USD boasts a fleet of ground transportation vehicles and one, lesser known, aircraft.
The university has its own private airplane – a twin prop 1990 BeechCraft King Air C90a. It has room for seven passengers and the pilot, Mark Dahlhoff. It’s stored in a hangar in the Harold Davison Field airport in Vermillion off of
S. Dakota Street.
Owned by the USD Foundation, the aircraft is leased to the school for use by individual departments, student organizations and state agencies.
The plane’s main function, serving as a business transit aircraft, mostly means getting administration to their necessary meetings.
USD’s aircraft is usually only used when a group of people need to get from one place to another quickly. Otherwise, driving is generally a more efficient and cost effective means of transportation.
Decorated with red stripes and the USD logo, the business jet is used by many organizations including the President’s Office, Offices of Academic Affairs and Financial Affairs, Student Services, the South Dakota Board of Regents and the USD Foundation.
Logging 72 trips in the 2015 fiscal year, Dahlhoff has averaged about a flight or more each week.
The plane can be reserved by any student organization or university department at $4.25 per mile. Other groups, like state agencies, not affiliated with the SDBOR can rent it for $5.95 per mile.
“We have two sources of revenue, a budget from the university plus we generate revenue from the use of the plane,” said Darby Ganschow, the director of auxiliary services at USD.
The revenue from each trip helps cover the costs of the hanger, pilot, repairs and other expenses.
Michael Card, associate professor and dean of graduate and distance education, has used the USD airplane for business and education trips several times.
Though he generally uses ground transportation, his experiences with the airplane and Dahlhoff have been positive.
Card said he has also helped organize some administrative trips with his duties including lining up ground transportation for the passengers upon arrival.
One complication that Card has seen with air transportation is that a number of factors can affect whether or not the plane will even leave the ground.
“It’s always the case that if the pilot doesn’t want to fly, neither do I,” Card said.
Card has revised transportation plans due to this previously, using other modes of transportation or in some cases the trip just couldn’t be made.
About the pilot
Dahlhoff has been the university pilot since 2002. Some common destinations that he flies to includes Rapid City, Spearfish, Pierre, Minneapolis, Missoula, Montana and even Little Rock, Ark.
“It’s neat to see what’s going on around the state and this area,” Dahlhoff said.
Before coming to USD, Dahlhoff worked as a flight instructor. In order to work for the university, he had to have an airline transport pilot license and a university specified number of flight hours.
“It’s not something someone new to flying could get into,” he said.
Landing in Vermillion is pretty routine for the seasoned pilot.
“(It’s) pretty plain jane being a bus driver kinda deal,” Dahlhoff said.
The strategic placement of the air strip in a river valley allows most of the wind to be blocked by the bluffs and high trees. But when the wind blows out of the south at Harold Davison Field airport, it can cause some more turbulent landings.
Dahlhoff has improved his skills as both a pilot and a host throughout his years of experience, Ganschow said.
“I can tell you from my perspective I’ve had a lot of nice comments on Mark’s professionalism and how well he does in taking care of our passengers,” Ganschow said.