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The Third Generation

For as long as he can remember, airplanes and ag aviation have been a mainstay in Reed Keahey’s life. As the third-generation owner of Keahey Flying Service, Reed continues protecting some of the same fields his father and grandfather have done since the mid-1960s.


Keahey Flying Service was started in 1964 by Jack Keahey, Reed’s grandfather, at a small hangar and grass strip just north of Columbia, LA. Jack flew Pawnees and Ag-Cats and mentored his son, Drew, in the business until he ultimately took over in 1990, allowing Jack to focus on his farming operation.


Reed’s earliest memories of flying span many different planes. From a Cub or Husky around Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, to cross countries in Bonanzas. During the summers as a kid, Reed spent many days at the airport or on satellite grass strips watching Drew, his dad, fly and work. By that time, Jack had retired from flying and was farming full-time. When Reed was old enough, he began working summers at the airport, unloading chemicals and keeping things tidy.

Reed graduated from Caldwell Parish High School in 2007 and attended the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) in the fall of that year. He majored in aviation and minored in “social gatherings.” At that point, Reed knew he wanted an aviation career but was unsure which discipline. In 2008, he started working at Monroe Air Center as a lineman fueling aircraft. There, he leaned more towards corporate aviation, flying King Airs or business jets. But, with ag aviation in his blood, it wasn’t too much longer before his thinking started to change back to his roots, often talking with Gulfstream or NetJet pilots and seeing their enthusiasm for the profession of ag flying. In 2009, Reed started his journey to become a pilot. John Majure was Reed’s instructor.


“I met John when I started working at Monroe Air Center, and his passion for aviation is infectious. He knew of my family and gladly assumed the role of my instructor. He always told me I was going to be a great pilot because I had Av-Gas in my blood. I soloed N5311D, an old C172, with eight hours in my logbook.”


Reed obtained his pilot’s license with no issues. Drew bought a Cessna 180 for Reed to get tailwheel time and acclimated to a higher horsepower aircraft. He flew it for 200 hours towards his commercial rating. During that 200 hours, he worked on ag-flying techniques with his dad and even dealt with an in-flight fire.


“It was a scary situation for me and my dad. He was flying beside me in his AT-402, and we were both looking for a safe place to land. I got the Cessna 180 on the ground, and we were able to put out the fire. My dad and I hugged each other tighter than ever and cried together harder than ever,” recalls Reed about his emergency.


Reed obtained his commercial rating and aerial applicator’s certificate in 2013. That year, he slowly became acclimated to the AT-402 taxiing down the runway, getting the tail up, braking, etc. Drew pulled Reed aside one day and said, “Let me know when you are ready to fly it.” Reed didn’t hesitate, and as he was getting used to flying, he would add more and more water to spray out over open fields.


“My dad would always tell me that the GPS would get you hurt quicker than anything else if you let it take your attention away from flying. Getting used to the GPS and light bar was probably my biggest challenge in the 402.”


2014 was an eventful year for the Keahey family. Reed married his beautiful wife, Nicole, and did his first spray job. In August of that year, his dad had an unexpected vertigo episode—a scary moment for everyone. Drew eventually got his vertigo cured, but in the meantime, Reed was able to take over all the flying for the rest of the year.


“I’m sure it was a shock to my dad and his career, but I saw it as an opportunity for me to step up and take over flying for the business. From then on, I started doing all the flying, and my dad was able to focus on his other business, Keahey Farm Venture.”


Over the next couple of years, Drew and Reed had many conversations about Reed buying the flying service, but the timing was never right. After long talks with his wife, Nicole and Reed decided it would be a great move for their family and continuing as a third-generation ag pilot. Reed approached Drew earlier in 2023 about a possible buyout.


“I know he was excited to pass the torch on to the third generation of Keahey Flying Service, even though I may have caught him off guard a bit! On April 15th, we signed the papers to buy the flying service. So after 33 years, I could retire my dad in his flying career.”


Reed continues in an AT-402, Satloc GPS guidance and CP-09 nozzles. He treats cotton, corn, soybeans, rice and the occasional duck hole for the TV-famed Duck Commanders. He is also active in the National Agricultural Aviation Association and will serve as the President of the Louisiana Agricultural Aviation Association this upcoming year.


“I have so many people to thank for my life/career in aviation; my family and friends for their love and support, my mixer/loader and friend Willis Tatum who has watched me grow up and works harder than anyone you’ll ever meet.”


Reed is excited and motivated to be the third generation to own and operate Keahey Flying Service. 2024 will be the company’s 60th year in business, serving the farmers of Caldwell, Ouachita, and Richland Parish, Louisiana.





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