Flying in Waupaca
G5 Aviation offers lessons at municipal airport
By James Card
When Beth Christiansen retired this spring she decided to sell her two airplanes.
As the manager of the Waupaca Municipal Airport, she also offered flying lessons through her business, Plane Guys Aviation.
Her retirement left no options for anyone in Waupaca to get hands-on training in a cockpit.
A likely successor was Niki Gaskins, a contract flight instructor who previously worked with Christiansen.
In November 2020, Gaskins bought a Piper Cherokee and launched G5 Aviation LLC, which is based out the Waupaca Airport. Gaskins also offers training at the Clintonville airport, depending on her schedule and where her students are located.
She offers training for those seeking to get their private and commercial pilot licenses, the instrument rating, and license to be a flight instructor and an instrument flight instructor.
Gaskins comes from a family connected to aviation. Her father was a pilot in northern Illinois and there she earned her private pilot license as a high school student. She went to Kansas State University in Salina and earned a bachelor’s degree in professional aviation.
There she met her husband, an aircraft mechanic, and they started a family. After a couple of moves, they landed in the Waupaca area when her husband took a job with Gulfstream in Appleton. They currently live in New London.
The name of her company, G5 Aviation, refers to the five members of the Gaskins family: Niki, her husband, a 15-year-old son and twin 12-year-old daughters. All of her kids have flown and have been at the controls of the plane under her guidance. She says they got “a bit of the bug” for flying.
During their relocations, Gaskins would reach out to the local airports and see if they had a need for a flight instructor. This is how she ended up at the Waupaca Airport working with Christiansen.
Oddly, Gaskins had an increase of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and they were people from all walks of life.
“We have a little of everyone. We have some younger ones. We have one just graduating from high school that wants to get a private pilot license. I have three students who are going the professional route so we are working through their ratings. I have one student that wants to get into aerial firefighting. It’s a 50-50 mix of people wanting to get flight instruction for professional or personal reasons. It’s all age demographics,” said Gaskins.
A student pilot needs to be at least age 16 to solo fly an airplane, age 17 to get private pilot license and age 18 to get a commercial pilot license.
Gaskins also offers flights to introduce people to flying and is a mentor for the Young Eagles program by the Experimental Aircraft Association. The program offers free flight for youths and starts them out with a log book to track their flight time. There is a similar program for adults.
“It’s fun—taking people up for their first flight. Kids, adults, it doesn’t matter,” said Gaskins.
The main focus of G5 Aviation is educational flights but can accommodate a short sightseeing trip, like a spin around the Chain O’ Lakes for example. There are restrictions on how far they can fly for commercial tour purposes.