Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dakota Skies takes flight at Jamestown Regional Airport (KJMS), North Dakota

Kari Lucin / The Sun 
Brad Stangeland, owner of Dakota Skies flight school, explains in a hangar at Jamestown Regional Airport how he teaches students to fly a 1973 Cessna 150.

The newest business at Jamestown Regional Airport, Dakota Skies, has already taken flight. 

The flight school, owned and operated by certified flight instructor Brad “Gary” Stangeland, offers lessons in private and recreational flying, including lessons on the ground and in the air.

“There’s a huge need for flight instruction,” Stangeland said. “… it’s a very competitive industry.”

Like many other industries, flight instruction took a hit during the recession, Stangeland said, but interest in flying is back on the rise.

The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority listed the promotion of general aviation as one of its major goals for the next five years, and having a flight instructor was mentioned as one of the steps toward that goal at one of the JRAA’s recent meetings.

“We offer a comprehensive array of services. … we just need to broaden the clientele. We need to get more people in the air and active,” said Matt Leitner, Jamestown Regional Airport manager.

That means strengthening relationships with existing organizations, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Civil Air Patrol, and reaching out to young people with an interest in aviation, Leitner said.

It also means bringing a flight school to Jamestown. To that end the JRAA has been working with Stangeland on a flight-training assistance program that offers incentives for flight instruction through the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

“Having a dedicated flight instructor is a catalyst for accelerating and promoting general aviation activity,” Leitner said.

Taking off

Stangeland’s work in Jamestown began with ground school in the fall. About half a dozen students took the aviation equivalent of a driver’s education class, gaining the basic foundational knowledge needed to pass a written test.

After the written tests, flyers need to practice with instructors to get their licenses to fly solo.

Stangeland intends to begin with another ground school class in the spring or summer.

“Across the state there’s been an interest in people learning how to fly,” he said.

Stangeland, who hails from Pipestone, Minn., received a degree in business management from Minnesota West Community & Technical College.

He received a commercial license and also became a certified flight instructor in 2003, when he began teaching.

“When I was first starting out, I thought you had to be this very gray old man to teach,” Stangeland recalled.

Then he met his flight instructor, who was just one year older than he was at the time, but was a very good instructor nevertheless, he said.

“Every instructor can teach you something,” Stangeland said. “It doesn’t hurt to fly with other people.”

And when he started teaching, he found himself hooked on it.

“If I don’t know the answer, I’ll help you find it,” Stangeland tells his students, some of whom also want to be flight instructors. “There’s more than one way to teach something.”

His students generally learn in Stangeland’s 1973 Cessna 150, a small, two-seat training airplane — fuel-efficient, easy to fly and durable. However, Stangeland is equally willing to give lessons in a student’s plane, for those who own one.

“An airplane still has all the same principles of flight,” he said.

It’s also best, Stangeland said, to save the money to take enough lessons and pay for enough flight time to work all the way through solo flying, rather than starting and stopping lessons many times throughout the process.

He encourages people learning to fly to practice at least once a week, even when scheduling is difficult.

To fly solo while training, pilots need to be 16 years old, and to be fully licensed for fair-weather flying, they must be 17 years old. However, students as young as 10 or 11 years old can fly with proper supervision.

Though almost everyone can learn to fly, people who play a lot of video games seem to be the most natural flyers, Stangeland said.

He said the JRAA has been very supportive of his efforts, as have Leitner and Jon Cave, the fixed-base operator of First Class Aviation.

In the future, Stangeland hopes to work with Jamestown College and Jamestown Public Schools.

He intends to host an open house for Dakota Skies in the spring or summer. Currently, Stangeland said, he has time for additional students.

“We’re happy to have Brad. We’re happy to have this available at our airport,” Leitner said.

To contact Dakota Skies, call 701-317-1268.

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