Daniel Island resident's third career takes flight
Daniel Island resident Colonel (retired) Mike Roller is taking off on a third act using his impressive skills as a former fighter pilot to teach flying. After a successful 25-year career in the United States Air Force, Roller successfully transitioned into the aerospace and defense industry. His recent retirement from the industry landed him back to flying.
Roller’s passion for flight took off as a teenager in St. Louis after attending air shows with his father.
“Those early experiences motivated me to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and four years later I began what would become a 25-year career in the Air Force as a fighter pilot,” said Roller.
After retiring from the Air Force, Roller put flying on hold to focus on his second career in the defense industry. A few years ago, he started flying again and discovered a way to turn his passion into a profession.
“After I retired from the defense industry, my wife and I moved to Daniel Island,” he said. “I started a third career to return to my love of flying by purchasing a Cirrus SR 20 aircraft to teach others to fly and to be available for rental by other pilots.”
Roller believes anyone can learn to fly if they put in the time and effort. He says students usually fall into three categories - young people wanting to start a career in the rapidly growing aviation industry, those trying out flying as an exciting new hobby, and businesspeople that need a more efficient way to travel to locations within a 400-mile radius for their profession.
Daniel Island residents are already on board to take lessons, such as 70-year-old Ine McKenzie, who is proving it’s never too late to learn something new. Years ago, McKenzie gave up an opportunity to attend an out of town flight school, because at the time she didn’t want to leave her young family.
Although she missed out on that opportunity, McKenzie never lost her desire to take lessons.
“It has always been on my bucket list,” she said. “I have friends that are pilots and I’ve always wanted to be able to do it. With Mike’s fighter pilot background, I can’t imagine anyone better to learn from. I am really excited.”
Roller’s Daniel Island neighbor, Barry Bridges, wants to pursue flying for both pleasure and business.
“If flying commercially ever was fun, it stopped being fun a long time ago,” noted Bridges. “Between parking, security, waiting and layovers, it is basically not being in control of your schedule. With as much travel as I do regionally, being able to fly myself in a small, very safe aircraft, gives me tremendous flexibility.”
Roller’s Cirrus SR 20 can be scheduled for instruction or rental through Coastal City Aviation located at the Charleston International Airport.