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.
For Akers, a childhood of frequent cross-country trips inspired him to seek a career as a pilot.
“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.
Growing up, Bugosen would look up as airplanes were flying across the sky and dream of being in the cockpit as the pilot.
But Bugosen began his college career in a different program at another university before deciding he wanted to take his life a different route. When determining his next step, he came back to his childhood dream of being a pilot.
He found Kansas State Polytechnic when researching aviation universities. After going on visits to Polytechnic and other aviation universities, he ultimately decided that Polytechnic was the place for him.
“I visited the Polytechnic campus and really enjoyed it,” Bugosen said. “The program, number of instructors and fleet were all very professional. It is a cool place, and the fact that it’s connected to the Manhattan campus and you get a degree from K-State is what really sold me.”
His experiences in the professional pilot program have led him to set a goal of flying abroad in Europe or Asia.
“I am super grateful for this scholarship,” Bugosen said. “Financial assistance helps people stick to what they want to do. This scholarship goes completely to funding my education and gets me closer to my goals and taking my next step.”
Frerichs knew how to fly before he knew how to drive. Growing up with a father who was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force provided an up-close look at airplanes and began an interest that will soon be a degree.
“We had to solo a glider before we could learn to drive so that we knew and understood the risks and would be better drivers,” Frerichs said.
Frerichs grew up in Aledo, Texas, near Fort Worth. He was part of a Texas Soaring Association club for those who enjoy flying, and especially flying gliders. As part of that club, Frerichs received his glider license and then his single engine license as a teenager.
He first heard of Kansas State Polytechnic through an alumnus who spoke at his glider club. Frerichs was able to easily transfer credits to Kansas State University and enrolled as a junior at Kansas State Polytechnic in the professional pilot degree option.
Frerichs plans to join the military upon graduation and fly with the Air Force or National Guard. After his military experience, he would like to fly cargo with UPS or FedEx, similar to his father. Financial support from the Burton Aviation Foundation puts him closer to his goals.
“I’m so glad I earned the Burton Aviation Foundation scholarship. It really helps with tuition,” Frerichs said. “I’ve been flying since middle school. It’s been a part of my life then, and it’s a part of me now.”
Edwards has had an interest in airplanes since he was a child. His grandfather, an airline attorney, took notice.
“My grandfather knew I loved to fly so much and encouraged me to look into the professional pilot option here at Kansas State Polytechnic,” Edwards said. “Once I looked into the program, I fell in love with it.”
Edwards’ parents also helped to support his love of flying.
“My parents got me a discovery flight in middle school,” Edwards said. “An instructor takes you up and shows you what it’s like to be a pilot. I loved it. I got my private pilot’s license when I was a senior in high school and decided to continue and get my degree at Kansas State Polytechnic.”
One of Edwards’ favorite things about Kansas State Polytechnic is his community of peers. The small class sizes at the campus make it possible to develop close friendships with other students and share in the excitement of learning to fly.
“You get to go fly during the week and then hang out on the weekends and talk about your flights,” Edwards said. “Everyone tries to help everyone else out. It’s a tight-knit community.”
Edwards wants to be either a commercial airline pilot or cargo pilot.
“It means a lot to be selected for a Burton Aviation Foundation scholarship,” Edwards said. “This scholarship will help pay for my flight costs and also help to get more flight ratings, all things I need to be a successful pilot.”