Ron Alexander was known among fellow pilots as a “quiet giant” of aviation, he died Nov 17, 2016 in a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny aircraft crash near his Peach State Aerodrome home field in Williamson, Georgia. Alexander was a retired Delta captain, war hero, and forward-looking aviation businessman with a fondness for keeping the Golden Age of aviation history alive. He regularly flew to airfields around the country in a restored Douglas DC-3 and gave rides to passengers young and old so they could experience the joy of aviation. In 2005 Alexander bought the neglected Peach State Airport and transformed the sleepy grass strip into a popular weekend stop for aviators with the idea to re-create the look and feel of Atlanta’s Candler Field Airport, which later became Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
More importantly in 2013, Ron founded the Youth Aviation Program with the purpose of sharing knowledge of aircraft-related subjects with young people who have a keen interest in pursuing a career in aviation.
Under experienced adult guidance, students are taught the skills of restoring, repairing, and maintaining aircraft. Students interested in learning how to pilot an airplane can qualify for one hour of flight instruction for every 10 hours of program participation, and time logged in the student’s maintenance logbook can be applied toward the minimum hour requirements for an A&P certificate. This program is very structured, and participating students must have a strong desire to learn. Regardless of the aviation goal, the Youth Aviation Program affords participating students a path to achieving their goal with minimal expense.
Since its beginning the programs produced 35 student participants of which 13 students have earned their private pilot license, 1 student has earned his A&P certificate, 22 students have soloed, 5 airplanes were built and 21 scholarships were awarded.
As reported by the Pike County Journal Reporter, it was recently announced that the Candler Field Museum board of directors unanimously decided to disband and focus on sustaining the Youth Aviation Program which provides learning opportunities to youth interested in all areas of the aviation industry.
“After the untimely passing of the museum’s founder, Ron Alexander, and the challenges that followed, the board determined the museum was no longer sustainable and have decided to divest the museum’s assets and pursue a different path,” said a statement to museum members. “Instead of focusing on history, we will focus all our energy on continuing Ron’s passion, the Youth Aviation Program.” The board renamed the program the Ron Alexander Youth Aviation Program (RAYAP) starting Feb. 1. “The crown jewel at Peach State Aerodrome has always been the Youth Aviation Program,” the statement said. “In honor of Ron Alexander and his shared vision of the future, the board is proud to announce the new name for the program.” In the past, Candler Field Museum supporters contributed $35 per year to be a museum member. While that program is discontinued, the membership for the Friends of the Ron Alexander Youth Aviation Program is also $35 per year. “The membership fee will go directly to support RAYAP. We hope you will continue to pledge your support to the mission started by Ron Alexander, Jim Hoak and all the mentors who have guided the youth over the last several years.”