Spend just a few minutes with Ted Kiebke and Dennis Jacobs and anyone can see the passion they have for flying.
Beginning April 24, they, and other local Experimental Aircraft Association members, hope to share that passion with others interested in flying and introduce them to a world off the ground.
“We’re the crazy guys who build airplanes and fly them,” Kiebke said of the EAA chapter.
To listen to Kiebke and Jacobs talk about their aircraft, it’s plain to see they have just as much passion for building their planes as they do for flying them. Both have models from the 1930s, ’40s and/or ’50s they have restored or are in the process of restoring.
It’s through programs like the Young Eagles, the summer fly-in during Water Carnival each year (July 13 this year) and this community education class that the chapter is hoping to expose people to aviation and open the doors for other enthusiasts.
What classes will cover
The EAA has a program where they focus on getting young people interested in aviation — the Young Eagles, for kids ages 6-18. Through that program, each year pilots take middle school aged kids up in the air for a loop around Detroit Lakes.
“We want those kids to get hooked on flying,” Kiebke said.
And while it’s a fun adventure for the younger kids, it doesn’t always stick with them at that young of an age.
“Kids think this is a big ferris wheel ride.”
So the men are gearing their free community education class more toward kids in 10th-12th grade, and adults.
“She bent over backward to help us because it was great for the community,” Kiebke said of community education secretary Kitti Kivi-Lex.
Capturing the older kids, he said, they are at that point in life where they are thinking about future careers.
Once they found the age group of young people they wanted to target, they decided to open the class up to adults as well.
“From 19 to 99, anyone who wants to come out and do it,” he said.
During the aviation class, the pilots will teach participants about everything from airplane parts and equipment to flight maneuvers to where to get their private licenses. And, the pilots will also be taking people up in the airplanes.
For those students who complete the community education class and decide to continue and get their private pilot’s license, the local EAA chapter is awarding $200 scholarships toward that process. There are flight schools in Perham and Fargo.
“We want to grow the pilot community,” Kiebke said.
He said the number of those with licenses has decreased over the years, and he blames computers and technology advancements. Planes nowadays, with all the electronic gadgets, can cost around $1 million for a four-place plane. Kiebke happily shows off the planes he has bought parts for and built himself for under $10,000.
“We need to go back to the stick and rudder way of life.”
Getting their start
It was in those simpler days that both Kiebke and Jacobs got their start in aviation.
Kiebke said he was 15 years old when he came to the airport with his uncle and taxied a plane to the runway and took off. He’s been hooked since.
Jacobs said it’s a similar story for him, only it was his father who was the pilot and took him up. He said he was good with numbers, took an aptitude test to see what his career should be after high school and the results came back as aeronautic engineer.
He said that he took it as a sign that it was at the top of the list of careers for him, even though it was likely at the top because it starts with an A, he added with a laugh.
It must have been his calling though, because he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, his masters in physics education and his doctorate of education. He is a semi-retired professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Kiebke has also spent his life in aeronautics. He earned his engineering degree and spent 30 years in the Navy.
“There is a wealth of talent in our group,” he said of the local EAA chapter.
And they are all happy to share those talents with others with the same passion.
“We do our own projects, but we certainly share ideas,” Jacobs added.
Teaching the next generation
Kiebke said he’s worked with different youth in the past to introduce them to aeronautics. One student, Kiebke has taught him everything he can until the kid turns 16 and can pilot his own plane.
And now, he’s working with Sarah Schumacher.
“She’s got a desire to fly just burning a hole in her,” Kiebke said.
Schumacher, 15, said she got interested in flying after she saw a sky filled with planes.
“Every time I’d go to the Cities and see airplanes, I thought it would be so fun (to learn to fly),” she said.
And when she was able to fly in sixth grade during the EAA’s yearly Young Eagles day where students are taken up in planes, she said she was “hooked instantly.”
So her dad got her partnered with Kiebke for some lessons. She has loved the experience, she said, and Kiebke has enjoyed his student as well.
Schumacher said she would definitely like to get her private pilot’s license when she is old enough, and though she’s not positive what she will do for a career, it’ll be great having her pilot’s license regardless.
For anyone thinking about coming to the class the EAA chapter is hosting, she said, “they should definitely take it. There’s helpful information they are going to give. And it’s flying!”
No matter what age, Kiebke said, people always look up to the sky to find the plane they hear from the ground. After all these years and his experience, Kiebke added, he still looks up.
“I still do. It’s just crazy.”
This class, he said, will give people a little more understanding of why planes are so fascinating.
The free classes will be held Wednesdays: April 24, May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, August 7, 14, 21 and 28, from 7-9 p.m. at the airport.
Call community education to sign up at 847-4418.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.