General aviation is taking flight in Nebraska. In fact, Governor Ricketts proclaimed May the month for the industry in the state.
That impact is felt throughout the Omaha metro.
During another day of ground operations on the tarmac in front of the hangers at TAC Air, a Beechcraft is filled up with hundreds of gallons of locally purchased fuel.
After a glance on “this side of the airport” — away from the commercial airlines and crowds — first thoughts tend to lean toward the very wealthy or corporate traveler.
“We assist with catering orders, rental cars, hotel accommodations, we offer shuttle rides downtown,” said Mike Wilwerding, TAC Air General Manager.
However, that’s real cash being spent in Omaha and it has a very real, positive impact according to industry experts. The Alliance for Aviation Across America says general aviation contributes over $1.2 billion to Nebraska’s total economic output.
Some of that is earned through fuel revenue and government contracts and other jobs. Wilwerding is a living example of just that — starting out at TAC Air like those he oversees servicing aircraft today.
“I’ve worked here for TAC Air for 17 years. I came to work here as a ground support mechanic, working on the fuel trucks and tow tractors,” said Wilwerding.
Another major component of general aviation is training the next generation of pilots to take flight. Inside TAC Air is the Nebraska Flight Center and they are charged with doing just that. “Before someone can get behind the controls of a private jet, they need to learn first on a smaller prop plane,” David Silchman, owner and founder of Nebraska Flight Center explained.
“There’s a lot of old pilots flying in the airlines that are going to retire, and they will need to be replaced,” said Silchman.
It’s all part of general aviation, continuing to take flight in the state.
Agriculture and helicopter use is also a key part of general aviation. The operation includes support for medical, law enforcement and disaster relief work.