It was a long time coming for Allison Donner to get her private pilot’s license. But with a new program, she was able to get it at her home airport.
Donner is the manager of Cozad’s municipal airport and the owner of Mid-State Aviation. She started ground school and flight training over two years ago, but took a year off to focus on her business. She completed her license under the instruction of Jay Turnbull and Levi Entz — both Cozad residents who will continue giving flight instruction and teaching ground school at the airport.
“We really just got this program rolling this year,” Donner said.
They bought a plane for flight instruction, a 1977 Cessna 172, which is also available for rental. Donner said the goal is to build interest in general aviation and to provide convenient instruction for area residents.
“There’s been a significant decline in general aviation in the past 10 years,” Donner said.
Part of that is an aging population — grandparents who got pilots licenses through military service are no longer flying.
Attaining a license is also long and expensive. Ground school at Cozad will be around $400 just to pass an initial test. From there, instructors can range from $35-$50 an hour and planes have to be rented around $120 per hour — Cozad’s plane can be rented for $105/hour in a 10-hour block.
Turnbull said the most economical way of getting flight training and experience is still through the military. He said by the end of the process, a private license can run $8,000-$10,000.
“People are having to work more to make less,” Turnbull said.
That’s one of the reasons Cozad’s two instructors are important. They can meet with students on their schedule, whether they work on the railroad, on a farm or in town.
“Our instructors are available and flexible,” Donner said.
Entz is a mechanic at Mid-State Aviation. He’ll start teaching ground school twice a week at the airport for six weeks starting in January.
Turnbull said he thinks there are a lot more people interested in flying. He said they’ve seen more young pilots, but not like it used to be.
Donner said she wanted her license to be able to fly between Mid-State’s locations in Cozad, Columbus, a satellite location in North Platte and Winner, South Dakota, for meetings. It takes her half the time to fly as it does to drive, she said. She started her license in McCook, with instructor Dick Trail.
She said there is interest in creating a flying club, where area businesses can buy shares on a plane. It’s more economical to split the costs of maintenance and insurance, Donner said.
She’s managed the airport and business since 2006, but Mid-State Aviation was started by her parents in 1975. Their primary business is in aerial application. More information can be found online at mid-stateaviation.com or by calling 308-784-3868.