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June 20, 2017 10:15 PM

Pilot Project

Have you ever thought about getting your pilot's license?  A lot of people have entertained the idea, mostly just because of the thrill of flying.

But right now there's a huge demand for pilots across the country.  Instructors say now is the time to spread your wings and possibly start a whole new career. 

From small planes to the much bigger commercial ones, people have always been fascinated with flying.  

"It's an awesome opportunity right now," Sioux Falls Flight School owner Clay Anderson said. 

Anderson started Sioux Falls Flight School seven years ago.  It's one of only three places in South Dakota where you can learn to fly.   

Anderson says it's not for everyone, but if you've ever entertained the idea, he says there's only one way to find out. 

"Go out and take a flight lesson.  I don't care where you go, go out take a real lesson.  Go through some of the maneuvers and get a feel in your stomach what it feels like to fly in an airplane at the control and doing all the maneuvers as much as you can at that point," Anderson said. 

That's what Lenny Pies did. 

"It seemed interesting to me.  I had a friend who got into it and he said, 'Just got my pilot's license; you should go get yours,'" Pies said. 

So he did and he's never regretted it and neither has Kai Kaliszewski.   He's the chief flight instructor at the school, plus he flies for Sanford Health. 

"I haven't worked a day since I started flying; it's a great industry to be in," Kaliszewski said. 

Especially if you go on to become an airline pilot.  

In the U.S., some 18,000 pilots are expected to retire in the next three years and the pilot supply pipeline is struggling to produce qualified candidates because of the growing cost of becoming an airline pilot.

At Sioux Falls Flight School, just to get your entry level pilots license, it'll cost you just more than $8,300. 

"That's one of the five fundamentals of flight.  Everyone used to think it was four, but the fifth one is cash," Anderson said. 

That exorbitant cost didn't stop Pies.

"There's motorcycles that cost that much.  I thought about buying one.  Eh, they were out, but with flying you can only get better if you stick with it," Pies said. 

The price covers everything from the online instruction to testing to aircraft rental.  To guys like Kaliszewski, the investment is worth it. 

"Getting up there and flying, having the freedom to go wherever you want to go someplace," Kaliszewski said. 

To experience that sense of freedom, Kaliszewski invited KELOLAND's Don Jorgensen to fly with him as one of his students.  Like Anderson said before, you'll never know if you like it until you do it.  

Kaliszewski allows Jorgensen to take the controls and take off from the Sioux Falls Airport.  

While he ran the throttle, on his command, Jorgensen pulled back on the lift and got the plane up in the air.  The plane circles the city before the instructor says he's going to let Jorgensen land it. 

Kaliszewski lines the plane up with runway 1-5 and talks Jorgensen through the procedures to make sure they're not too low on approach. 

Wheels down...safe back on the ground. 

Kaliszewski says it's normal to be nervous the first time behind the controls. 

"I remember my first solo flight.  It's a weird feeling flying with someone in the right seat all the time.  Then all of a sudden you're by yourself and once you get airborne, it's all on me now to get the plane back on the ground," Kaliszewski said. 

Anderson says getting your pilot's license really is mind over matter. 

"The only thing that's stopping them is themselves.  Go out and get that first flight lesson, see what it feels like and if it feels right then do it," Anderson said. 

Below are links to all three schools in South Dakota.

Sioux Falls Flight School
Legacy Aviation
South Dakota State University Aviation Program


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