Three days, nine Kansas cities and almost 1,000 miles logged. In an effort to spread their passion for flying and the university, a K-State Salina student and alumnus joined together to participate in this year’s Fly Kansas Air Tour. The expedition, which ran from Sept. 22-24, united pilots from across the state and gave them a platform to educate interested children and adults on aviation.
Flying pilot-in-command, Taylor Spangler, junior in professional pilot and senior certified flight instructor, Andover, and sitting right seat, Nathan Gorrell, a 2008 professional pilot graduate, represented K-State Salina on the tour with a Cessna 172.
“This is some of the most enjoyable flying I’ve ever done,” Gorrell said. “The people that you meet at all of the stops as well as the pilots are what make this event so special.”
Gorrell, a pilot with Marathon Oil Co. in Houston, Texas, saw the tour dates online and immediately contacted K-State Salina’s aviation interim department head Barney King. Gorrell flew in a similar event as a senior and he says that experience left a notable impact on him, one for which he is grateful.
“I’m very blessed by all of my opportunities from K-State Salina,” Gorrell said. “I got to where I am today through the assistance of my professors and scholarships. If I can help promote the university, which has been so good to me, I feel like I’m returning the favor.”
Spangler also volunteered for the tour and decided to get involved because of the opportunity to interact with children curious about flight. Spangler says both of his parents are pilots and he began learning about aviation at a young age.
“I started flying at 12 years old,” Spangler said. “And since I’m still young, I think kids feel like they can identify with me and are more likely to approach me with questions about flying. If they see that a young person can be a pilot, hopefully they’ll be inspired to pursue it.”
At each of the stops on the Fly Kansas Air Tour, schools and community members were invited to watch the planes land and takeoff as well as speak with the pilots and view other aircraft on display. At the stop in Salina, K-State Salina exhibited the unmanned aircraft systems program with a flying demonstration and setup computer flight simulators for event guests to tryout. Spangler says at every stop almost every child got especially excited when they saw the Powercat on the university’s plane.
Gorrell, Spangler and the other participating pilots followed a circular pattern in the state, starting off in Wellington and traveling to Hutchinson, Dodge City, Scott City, Salina, Topeka, Pittsburg and Independence before completing their trip in Benton. The Fly Kansas Air Tour was just one part of the 2014 Kansas Aviation Expo that also included business seminars and speeches from two around-the-world pilots.