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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Grandfather, granddaughter share passion for sky

  • Not just anyone would fly across the country in a plane built in two weeks by a group of high school students, but Kate Fraser inherited her grandfather Gerald’s courage and did just that.
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  • Not just anyone would fly across the country in a plane built in two weeks by a group of high school students, but Kate Fraser inherited her grandfather Gerald’s courage and did just that.
    The Frasers, both McPherson natives, know a lot about aircraft. Gerald flew B-17 bombers during World War II, and Kate works for General Aviation Manufacturers Association as director of safety and outreach.
    Gerald said he was attending Kansas State University in the early 1940s when a lot of his friends joined the armed forces, and he decided to follow suit.
    “I felt I wanted to fly, and I wanted to fly a B-17,” Gerald said.
    Gerald said he was unable to get into a program for new B-17 pilots, but he got in as a copilot and, after five missions, started flying the heavy bombers himself.
    Kate said both Gerald and her father, an airplane enthusiast, inspired her interest in aircraft.
    “I wanted to be an astronaut when I was younger, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I settled for pilot,” Kate said.
    Gerald was her first passenger when she started flying in 2007. It was far from Gerald’s most dangerous flying experience. He said after one mission, he counted 42 flak holes in his plane, including ones that shot out one engine and damaged the other. The navigator on that flight was hit during the mission.
    “Fortunately, he had his helmet on, or it would have killed him,” Gerald said.
    Kate flew into McPherson airport Friday on her way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The plane was built by four high school students, one of several groups to participate in a plane building simulation contest put on by General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
    The contests allows high school students to learn about aviation, and the winning team gets to build a stock airplane.
    “This plane was built in two weeks last summer,” Kate said. “We’re hoping to do it every year because it’s been such a neat program.”
    This year’s winners were from Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kate said the program has really helped those students.
    “They’re from one of the worst high schools in the nation,” Kate said. “These kids all really bloomed.”
    Kate said she hopes a group from McPherson competes at some point. She said everyone who competes, not just the winners, find an appreciation for aviation, engineering and mechanics and discover new career opportunities.
    Of course, the grand prize of getting to build a plane is nice. For Kate, getting to fly it is even better. After the plane was built in Seattle, Kate was tasked with test-flying it near the airport to find any problems.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I got to fly over the most gorgeous islands and mountains,” Kate said. “It was incredible.”
    It’s an experience Kate said anyone can have. All it takes are a few flying lessons and experience, which are offered at places like McPherson airport.
    “A lot of people don’t realize you can just go out and take lessons,” Kate said. “Anyone can become a pilot.”

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