An opportunity for people to learn to fly an airplane is coming to the Warsaw Municipal Airport in early 2024.
A presentation on the Lake City Aviators flying school was given to the Warsaw Board of Aviation Commissioners (BOAC) Tuesday by DJ Kierpaul, along with Austin Kierpaul and Jeremy Morrison of Morrison Aviation Services.
“We were sitting around the table maybe a month ago ... and the idea was presented to teach flying here,” DJ said. “Austin and I aren’t known to sit around too long so it was a week and a half later we had bought a plane. Brought it down. Jeremy Morrison is putting glass in it right now so it’s a good solid platform for our students.”
He said they’re hoping to solidify something this upcoming Friday on a CFII (certified flight instructor - instrument) and an MEI (multi-engine instructor) in a couple years. Last week, DJ said he and Austin purchased another small multi-twin engine with counter-rotating props “which is really desirable for students.” By late 2024 or early 2025 that plane will be available.
“This will be a turn-key place where when a student is done he’ll have his multi-commercial. We thought it was important to kind of bring that back to Warsaw,” DJ said.
He started his flying in Warsaw several years ago, but, unfortunately, due to some circumstances at that time he decided to finish his flying at Rochester.
“We thought it was time to bring it back. We’ve got a great mechanic. We’re going to work really closely with (Warsaw Airport Manager) Nick King to make sure he’s happy with everything we’re doing. But we’re excited. We’re hoping January - barring weather - we can actually start taking students and I know Nick has talked with the local schools, so hopefully that will attract the students so they don’t have to go all the way to Goshen or Plymouth for their flying. They can stay right here in Warsaw,” DJ said.
King said the three men asked him what they needed to make sure everything was good by the BOAC. King said he wrote up a commercial operators contract similar to what all the other vendors at the airport have.
“Due to the nature of aircraft rental and flight training, their hours are 24 hours a day. Students need to learn how to fly at night, so depending on what time that student needs to fly, it is a 24-hour business. They will be offering the aircraft for both flight-training services and aircraft rental, so they fall under our airport minimum standards, part 2, section D and part 2, section E,” King explained. “They have met and exceeded all of the requirements that we have as an airport - with insurance, hangar space ... so I’m very, very excited that we’ve got a flight school that is going to be coming back to Warsaw.”
Mayor Joe Thallemer told the BOAC that he and King had a chance to talk about the flight school at length. “I told him I thought it was a fantastic idea. I very much appreciate your investment into this project and into this program. Obviously, the airport will benefit. More kids flying I think speaks great of the opportunity that’s available out there, and, again, I thank you all for your investment and time in this,” he said.
Board President Jay Rigdon said they were glad to have them and thanked them for their interest. “We certainly hope you are as successful as successful can be,” he stated.
DJ said they just want to just get some kids learning to fly and be safe.
The BOAC approved to waive the board’s right of first refusal to purchase hangar 21A so Lake City Aviators can store their aircraft in there. The board approved a land lease with D & D Maintenance LLC from now through December 2043 with one option to renew for 10 years at that time. Finally, the BOAC granted approval for the Lake City Aviators LLC’s license to perform commercial aeronautical services at the Warsaw Airport, which is the document all commercial operators need to have on file at the airport. King said there is a $150 pro-rated fee that goes along with the license approval and that will get billed again in January.
Board member Dan Robinson asked DJ if he’s already talked to the schools about the flight school.
“That conversation has been initiated,” DJ responded. “So, yes, they are aware. We won’t see, I don’t think, that outflow of kids until probably next year when they sign up for their yearly classes.”
He said he put a “bug” into Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation’s ear himself as his kids go there and he wants them to learn to fly.
“They have a really good ground school at Warsaw that we want the other schools to really go to and that will help them ... make them safe. They’ll learn a lot of the ground rules and they’ll work, obviously, on the ground before they get behind the aircraft and fly,” DJ said.
Robinson asked him if he knew how much interest there was from students yet.
While DJ said he didn’t really know, King said about seven to eight years ago he worked with the Warsaw Area Career Center to start a basic ground school and there was a lot of interest in that. Warsaw Community Schools eventually hired Eric Coburn, an advanced ground instructor and former Warsaw Police Department officer, and Coburn has been teaching that class for the last seven or eight years, King said.
“It has grown from a class of seven or eight students to having four or five periods - I don’t know off the top of my head,” King said, adding that the airport has had student interns and part-time employees. “The high school is sending anywhere from eight to 10 students a year up to Goshen to learn how to fly, and that is students from our community driving a half hour to 40 minutes north of town to learn how to fly and we want to see that come back to Warsaw.”
The board members agreed.
King said they’ve got some feelers out to Wawasee and Whitko is the other unpreserved community as Whitley County doesn’t even have an airport.
“We, the airport, are trying to support this as much as we can,” King said.
For more information on Lake City Aviators, visit their website at lcaero.com, email [email protected] or check out their social media.