Scholarship set up in memory of Flight 5191 victim to help others fly
“He loved it and was proud to do it,” Wayne Fortney said as he reminisced about his son Clarence Wayne “C.W.” Fortney, II. “He just loved it.” Now his family wants to help a Powell County resident who has the same interest and passion to get their chance.
The “it” that Fortney speaks about is flying. C.W. Fortney loved to fly aircrafts. When he was a young man, even as a child, he loved to watch planes and had a keen interest in flying. It was that interest that became his passion.
That and his wife, Sarah. Then there was his son, Calvin James Fortney.
Fortney worked hard to fulfill his dream of being a commercial pilot. He worked his way up to being a first-officer for Air Tran Airline. He overcame all the hard work and having to learn about each aircraft he was certified to operate.
He even overcame the loss of his job right after 9/11 when airlines had to cut back. But he regrouped and enjoyed flying.
“He got to do what he liked,’ Wayne Fortney recalled. “He didn’t make captain, but a first officer is like a captain. They fly the aircraft too and being a captain was the next step.”
Unfortunately, C.W. never got to be captain. He boarded a plane in Lexington early on Aug. 27, 2006 bound for Atlanta.
He was to catch up to his flight that he would be a crew member on for ATA later that day. But the flight he was taking was Comair Flight 5191.
The jet taxied and took off from the wrong runway in the pre-dawn hours and crashed. Forty-nine of the 50 people on board perished. Only the first officer, Jim Polheinke survived.
C.W. was just a few days short of turning 35.
The state and Powell County mourned for one of their own.
That was almost six years ago. Now the family of C.W. Fortney has set up a memorial scholarship fund. The scholarship will help a Powell County child who is interested in flying to attend the Kentucky Aviation Museum’s Summer Camp.
“We just wanted to give a child from our home county a chance to follow their dream if they were interested in flying,” Sarah Fortney Centimole, C.W.’s widow, told the Times last week. “C.W. loved it and he would have enjoyed helping others get their start.”
Centimole is heading up the scholarship effort. It is made possible thanks to generous donations from Powell County following C.W.’s death. The family hopes the scholarship will provide opportunities to deserving young people to pursue learning.
It has not been easy. Since that fateful day Centimole has watched as the son she had with C.W. grows.
“It’s been a journey the last few years,’ Centimole said. But I’ve watched him (Calvin James). He doesn’t really have a memory of his dad; he was only 16 months old at the time. But he is piecing it together from the stories he has heard and the pictures he has seen.”
But she admits that her son is showing some of the same interests. “He is a well adjusted child with diverse interests that run from Roy Rogers to Shrek,” Centimole said. “But he also shows the same skill sets, like in math and an interest in planes.”
Wayne Fortney remembers the interest C.W. had as well.
“Since he was old enough to stand in the yard and look up in the sky C.W. was captivated by airplanes and flying,” Wayne stated right after the tragedy. Now he remembers with pride the work his son had in his accomplishments.
“He wanted to go to school for it so we checked out Emory Riddell in Florida, a really prestigious school, and we checked out Phoenix Air, but we decided that EKU was a good place too,” Wayne said. “He told me how hard it was to make it and how he had to work hard to reach his goal. But he loved it.”
Centimole, who has since remarried, had another son and works for Operation UNITE saying she is happy and has “been delivered from the tragedy,” agrees.
“C.W. loved flying. Now we can try to create something I feel is positive from this, a tribute to C.W. so others can accomplish reaching their goals and passion,” she said. “Children may not have such an interest in flying, but this may strike a nerve and help someone reach their goals.”
The camp has three different levels. Those are for ages 10 and 11 with a camp set up for June 7-8 and June 14-15. Camp for level two is for ages 12 or 13 and will be held June 11-12. The level three camp is for those ages 14-16 and will be held June 21-22. All three levels will have a camp on June 18-19.
The scholarship pays for the camp and gives a stipend to help pay for transportation. If needed, transportation will be arranged. Meals are also provided.
The scholarship is for those Powell County residents from age 10-16 who have a passion for flying. Interested youth should submit a personal essay describing their interest in aviation and their first choice of camp. The deadline is Friday, May 18. All submissions should be mailed to Aviation Camp Committee, P.O. Box 247, Stanton, Ky. 40380.
“We are hoping to be able to send someone and spark that interest in flying,” Centimole added.
C.W.’s love started at a young age and his passion is now helping others. He probably would not have wanted it any other way.