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Sovereign Aerospace takes flight

By Suet Lee-Growney, posted 7 months ago

Founded in March of this year by Slim Thompson, Sovereign Aerospace is open for business

as an umbrella holding company based in the Moore County Airport. While the airspace organization is only about half-a-year old, the seeds of Thompson's brainchild manage-

ment company began long before the Sovereign’s debut this year. The company oversees a spectrum of other flight- or airspace-centric companies that fall in line with Thompson’s vision for Sovereign: flight-maintenance-education. 

The subsidiaries of Sovereign include UAS Drone, Pinehurst Aces, Orion Aviation, Sandhills Fliers, Pinehurst Aviation Medical, Pinehurst Aviation Services, Veteran Transition Corps, Entrepreneurial Alliance and Sandhills Avionics.

Sovereign currently has 16 air crafts in their fleet and 20 employees across their entire business footprint.

By the end of the year, they will have an additional seven aircrafts.Sandhills Fliers is an aviation

training center that took off in 2014.The limited liability company falls under Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 61. They offer flight lessons to Fort Bragg’s wounded earriors from United States Special Operations Command and the Veterans Airlift Command.

“That allows us to do flexible pilot training for civilians, military; things of that nature,” said Ken Hadaway, Sovereign Aeropace’s CFO. “Most of our instructors are military.”

On staff are three full-time and five part-time instructors, most of which work on the weekends to

provide training. Each of them has thousands of hours of experience on different aircrafts and concepts to be able to provide guidance to students and people looking to fly.

Pinehurst Aces, too, offers lessons, but they are geared more toward an academic standpoint. The Part 141 organization is tied to Sandhills Community College and credits from their courses are counted toward an aviation degree, according to Hadaway. The classes are structured and run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“It’s more rigid,” he said. “If you want to go into aviation management or you want to go into the airlines at a quicker rate, then you’ll want to get that aviation degree.”

According to Hadaway, there is a shortage of pilots as well as airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics and they are looking to satisfy that niche shortage.

“We are working with Sandhills Community College as well as College of Albemarle to set up an A&P school looking to build hangars here at an A&P structured outfit to be able to teach mechanics,” Hadaway said. “Not everybody wants to fly, but everybody likes the idea of being

involved with planes.”

Beyond the Pinehurst Aces, Sovereign Aerospace is looking for the opportunity to be able to partner with the education system, US Department of Labor and Economic Development team out of Congress to be able to fill the A&P gap out in the Sandhills.

“The closest school to us is Greensboro when it comes to A&P and right now for simplicity sake,

HondaJet (aircraft manufacturer in Guilford county) out of Greensboro has 300 jobs right now they can't fill because of the fact of the shortage,” he said.

Orion Aviation is a flight charter branch of Sovereign Aerospace. The Part 135 organization provides flight services to entities from government projects and Department of Defense 

contracts, to transportation of military service members.

“[Service members] can come here and get on our plane,” Hadaway said. “We fly them to jump school, dive school, to a mission, and they don't have to go through the TSA.”

Additionally, under Orion, Sovereign Aerospace has a Kodiak aircraft out in California fighting wildfires this past summer and a Cessna 337 aiding Boston University’s mammal research off the coast of Florida all the way up to Massachusetts. UAS Drone is the unpiloted aircraft piece of Sovereign. The organization provides Part 107 license drone capability training and certifi-

cations through the FAA to civilians and DoD employees.

According to Hadaway, a recent development in legislation that is still in the works now requires all North Carolina drone operators to be licensed to be able to conduct drone activities in the state’s airspace.

Pinehurst Aviation Services provides airplane maintenance, according to Carrie Hadaway, Sovereign Aerospace bookkeeper.

“We have a maintenance facility here where we do service on small fixed-wing planes,” she said. “We have been in operation for about 15 months.”

Pinehurst Aviation Medical is the aviation medical examiner component. The LLC is an in-flight escort service for people who have chronic issues who need medical transport, according to Ken Hadaway. The AMEs on staff are Dr. Laurence Gebler and a physician's assistant

Zarah Pulfrey.

And when Gebler and Pulfrey are not performing their duties with Pinehurst Aviation Medical, they handle statements needed for disability contracts from Veterans Affairs under Veterans Transition Corps, the 501(c)(3) component under the Sovereign umbrella.

VTC as an organization is a path for veterans transitioning out of the military to gain skills in the aviation industry. The organization has been in development for years, but only received its nonprofit status a month ago.

“Our founder, Slim, has a heart for veterans,” Carrie Hadaway said. “He really would like to be doing mission type work to help veterans who are in need.”

Additionally, the VTC is a USSOCOM approved internship program.

“They're able to work as a pilot or mechanic, or something along those lines, to get a skillset to get them better prepared for civilian life,” said Ken Hadaway.

The Entrepreneurial Alliance is a launching pad for startups under Sovereign. Entrepreneurs can come to Ken Hadaway with their ideas, and he utilizes his experience as a score counselor and connections with the local venture capitalist network with Angel Investors at RTP.

“I’ve got a masters in finance and global economics where I can help them design their business plans, get them registered with the state, get their stuff listed with the IRS, do all that back end work so they can propel their business forward,” he said.

The final piece of Sovereign Aerospace that is in the works is Sandhills Avionics. This component is predicted to launch sometime next spring or summer. The company will

be providing avionic services and maintenance.

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