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Two awarded flight scholarships in memory of fallen pilot
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Troy Wheeler, president of Lanier Flight Center, listens as Joshua Hammond says a few words after being awarded a flight training scholarships in memory of Kelly Chandler at a ceremony at Lanier Flight Center in Gainesville on Friday. Lanier flight instructor Kelly Chandler died last year from injuries sustained in a crash. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Lanier Flight Center President Troy Wheeler said he and his crew hoped to turn Friday into a day of joy by awarding scholarships in a late flight instructor’s honor.

On Oct. 16, 2014, a plane carrying instructor Kelly Chandler, 50 and pilot Lawrence Youhanaian, 74, crashed outside of Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

Youhanaian died at the scene. Chandler was pulled from the wreckage but succumbed to his injuries Nov. 10.

“Right after the crash, we had a lot of people that were sending in money, and we decided that the best thing to do with that was to open up a scholarship in my late husband’s name,” Chandler’s wife Jackie said at the presentation of the scholarships.

The fund for the Kelly Chandler Wings Scholarships totaled $25,000, which intended to award two people with funding to learn how to fly.

“This would be a good honor for him. This is what he would want, as a memory and a legacy for him,” Kelly Chandler’s mother Jan Horton said Friday.

The late flight instructor was called “the driving force” of the flight center, eager to teach students and loved by all, Jackie Chandler said.

The Chandler family was responsible for selecting the scholarship winners, who were required to write an essay and provide a letter of recommendation.

Josh Hammond and Matt Kirschner were named as the recipients Friday at the ceremony.

Hammond previously worked in Lanier Flight Center’s maintenance shop as part of a high school work program and applied for the Air Force Academy.

“Now I understand why God wanted me to stay here, because of this opportunity,” he said.

Kirschner said he was appreciative and excited to follow in his father’s footsteps, a fellow pilot.

Hammond and Kirschner each received $12,500 and will receive training from Lanier Flight Center instructors.

“We will do everything in our power to help you move along,” Wheeler said. “The whole team is here for you.”

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