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Friends honoring pilot with flight fund

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.

Menear and others raised most of the money to fund the scholarship through a memorial golf tournament last year but also sought donations. The Mike Lakin Memorial Golf Tournament will be held Oct. 14 at Little Creek Golf Course.

He said they hope to be able to do the scholarship and golf tournament every year.

Those interested in applying should create a one-page resume, including their name, birthdate and contact information.

The resume should also answer these questions:

* How will the scholarship and the private pilot's license assist you in furthering your education and/or career?

* What have you done in the past to display your personal devotion to better the lives of those around you?

* What is the most difficult challenge you've overcome?

* Why do you live in West Virginia?

* What advantages come from growing up and living in Appalachia?

Applications should be mailed to the Mike Lakin Memorial Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 6171 Charleston, WV 25362. The deadline for applications is Aug. 15. The recipient will be announced Oct. 1.

For more information visit the "Mike Lakin Memorial Golf Tournament" page on Facebook.

 Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.


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