LIVINGSTON COUNTY – A National Warplane Museum volunteer turned pilot from Avon is going full throttle to someday open a WWII museum and flight school somewhere in Western New York.
The romance of flight was never lost on Austin Hancock, 26. As a kid, he was obsessed with the majesty of aviation, the perfect marriage of mechanical ingenuity and human ability.
“When I was in 5th or 6th grade I knew I would have my own business like this,” said Hancock. “A couple years ago now I built a scale model with the layout and the airplanes I want, and knew I wanted the focus on local vets. Now that I’ve started down the road to become a commercial airline pilot, I want to also give people the opportunity to go to flight school, or at least take some basic lessons. […] This has been my lifelong goal and dream. It’s destiny.”
Hancock is no stranger to the mission of elevating local veterans’ stories back into the public consciousness. The first time he put hands on real, flying WWII airplanes was at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo. There, the legacies of local veterans like Lt. Leonard B. Fuller and Flt. Off. Leland H. Pennington are never forgotten.
“I was born in Avon but did most of my growing up in Geneseo, so I was never far from the National Warplane Museum,” said Hancock. “Volunteering there just made it that much clearer that this is what I want to do. I share their mission of promoting aviation and telling the stories of veterans.”
Hancock wants to display and fly three historic aircraft: the Piper Cub, the ‘Yak’ 3 or 11, and the iconic P-51 Mustang.
This dream will take a lot of work to get off the ground. Hancock, now a survey pilot with 270-some flight hours, plans to become certified as a commercial pilot once he hits 1,200 hours. The plans are in their very earliest stages.
“Right now I’m still planning and putting a team of board members together,” said Hancock. “I have a plan to acquire land and hangar building. For my museum, I’ll depend on donations and sponsorships for the good of aviation history.”