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, ideal for training, chartering, or renting; plus a professional flight school, and a staff of the most experienced and friendly flight 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, Super Decathlon, Guimbal, and Enstrom.
  • The only certified Cirrus Training Center in Northeast Indiana, placing us in elite aviation company.
  • We offer helicopter training in either a Guimbal or Enstrom, both of which are renown for their safety and intuitive avionics.
  • The only authorized Enstrom helicopter dealer and service center in the Midwest.
  • We offer Thrill Rides and stick and rudder training in our aerobatic Super Decathlon!

Putting time on your side with a charter flight

SR22T

  • Depart and return on your own schedule with a custom itinerary
  • Fly direct and avoid time-consuming layovers or highway traffic or airline delays.
  • Let someone else take the controls so you can relax or get things done instead of driving yourself.
  • Land closer to your destination by utilizing airports large jets can’t access.

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 CEO 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 & 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 5,000 hours of flight instruction and is driven by a passion for helping customers achieve their dreams. Joel is type rated in Sweet Aviation’s Cirrus Vision Jet, certified to fly a customer’s T-28, able to go fly some aerobatic maneuvers in the Super Decathlon, and on top of all this, he gets to share his intense 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

    Chief Pilot & Certified Flight Instructor

    Craig came to Fort Wayne in 2007 after earning Bachelor of Science degrees at Indiana State University in Professional Aviation and Aerospace Administration. He has earned an Airline Transport Pilot certificate plus single, multi, glider, and instrument ratings in addition to Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates and an SF50 Vision Jet type rating. He has taught tailwheel and aerobatics for hundreds of hours in a Super Decathlon and was the Chief Simulator Instructor at ISU. In his 10,000+ flight hours Craig has developed two passions: helping customers get to their meetings and vacations as smoothly and safely as possible and helping fellow pilots become fully competent and confident throughout the flight envelope through aerobatic and tailwheel instruction (although he does also 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 five boys and are active members of Fellowship Missionary Church.

  • Christopher Houser

    Certified Helicopter Flight Instructor

    Chris has private pilot ratings for both fixed wing and helicopters and then continued his training to earn his Helicopter Instrument Instructor rating. As a certified helicopter flight instructor, Chris has experience in flying several different make/models of helicopters, including Bell, Robinson, Eurocopter, Enstrom, and Guimbal. He is also a certified Drone operator. Chris is a third generation pilot and enjoys sharing his passion of flying while instructing first-time flyers or the experienced pilot. Chris has a bachelor’s degree in Law and Society from Purdue University and is an active police officer, having graduated from Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

  • Lorin Kaney

    Certified 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.

  • Rick Knight

    Certified 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.

  • Jim Royse

    Certified 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.  In 2004, Jim left a full-time career in the insurance industry to pursue a career in aviation. He’s a commercial pilot and flight instructor for both single and multi-engine land airplanes with an instrument rating. Jim serves as a Cirrus standardized instructor and provides advanced/instrument training.  He has logged over 5,000 hours of flight time and given over 3,000 hours of dual instruction proving his love of teaching and of sharing the joy of flying!

  • Devon Bantz

    Certified 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

    Certified 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.

  • Bob Schmelz

    Certified 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.

  • Andrew LaMaster

    Certified Flight Instructor

    Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Andrew was introduced to flying through the Young Eagles program right here at Smith Field. His passion for aviation grew from there. He started his flight training in 2008 and earned his private pilot license and instrument, commercial single-engine, commercial multi-engine, as well as his Bachelor’s degree through the Indiana State University Flight program. He was also a student-athlete competing in the pole vault as a member of the track team. Andrew decided to come back to Fort Wayne and complete his CFI training, in order to share his passion for flying as well as knowledge and experience with future pilots. We are happy to have welcomed him to the Sweet Aviation team in August 2017.

  • Carl Dole

    Certified Flight Instructor

    Carl Dole became interested in aviation at an early age, starting with his first ride in a Cessna 182 piloted by his uncle. Carl was able to take the controls for part of that flight and caught the aviation bug, eventually working his way to Certified Flight Instructor. He has experience in various single-engine aircraft, including being the sole owner of a PA-16 tailwheel aircraft. Carl has taught many college courses as an adjunct instructor and enjoys applying his teaching skills to flight training with Sweet Aviation. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

  • Lonnie Powell

    Certified Flight Instructor

    Lonnie Powell has loved airplanes since getting his first model plane as a kid. He wanted to be a pilot at a young age and was finally able to pursue his dream when as a young sailor he joined the local Navy Flight Club at Naval Air Station in Lemoore, CA. He learned to fly among the Sierra Nevada Mountains that surround the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley in California. After his service in the Navy, he returned home to Fort Wayne where he went on to earn his Commercial and Instrument ratings and Certified Flight Instructor certificate. Lonnie is the proud father of 3 young men and holds an undergrad degree from Huntington University and Masters degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University and Bethel College.

  • Alex Smith

    Certified Flight Instructor

    Alex Smith was born in Atlanta, but has lived most of his life in Fort Wayne, IN. Alex began flight training in high school, then pursued a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management with Flight Technology at Florida Tech where he graduated with honors. While at Florida Tech, Alex received his Private Pilot and Single and Multi-Engine Commercial Certificates in addition to an instrument rating. He spent the summer of 2018 at Newark Liberty International Airport as a Flight Operations Intern with United Airlines and is quick to tell stories about his amazing experiences. Alex has recently earned his Certified Flight Instructor Certificate and looks forward to a rewarding career in the aviation industry, with goals of becoming an airline pilot.

  • Dan Leonard

    Pilot, Ground Instructor, & 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.

  • Hannah Miller

    Office Administrator & Customer Service Representative

    A lifelong resident of the Fort Wayne area, Hannah graduated from Miller’s Academy in 2013 and began working at Sweet Aviation in June of 2014. She is currently a student at Ivy Tech Community College and plans to complete her degree in Office Administration in 2019. She is not a pilot (yet), but she does enjoy the aviation community and looks forward to her annual trips to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

  • Rachel Cheng

    Maintenance Administrator and Customer Service Manager

    Rachel brings over 15 years of customer service experience to Sweet Aviation. She is a Fort Wayne native and graduate of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology. Rachel joined Sweet Aviation as a customer service representative in 2015 and hopes to someday soon join the ranks of being a pilot!

  • Scotty Hepler

    Pilot & Customer Service Representative

    Scotty 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 & Customer Service Representative

    Michael 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. 

  • Dale Huber

    Pilot & Customer Service Representative

    Dale was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin and has been around aviation since he was a young boy. He moved to Ft. Wayne in 1986 with General Motors. He worked there in maintenance until retiring in 2012. Dale received his private pilot’s license in 1995, has many interests, and enjoys riding motorcycles. Dale proudly served in the Air Force in Civil Engineering.

  • Tim Ormsby

    Pilot & Customer Service Representative

    Tim has a longtime love for flying, obtaining his private pilot license in 1987 right here at Smith Field Airport and incorporating flying into the truck sales business he owned until 2017. He has owned several different single and twin-engine airplanes and has logged over 3,450 hours of total flight time. Tim is a mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol and enjoys doing Young Eagle flights and flying rescue dogs to new foster homes for Pilots ‘n Paws.

  • Dave Lonsway

    Customer Service Representative

    Dave grew up in the Cleveland area where he developed his passion for flying in his late teens as he and a friend would island hop around Lake Erie in a Piper––Dave was hooked from there. As a teenage entrepreneur, he owned and operated a company that performed a variety of construction-related work, mainly specializing in painting and landscaping. After graduating from The Ohio State University, he continued to own and run his business for a few more years until he entered a career in the elevator/escalator industry with Schindler (then Dover Elevators). After a move to Fort Wayne in 2006 and a career change, he now teaches 5th grade in the Fort Wayne Community Schools system. He has a deep love for his faith and his three college-age children and is pursuing his dream to be a pilot.