MIAMI, Okla. — Jeffrey Gettler, of Independence, Kansas, is soaring into the new year as the winner of the 1960 Cessna 172A airplane raffled off by the Miami Police Department on Tuesday.
“This is certainly a great start to the new year,” Gettler said in an interview Wednesday.
The department selected Gettler’s name during a drawing Tuesday at the Miami Regional Airport hangar. It was broadcast live on the airport's Facebook page.
“I actually ignored the two phone calls I received,” Gettler said, describing how he was notified. “I did not recognize the number, didn't know anyone in Miami who would be calling me and had completely forgotten about the raffle.
“Within seconds of the second call, I had a sudden realization that the raffle was that day and recalled an email that said to be by the phone around the time I received the calls,” he added. “I immediately called the number back. A gentleman answered and said, ‘Hang on a moment, I think you just won yourself a plane.’ Crazy.”
The plane was inspected before the drawing took place and is ready to fly.
“My wife and I have discussed getting our pilot’s license on a number of occasions,” Gettler said. “However, there is little need for a pilot’s license if one has no plane to fly. When I saw this raffle pop up online several months ago, I thought it would be a fun and inexpensive chance to acquire a plane and motivation to get my pilot's license while also supporting a good cause.”
The lottery was kicked off by the Miami Police Department last summer to raise money for local airport improvements. Police Chief Thomas Anderson, who also is the manager of the Miami Regional Airport, said the raffle was an "absolute success."
“I was very surprised and happy to see people getting involved," he said.
The winner can take either the plane, which comes with 10 hours of flight instruction, or an alternative $12,000 cash prize. As of Wednesday afternoon, Gettler said he’s still considering his options.
“If we choose the plane, it will also include pursuing those pilots’ licenses we've talked about getting,” he said.
More than 2,000 tickets were purchased to help raise approximately $100,000 for airport projects, such as hangar repairs. The plane was sold to the department by the family of an airport tenant, Bob Hamilton, at an affordable price, Anderson said.
Tickets were priced at $50 for one or $125 for three. Anderson said organizers are currently figuring how much money was raised in total for the airport, which needs new fencing and new pavement on the taxiway.
“When we started, we wanted 2,000 tickets,” Anderson said. “We set a 4,000 goal just being really optimistic. We’re tickled to death by it, and we’re very happy with the results. We sold nearly 2,500 tickets.”
Several hundred tickets were sold during the first few hours of the contest.
“We looked through our report that StubWire had sent us, our ticket vendor, and we had (tickets from) Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Arizona,” Anderson said. “We had tickets from all over the states. We had a couple on Facebook asking if they were eligible from France.”
The burgundy and white Cessna plane has been flown for about 3,000 hours and has 168 hours logged on the single 145-horsepower engine. A transponder and altimeter check was performed in 2017. It can fit up to four people and is detailed with polished aluminum. Anderson, who owns a 1963 model, said the Cessna is a great aircraft for beginner pilots.
Gettler has until March to pick up the plane from the Miami hangar, or it will be raffled off to a new recipient.
Anderson hinted at another airplane raffle in the future.
“It did go really well for the airport, and it was a great financial boost,” Anderson said. “We had a lot of fun with it, so if we’re presented with another opportunity, we may do it again.”