New planes take flight

By Gus Bode

New planes take flight

Cessna 172s ready for students by end of week

Leland Widick said that new airplanes have a lot in common with new cars.


“It smells good,” said Widick, chief flight instructor for SIUC Aviation Management and Flight. “It’s a lot like the new-car smell everyone loves.”

And Widick gets to enjoy that new-plane scent seven times over.

The Aviation Management and Flight Department took delivery Wednesday afternoon of seven Cessna 172s, ordered at the beginning of the semester. The purchase marked the first new airplanes the department has received in nearly 20 years.

“We’re thrilled to have them,” Widick said. “They’re similar to the 172s we have, but with new radio equipment and updated technology.”

The Cessna 172s arrived from Kansas, a flight that took little more than three hours, said Aviation Management and Flight Chairman David Newmyer. The planes arrived around 4:30 p.m., one after another. The planes were originally slated for delivery on Tuesday, but bad weather, among other concerns, pushed it back a day.

“They’re great – $1.2 million great.” Newmyer said. “They’re shiny and they’ve got the SIU logo – it’s just great.”

Newmyer said that though the planes have not been put into rotation for student use, he expects them to be ready before the end of the week.


He said the flight instructors are being trained on the new aircraft, which are also being examined for any flaws from production.

“There have been a few little things wrong, but everything is being checked out,” Newmyer said. “One had a burnt-out light bulb and we’re checking all the instruments.”

Newmyer also said that not all instructors are familiar with the new planes because some have not been able to fly these models.

Flight instructor Keith Mortag sad it’s important for the staff to be familiar with the new equipment. The new planes present updated and better technology and different environment compared to those they replaced.

“It’s like the difference between driving a 20-year-old car and a new 2003,” Mortag said.

Newmyer said the planes will be primarily used for instrument training. The planes previously used in this capacity will serves as back-ups once the Cessnas are integrated into the rotation.

The new planes replaced seven outdated models, which, on average were about 20 years old. The department spent more than $140,000 on each plane after trading in seven old planes. Newmyer said they paid for three outright and financed the other four, for a total of $1.2 million.

Newmyer said the department found a little room in its budget after expected increases in insurance premiums did not pan out, but had already been figured into course fees. Newmyer said he had been trying for several years to accumulate extra money from fees to purchase planes, but this gave the department an extra boost.

Newmyer said the majority of the money used for the purchase accumulated in a single year.

Reporter Katie Davis can be reached at [email protected]