Leading Edge Adds Fuel Services / Offers Flight School Services


After 25 years of business in Bend, Leading Edge Aviation is now providing fuel to patrons of the Bend Airport. Current services include Full and Self Serve 100LL. Leading Edge has installed a brand new, state of the art fuel service center accessible off of Taxiway A. In effort to best serve the aviation community, Leading Edge is offering competitive rates on fuel. 

Leading Edge Aviation (LEA) has seven  major business segments including commercial helicopter operations, airplane and helicopter flight training, avionics, maintenance, Robinson Helicopter overhaul and wiring harness fabrication and now, fuel services. LEA is a certified Robinson Helicopter sales, service, maintenance and overhaul facility and authorized distributors for most major avionics manufacturers.

Leading Edge Aviation Local flight school based at Bend Airport  
Bandits, Six o’clock. Enemy contact, three o’clock, 5 miles. These were the radio calls of Major Mike Kloch, a flight instructor and a former U.S. Marine fighter pilot, a fighter pilot who landed F-18s on aircraft carriers — at night. Imagine having this fighter pilot as your flight instructor. Or a parajumper assigned to search and rescue missions behind enemy lines. This is Dan Lake, formerly a commissioned officer with the U.S. Air Force, “PJ” parajumper, a parachute jumping paramedic, whose job it was to fly behind enemy lines, jump out of planes, with all the gear necessary to secure a field, treat patients and then evacuate, all in an effort to complete a search and rescue mission, so That Others May Live, the PJ creed.

Lake is now a certified flight instructor and the Chief CFI of the fixed wing division at Leading Edge Aviation. Kloch is  also now a Certified Flight Instructor at Leading Edge Aviation, based at the Bend Airport.

Lake and Kloch are not your typical flight instructors. Between them, considering the various roles they have filled ranging from pilot in command to crew member, they have over 10,000 hours of flight time. This includes flying a variety of fixed and rotor crafts.

Lake served in the Air Force for 24 years. He was a pararescueman, who served active duty in multiple overseas conflicts, including Desert Storm, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kloch started his flight school at Pensacola and his squadron ended up at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the former home of the fabled Top Gun. Major Kloch served active duty, in combat, during Operation Southern Watch, leaving the Marines after 20 years of service.

As these two talk about their backgrounds, they easily slip back into the vernacular of an Airman and a Marine as they explain their roles in coalition forces, Iraqis launching aircraft from Baghdad, AWACs, air assets taking fire, 9-line, and call for fire. 

These two also have a good-natured, genial way of ribbing each other. They seem to see it as a code of conduct, trading shots of hijinks and defending the honor of  their Air Force and Marine fraternities.  In spite of this, or perhaps because of it,  they work exceptionally well together, fitting together like a hand in glove.

CLOSE CALLS Lake tells about a rescue he did in Alaska. A climber was stranded on the side of Mt. McKinley, in Denali National Park. At 15,500 feet elevation and at a sub-zero, “Oh my God cold!” temperature, Lake was lowered down from a helicopter to rescue the climber. In such conditions, the rescuer carries about 70 pounds of gear and hopefully enough bulk to repel the cold. Even with all this gear, only limited quantities of supplies are carried, one of these limited items is oxygen, which the rescuer needs. Lake was able to get the climber onto the litter. The patient was raised to the helicopter but by the time it was Lake’s turn to be lifted back into the helicopter, his oxygen was running dangerously low, so he could only use it intermittently.

By the time he was being pulled into the helicopter, he had already run out of oxygen and was beginning to black out. Fortunately, his PJ partner in the helicopter recognized what was happening and quickly got oxygen to Lake.

Kloch recalls a time, during Operation Southern Watch, when he was flying his F/A-18 Hornet, and he started seeing puffs of black smoke, which meant only one thing, he was being shot at! He instantly started jinking, an evasive maneuver of random, unpredictable turns and elevation changes, enabling him to evade and escape the enemy fire. 

Even though these events may sound harrowing to most, Lake and Kloch remain cool, calm and collected when relaying their experiences. 

HOW THIS HELPS THE STUDENTS After all that Lake and Kloch have experienced, there isn’t much that a student can do that could unnerve this duo. Lake states, “For the students, it’s important that we take the stress out of flying. If the student is free from anxiety, they have a clearer mind and can perform better. We’ve learned to identify what causes anxiety for a student, and we work individually with that person, so that they can overcome any fear or concern they may have. Not all students feel stress, but those that do, we work them through it.”

Leadership! They exclaim in unison is one of the key tools they developed in their military flight and rescue assignments. They use their leadership skills in many ways to instill in their students similar talents and skills, for instance, a student pilot must develop good decision making skills because the student will metamorphose into the PIC, the pilot in command. When flying, the PIC is responsible for the safety of all the people on board and for the aircraft. Kloch gives this example, “Once, while flying a non-combat mission overseas, the ATC [Air Traffic Controller] instructed me to go around, they kept me circling, they said there was some debris on the field.  

I had already made an emergency low fuel call to the Tower. Still they told me to circle. I knew I had no choice but to land. I radioed to the Tower, ‘I’m landing.’ I wasn’t going to eject out of fighter plane without a very good reason. Once I landed, and saw the debris on the field, I was 100 percent certain that I had made the right decision. My training, experience and leadership skills gave me the confidence to have faith in my decision.” 

“The best thing about flying is seeing the world from a bird’s eye view,” says Lake. “The best thing about teaching is watching the excitement in students as they progress. Seeing them face a challenge, sweating through it and achieving success.” Lake likes to provide an environment for the student that will be “fun, yet safe, and filled with real-world experience.”

Kloch likes “watching a student mature, knowing that they are working, and seeing their growth.” Kloch adds, “In aviation and teaching, there are always challenges, you’re always learning. It’s the best office you could ask for.”

ENTER THE COCC CLASSROOM Passion for aviation! A passion that pushes them. When I see that in a student, I know they already possess one of the main elements that will make them successful at this program,” says Karl Baldessari, retired captain who served 29 years in the Coast Guard and is now the director of COCC’s Aviation Program.

“Be exacting! It’s a program of professionalism. That’s the premise of this whole program. For example, FAA standards for a private pilot license require most maneuvers to be done within 100 feet of a designated altitude. If that’s what you expect of a student, they’ll nail it! Every time.  We tell our student, ‘Forget the 100 feet leeway, fly at the designated altitude.’ They rise to that expectation.” This is how Jerry Bean, retired Navy Captain and now COCC Fixed Wing Program Coordinator and instructor, describes the COCC aviation program. 

Just as Dan Lake and Mike Kloch are not your typical flight instructors, Baldessari and Bean are not your typical college instructors and administrators. Baldessari is a helicopter pilot with over 5,000 hours, flying rescue missions in the brutal and violent waters off Alaska. Bean, a 25-year Navy veteran, also a captain, has also flown around 5,000 hours. He has flown a variety of planes, including Attack planes and the supersonic F-4 Phantom fighter plane, spending a good deal of his military time departing from and returning to land on aircraft carriers.

COCC PROGRAM Baldessari states that the COCC program is a two-year program and since it is a “degree-seeking” program, meets most, if not all, financial aid criteria. “Not all aviation programs are set up like this.” Baldessari attributes this design to the foresight of John Miller, the retired Air Force Colonel who established COCC’s aviation program.

Baldessari adds that COCC’s two-year aviation program requires that all their instructors also be CFIIs, Certified Flight Instrument Instructors. Again, Baldessari credits Miller for making the connection between instructors teaching in the classroom and holding their CFII certification as one of the main components to a successful aviation program. “When you don’t have the connection between the academics and the practical [the flying], you lose the quality control.” 
Baldessari and Bean have standardization and organizational duties as part of their military backgrounds. “Our military and standardization backgrounds and the years and hours of flying, the professionalism, are some of the main distinctions between our program and others,” says Baldessari. 

Both Baldessari and Bean emphasize that they teach their students how to interpret the material, be it an exam or a lesson, and come up with the right answer. “We stress to our students that our goal is to help them become professional pilots, not just someone who memorized a test. We also recognize that the student has to decide to be successful. This is where their passion is so important,” Bean adds.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE Riley Harris, a student at LEA and COCC, shared some of his thoughts. “One of the things I really like about Mike is that he has tremendous IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] experience. The hours he has is the real deal.  That was important to me. One of the things I like most about Dan is that I can talk with him about survival. So many people think you just jump in the plane, while wearing shorts, and fly to Salem. The terrain on that route can be unforgiving. Sometimes, there’s still snow on the ground. Dan has so much experience in surviving in hostile conditions.”

Harris added that his experiences with the COCC Aviation Program has been very favorable. One of the things he likes most is that his COCC instructors are practitioners, not just theoreticians. “Karl flew helicopter rescue missions in the military, Jerry flew fighter jets, each instructor has real world experience.

It’s not often that you see faculty with this much industry experience.””Probably more than 50 percent of all our students come from outside of Central Oregon, and even from outside the Pacific Northwest. Our aviation program indirectly facilitates the annual flow of about $4 million into Central Oregon. That’s just through the school. Consider that these students also pay for housing, recreation; it’s easy to see how that $4 million evolves to so much more. This makes us a large part of the economic engine that drives Central Oregon.”

Do you have what it takes?  Ever had a desire to fly?  

If so, contact: Leading Edge Aviation 541-383-8825,

Mike Kloch, crzypilot@aol.com, mike.kloch@gmail.com

Karl Baldessari 541-318-3702, kbaldessari@cocc.edu

Jerry Bean 541-318-3736, jbean@cocc.edu

Have financial aid questions? Call Karl Baldessari.

Denise Saylors is a local pilot and writer. 541-728-0773



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