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Launching their future

Tracy Aircraft Service has moved to Marshall to better facilitate a program that offers high school students flight training for free

Photo by Karin Elton Dave Algyer, Tracy Aircraft Service owner, stands by his Piper Cherokee 180, which is now housed in a hangar at the Southwest Minnesota Regional Airport in Marshall. His business moved from Tracy in October.

MARSHALL — The name is still Tracy Aircraft Service, but the location has changed from Tracy to the Marshall airport.

TAS owner Dave Algyer said the name has to remain the same until the spring and then it will be changed.

With the new location, Algyer can more easily run his aircraft rental, flight instruction and aircraft sales business. TAS offers student instruction through commercial training and preparation for FAA flight testing in the company’s 180 hp Piper airplane. He can also facilitate a new program, which aims to generate more pilots. The airline industry is feeling the same effects of a labor shortage as other businesses are as boomers retire.

Launch Your Future Today (LYFT) Pathways funding is available to high schools to develop shared career and technical education courses and programs.

Information about the program was spread to a 60-mile radius, Algyer said.

LYFT is a rural CTE pathway initiative with the purpose of rebuilding CTE in southwest and west central Minnesota. The goal of LYFT Pathways is for every secondary student in the region to gain marketable skills through meaningful CTE courses and opportunities which lead to further education and careers that match the region’s labor market needs.

LYFT is funded through a $3 million Rural Career and Technical Education Consortium Grant, which was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2017. The legislative funding has been extended through June 30, 2022, according to the website lyftpathways.org.

Algyer had 14 students the first class last February and nine this fall. The ground school course lasts eight weeks.

“We (he and a flight instructor) prepare them for the written exam and four hours of flying free,” he said. “The course exposes them to the field to see if they want to pursue it.”

And some have been bitten by the flying bug.

“Four of our students have gone on to school at South Dakota State University in Brookings majoring in aviation,” he said.

TAS now has a flight simulator.

“Through the LYFT Pathways program we were able to buy an FAA-certified flight simulator,” he said. “It seemed kind of a shame that more area pilots didn’t have access to it. Tracy Airport didn’t have the space or interest in the simulator. It seemed natural to bring it to Marshall so other pilots could benefit from using the simulator.”

The simulator is free for juniors and seniors in the LYFT program, but there will be a cost for others.

“The receipts from the rental time will go to maintain the equipment and will sustain the grant for further use,” he said.

He wants to continue the LYFT program.

“We’re going to try to do another grant,” Algyer said. “It’s been successful for me and for the kids.”

Algyer, who is originally from Long Island, New York, and currently lives in Tracy, started his aviation career in 1970 in Marshall.

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