Seven decades of dedication

Sixty-seven years, almost seven decades; three generations, hundreds of annual inspections, thousands of spark plugs and countless flight hours are all part of the history books for AufderHeide Flying Service based in DeWitt, Arkansas. A chance flight instruction job, taken by Calvin AufderHeide in the late 1940s laid the foundation to the aerial application company that was run by his son Mark and now by his grandson Matthew.

Calvin “Cal” (or Papa to his long list of family and friends) AufderHeide (1927-2017) was fresh out of the Army Signal Corps in July 1947 when he elected to attend and subsequently graduate from the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Oklahoma, obtaining his A&P, Pilot’s and Instructor’s licenses. He was expecting to land a job up north somewhere, but instead happened upon an ad for a flight instructor in the small town of DeWitt, Arkansas. There, now working for Smith and Jones Flying Service, Cal was given the additional duty of aerial applications with a Super Cub.

(L-R) Matthew AufderHeide, Lonnie Kagebein and Margo Kagebein discuss the day’s business at AufderHeide Flying Service in DeWitt, Arkansas.

Cal AufderHeide’s flight instruction/pilot/aerial applicator job with Smith and Jones Flying Service had a short life, and in 1950 he and his first wife Mary Katherine started AufderHeide Flying Service using a single N3N Stearman. As the years passed, Cal would operate Stearmans, Pawnees, Cubs, turbine Ag-Cats and eventually turbine Thrushes.

Cal’s son, Mark AufderHeide (1953-2011), joined the business full-time after college. Cal taught Mark to fly in a Cub (which is still owned by AufderHeide Flying Service), then Mark progressed to spraying with Ag-Cats. In the 1980s, Mark married Margo Travis, a local girl from DeWitt. Margo joined AufderHeide Flying Service as a student of Mark’s mom, Mary Katherine. Mary Katherine would spend the next decade mentoring Margo with the ins and outs of running a flying service while both Cal and Mark did the flying.

Mark and Margo took the reins of AufderHeide Flying Service in 2008 with their three children lending helping hands on the ground and in the office. Matthew AufderHeide, who started his first season the next year in a Garrett-powered Ag-Cat, was now a pilot for AufderHeide Flying Service, alongside his dad and Dale Nichols. Tragically, Dale lost his life in the flying service’s turbine Thrush in 2010. This incident placed Matthew as the primary pilot behind his dad, Mark. The duo flew together for the 2010 spraying season before Mark AufderHeide passed away in 2011. During Mark’s illness, his and Margo’s son and daughters, along with their spouses, kept the flying service running. Mark and Margo have three children, Matthew, Katherine Holmstrom and Alexis AufderHeide. Katherine took over Margo’s duties as office manager, bookkeeper and scheduler while Matthew took over the flying. Alexis would come to the flying service during breaks in college to help on the ground.

Before Mark passed, AufderHeide Flying Service had replaced the turbine Thrush lost in the accident with an AT-502, powered by a PT6A-34. In 2014, Matthew, now running the flying service as a third-generation ag pilot, added a second AT-502B to his company’s fleet.

Margo Kagebein at her desk on a weekday morning at AufderHeide Flying Service in De Witt, Arkansas

2014 also brought in Lonnie Kagebein. Lonnie completed is 42nd season ag flying in 2017. Lonnie had previously owned and operated Lonnie’s Flying Service for 28 years in the DeWitt area. Lonnie and Margo were also married in 2014.

Today, AufderHeide Flying Service has two AT-502s and one AT-602. The aircraft run a mixture of CP-11s and CP-09s, along with a variety of SATLOC guidance systems. The AT-602 utilizes a hydraulic gate and the AT-502s have AFS check valves.

AufderHeide Flying Service’s season is typical for their location in eastern Arkansas with burn-down starting in mid-January to February and the season historically coming to a close sometime around September. In 2017, the Red Banded Stink Bug brought a very busy and extended late-season application of RBS Acephate and Bifenthrin at 0.5 lbs and 2.8 oz/acre, respectively.

Margo (AufderHeide) Kagebein, Matthew’s mother,  is ever-present in the office on a typical summer morning. She is busy bookkeeping, scheduling acres and ordering chemical. There is little she doesn’t do, except fly. Katherine, Matthew’s sister, is still involved in the aerial application industry as the Executive Director for the Arkansas Agricultural Aviation Association and she also holds the title of the Senior Project Manager for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Matthew’s youngest sister, Alexis, is now the accountant for AufderHeide Flying Service.

Over the past 67 years, AufderHeide Flying Service has certainly been through its fair share of changes and challenges. But as the dust settled, it is evident the same dedication and determination that persuaded their grandfather Cal to start the business has undoubtedly kept three generations of the AufderHeide family a part of it.

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