A couple of hundred miles to the north, a shale oil boom is changing towns and countryside, but here in the capital of South Dakota, another treasure is being discovered by a nation bent on urbanization – Pierre's unspoiled natural resources.
It's a special place, one drawing outdoor enthusiasts, corporate executives and pilots who have found a mid-continent, general aviation gem to match the pristine setting: Mustang Aviation at Pierre Regional Airport (KPIR), with a slogan that promises, "Where the Midwest Meets the Wild West."
Recently reborn with expanded facilities, Mustang Aviation is luring visitors with first-rate amenities, skilled maintenance and ground services, convenient charter options and freight logistics expertise – all wrapped around an accommodating, Heartland America attitude that nurtures loyal customers.
"We are the doorway to one of the country's great, unblemished natural resources," says Clint Peitz, General Manager for Mustang Aviation. "It is our mission to create an aviation experience that's equally inviting and memorable."
Mustang Aviation's opening was certainly unforgettable. Formerly Capitol City Air Carrier, the FBO held an aviation summit to celebrate, and the general aviation industry took notice. The event drew a "who's who" of industry leadership, including the heads of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) and the EAA. Politicians from the United States Congress, state legislature and local municipalities also attended, giving Mustang Aviation a notable christening.
"It was amazing to see so much industry and political leadership at our FBO," Peitz recalls.
Great Plains abundance
These days Mustang, a Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealer, is a favored general aviation destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Here, they can step off their aircraft and within minutes travel back into a time when wildlife was as plentiful as the wide, untamed horizon of the Old West. A quick drive in any direction from Mustang Aviation delivers visitors into a rich mosaic of year-round recreational opportunities.
It's a place of seemingly endless grasslands, teaming with herds of pronghorn antelope, whitetail and mule deer, along with healthy populations of wild turkeys, geese and pheasants; clear, cold Missouri river waters sliced by feisty, fat walleye swimming alongside shimmering rainbow trout; and deep, blue lakes brimming with trophy-sized Northern Pike and strong, largemouth bass.
Steeped in Great Plains heritage and culture, the cities of Pierre and historic Fort Pierre straddle the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, not far from the site where Lewis and Clark first met the Teton Sioux. It's the ideal entry point for a visit, hike or bike through the South Dakota prairies, which are almost as they were centuries ago. In fact, at the nearby Lakota Nation's Buffalo Interpretive Center you can revisit life as it was, with buffalo living in the tribe's sprawling pastures and ceremonial events that showcase the life and traditions of the ages-old Lakota people.
Flying into Mustang Aviation, the vast, 116,000-acre Fort Pierre National Grassland stretches south beyond Pierre, where hunting is almost a year-round activity. Each autumn is highly anticipated, as a world-class pheasant season opens and aircraft from every direction steadily fill Mustang's ramp.
Along with roaming game, more than 15 million ducks and 750,000 geese travel migratory routes through South Dakota each year. You can even hunt trophy buffalo on a huge, private ranch not far from Pierre.
And when it comes to fishing, the opportunity can be described in a single word: extraordinary.
Abundant stocks of walleye, chinook salmon, rainbow trout and bass ply the rolling Missouri River and the deep waters of Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe – one of the country's biggest manmade reservoirs and home to 30-pound northern pike. Pierre regularly plays host to several pro fishing tournaments, including Cabela's National Team Championship, the South Dakota Governor's Cup and the lucrative Walmart FLW Walleye Tour Championship.
Bringing them back
To live up to that grand South Dakota setting, Mustang Aviation provides a full range of services that Peitz says is all about creating satisfied customers, be they stepping off a Gulfstream or a Piper Cub.
"We specialize in full-service quick-turns," explains Peitz. "We want the customer experience to be rewarding, whether they're just making a refueling stop, or calling Mustang Aviation their home base."
To that end, the FBO participates in the WingPoints® Rewards Card, a program that rewards loyal customers with points that can be immediately redeemed for gift or debit cards online.
Two I/A mechanics and two A/P mechanics at Mustang Aviation specialize in piston and turboprop airframes and engines, performing power plant inspections, repairs and modifications. Maintenance needs for Beechcraft, Cessna and Piper aircraft are regularly handled at Mustang Aviation.
"We have the staff with the experience to handle most everything from scheduled maintenance to cross-country emergencies," Peitz explains.
Mustang Aviation also offers Partners-Into-Plane contract fuel for qualifying high-volume aircraft operators, who can negotiate bulk fuel pricing directly with Phillips 66.
Serving the freight needs of the Great Plains has been a long-time expertise for the FBO. Its logistics team is hazmat-certified, with several different-sized aircraft configured to transport most cargo quickly and safely to destinations across North America.
Though Mustang Aviation serves the second-smallest state capital in the country, when it comes to pilot and passenger amenities, it could hold its own at the largest airports. There is a heated hangar – handy for those nights blue northers sweep across the plains – plus de-icing, plug-in/preheat service, full-service detailing and cleaning, gourmet catering, ground transportation and pilot-planning amenities.
But the key to Mustang Aviation's popularity – whether with the leaders of general aviation or a father-son hunting team from St. Louis – relies more on old-time customer service values than amenities, says Peitz.
"The biggest treasure in these parts is the people who make it a pleasure to visit Pierre," says Peitz, "We know our success is based on one thing: Creating satisfied customers leads to loyal customers. That's something we'll work to treasure each and every day."
For more information, visit www.mustangaviation.aero, or call 1 (800) 456-1712.