A Great Place to Learn

A Great Place to Fly

Welcome to Sweet Aviation! Flying is more than a hobby or career — it’s a lifestyle propelled by passion. We work very hard to help every one of our customers cultivate that passion by providing an ultramodern, first-rate fleet, professional FAA Part 141-certified flight school, and a staff of the most experienced and friendly instructors in the country. Come fly with us – you’re going to love it.

Friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced instructors

SweetAviation-1031

  • Our team has more than 65,000 hours of flight experience, helping hundreds of customers achieve their certificates.
  • Scheduling is flexible and convenient. We’ll work with you at your own pace.

Exclusive, ultramodern fleet

IMG_5598

  • The largest, most advanced fleet of aircraft in the Midwest, including Cirrus, Cessna, Diamond, Piper, and Enstrom.
  • The only certified Cirrus Training Center in Northeast Indiana, placing us in elite aviation company.
  • The only authorized Enstrom helicopter dealer and service center in the Midwest.

Safe, convenient location and airspace

IMG_5649

  • Located in the heart of the Midwest, Fort Wayne is relatively close to major cities, yet it’s affordable and convenient to navigate.
  • Airspace around Smith Field is uncontrolled with little traffic and spans over flat, open land that allows for a low-pressure environment to learn in.
  • Our close proximity to Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) provides a place to familiarize yourself with Class C airspace.

Feeling of community

IMG_3330

  • Becoming a pilot means joining a like-minded community, one that is close-knit, supportive, and enthusiastic.
  • Pilot training is challenging but very feasible and ultimately leads to a sense of passion and accomplishment.

Our Team

  • Chuck Surack

    Owner

    You may recognize Chuck Surack as the founder and president of Sweetwater Sound, as owner of luxury car dealership SweetCars, or as a community leader, serving on the boards of many local non-profit organizations. What you might not know is that Chuck is a helicopter pilot and aircraft enthusiast. Inspired by his aviator father, Chuck has loved flying since childhood, even keeping his Boy Scouts Aviation merit badge to this day. His first flying experiences were in his dad’s Aeronca Chief based right here at Smith Field. Chuck would go on to own many other airplanes and helicopters, such as the Cessna 414, Cessna Citations, and the Eurocopter EC130, just to name a few. He loves flying and can often be found at the helm of a helicopter. He and his wife, Lisa, have two sons and a daughter.

  • Joel Pierce

    General Manager and Chief Flight Instructor

    A fan of flight ever since childhood, Joel earned his private pilot certificate in September 2002. In 2003, he attended the International ALERT Academy, where he obtained his instrument rating along with his commercial and flight-instructor certificates. After graduating, he joined the ALERT faculty as a flight instructor and an assistant department manager. During this time, Joel met his wife, Laura. They married in 2006 and now have two children. In 2008, Joel became the flight operations director for Smith Field Air Service and now leads the staff at Sweet Aviation. Joel has over 4,000 hours of flight instruction and is driven by a passion for helping customers achieve their dreams. Joel considers himself very lucky to be able to share his passion for flying with so many other aviation enthusiasts in the Fort Wayne area.

  • Sean Barr

    Director of Maintenance, Certified Aircraft Mechanic

    Sean is originally from the Detroit, Michigan, area. After graduating with honors from the US Air Force Academy with a BS in political science and a German language minor, he went on to serve 11 years on active duty as an Air Force special operations pilot. During that time, he logged over 2,100 hours of flight time, including over 1,000 hours of combat time over Iraq and Afghanistan. He flew C-130, AC-130, and PC-12 aircraft and earned a Bronze Star and 11 Air Medals. He later earned an MA in theological studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and spent two years pastoring a small church in Lynchburg, Virginia, while attending A&P school. After graduating first in his class from Liberty University’s aviation maintenance technician program, he earned A&P inspector authorization through self-study. Sean is married with four daughters, and in addition to his flight and theological interests, he also enjoys traveling, camping, hunting, and time with his family.

  • Craig Agapie

    Flight Department Manager and Chief Pilot

    Craig came to Fort Wayne in 2007. He dual majored at Indiana State University in Professional Aviation and Aerospace Administration. While there, he earned a Commercial Pilot certificate with single, multi, glider, and instrument ratings in addition to Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates. He taught tailwheel and aerobatics for hundreds of hours in a Super Decathlon and was the Chief Simulator Instructor. After graduation, he amassed almost 10,000 hours flying cargo in Chieftains, Barons, and Caravans. Helping fellow pilots become fully competent and confident throughout the flight envelope through aerobatic and tailwheel instruction is his greatest joy in flying (although he does love sharing the fun of a good “$100 hamburger” trip with new and old friends alike!). He joined Sweet Aviation full time in March 2017 after spending the previous two and a half years running a non-profit auto repair ministry. He and his wife Rachel have four boys and are members of Fellowship Missionary Church.

  • Dave Hernandez

    Helicopter Flight Instructor

    Dave has been an aviation enthusiast since he saw an air show as a three-year-old with his grandparents in Hialeah, Florida. He grew up in Florida and Ohio and attended the United States Air Force Academy, graduating in 2008 with a BS in Middle Eastern studies with minors in Spanish and Arabic. During his time at the Air Force Academy, he was a glider instructor pilot in the 94th Flight Training Squadron. After serving on active duty, he returned to flying. He trained in Ohio, Utah, New Hampshire, and Florida, receiving his CFI rating in 2015. Dedicated to becoming a top-notch instructor, he worked from 2014‑2016 as an Ohio-certified long-term high school substitute teacher and taught classes in government, history, Spanish, and environmental sciences. He hopes to add a CFII rating soon. His goal is to share his passion for aviation with everyone and ensure that students receive a dynamic, memorable, and professional experience.

  • Myron Yoder

    Flight Instructor

    Myron has lived in Fort Wayne since April of 2011. He attended LeTourneau University (LETU) in Longview, Texas, where he earned a BS in aeronautical science with a concentration on mission aviation. While at LETU, he served as aviation lab assistant, aviation class tutor and TI, and mechanic’s assistant. Myron has also been an FBO lineman at KRS in Longview. He and his wife, Carla, hope to someday travel to Peru to fly for SAMAIR, escorting missionaries in the jungle by air.

  • Lorin Kaney

    Flight Instructor

    Lorin grew up in Northwest Indiana and has long had a passion for flying. He started flying at the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, Texas, in 2003. Over the next several years, he obtained his private pilot license, his instrument rating, and his Airframe and Powerplant license. After finishing up his CFI and CFII, he continued on as an instructor at ALERT. He and his wife met at the school there and were married in 2011. In June of 2012, he moved to the Fort Wayne area and began working as an instructor at Sweet Aviation. He really enjoys sharing the joy of flying with his students and guiding them to become safe and proficient pilots.

  • Michael Alberico

    Flight Instructor

    Michael Alberico is a native of North Carolina but relocated to the Fort Wayne area with his family as a youngster. He was a member of the Class of 2005 at Bishop Luers High School and consequently attained a BA in computer art from the University of Saint Francis in 2010. He was the co-owner and publisher of the Waynedale News from 2009 to 2013, and it was during this time that he fell in love with aviation, attained his Private Pilot license, and decided to pursue aviation as a career. He became a professional pilot in the summer of 2013 and attained his instrument rating, commercial, and CFI licensing in Northwest Indiana.

  • Jim Royse

    Flight Instructor

    Jim Royse was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he attained a bachelor of science in business from Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne. He’s a commercial pilot and flight instructor for both single and multi-engine land airplanes with an Instrument rating. Jim serves as a ground instructor for advanced and instrument training, and he has logged over 4,000 hours of flight time and over 2,500 hours of dual instruction given. He is a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot, along with being a Civil Air Patrol mission pilot and a check pilot. In 2004, Jim left a full-time career in the insurance industry to pursue a career in aviation.

  • Devon Bantz

    Flight Instructor

    Devon Bantz grew up in Northeast Indiana with an eye toward the sky. He took a private pilot ground school and first plane ride (C172) in high school. He graduated from Indiana State University with a BS in professional pilot technology. He has been a part time flight instructor and contract pilot for many years, and he has been blessed to fly many different airplanes with many different pilots. He has worked as an electrician with General Motors since 1995. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and relaxing around the pool. He’d like to stay active instructing and working as a contract pilot on a part-time basis until he retires and can fly more regularly.

  • David DeWald

    Flight Instructor

    Listening to his Dad tell stories of flying B-17’s David dreamed of flying as a boy. Those dreams came true when John Dilly, owner of Fort Wayne Air Service, offered to teach him to fly in exchange for window cleaning services. David’s wife Paula, whose father was a float pilot in Canada, joined him in purchasing their first plane, a Cessna 150 complete with a hangar at Smith Field. David’s love for flying naturally grew into a love of pilots, airports, and everything about aviation. When Smith Field was in danger of closing, he became president of Smith Air Field Forever (SAFE), aiding the grass-roots movement that helped save the airport. He later served two terms as president of the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter. David holds commercial and instrument instructor ratings in both single-engine land and sea and multi-engine land. While running a successful window cleaning business he has still found time to introduce hundreds of young people to their first flight by way of the Young Eagles program. He loves to teach people of all ages and is quick to share his passion for flying.

  • Zach Dobis

    Flight Instructor

    Zach Dobis started his pilot training in 2008 as part of the Purdue University professional flight program. Having wanted to fly since seeing the movie Top Gun as a kid, his first flight experience was in a single-engine plane with the Civil Air Patrol while he was in high school. Zach earned his private pilot license and instrument, commercial single-engine, commercial multi-engine, and flight instructor ratings during his time at Purdue. Zach’s technical expertise also fuels his work as an industrial engineer. Above all, he loves sharing his passion for flying with others.

  • Jacob Liechty

    Flight Instructor

    Jacob is from Leo, Indiana and has held a private pilot’s certificate since he was 18 years old. He also holds commercial multi-engine, CFI and CFII certificates. He attended Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas, then completed an internship with Metal Technologies, where he flew a King Air C90B and a Citation XLS+.

  • Bob Schmelz

    Flight Instructor

    Bob Schmelz has been an instructor in the Fort Wayne area since March of 1987 and finds aviation to be a wonderful family hobby and career path. He volunteers with all three aviation programs available to young men, young ladies, and adults: EAA Young Eagles, Scouting’s Aviation Explorers, and the Civil Air Patrol, a United States Air Force Auxiliary. Bob is rated for single-engine land with instrument and commercial privileges, plus glider and multi-engine endorsements.

  • Chad Tieman

    Flight Instructor

    Chad has had the desire to fly ever since he was little. He received his first flight right here at Sweet Aviation as a gift from his wife and hasn’t stopped since. He received his Private License at Smith Field and then went on to ATP Flight School and completed his Instrument and Commercial Single and Multi Engine Training. Chad decided to finish up his CFI training back where he started off and is now very happy to call Sweet Aviation home. When Chad isn’t flying he can be found riding his bicycle all around town.

  • Rick Knight

    Flight Instructor

    Rick Knight has been flying for nearly 50 years. His early days were spent at Smith Field where he was a private pilot and flight instructor. Always impressed by military fighters, Rick later entered Air Force pilot training, learning to fly the T-37 and T-38. After graduating, he was assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where he spent six months training in the F-100 Super Sabre. He then returned to the Fort Wayne Air National Guard, where he spent the next 15 years flying the F-100, F-4C, and F-4E. In 1976, he began working for American Airlines; he flew the 727, S80, 737, 757, and 767. His airline career spanned over 35 years and allowed him to travel the world. In 2000, he became an instructor, or “check airman,” for the airline in the S80 and later in the 737, training pilots in both the simulator and the aircraft. He expanded his check airman role in 2002 when he became part of the Human Factors team and later the Human Factors lead check airman and developer of programs. When US Airways purchased American Airlines in early 2013, Rick was part of the team involved in merging the two training programs. He retired from American Airlines in 2015 and has come back to Smith Field to help with developing and teaching ground school.

  • Dan Leonard

    Ground Instructor and Detail Manager

    With his father being a Master Navigator in the United States Air Force, Dan traveled the world with his family. He joined the United States Air Force and served in Vietnam, receiving the Air Force Commendation Medal. He has always had an interest in flying, and he decided to pursue that dream in 2007. He enrolled as a private pilot student at Smith Field and finished his training under the guidance of Joel Pierce. In 2008, he bought a Cessna 172, in which he completed his instrument rating. After achieving these goals, Dan decided to go ahead and obtain his ground instructor certificate. During his aviation training, he found areas of pilot training that were challenging to learn on his own. Dan’s goal is to train and encourage student pilots through these challenges to help ensure they achieve their dreams of flying.

  • Scotty Hepler

    Pilot and Customer Service Representative

    Scotty Hepler works as a corporate recruiter for Buchanan Hauling and Rigging. He became a private pilot in 1986 and retired from the Air National Guard as an air traffic controller after 22 years. He also retired as a volunteer firefighter and EMT after 22 years of service. He is a member of Central Church in Fort Wayne.

  • Michael Brewer

    Pilot and Customer Service Representative

    Michael Brewer attended Vincennes University in the aviation flight program where he received private, commercial, and instrument flight training. He only recently returned to the aviation industry after an exciting 18-year adventure in the live music industry. Now being a part of the “Sweet Family” of businesses, he gets to enjoy his passion for both music and flying. 

  • Hannah Miller

    Administration and Customer Service Representative

    A lifelong resident of the Fort Wayne area, Hannah Miller graduated from Miller’s Academy in 2013 and began working at Sweet Aviation in June of 2014.

  • Rachel Cheng

    Customer Service Specialist

    Rachel brings over 15 years of customer service experience to Sweet Aviation. She was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School. She continued to Ball State University and Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology. Rachel held customer experience and retail management positions prior to taking a brief hiatus from the workforce to take on the challenging, but rewarding role of a stay-at-home mother to two rambunctious boys. She joined Sweet Aviation as one of our customer service representatives in 2015 and hopes to someday soon join the ranks of being a pilot!

  • Natalie Kundo

    Customer Service Representative and Aircraft Detailer

    Natalie Kundo grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spent winters enjoying the adventures of the ski slopes. After relocating to Fort Wayne in 2000, she began flight lessons with the hopes of becoming a freight dog. She brings 20 years of clerical and customer service experience to our team, most recently at the Fort Wayne Aero Center. Her diverse experience and interests allow her to fill both customer service and detailing roles with Sweet Aviation.