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Epic Flight Academy Hosted its 2nd Annual Aviation Scholarship & Billfish Bash Event

Epic Flight Academy 2nd Annual Aviation Scholarship Event
Epic Flight Academy 2nd Annual Aviation Scholarship Event – Winners are pictured bottom left: Ryan Groel ($30,000), Mitch Nathan ($15,000), and Skye Sobzack ($5,000) (L-R).

November 7, 2017

New Smyrna Beach, FL – Hundreds of people turned out for Epic Flight Academy’s Aviation Scholarship & Billfish Bash II on Sunday, November 5. Some came to watch in awe as the Warbirds landed, others came to honor the son of a World War II pilot, and others were there to laud three Volusia County students who won aviation scholarships.

Ryan Groel, a junior at Atlantic High School, won a $30,000 scholarship; Mitch Nathan, a senior at Father Lopez High School, was awarded a $15,000 scholarship; and Skye Sobzack, a senior at Atlantic High School, received a $5,000 scholarship. The three students have been studying aviation for several years. New Smyrna Beach Mayor James Hathaway presented the awards, which were funded by numerous sponsors of the event including the Epic Billfish Bash, an offshore fishing tournament held on October 27th and 28th.

Danny Perna, CEO of Epic Flight Academy, presented $30,000 in fishing tournament awards. Seventeen fishing teams competed. “Wound Up” won with five sailfish releases; “Miss Emma” came in second; and “Right Hook” finished third.

In addition to cash prizes and raffle drawings, the most poignant aspect of the ceremony was the presentation of medals to Paul Smith, son of Osborn E. Smith, Jr., 2nd Lieutenant of the 757th Army Air Force Bombardment Squadron. Lt. Smith served as co-pilot in a B-24 bomber. He died on a flight over Italy in 1944. Paul Smith never met his father. He expressed gratitude for receiving the medals earned by his father. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy sent a letter of gratitude, and Smith also received the Eagle Scouts award.

Paul Smith later joined others on a special flight aboard a B-24. The Collings Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes living history, ended its 2017 Wings of Freedom Tour in New Smyrna Beach. The arrival of a B-17, B-24, B-25, and P-51 drew hundreds of local aviation and history enthusiasts who watched the planes land. A limited number of flights were available for purchase. Flight fees support the maintenance and touring of the historical planes.

Perna noted the success of the celebration saying, “We had all the elements for a great event – talented young aviators receiving scholarships, remembering our past while honoring its heroes, and having direct access to the actual planes that played a critical role in preserving our nation’s democracy. It was a great day, and we’re already busy planning next year’s event. My sincere thanks to everyone who generously supported the event and all those who attended.”

Paul Smith in B-24
Paul Smith (foreground) flying aboard a B-24 during Epic Flight Academy’s aviation scholarship event
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