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Teen pilot shares interest with kids

Teen pilot shares interest with kids

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Gazette Staff

A short trip in an airplane flown by a neighbor was all that it took for 9-year-old Kevin Gustafson to become an aviator.

Now, at 19, the young pilot is traveling to all 50 states, offering short flights to children in the hopes that it will spark their interest in aviation just as that short flight did for him 10 years ago.

Gustafson, flying a Cessna 172, arrived at Billings Logan International Airport Friday for the ninth stop in his 50-state tour. Earlier in the day he had flown children in Sheridan, Wyo., and was heading to North Dakota later in the day.

The Cessna was loaned to him by the same Long Beach, Calif., neighbor who gave Gustafson his first flight.

“Lynn Krogh was my neighbor and he gave me my first flight right in this aircraft here,” Gustafson said. “So it’s kind of come full circle now that I can give kids flights in the same aircraft.”

Gustafson’s journey started June 21 in Long Beach, and will end in late July back in Long Beach.

He will fly the Cessna to 48 of the states. He flew commercial flights to Alaska and Hawaii — it wasn’t economically feasible to fly the Cessna to Alaska. He made arrangements with flight schools in Alaska and Hawaii to provide him with a plane and passengers

On Friday Corporate Air provided Gustafson with three sets of brothers, all of Billings: Jesse and Levi Bence, 8 and 6; Justin and Kevin Stein, 15 and 12; and Hunter and Nicholas Cook, 14 and 11.

Each flight lasts about 20 minutes — “less if the kid gets sick,” Gustafson said.

Have there been any problems with the kids?

“I had one almost get sick on me in Sheridan,” he said. “When you hear ‘I don’t feel so good,’ you land real quickly.”

The sponsors for the project are Texaco, Aircraft Spruce and Special and Lektro Tugs.

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