Central Air Service, located at the Lewistown Municipal Airport, has broken ground on a new 100 by 100 foot aircraft hangar.
The new hangar will provide much needed space for the thriving aviation business, owned by Charlie Rogers and Dan and Lana Langford.
“Business is going very well. We have been wanting to build a hangar for a long time,” Dan explained. “We need more office space, storage for aircraft and room to do aircraft maintenance.”
With 10 airplanes and two helicopters, CAS is a busy commercial aircraft charter and maintenance business. The new hangar will allow the business to operate more easily and allow for possible future expansion.
“The new hangar will make it easier to do what we do, as well as give us the opportunity to do some additional maintenance,” Dan said. “It will be finished in about a year, and will allow us to think about expanding in the future.”
“There are four people who run this business,” Charlie said. “Dan and I fly, Lana does the paperwork and Dan’s nephew, Joe Stapleton, does maintenance and drives fuel trucks.”
CAS provides a variety of air charter services in Montana and is one of the oldest helicopter charter operations in Montana.
“It’s really hectic around here,” Lana said. “Dan and Charlie are our pilots and they both have an extremely good reputation. We have a contract with Northwestern Energy for power line patrol and construction, and with the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for firefighting. We also provide private charters for hunters and other individuals.”
Both Charlie and Dan are commercial pilots and fly a variety of aircraft.
Dan explained that CAS’s two helicopters are the workhorses of the business, and the airplanes are used mostly for company business.
Dan said CAS is a Montana company.
“We fly all over the state and we decided to stay in the state,” Dan said. “We wanted to make sure this resource was available for the state of Montana. We are on the national resource list for firefighting, but we choose t stay here in Montana.”
“Charlie has been flying firefighting missions since 1982. He does everything from flying the water buckets to reconnaissance missions to keep tabs on existing fires,” Dan said. “We do whatever kind of flying they need us to do.”
“Dan does powerline patrol for Northwestern Energy. He flies low along the powerlines looking for potential problems,” Lana said.
According to Charlie, CAS is also involved in large re-seeding projects for burned areas.
Dan said hunters account for a small portion of their charter business.
“We fly hunters into remote areas where they otherwise would not have access,” he said. “We also fly people to look at large pieces of property. When someone is interested in buying a large ranch, for example, they often want to see it from the air.”
“Next year we would like to do a Wounded Warrior project,” Charlie said. “We want to fly a disabled hunter into the BLM free of charge.”
Charlie, Dan and Joe also repair and maintain aircraft for customers.
Although Dan grew up in Lewistown, he left for many years to pursue his career as a pilot.
He and Lana returned a few years ago to join Charlie at CAS.
“Lana and I just bought into the business four years ago, but Charlie joined the business with his dad in 1979,” Dan said. “There is a lot of history here.”
CAS dates back to 1946 when Charlie’s father, Lewistown pilot Bill Rogers, and two associates started the business just after World War II.
The business, originally centered around crop spraying, aircraft maintenance and flight instruction, quickly became successful.
In 1953, Bill bought his partners out and continued to fly and build his business.
When Charlie joined the business with his father, it became even larger and more successful.
Dan’s father, Dick Langford, was best friends with Bill.
“My dad was the airport manager and I grew up at this airport,” Dan said. “I used to sweep around the airplanes when I was a kid and I’ve known Charlie and Bill my whole life.”
After living and flying all over the United States, Dan said he is happy that he and Lana are back in Lewistown.
“It’s cool to be able to come back home and do what I do,” he said. “Between Charlie and I, we have almost 70 years of experience. We love what we do.”
“Nobody enjoys doing what they do for a living more than I do,” Charlie said with a smile.