C-SC alumnus and former Dean of Students Dr. Karl “Ken” Hansmeier ’65 recently checked off a “bucket-list adventure” when he flew a Cessna 172 from Hannibal, Mo., to Anchorage, Alaska. Hansmeier made the journey with one other pilot, taking six days to complete the 3,600-mile distance.
Hansmeier attended Culver-Stockton College from 1961 through 1965. While in college, he was an award-winning distance runner and captain of the cross-country team. Hansmeier, a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, also met his future wife and fellow Wildcat, Beth (Jasper) Hansmeier ’65, at C-SC.
After college, he found his way back to “the Hill” in 1982 when he was hired on as the Dean of Students. He held this role for more than a decade, before retiring to Hannibal, Mo., after the 1994-95 school year.
Flying has been a passion for Hansmeier for many decades. The father of three learned how to fly through a chance opportunity he received when he was a doctoral student enrolled at the University of Indiana.
“I was out hanging around the local airport watching airplanes take off and an older gentleman came up to me and said, ‘Boy would you like to go flying?’ After that, I was hooked,” remembers Hansmeier. “That guy happened to be the fixed base operator for the whole airport. Flying was his life and he was a flight instructor. I got my license and before I left the college I became president of the university’s flying club. But I did it just as a hobby, never for a living.”
Though flying has always only been a hobby with trips to places like Key West, Hansmeier invested in it. He became part owner of a Cessna 172 and flies regularly. Though, until the August of 2015, most of his flights were short and close to home.
Hansmeier was presented with the opportunity for the longer trip to Alaska after speaking with his nephew. His nephew lives in Alaska and told Hansmeier about a friend, Shelby Standley, a college student in Anchorage who flew from Alaska to Houston, Texas. Standley was looking for a co-pilot to make the return trip. Hansmeier was hesitant at first, but the idea of the adventure made him reconsider.
Hansmeier talked to Standley on a Wednesday and was satisfied with his credentials and attitudes on safety, so they agreed he would fly to Hannibal, Mo., to see if they felt good about flying together. When Standley landed in Hannibal, Mo., they hit it off and Hansmeier took him around to visit the Mark Twain tourist attractions, then the pair took off for Alaska the following Sunday.
“The very first day, we were flying through the mountains, I woke up that morning to 50 knot winds and we decided to stay in bed that day. So when you translate that out, it took us four days to get there” explains Hansmeier. “At no point did we fly hard days, long days maybe six hours. We were flying very cautiously.”
Hansmeier and Standley flew through the mountains and enjoyed the view along the way. As this was an extended trip through remote areas, Standley had a device in the plane that sent a signal to a website with where the plane was located. Hansmeier and Standley both promoted the link via social media and their friends and family were able to follow their journey.
“Every small plane pilot thinks about flying to Alaska or making some other long trip,” said Hansmeier. “This was definitely a check on the bucket list.”