Charlie Moe, of Rosebud, S.D., stands beside a plane after taking his first solo flight in 2012. Moe always dreamed of flying. MPCC turned that dream into reality.
When Charlie Moe's family can't find him, all they have to do is look up. The Rosebud, S.D. man is flying high these days thanks to the outreach efforts of Mid-Plains Community College.
"I think I've taken every aviation class the college offers two or three times – not because I'm slow, but because I enjoy them so much," said Moe. "Every time, I learn something new."
The college provides everything from Basic Ground Training to Advanced Flight and prepares students for certification and licensing through the Federal Aviation Administration.
The courses are taught by Les Olsen in Valentine. Although a distance learning option is available, Moe prefers the experience of sitting in a classroom at MPCC's Valentine campus.
"I like the camaraderie that develops from that," Moe said. "One of things I enjoy the most is just listening to all the interesting stories. Hanging out with people and talking about airplanes – it doesn't get any better than that."
Flying is something Moe always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity for. That changed five years ago.
"I was 60 when I started taking lessons," said Moe. "One day, my wife saw a Mid-Plains flyer in the mail advertising an aviation class. She urged me to check it out, so I did and learned that I could take flying lessons and ground school training at the same time."
The invitation was too tempting to pass up. Moe enrolled, made the hour-long drive to the Valentine campus and hasn't looked back since.
"The minute the wheels of the plane left the ground - I was committed," said Moe. "I'm really thankful to MPCC for sending that brochure and for putting a campus in Valentine. Without those two things, I wouldn't be where I am today."
That's not to say there weren't challenges. Moe had been out of school for a long time, so the bookwork didn't come naturally to him. He studied every chance he got and remembered his father's advice - nothing worthwhile comes easily. Eventually, the hard work paid off.
"My only regret is that I didn't take classes a long time ago," said Moe. "There's nothing to compare to flying. It comes with such a sense of freedom, and gives me a chance to think and relax. The view is spectacular. From up there, all the problems I have seem so small."
Moe bought a Cessna 150 after receiving his license. He also joined the Civil Air Patrol at the encouragement of Olsen.
"Becoming a pilot brings you into a very exclusive club," said Moe. "It's by far one of the greatest things and personal accomplishments I ever did. It was worth every dime – every minute."