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Bemidji Flying Club seeks to grow local aviation community

Started in 2013, the club brings Bemidji area pilots and aviation enthusiasts together for monthly meetings and occasional flying events. Club president Jason Koester said it operates according to the slogan “fun, fellowship and flying” but also focuses on affordability to members for an activity generally deemed costly.

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Jason Koester, president of the Bemidji Flying Club, stands in front of the club’s newest plane, a 1962 Piper Cherokee 180B. Koester also teaches physics and aerospace engineering at Bemidji High School. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI — Typically, flying and affordability don’t go hand in hand, leaving many who aspire to soar through the clouds firmly planted on the ground.

Nonetheless, the Bemidji Flying Club is looking to prove that getting involved in aviation isn’t so far out of reach for the average person -- in other words, the sky's the limit.

Started in 2013, the club brings Bemidji area pilots and aviation enthusiasts together for monthly meetings and occasional flying events. Club president Jason Koester said it operates according to the slogan “fun, fellowship and flying” but also focuses on affordability to members for an activity generally deemed costly.

“I think there’s always been an interest in aviation because a lot of people want to fly, but they don't think they can,” Koester said. “So we’re trying to get the word out that they can do it, it's financially reasonable and the opportunity does exist here in Bemidji for them.”

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The Bemidji Flying Club’s newest plane, a 1962 Piper Cherokee 180B, sits outside of a hangar on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Bemidji Aviation Services. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Through an initial buy-in, members become part owners of the club’s two small planes -- a Cessna 150 and a 1962 Piper Cherokee 180B -- and can use them at their leisure for a wet hourly rate in what Koester calls the cheapest way to fly.

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Koester said the Cherokee is best for members looking to participate in longer, cross-country trips and fly-in events, whereas the Cessna 150 is best for local sightseeing and acquiring flight time.

"If I want to pack up my wife and two kids for a weekend trip to see grandparents, we can fly in the Cherokee," Koester said.

Now, after recently acquiring the Cherokee, the club is looking to grow both its membership and the aviation community in Bemidji to fly and maintain the planes.

“A lot of people couldn’t afford the cost of a plane like this,” Koester said. “Between the maintenance and the hangar fees and all that stuff, it tends to add up, so we’re trying to provide a service to our flying community in Bemidji.”

Initial membership buy-in is a refundable $3,000. There are also different levels of club membership available to those who can’t afford the initial buy-in, as well as those just interested in the social aspect of the club. And while the club does not offer flight instruction, Koester said they do have a club member who is also a licensed flight instructor, for those looking to obtain their pilot’s license.
“If somebody’s a member of the flying club, they’re part owners of the airplane and can use it to get their instruction. They just have to hire the flying instructor,” Koester said. “The cost of a pilot’s license is less than the cost of a new snowmobile, and how many people go and buy a new snowmobile every year?”

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Jason Koester, president of the Bemidji Flying Club, flies the club’s Piper Cherokee 180B over Bemidji on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, during a round-trip flight from the Bemidji Regional Airport to Cass Lake. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Koester said membership is a worthwhile experience for those looking for a variety of flying-related activities and information. Club activities can often range from keeping up to date with aviation safety and new FAA regulations to gathering for meals to discuss flying. A couple of years ago, the club did a flyout to the Black Hills and flew around Mount Rushmore.

“It is affordable if this is something people want to do,” Koester said. “They just have to be given the opportunity.”

Interested individuals should email club president Jason Koester at info@bemidjiflyingclub.org , call him at (218) 556-0335 , or visit the Bemidji Flying Club’s Facebook page at facebook.com/BemidjiFlyingClub .

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Related Topics: CASS LAKE
Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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