Growing aviation program gets new hangar


Artist Renderings

Max Baloun, Reporter

A new hangar being built for the South Dakota State University aviation program should be completed by mid-August, which is welcome news for the growing program.

The hangar at the Brookings Regional Airport will be named after SDSU alum Alan O. Tuntland, the lead donor of the project. It will add 13,260 square square-feet of airplane storage space – double the current amount – and is expected to house 12 aircrafts.

Devin Bastemeyer is the manager of flight operations and facilities for the aviation program. He said the new hangar will help the program be “much more efficient.” Workers are currently waiting on material for the pre-engineered steel building to arrive this month. 

Mills Construction is the general contractor for the project. JLG Architects designed the hangar.

The completion of the hangar, which initially was expected late this spring, is coming at a key time for the aviation program. From 2015 to 2020, the number of students in the program increased from 55 to 125.

“The hangar is a result of the growing program the past five years,” Bastemeyer said.

Cody Christensen joined the program in 2001 and became its coordinator in 2014. At that time, officials planned growth from 65 students to 80, with the goal of reaching 120 by 2020.

Today, the program has a total of 182 students. 

“Through a robust job market, increased salaries, active recruitment and public-private partnerships like this, we knew there was opportunity for growth,” Christensen said last October at the groundbreaking ceremony for the hangar.

Currently, there is a shortage of room at the airport where the aviation program’s owned and leased planes are being stored. Bastemeyer said having to fit multiple aircrafts into one hangar can be difficult, especially when it comes to trying to take out one specific plane.

Parker Reyes from Omaha, Nebraska, is a sophomore aviation student. He said he thinks the hangar is a needed addition to the program.

“At times it can be frustrating finding the plane or hangar to put yours in,” Reyes said. “I think (the Tuntland hangar) will bring a new aspect of time management for students and allow all of us to get more time out at the airport and be able to learn more.”

Bastemeyer said that when enrolling in the professional pilot courses, students have a chance to get certifications in the following areas:

  • Private pilot
  • Instrument
  • Commercial single and multi-engine
  • Certified flight instructor (CFI)
  • Multi-engine instructor (MEI)
  • CFI – instrument (CFII)

SDSU’s aviation program is for students who wish to become certified flight instructors and later be professional pilots in industry. Many graduates are in the airlines, military, government and corporate workplaces, according to the program’s website. 

The best part of the aviation program for Reyes is that he loves flying rather than sitting in a classroom. Besides that, his favorite part of aviation is learning the systems of the aircraft and being able to visualize what he is learning.

“Someday, I hope to fly single-engine air tankers in the mountains to help put out and prevent wildfires,” Reyes said.