Weirton Man’s Documentary Takes Flight on W.Va. PBS

Weirton resident Tom Roberts has turned his passion for aviation into another documentary, titled “Ohio Valley Flight Academy Episode 2,” that is slated to air on West Virginia PBS at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The academy, which was located at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport, closed after the death of owner/operator Dinny Walford of Bridgeport in 2012. Prior to the academy’s closing, Roberts got the chance to make his first episode about aviation and the academy, titled “Ohio Valley Flight Academy Episode 1,” that appeared on West Virginia PBS. Now the second episode, titled “Ohio Valley Flight Academy Episode 2,” will feature interviews with other aviators like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Roberts produced the episode via his company Palomino Productions of West Virginia LLC. He was a student of Walford’s and practiced flying as often as possible until he was laid off from the former Weirton Steel Corp. It was just during the past few years that he decided to get back into flying.

Roberts is dedicating the film to Walford.

“It was like an extended family,” Roberts said of the academy and its aviators. “Really great people are part of aviation at the airport. … Dinny used to bring coffee and doughnuts every Saturday.”

Originally, Roberts wanted to make a reality show about life at a flight academy, but it turned into a documentary. Having it air on PBS, he said, was on his “bucket list” of things to do before he dies.

Wheeling resident JoAnn Gould, a private pilot, served as the film’s interviewer. She said she hopes the movie will encourage people to pursue careers in aviation, as pilots, mechanics or air traffic controllers.

“There is a need for commercial pilots,” she said.