CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Friends of a late Air National Guard officer hope to carry on his memory by helping the next generation of pilots get their licenses to fly.
Lt. Col. Mike Lakin, a native West Virginian, began his career early.
He flew for more than 25 years — for fun, for show and for the military — but was killed on Dec. 23, 2011 while flying for recertification in his aerobatic plane near Marysville, Ohio.
He started flying at 16 and earned his private pilot's license a year later. He had his commercial pilot's license at 18 and was a certified flight instructor at 19.
His flight plan led him to the Marine Corps where he served as an attack helicopter pilot and later as a fixed-wing Naval flight instructor. He returned to West Virginia in 1999 and joined the Air National Guard where he transitioned to piloting the C-130 Hercules.
He flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and also was part of West Virginia's response to Hurricane Katrina.
It was in the Guard that Capt. Bobby Menear met Lakin in 2002. He said Lakin was his mentor in flight training.
"We wanted to do something for him, do something for his family," Menear said. "Around here it's challenging to get (a pilot's license), but once you get that it can open up a ton of doors for you.
"This is a way that could help somebody fulfill a dream."
He had the idea for a scholarship about a year and a half ago. He said the price of flight training and other expenses has risen dramatically since he went through it several years ago.
He estimated it costs $8,000 to $10,000 for flight training and associated costs today.
One scholarship will be offered this year. The scholarship is available to young men and women 16-and-a-half to 24 years old. It will fund flight training, ground training, testing and other related expenses toward the recipient to get his or her private pilot license.