Flight instructor Dale Klevgard, left, and student pilot Brad Honish explain the process for pre-flight inspection of a Cessna 172 near the runway at Black River Area Airport.
Brad Honish of Warrens is working to get his private pilot’s license. He was up in the air Saturday with flight instructor Dale Klevgard as he gets closer to marking the feat of flying solo for the first time.
When Dale Klevgard gets into an airplane, he appreciates what the trip represents.
It’s not simply getting from point A to point B – it’s also about how the world is limitless from the air.
“I think ultimate freedom is the way to describe it, because now you have the ability to escape the planet, basically. It’s like when you get off the ground, all your cares disappear,” said Klevgard, a Jackson County resident and flight instructor. “You have the capability of getting in an airplane and flying any place in the county, almost any place in the world, almost without any restrictions whatsoever.
“It just opens up a whole new world, if you will, of possibilities.”
Klevgard got his first experience with the wonder of flying when he was a youngster taking a trip to Germany in 1960 with his family to visit his father who was in the Army. The family went from Chicago to the east coast and flew over the ocean before landing in Europe.
But it was what happened on the flight and the one back that sealed Klevgard’s future in flying.
A flight attendant came back and took Klevgard and his sister to the cockpit of the four-engine aircraft. They came back on a Boeing 747, one of the first jets that were flying, and also got a tour of the cockpit and received a pair of junior pilot wings and a model airplane after they got off the flight.
“I think it was probably just the way we were treated that really piqued my interest in flying,” said Klevgard, who got his pilot’s license in 1978 and was certified as an instructor in 1980. “I’ve had it ever since.”
Klevgard has a little more than 8,000 hours of flying experience, over half of which is as an instructor. He’s mentored more than 125 students during his time living out west and back in Wisconsin, including three Western Wisconsin men who currently are learning about flying and aircraft.
Derek Ahl of Jackson County already has hit a milestone in his flying study by completing a solo flight in late April. Two others – Brad Honish of Warrens and Jeff Casper of Merrillan – are quickly on their way to marking the same feat and going on to get their private pilot licenses.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to fly,” said Honish, a 2005 Tomah High School graduate. “I thought it would end up being a retirement thing, but then my wife got me flying lessons for Christmas.”
The three men venture to Black River Area Airport just outside Black River Falls to conduct their training with Klevgard, where he also serves as assistant director of the airport. Many new students are eager but must face some fear and anxiety as they try flying for the first time.
“I think for some people, it’s probably overcoming the unknowns,” said Klevgard, who was named a regional flight instructor of the year while living out west. “I think, for me, it was probably that I had read so much and I knew so much about airplanes that it was finally moving the controls.
“It’s always been a challenge. Anyone who wants to learn to fly, I want to be able to share that with them. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
First tasks before heading into an airplane with an instructor involve a complete and thorough inspection of the airplane and first lessons deal with basic airplane control, learning to fly straight and level, inclines and descent.
From there, more advanced lessons include turning around points, steeper turns and stall recoveries – what to do when plans don’t go quite right and their associated emergency procedures.
Flight instruction sometimes can involve the surprise of an instructor, like Klevgard, turning off engine power to give the student the opportunity to show their knowledge of how to handle the situation.
It only comes when Klevgard is confident in his students, he said.
“You’ve got to know your stuff,” Casper said. “He wouldn’t do it if he knew you couldn’t recover.”
Before cross-country flying training comes takeoffs, landings and eventually hitting the point of controlling the plane alone – an exciting milestone.
“It’s not difficult at all – almost any person could learn to fly an airplane,” Klevgard said. “I’ve taught students from as early as 14 to as old as 79 years old.
“For a lot of people, too, they just have never completed the training, and it’s still in that bucket list and they can go on and achieve that in the later stages of life.”
Honish and Klevgard were out at the airport Saturday morning getting flying hours in, and the two took their positions in the front seats of the 1976 Cessna 172, where both have controls and go through the required checks together before getting off the ground.
“Alright, we’ll go and do a run-up,” Honish said as the plane sat off to the side of the runway. Then, he broadcasts to other pilots to let them know he’ll be taking to the air, and over to the runway.
“I’m gonna make my radio call here, and we can take off,” he said. “Alright, here we go.”
Then, in the air.
“Let’s go up to 2,500 feet,” Klevgard said. “Now, it’s getting a little bumpy.”
The pair went to their usual training spot above Alma Center and Hixton to conduct some turns and other technique training before heading back toward the airport and runway to make a landing.
There was another radio call to let any air traffic know their location, and then some discussion about the approach.
“We’ll probably come right into the crosswind,” Honish said.
Honish made the descent, landed smoothly and taxied the plane back over to the side of the runway before making post-flight checks.
He’ll soon be completing his first solo flight – hopefully this coming weekend, Klevgard said. Then will come the cross-country testing stages for at least a minimum of 40 hours of flying to get the private pilot’s license.
Then, like Klevgard, he’ll be able to take a plane instead of a vehicle for trips if he chooses and experience travel from the sky.
“Trips that seem a long way, you can take an airplane and you get there a lot faster,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
“I’m just excited to go flying.”
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