I was involved in was working with the Flight Standards District Office to update the chart supplement and the Airport District Office in Detroit to change the designation of Fairfield’s airfield to class E to the surface. The Sundowner community was an integral part in making my internship a success.

My two main supervisors, Pat Rooney and Jason Life, were phenomenal, to say the least. Every interaction with the two of them left me with some form of professional and personal growth. Both were from a different background from myself and came with their unique styles, views, and experiences on the job. Pat, with all his decades of experience in the industry, offered an incredible amount of insight as well as was open to discussing many concepts about aviation and my Sundowner projects. Jason brought a brass tacks aspect to the field, an excellent example of how to traverse the professional world, offering interview, sales, and office advice outside of general aviation insight and knowledge. Jason not only taught me about the aviation world but taught me his invaluable style of teaching and coaching, a critical aspect of the aviation world. The overall atmosphere of Sundowner, created by its great staff, was critical in making my experience as good and educational as could possibly be. I would like to thank Pat, Jason, and everyone else at Sundowner for all they have done for me, helping me grow in the industry and as a professional.