In May, the Mustang Aviation instructors helped usher in three new pilots to the South Dakota aviation family. These are private pilots Anthony Nelson, Brian Olson and Clay Solberg, and commercial pilot Murray Thompson.

According to Kevin Cost, chief pilot with Mustang Aviation headquartered in Pierre at 4000 Airport Road at the Pierre Airport, “June looks to be very exciting, as we continue training our private pilots into instrument pilots. We want to identify the hard work and accomplishments of our locals. I’m hoping we will have more new pilots to announce as we move through the summer. May is special due to the number of new pilots minted at the same time.”

“These pilots that earned their pilot ratings are local residents, professionals in their own fields, and pursuing a passion in aviation as a personal venture,” Cost said. “They are not employees of Mustang Aviation, which makes their accomplishment all the more impressive.”

Cost discussed some of the ways the area benefits through its airport. “Our facility serves the Pierre local community and the South Dakota aviation community on many levels. We offer the airline and pilot family an amazing facility to enjoy a quick break, fuel up, or have our experienced maintenance staff attend to any issues,” he said. “Our visitors frequently enjoy taking a meal in town or sample the local shops for travel treasures.”

“Locally, our community is served by Mustang Aviation through aircraft charter, maintenance and flight instruction activities. We employ full time pilots as an FAA Part 135 Airline, flying freight and local business teams to destinations both near and far,” Cost said. “Ever wonder how Pierre gets it’s Next Day freight deliveries? We play a large part in that.”

Cost said that Mustang pilots are eager to share their experience through flight instruction with the local pilots and with aspiring pilots. The instructors have helped create pilots and advanced pilots for 30 years. “It is this activity that brings us the most pride in our work,” Cost said.

Mustang aviation has 15 full-time and part-time employees, including maintenance, flight, line and support team members. We base aircraft in Pierre, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Clint Peitz is the general manager, and Jim Peitz is the director of operations. Sven Stasch and I serve as flight instructors, secondary to our commercial flight duties.

“The pursuit of a pilot license works through several levels. At the base level is Private Pilot, who can fly in VFR (visual flight rules) weather, day or night. Basically, that means several miles of visibility and several thousand feet of ceiling. The Private Pilot license requires ‘ground school’ completion of core aviation subjects, and a mix of flights with a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and solo flight and completion of a written, oral (verbal question/answer with an examiner) and flight tests. The national average for obtaining the Private Pilot license is 65 hours of flight time,” Cost said.

“An Instrument Pilot rating allows a pilot the privilege of flying in poor weather, using the ATC (Air Traffic Control) system to support those flights. It allows a much greater utility of the aircraft, and requires an entirely different set of piloting skills. The pilot aviates and navigates through use of instrumentation on board the aircraft. Ground school, flight with a CFII (Certified Flight Instructor/Instrument) and solo flight, followed by written, oral and flight examinations are required to earn this rating. National average is 65 hours of additional flight time,” Cost said.

“A commercial Pilot rating allows the privilege of earning compensation as a pilot. This rating also has a ground school component, flight with a CFI and solo, a written, oral and flight examination. Topics of study include a greater control of performance and ground based maneuvers, legal and regulatory subjects in commercial aviation, etc. The national average for this rating is 20 flight hours.”

Cost continued, “The Airline Transport Pilot rating is the highest rating a pilot can earn from the FAA. It’s the Master Rating of aviation, so to speak. It allows a pilot the privilege of being the captain of large, multi-engine turbine aircraft with passengers. As above, this rating requires a ground school component, written, oral and flight checks. There is a minimum of total flight time required and an age requirement.”

“Each rating builds on the other, with greater requirements for minimum flight hours and experience as you progress. I shouldn’t forget the Multi Engine Rating, this usually combines with the Commercial Rating. There are other ratings a pilot can obtain, such as a Seaplane rating, Glider rating, Helicopter ratings, etc.”

Cost’s career started as an airline mechanic and inspector with TWA before becoming a commercial pilot in 2001. Since then, he has served a handful of operators as Pilot, Chief Pilot, Instructor and Team Medic, from Alaska to Afghanistan and now Pierre. He has flown single engine aircraft, bush planes, sea planes and multi engine planes. He holds a Private, Instrument, Multi Engine, Seaplane, Commercial, Airline Transport Pilot, CFI, CFII, A&P (Airframe and Powerplant mechanic licenses) and holds an IA certificate from the FAA (Inspection Authorization). He is an Emergency Medical Technician and trained in combat/remote medical response. “I am passionate to pass on the knowledge and experience I’ve been so blessed to have,” Cost said.

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