SALINA — Four Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus students have received a significant boost to their dream of being professional pilots with the help of $10,000 scholarships from the Conor Burton Aviation fund.
The newest Burton scholars, all in Kansas State Polytechnic’s professional pilot program, are Mychal Akers, Junction City; Nahuel Bugosen and Chad Frerichs, both from Salina; and Michael Edwards, Dallas, Texas. Their scholarships are split between their junior and senior years and help pay for flying time or books and tuition, enabling the students to earn their flight certificates more quickly.
All four scholars have wanted to become pilots since childhood.
“When I was a little kid, I got to fly across the country all by myself. It was a big sense of freedom,” Akers said. “One of the captains put me in the captain’s seat, put his hat on my head and gave me a pilot badge. He told me I was the captain. It was the coolest thing for me as a kid.”
Akers’ favorite toy as a child was a flight simulator, and he would spend hours playing and practicing in preparation for his dream career. For a birthday, Akers’ parents surprised him with a helicopter ride in San Francisco. That sealed the deal — he was going to be a pilot.
Akers wanted to turn that childhood fascination into a career, but feared one thing stood in his way: he is partially color blind.
He put his dream on hold and joined the military. He was injured near the completion of his time in the military and spent four months bedridden. He used that time to evaluate his next step and decide if he could really become a pilot.
“I started researching and it turned out that I could be a pilot and be color blind,” Akers said. “I just had to prove it to the Federal Aviation Administration that I could see the appropriate colors.”
He began his journey to a professional pilot degree at Kansas State Polytechnic in January 2015. Akers has worked his way up to a position as a certified flight instructor, helping other Kansas State Polytechnic students learning to fly.
“This scholarship from the Burton Aviation Foundation is helping me take care of my family, provide better lessons for my students as a certified flight instructor, and complete my degree at Kansas State Polytechnic,” he said.
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