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Dakota Flight Center showcases renovation of Mitchell terminal

Joshua Cimpl watches as a plane prepares to land Sunday morning at Mitchell Municipal Airport. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic) 1 / 2
Children look at a plane after going for a ride Sunday morning at Mitchell Municipal Airport. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic) 2 / 2

A program geared toward teaching youth how to pilot their own airplanes is taking flight in Mitchell.

Dakota Flight Center recently completed a $50,000 renovation project at the George McGovern Terminal at the Mitchell Municipal Airport, which was on display Sunday morning. Having its own space to call "home" will likely generate more students to the program, said Dakota Flight Center Chief Instructor Scott Dorwart.

"It's been growing like crazy and we hope it keeps moving that way," Dorwart said. "Getting to work with these students and see them grow is really great."

The renovation project — which included creating classroom space for flight instruction, an imagery equipment room, and 24-hour pilot access with lounge, refreshments, and restrooms — took nearly a year. The George McGovern Terminal had been abandoned since 1996 and took "a lot of love" to make usable, Dorwart said.

The group formerly operated under Wright Brothers Aviation, but formed its own company about one year ago, Dorwart said. Though it worked well with Wright Brothers, Dorwart said it was difficult for students to network, as they were participating in training at different times. Now, the students and instructors will be able to meet as a large group.

"We're trying to create a little community in the aviation world where students can get together," he said

Dakota Flight Center can train students to fly anything from private planes to commercial aircrafts, but most of the current 37 students are working toward private pilot licenses. Students can be any age to begin training, Dorwart said, but private pilot licenses can be obtained at age 17 and solo flying begins at 16. To begin training, students start out with a plane "equivalent to grandma's station wagon," Dorwart said: slow, docile and forgiving, before graduating to more advanced planes.

And though an expensive hobby, Dakota Flight Student Jordan Beukelman said he hopes to pursue a career in aviation, so being a part of the program is extremely beneficial.

"The instructors are great and the experience is even better," Beukelman said. "There's not much more you could ask for."