Roger Yoder, New Horizons Aviation

Roger Yoder

Co-Owner — New Horizons Aviation

Published July 2023

Life in the Clouds

Since I was eight I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.

It wasn’t the type of thing where my dad or grandad was a pilot and I was just following suit—or anything like that. Nobody in my family had any connection to aviation, whatsoever. In fact, I’d never been around it at all. I grew up in Western Maryland, in Appalachia, and the nearest airport was Pittsburgh and it felt, to me, further than just 130 miles away.

When I was eight my mom was going to fly to a Mennonite conference in Wichita, Kansas, and it was decided that my dad and I were going to go along, too. It was my first time flying. I sat by the airplane window and I remember looking out of it the whole time and just being completely fascinated. Takeoff and landing—all of it—was just spectacular to me. That flight all those years ago, a TWA 727 from Pittsburgh to St. Louis to Wichita, really changed my life in a lot of ways.

I remember telling my dad, after that flight—‘I’m going to fly when I’m older.’

Ever since then I’ve just had a tremendous passion for flying, and I knew I wanted to be a pilot, and that feeling—for me—has not diminished at all over the years. I went to Hesston College in Kansas, did all my training and got my licenses and certifications and then eventually I moved to Goshen in 1979 to be an instructor at the Goshen Municipal Airport. I did that for about a year and then moved into a charter role for a bit. Then I landed my first corporate job—it was with Maple Leaf Farms in Milford—and then after a few years as a corporate pilot I got a job in 1986 flying for American Airlines.

I flew with American for 35 years until just a few years ago, when I retired. My son is a pilot with American Airlines, and he was the first officer—my co-pilot—on my retirement flight. We had the whole family with us for that trip and it was incredibly special.

I live in Goshen, and this area has been very good to me and my family. A lot of people don’t get to do what they love for their life’s work. For me it’s been incredible to do just that. In 2006 my friend Dan Steiner and I had an idea to take over the flight school at the Goshen Municipal Airport. There had been a flight school already, but no one was really fully invested into running it. I said to Dan, ‘why don’t we run it?’

So we did; we opened our flight school that year as New Horizons Aviation.

Night Flight, New Horizons Aviation
Roger Yoder, far right, with instructors at New Horizons Aviation
Indiana from above, New Horizons Aviation
Diamond Star N403AT
Roger Yoder, right, and Dave Hawkins
Chicago Skyline, New Horizons Aviation

We both knew aviation; Dan was a corporate pilot and I was an airline pilot and we’d been instructors together previously. You’re always hearing people say, ‘You shouldn’t go into business with your friends’—but that was not my experience at all. Dan and I had a great partnership; we both wanted to help students get their flight hours and be able to move on in the field.

These days my partner at New Horizons is Dave Hawkins, and we’re blessed to be incredibly busy. We have just under 100 students and we have six instructors. Many of our students are looking to have a career in aviation, but some are folks who’ve just always wanted to try it. We even get high school students who want to test the waters—it’s pretty fun having a good mixture of students. We also offer affordable Discovery flights where beginners can fly for 30 minutes and get a feel for what it’s like at the controls. You actually get to handle the controls and log flight time under the supervision of a Certified Flight Instructor.

Many of our former students are in aviation; we have a former student who’s a captain for Delta and we have others with United and American. We have a few with Southwest, some who are corporate pilots and some in the military. Aviation is a good career, and a good field. It’s so wide open; there are actually more jobs than pilots right now because we went through a period of time when the pilot population was aging. In 15 to 20 years there will be even more jobs in the industry.

A lot of things in the world of aviation have changed; there have been so many advancements since I started, a lot of things don’t even look the same. When I was getting started nobody even knew what GPS was. But some things haven’t changed at all. The sun still rises in the East and sets in the West, and at 35,000 feet in the air—and at the controls of an airplane—sunrise and sunset are both absolutely stunning, and breathtaking to behold.”

 

To learn more about New Horizons Aviation or to book your Discovery session or flight time, please call (574) 971-4221 or click here https://flynewhorizons.com/.

Written by Jake Sandock

Photos courtesy of New Horizons Aviation