Taking to the skies, Lexington area pilots form first flying club in 20 years

The 1972 Cessna 172M which will be operated by the Central Nebraska Flying Club. The club is the first of its kind in Lexington in over 20 years, six local area pilots formed the club last year in 2019.

LEXINGTON — Flying is one of those things which can get under the skin, some hate it, others can’t get enough of it. Yet for many hobby pilots who live in rural areas, operating and maintaining even a small aircraft can be prohibitively expensive.

Yet there are ways for rural area pilots to come together to handle the costs of aircraft operation and that is just what six Lexington area pilots have done.

Last year, Dan Keller, Duane Kautz, Quentin Dailey, Collin Thompson, Ryan Gardine and Dr. Bruce Hanson all formed the first flying club Lexington has had in over 20 years, the Central Nebraska Flying Club.

“Ever since I flew into Lexington in search of my first post college job, I’ve looked to have economic access to an airplane,” said Keller, “In a large city, your typical airport has a business to own and rent planes, for most people, renting is the easiest way to fly.”

“Unfortunately, as you move into rural areas, there are not enough pilots flying to justify a whole business model,” Keller continued, “You are left with the choice to purchase your own plane or drive long distances to rent.”

Many hobby pilots log as few as 10 hours a year or a busy private pilot might log more than 50 hours. “It’s hard to justify ownership if you fly 10 to 50 hours,” Keller said.

Keller himself got his start flying in 1998 when he saw a “learn to fly,” ad posted on his college campus in Lincoln. He got his private license and instrument rating at the Lincoln Airport.

Now living in Lexington, Keller was still interested in flying and wanted to find a way to do so. This led him to a discussion with Duane Kautz who had already purchased an aircraft, a 1972 Cessna 172M model. Both decided this was a perfect for a club aircraft.

A meeting was held, attended by 25 area pilots to discuss the possibility of joint club ownership of the Cessna, of this group six decided to invest financially and the Central Nebraska Flying Club got its start.

“To have five people buy in was a big thing,” Keller said. He added more pilots can buy in at any time and help make the club more affordable, making everything more sustainable.

The Cessna itself is ideally suited for a club because, “every pilot in America knows what a Cessna 172 is.”

The 172 is one of the most successful and popular aircrafts in history, over 44,000 have been built since production started in 1956.

The craft the Lexington club is using is the M model, which has a feature to improve low-speed handling, which comes in handy during landing. This craft also has a different engine, which is rated at 180 horsepower and increases the gross takeoff weight to 2550 pounds. The aircraft can carry four people.

“Having a flying club formed and ready with a plane is a huge opportunity for local pilots,” Keller said, “The work has already been laid out and anyone interested can pay the entry fee, share the monthly cost of ownership and contribute a reduced hourly cost when operating the plane.”

Keller continued, “Excluding financing, this exact plane owned outright would run $154 an hour to operate versus $108 if flying 50 hours a year. For the pilot who flies 10 hours, his costs would be $410 hourly versus $180. No pilot ever said flying was cheap, this is the most affordable way to fly and the more pilots who join, the more affordable it can be.”

If you are interested in more information about the Central Nebraska Flying Club based at the Lexington airport contact Dan Keller at 308-325-5657 or dan.keller@doranpost.com.