Just west of downtown Tahlequah, dozens of small aircraft call the Tahlequah Municipal Airport home. The aircraft stand out along side the runway, gleaming in the sun, waiting for some pilot to drive in and fly out.

Airport Manager Greg Blish said the airport is a base for 38 to 51 aircraft on any given day, and that a business turbo-prop plane is now housed there.

“We recently had one of our own success stories,” said Blish. “Jack Goss became one of the first pilots to start working toward a solo sport pilot rating.”

Blish said the new rating by the Federal Aviation Administration is basically limited to smaller aircraft - mainly two-seaters - but is less stringent than achieving a private rating.

Goss’ accomplishment comes just about two months into his hobby – quite a personal reward, but one most people could conceivably accomplish with the right attitude. To Goss, who is retired from 28 years in law enforcement, it’s pure excitement to get behind the controls of his slick-black 1946 model Ercoupe, his head exposed to the winds of the sky.

“I think I’m the first solo sports pilot here,” said Goss, a smile forming across his face at the sight of his plane. “I’ve always wanted this plane.”

Goss bought the plane from 82-year-old Ken Duncan, who originally bought the plane brand-new in 1947, following World War II. Duncan sold the plane and moved to Tahlequah. The plane was found for sale on the Internet out of Washington.

So how did Goss get the plane back to Tahlequah?

“We put Ken on a plane out to Washington, and he flew it back to Tahlequah at 82 years old,” said Goss.

Goss is proud of the plane’s story, and more proud to be the new owner. He promised Duncan, a good friend, that he could fly it anytime.

Goss is a student of Leland Kindle, who has been an instructor at the Tahlequah Municipal Airport for about 1-1/2 years. The retired U.S. Air Force pilot spent 20 years as an instructor before retiring in 2001.

“[Flying] is a love of mine,” said Kindle, who flew C-141 cargo troop transport planes in the Air Force.

Kindle currently has 10 students training for some form of pilot’s license - five with their own planes, and five who use Kindle’s plane for training.

“If people are interested in flying, they should talk to an instructor,” said Kindle. “It’s going to cost about $4,500 for a private license, but it’s an investment.”

Would-be pilots must log 45 to 50 hours of flight time, both solo and with an instructor; have a physical by a designated FAA examiner; complete a computer-based FAA test; and pass an evaluation with an instructor.

“I’ve seen some who can get a license in two months, and I’ve seen some who take over a year,” said Kindle. “It’s mostly built around financing and time.”

Business owner Kelly Childers spent some time checking the oil on his Cessna Centurion Wednesday afternoon. Childers has been a pilot for about three years, and sums up the experience with one word: “Passion. It was a challenge, and definitely a passion.”

Childers has made trips as far as Albuquerque, N.M., and is planning to make a trip to Orlando very soon.

“I’m more of a destination pilot, because of convenience,” said Childers. “It’s certainly a faster method of reaching family.”

It may be more expensive than driving from place to place, but Childers said saving one-fifth the travel time is reason enough to fly.

“Time management is important, and if we fly, we can spend more time with family,” said Childers.

The airport recently received a $2 million grant to extend the current 4,000-foot runway to 5,000 feet. Construction is set to begin soon, according to Blish, and will allow more business aircraft to use the airport.

“A lot of businesses use our airport to fly planes in and out of,” said Blish. “Love’s Country Stores, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, American Woodmark - and this construction will allow more advanced-type jets to come in and out of Tahlequah.”

Blish said the airport hasn’t suffered any type of losses from rising fuel costs; in fact, airport traffic has probably increased 30 percent in the past three to four years, according to the manager.

Blish said the airport sells fuel to the businesses flying in, and the revenue benefits the city.

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