Bill Christiansen showcases aviation business to Okmulgee Lions

By DEAN CRAIG

Okmulgee Lions

Tuesday's Lions Club meeting was another almost-local program presented by Bill Christiansen, President of Christiansen Aviation, Inc., Tulsa.  He says Lions Clubs are not new to him because his dad was a Lion member in New Jersey, and he can still remember the aroma of fresh-cut Christmas trees in December, which was one of their main fund-raisers.  

So you ask, how did someone from New Jersey get to Oklahoma?  Particularly someone who had never before been west of Pennsylvania.  The answer--the University of Oklahoma, which offered flight training.  He applied and was accepted.

Even though Christiansen had obtained his private pilot license while still in high school, he admitted that he was not a particularly good student, so was glad to be accepted to OU. He graduated with multi-engine, commercial, instrument, and certified flight instructor ratings.  In fact, while still a student, he became a flight instructor for OU's flight students.  He also joined the Marine Reserves, in spite of his father's advice (DON'T), and spent 10 weeks in Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia.  He had met his wife in college and they married in 1970, but she returned to her home town of Oklahoma City during his military obligation, where she was a French teacher.

Researching the aviation field led Christiansen to Tulsa, primarily because of  American Airlines and their maintenance facilities, the Spartan Flight School, and because of the predictors of a pilot shortage, which didn't happen.  But presently, there is a shortage of flight instructors, which is bringing many foreign students for flight training to the United States (mostly from China) because of the cheaper costs.  So, with borrowed money from his father, Christiansen bought three Cessna 150s and hangared them at Riverside Airport in Jenks.  Then, Auburn University and Tulsa Community College reached out to him to lease planes to them for their flight schools.  O. and OSU soon followed, so for over the past 20 years or more, his aviation business has flourished.  And they continue to sell fuel, lease airplanes, and hangar airplanes.

I had been told that Christiansen Aviation was the largest Cessna airplane lessor, but he said he didn't know if that is correct.  But, because pilot's salaries have doubled during the past 18 months, pilot training is on the increase.  Christiansen was quick to give credit to his two sons, who both have joined him in the business, and both have been a major boost to the growth and success of this business.  Ironically, one is an OU graduate, and the other is an OSU graduate.  (I wonder what happens during Bedlam--probably like the Gundys).  Not only has Christiansen operated a successful business, but he has served 10 years on the Tulsa City Council and has been supportive and active in the Tulsa Community.  What another interesting and informative program.

Now that Riverside (Jones Regional Airport) and Okmulgee Regional Airport are both under the umbrella of Tulsa International Airport, maybe our airport can become a more viable asset because both of the other facilities are out of space, with no more room to expand.  And guess who has acres and acres of available space?  And the Lions Club has some available space for a few more good men and women.  Check us out!  "WE SERVE".

 

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