JASPER COUNTY — The Jasper County Airport is preparing to unveil its four-seat, single-engine rental plane to the public.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be noon Monday, Feb. 3, at the airport, located on U.S. 114 across from the Jasper County Fairgrounds, for that purpose.
The new aircraft, a 1975 Cessna 172 plane, will be available for rent as well as flight training at the airport. It was bought from a private owner in Angola, Indiana, this fall and underwent a thorough inspection, said county airport manager Ray Seif.
“We searched nationwide and found some in other states, but getting the aircraft here didn’t work out for us,” Seif said. “Logistically, we weren’t able to do it.”
During the search, it was discovered that a Cessna 172 was listed for sale online at a reasonable price.
“(The seller) got it to learn to fly,” Seif said. “He worked for Edward Jones, so he may have been using it for his business.
“We lucked out and got it at a good rate.”
A recent survey by the airport found that people interested in renting aircraft were in favor of a “high wing” airplane as opposed to “low wing,” Seif said.
“With low wing, you have to climb up on the wing to get to the seat,” he said. “That’s fine for younger people who have no problem getting in and out of the plane, but as you get older, it becomes more difficult to do. With high wing, you open the door and sit right in your seat. The Cessna we bought is a high wing because that’s what a lot of people were looking for.”
The airport plans to hire part-time flight instructors whenever the Cessna is needed for training. Hiring a full-time instructor who will work exclusively at the airport could be a possibility in the future.
“Right now, we’ll limp along with part-time, freelance instructors until we can hire a full-time instructor,” Seif said. “We currently don’t have justification for that salary.”
Adding a flight training and rental operation at the airport has been a long-standing goal, Seif said. In the past, the airport’s maintenance shop leased out a plane, but there was no official rental operation.
“We weren’t really promoting it for that purpose,” Seif said. “They focused mostly on aircraft maintenance.”
With a rental/training operation now in place, the airport has been receiving inquiries from people as far away as Lafayette and Merrillville, Seif said.
“It’s a hot market right now,” he said. “Before, we had to send people to Valparaiso, Logansport, Crawfordsville and other places because they were closest to us. Now that we have rental aircraft, it makes it much more convenient for those people who had to go elsewhere.”