Whether Big Air Aviation's students are first-time fliers or seasoned jumbo-jet pilots, they all start in the same spot: the passenger seat of Cessna 152 Sparrowhawk. Starting off behind the yoke of the small, light aircraft presents a completely different flying experience from a 747 at an airport. “A commercial jet is like a cattle prod,” says Rob Craig, the founder of Big Air Aviation. “But this thing—you can go wherever you want to go.” Once student and teacher have ascended into the clouds, the student gets the chance to chart an individual course over the green foothills of Rutherford County, speeding over treetops or slowing down to high-five hot air balloon captains.
Rob says introductory lessons are brief: an overview of measurement instruments, controls, and rotor petals is enough to equip students for a brief flight. It’s this accessibility that proves the Cessna 152 Sparrowhawk’s biggest draw, and over the years, Rob has watched many of his former students transform what began as a hobby into a full-time career.
For more than 31 years, The Scuba Shop has been equipping students with the know-how and breathing apparatuses necessary to take the deep-sea plunge. The indoor facility is one of the only five-star PADI training centers in upstate South Carolina, and allows new divers to familiarize themselves with scuba techniques in a heated indoor pool. During the one-hour Discover Scuba class, a friendly scuba instructor guides students through the process of donning scuba equipment along with proper diving techniques. Divers go on to learn serious procedures including blowing bubbles and underwater summersaults in the safety of an indoor pool, without the threat of erratic submarine drivers.
For the founders of the Spartanburg County Historical Association, it wasn't enough to read about their region's past. They wanted to bring bygone days to life for residents and visitors with engaging exhibits and meticulously restored sites. The Spartanburg Regional History Museum, for instance, welcomes guests with a bell from the Riverdale Mill, displayed in the lobby as a nod to the area's textile heritage. Interactive displays share the county's story, from the first Spanish explorers to tread its grounds to anticipated future generations of space Spartanburgians. In addition to operating the museum, the association maintains three historic properties: Walnut Grove Plantation, the Historic Price House, and Seay House. The 18th and 19th-century buildings provide a glimpse into the daily lives of South Carolinians, from wealthy landowners to laboring farmers.
At Airwolf Aviation, founder Michele Rash and her team of instructors keep one thought in mind when training students to become certified pilots: "Would I sit in the back seat while he or she flew me around?" This question guides them while they tailor training for each student and has resulted in a pass/fail rate of 97% over the past three years.
With three flight schools, a fleet of Cessna airplanes, and a multi-engine Piper Aztec E, the instructors lead courses that qualify students for private, instrument, commercial, and multi-engine pilot licenses. They also help professional pilots earn flight-instructor certifications. When they’re not teaching lessons, Airwolf's team introduces clients to aviation through discovery flights and city tours that fly to the governor's floating mansion.
Duffers can turn to The Range on Oak Grove for assistance in three key aspects of golfing: swing, distance, and accuracy. The first falls to PGA teaching professional Phil Cassidy, whose sage instructions can be tailored for students of all ages and a swathe of swing types. The latter two are the domain of the range itself, where markers calibrated with a laser distance finder provide players with pinpoint feedback on their long shots, and targets that mimic course layouts challenge chippers to accurately drop approaching shots and frustrated overhand lobs. Should visitors not have their own clubs on hand, the range curates a collection of loaners.
With iridescent miniature golf courses in malls throughout North America, Glowgolf adds elements of phosphorescent fun to shopping sessions. Courses contain sights such as light-defying blush corals, incandescent animals, and lush foliage reminiscent of the glowing trees on Neptune. Each pass is good for three 18-hole games, giving golfers ample opportunity to get familiar with each hole's obstacles. Equipment is available on the spot, so players won't have to carry around personal clubs or seek out a bioluminescent caddie.