Bentz returns to the nest

Kim Bentz took Ray Gasser for a ride recently. (Submitted)

Kim Bentz took Ray Gasser for a ride recently. (Submitted)

By Marcie Klomp
Like most graduates, Kim (Matthias) Bentz spread her wings and left the nest, literally flying the coop! She graduated from Crestwood in January 1980. On Feb. 4, her birthday, she took her first flight lesson at Charles City. She received her private license in August. Two days later she left for Florida to get her Travel Fundamental Degree.
Bentz loves to fly. She got that from her dad. In fact, that was how Romane courted his future wife, Janice. “He used to pick Mom up for dates in his plane. He’d land in their pasture. He was from Readlyn and she was from Clarksville.”
Romane has a passion for flying that he passed on to his daughter. Although the couple had four children, Kim, Teresa, Douglas (who passed away in 1991 at the age of 26) and Rodney, Kim is the one who caught the flying bug.
And she caught it young! She was just five months old when she attended her first flight breakfast. She received a small bag with a duck on it and one silver dollar.

Kim explained flight breakfasts are popular with pilots because they get to fly (and eat!), plus morning is the optimal time to fly, since it is generally the calmest part of the day.

Romane had his own runway at the home farm, where a few planes are still stored. So the kids got many rides. Kim commented getting in a plane for him and her is just like getting in a car for other folks!

Obviously she has been around planes her entire life, so she felt comfortable going into a career of making reservations, taking tickets and loading planes.
She was perfectly content. Then fate intervened. “An airline pilot said to me, ‘You’d make a good flight attendant.’” She took a test and passed.
Next thing she knew, she was serving sandwiches to 50 passengers on a 45 minute flight! “I’d do 14 legs in a day . . . with no cart . . . just a 13-hole tray.” She did that for several years until the company went bankrupt. She returned home to help with farming, which she has done nearly every fall since she was a kid.

In the meantime, Kim received her instrument and commercial pilot license. In 1988, she went to Phoenix to visit childhood friend Mary Jane Rouchka. “I decided the weather was great so I went for my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor).” Then she took the CFII, which allows her to teach instrument piloting.

There are a myriad of careers out there for pilots—instruction, crop dusting, tour guide, air ambulance, search and rescue, charter pilot and airline pilots—and Kim has conquered many of them. Charter pilots get paid to fly someone to a designation. “You have a checkride every six months,” Kim explained.

She had the amazing job of flying as a charter pilot, taking aerial tours over the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and Mexico. She would take a group around the southwest area for a week or more at a time., to visit area landmarks.

“When I was flying in Arizona, I flew for Forest Services, where we looked for fires. We’d look on a computer where lighting strikes took place in the past week and fly over area to look for fire.” She took number counters in the air to see how many elk or javelina (wild pigs) were in the area. She’d be flying nearly vertical to allow for easy counting!

One of her most satisfying jobs was working on a rescue crew on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona’s painted desert. She would have to land on a remote airstrip the was just 35 feet wide. Not much room for error when the wheel base of the plane is only 30 feet! She and two medics would then take the victim to a hospital.

In 2002, she transferred to Minnesota, so she could work for Mayo Clinic, flying the entire United States bringing patients to and from Rochester.

One thing she has always fallen back on is instruction. Right after getting her CFII license she was teaching spins, taildragger and more to other pilots.

With her easy-going and non-judgmental attitude, Kim is a favorite instructor of many. “A lot of guys come to me to learn to fly, because there is no alpha-male thing going on!”

Although not a mother herself, Kim said letting a student solo is like watching a child go to school for the first time. “It’s scary.” She has soloed at least 30 people in her years as an instructor. (Many of her students already soloed. Kim would teach them instrument, commercial or multi-engine ratings.)
“Everyone’s journey in life is different. Mine has brought me full circle,” said Kim.

She’s back in Lime Springs area and ready to give back. Always reaching for the sky, Kim want to be an inspirational speaker. “I’d like to tell others, ‘You can do it.’” That instinct comes fairly easy for Kim, but she has seen how she can inspire others.
She explained there was a lady who told her she was trying to get over her fear of flying for her husband, who owned a plane. Kim took it as a challenge to help her.

She took the woman up in the plane and learned it was the heat rising and making the air bumping that scared her. They worked on that for over a whole lesson and the novice pilot overcame her fear. She became a private pilot.

“When you can change someone’s life like that, it is an unbelievable experience! It’s most satisfying when you can influence someone in a positive way. That’s great.”

Kim soloed a student at 16- years-old, along with some solo cross country training. He went back to Florida. In the fall, after trying five instructors in Florida, he came back to Iowa in Janueary (after turning 17) to finish private with Kim. “He is the reason I pursued purchasing a plane to instruct in,” the instructor said. “I’d like to provide a service to young people.”

Kim wants to continue giving lessons. She’s worked with all ages of individuals—16 all the way up to 65. “It’s all in a person’s attitude.”

She also offers her services to local emergency personnel. She can help find missing persons from the air or other emergencies.
She became a member of the airport commission a year ago and has been focusing her energy on bringing the local airport back to life. She joins her father and Kevin Bill as members. Two more seats available on the airport commission need to be from the Cresco area.
It’s kind of spooky that Kim is on the airport commission at the Ellen Church Field. Church is well-known in Howard County as the first American flight attendant. She also had a pilot’s license. Both women are pioneers of a sort and the area can be proud to call them natives!

To find out more about the services Kim Bentz offers, go to her website at pilot-ready.com, or give her a call at 507-421-8857

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