Fremont Aviation offers a multitude of services | Local News
Jim Kjeldgaard slept on the couch overnight at Fremont Municipal Airport to ensure pilots have much-needed fuel to rescue people during the historic 2019 flood.
In the days to come, Kjeldgaard, president of Fremont Aviation, and his staff steadily occupied their posts at the airport as stranded people moved in and out of town. Aircraft had few supplies in a town that has essentially become an island surrounded by floodwaters.
Today, the city-owned airport at the western end of Fremont continues to provide a wide range of services, from fuel and aircraft maintenance to flight instruction to tours and transportation for investigators.
It even offers aircraft rental.
More than 50 aircraft – from a two-seat plane to a 10-seat jet – are based at the airport, which has about 30 city-owned hangars as well as private hangars.
A new terminal is set to open this year, providing an updated rest area for pilots and passengers, with rental community offices and meeting space.
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Passengers can take a courtesy car to have a meal or do business.
Fremont Aviation has long-serving mechanics and knowledgeable flight instructors at an airport that has a long history and serves as a modern gateway to the community.
The airport dates back to 1940, when John T. Siems became its fixed base operator.
FBOs operate an airport and provide a range of aviation services.
Siems and his father built a two-stall hangar on an 80-acre stubble field where the current airport is located.
With World War II on the horizon, Siems became a local flight instructor for the federal government’s civilian pilot program.
Siems remained active in flight until his retirement in 1968.
Kjeldgaard, the current FBO, was educated at what was called the Western Nebraska Vocational Technical School in Sidney.
He started working for the Siems family as an aircraft mechanic at Fremont Airport in 1971.
In 1994 he bought out what was called Woodaire in 1994.
Kjeldgaard’s son, Greg, began a three-year aircraft apprenticeship in 2002. After passing his aircraft and power plant mechanic license exam, he worked another two years to earn his inspector license .
Jim Kjeldgaard has had his inspector’s license since 1974.
Kjeldgaard, his son and John Ahrens are mechanics at Fremont Aviation. Deb Mullally is office manager. Four line boys refuel and wash planes, clean the terminal and mow the lawn.
The airport supplies fuel to business jets serving the city. Its current terminal is a place where pilots can relax, while customers do business in town.
A medical helicopter lands here for fuel. Sometimes he also discharged patients here.
Apart from aircraft maintenance, inspection and refueling, Fremont Aviation has a flight service through which people can learn to fly aircraft.
“We have rentals or we can teach you on your plane,” said Greg Kjeldgaard, vice president of Fremont Aviation.
Alison Adams is a Fremont Aviation flight instructor, who has been at the airport for four years, and Warren Higgins is a part-time instructor.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve probably helped about 40 students get bachelor’s degrees,” Adams said.
This includes ground school instruction, where students learn what the Federal Aviation Administration requires to be safe pilots, and board the plane with them as they perform maneuvers to set expectations for earning their pilot’s license. .
Students can earn private and commercial pilot licenses, instrument ratings, and flight instructor certifications.
Adams had students as young as 15. And she also flew with an 85-year-old man who had a license, but couldn’t fly without a licensed pilot.
Adams also gives flight reviews, which include rule changes, to current pilots.
For those who prefer to be passengers, Fremont Aviation also offers sightseeing flights.
People can buy a gift certificate for a special occasion, such as a birthday or a holiday. Gift recipients may want to fly over their home, where they grew up, or simply experience flight.
Costs vary depending on the duration of the flight and the number of people on the flight.
Fremont Aviation has flown seekers during various activities. They understand:
• Animal tracking: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has released animals, such as deer, with tracking devices over the years. It is used at the airport for surveys of pallid sturgeon, deer, birds and bats.
“We fly and check their travel habits,” Kjeldgaard said.
Another time, researchers tracked to see where the logs ended up on the Missouri River.
• Fish and floods: Fremont Aviation flew a photographer for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to examine fish hatcheries and flood changes produced in the course of rivers.
• Capturing nature in photos: Representatives from Game and Parks departed from this airport and took pictures of state parks that appeared in Nebraskaland magazine.
• Culture shifts and ice jams: Years ago, the United States Department of Agriculture flew a photographer by Fremont Aviation, who took pictures of the field.
Another time, a camera was attached to an airplane. Infrared photography showed how a crop changed over a season depending on chemical treatments and soil conditions.
Fremont Aviation also flew an emergency handler over a river to see ice jams.
The dust collectors are not based at the airport, but some use it during the summer.
Mullally points out that Fremont Aviation staff members are the first people people meet when they fly into town.
“We make the first impression,” Adams added.
Fremont Aviation and the airport benefit the city.
“We bring a lot of economic impact to the city of Fremont because business jets come here,” Kjeldgaard said.
Greg Kjeldgaard added that new and established businesses use the airport.
And the airport has played a critical role lately.
“If we hadn’t had an airport, Fremont would have been in really bad shape during the 2019 flood,” said Jim Kjeldgaard. “There was no way in and no way out. General and business aviation provided people with ways to get in and out of Fremont. These owners and riders took it upon themselves to help people they didn’t even know.
Kjeldgaard slept on the couch on March 14, 2019, because he thought the Blackhawk medevac helicopter that went to rescue seven first responders from the turbulent Elkhorn River might need more fuel.
After battling 50 to 60 mph winds and successfully dodging power lines in the dark sky, the crew – who hadn’t had time to refuel before carrying out the rescue – flew the helicopter to the airport to offload the first responders, all of whom were hypothermic.
Crew members later said they didn’t even know if they would have enough fuel to save the seven men. But they did and then refueled at Fremont airport and went to do more rescues.
If there had not been an airport, the helicopter could not have had more fuel and could not even have landed in a field because the ground in this area was flooded or at least wet and muddy .
Looking ahead, Kjeldgaard said Fremont Aviation plans to continue to grow.
Adams added that a corporate shed is needed. Other hangars are also needed.
“We get weekly calls from people wanting to rent sheds,” Kjeldgaard said.
As always, Fremont Aviation is looking to the horizon to see how it can serve customers and the community.