Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kearney Aviation Center working hard to stand out as new Fixed Base Operator. Kearney Regional Airport (KEAR), Kearney, Nebraska.

Yusuke Furuta (left), Phil Jossi (center) and UNK aviation graduate, Steve Cole (right)

Phil Jossi, center, opened Kearney Aviation Center, a Fixed Base Operator at Kearney Regional Airport, in June. KAC serves the flying public as well as aviation students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney including Yusuke Furuta, left. UNK aviation graduate Steve Cole, right, manages KAC.

KEARNEY — The sky is the limit for a new Fixed Base Operator at Kearney Regional Airport.

The Kearney Aviation Center made its debut as the second Fixed Base Operator at the airport June 1, giving pilots across the country a place to fuel up. But owner Phil Jossi and the Kearney Aviation Center staff provide much more.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people left here and would say, ‘Wow, we don’t get that everywhere we go.’ We’re trying to create the wow experience,” Jossi said.

From guiding planes in at all hours, to offering complimentary snacks and providing fee-free landing space, Jossi’s mission is to take care of his clients.

As a longtime Nebraska pilot, he knows firsthand the importance of customer service. After getting a private pilot license in the early 1980s, he went on to earn a commercial certificate, a multi-engine rating and a Certified Flight Instructor — Instrument rating.

Jossi, who is also president of the State Bank of Riverdale, said that many FBOs don’t emphasize service because there isn’t much competition.

“I’ve experienced what poor customer service is at a lot of smaller airports, and I’ve always had a vision of changing that picture.”

And serving the flying public is only half of what KAC does.

The aviation center is also the home of the Aviation Management and Flight Training program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Program director Terry Gibbs said KAC is an excellent place for students to learn to fly.

“Working with an organization like this that has a quality facility and quality equipment is vitally important.”

KAC currently has five planes available for rental and lessons. Gibbs said there are about 65 students active in the aviation program.

UNK aviation student Yusuke Furuta is on track to be the first international student to earn a flight instructor certificate and trains regularly at KAC.

“I want to be a commercial airline pilot,” he said, recalling his first days in an airplane. “When I started making landings pretty good, that was what I really liked.”

Gibbs, who is in his 20th year with the UNK program, said working with aspiring pilots is his passion.

“When the light bulb goes on you can see it much easier out here. It’s very intimate because you can almost see the instant when the light goes on. It’s a lot of fun to work individually with students.”

KAC’s manager, Steve Cole, graduated from the program in May 2010 and now handles day-to-day operations at the FBO.

He said the comfortable atmosphere and friendly faces at KAC have helped foster his fascination with flying.

“I’m just an aviation enthusiast. I’ve learned a ton from everyone — corporate pilots, airline pilots, general aviation guys, crop dusters, you get a whole view of the world of aviation,” he said. “The most fun part is just kicking back and talking to pilots about flying.”

With a growing student population, and an expanding pilot clientele, the future looks bright for KAC.

In addition, the KAC is working to get a charter certificate with the Federal Aviation Administration that will allow the center to fly local companies and people on an on-demand basis.

Jossi said he hopes to get a hangar, an aircraft storage unit, at the airport to better accommodate corporate flights, a vital resource to Kearney’s many businesses and to the city’s economic growth.

But his main goal is providing young pilots with a place for their futures to take flight and operating a quality FBO.

“The best way I can characterize it is that we’re offering good old-fashioned Nebraska service. We’ll take care of you,” he said.


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