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Airport has flight school, full time mechanic again

by Tom LaVenture

Posted on 8/29/2015

A new flight school at Jamestown Regional Airport is aiming to build a solid foundation by partnering with area schools.

Flight schools have come and gone in the past at Jamestown Regional Airport, but more recently it has been outside instructors coming in to handle individual flight instruction, according to First Class Aviation, a company that recently expanded services to include a flight school with aircraft rentals in the former James River Aviation hangar. First Class Aviation also added full aircraft maintenance, which was not available at the airport for about a year.

"I''ve always been trying to get a flight program going and we''d have to beg, borrow or steal somebody''s airplane and had to get instructors to come down and give us lessons," said John Cave, owner of First Class Aviation. "It was hit or miss and finally we just said the only way this can work is to buy a couple of airplanes and get this going."

First Class Aviation has provided airport fueling services for general and commercial aviation for eight years. The expansion brings more essential tools for future growth of the airport and fits in with the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority''s strategic plan to better meet community needs, said Jim Boyd, Airport Authority chairman.

"First Class Aviation will not only have the instructors but also the available aircraft for training new pilots," Boyd said.

Sam Seafeldt, airport manager and part-time flight instructor, said general aviation service has struggled at Jamestown airport when it should be flourishing with long, multiple runways and plenty of space. Now with a full-time licensed aviation mechanic and plane rentals he said there are no barriers for the general aviation market.

The flight school is a great addition, he said, and it also benefits advanced students who are seeking instrument-rating certificates.

"This airport has every possible instrument approach to complete that training," Seafeldt said. "Every runway has an instrument approach and varied instrument approaches to do what is required for that training."

Before the flight school could become a reality, Cave said the airport had to hire a full-time general aviation aircraft mechanic who is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and authorized to sign off on an FAA annual inspection required for every aircraft.

John Nyberg is that mechanic. He lives near Jamestown but was working out of the Mandan, N.D., airport, where many Jamestown plane owners were flying to other airports to have their inspections done along with major repairs and alterations.

Nyberg, who is also commander of the Jamestown squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, welcomed the chance to work closer to home in Jamestown. He said the flight school is also needed.

"I hope it takes off; it looks promising," Nyberg said. "This is definitely a real-choice airport to be at. There is no reason it can''t work, so we''re all hopeful."

Brad Stangeland, the lead flight instructor for First Class Aviation, is a licensed teacher in North Dakota and the aviation technology instructor for Bismarck Public Schools. He is helping the First Class Aviation school get started with transportation support from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

Because Jamestown Regional Airport has all of the amenities of larger airports without the high traffic volume, Stangeland said it is an ideal setting for beginning flight instruction. It means getting into the air faster with less traffic and less time waiting in line on the runway.

The plane rental is $130 for the Cherokee PA-28 140, and $140 per hour for the Cherokee Warrior PA-28-151, which has a computerized cockpit. The flight instructor fee is $60 per hour.

The particular licensing for this flight school allows for one-on-one, self-paced flight training. The instructor does preflight and postflight briefings and directs personal study for the next lesson rather than having one class with several students.

The student performs 20 flight hours with the instructor and after passing the written exam and solo pre-check will fly 10 solo hours, with another 10 hours to be determined by the instructor as dual or solo time to work on other instruction.

Stangeland said he is excited about the partnership with schools because the Aviation I and Aviation II courses are more complete and encourage younger students to learn more in the classroom. Transferable credits are very important to students, he said, and the courses are a better foundation for career pilots.

Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Roberts Lech said that for the past 18 months the James Valley Career and Technology Center has worked with the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority, the University of Jamestown and other support agencies to develop a summer academy that is focused on aviation opportunities for Jamestown High School students and the community.

"While these opportunities exist in other school districts, those districts have much larger enrollment bases, so we are excited about the possibility of bringing it to JVCTC for Jamestown students," Lech said in an email. "We believe that aviation is a growing-need area and the summer academy concept is a way that this innovative program could be effectively integrated into our course offerings."

There are details to hash out yet, Lech said, but the stakeholders are committed to establishing the program.

Tena Lawrence, vice president of marketing and communications for the University of Jamestown, said there is an aviation class available but no formal agreement is yet in place with the engineering department.

"We have agreed to share the class information with our students but there is currently no connection to the engineering program," Lawrence said.

Flight school today has much better training aids and flight simulators to learn how to deal with situations before the student encounters them in actual flight, Stangeland said. It also helps that students who have their own flight simulator software tend to be knowledgeable on instruments and basic flight skills, he said.

"It takes a lot of fear out of flying," he said.

Today''s students tend to be business people who want to own their own planes, agricultural people with their own grass strips or recreational pilots, Stangeland said. The incentive for young people to get into flying is that there is a shortage of pilots and flight instructors.

"I''ve flown with hundreds of people in my career and there is no such thing as what makes a good pilot, other than how willing they are to learn," he said. "The key is not to go through the motions and to walk away from each lesson knowing that you have learned something."

The selection process for military flight school is increasingly competitive and earning a private pilot license and accumulating as many hours as possible prior to the application is becoming the standard rather than the exception, he said.

"It is still hit and miss to get in but if you want to be competitive that is what you have to do these days," he said.

For more information, call First Class Aviation at 952-1515 or visit firstclassaviationinc.com.