At just 21 years old, pilot Kyle Fosso is already well on his way to accomplishing a dream he’s been chasing his entire life: To share his passion for aviation with fellow young people. To do it, he is preparing to fly his Cessna 170B aircraft over each and every one of America’s 50 states, filming the experience so others can see the beauty in our country and experience the wonder of flying.
In partnership with American Family Insurance, we recently sat down with Fosso ― who belongs to AFI’s team of dreamers ― to hear more about his ambitious project, and what inspires him. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Q: First things first: What’s your dream?
A: To fly the airplane to all 50 states and show, first of all, how much I love aviation. The dream with filming would be to show everybody how beautiful of a country we live in, how awesome it is to fly and why people fly in the first place. My dream is really to capture that, and share what I love with other people.
I also want to use my backstory, struggle and accomplishments to inspire and motivate other people to go about reaching their dreams. I want them to say, “Oh, if he can do it, I can do it.” I want to help facilitate that for other people and to champion other people’s dreams. I’m now in the position to help other people achieve their dreams, and to be a person who sets an example for somebody else to dream big or fearlessly like I did.
Q: What first got you interested in flying?
A: When I was young, I used to fly model [planes] in my hometown of Anacortes, Washington. I thought being a pilot was out of reach for me, but when I was 14, I stumbled into a flight school. I happened to be at the airport helping my dad fix a repair, and I sat in the airplane. The first time I sat in an airplane was the first time I felt like it was a reality—like this was something I could achieve. I never recovered from that. I never snapped out of that mentality I got when I flew that for the first time. I was just changed after that.
That’s one of the reasons that my days revolved completely around aviation. If I’m not at the hangar, I’m exercising or doing something else to take care of myself, but any work is aviation. Fun is aviation.
Q: You’re so young. What do you want other people your age to know about following their dreams?
A: You need to define what you want and what your dream is. What are you willing to give up for that? Are you willing to give up your weekends and every day after school, and an hour or two of sleep every night and have nothing else but your dream?
If your dream is to achieve whatever you want to achieve, you need to really embody that. You need to live by that. When you want something more than anything else you have, people are scared to start because they think, “I’m not good enough at this,” or “I don’t have enough money for this.” Starting is the hardest part, so the longer you put that off, the harder it’s going to be. Once you actually start, you have no choice but to finish or give up. Then, if your life is revolving around your dream, everything else that was going to take up all your time somehow doesn’t take up all your time. If you put this giant thing in the middle of your life, then everything else just kind of stays out of the way.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in-flight?
A: Definitely the time I got stranded in the snowstorm. I took off on my way home and flew right into the snowstorm. I was like at 500 feet, and there was a hill next to me that was about 1,200 feet tall. I saw this hill, and I saw it disappear. I was a student pilot with 30-something hours, I’m flying alone, and it’s the first time I’ve flown any distance alone. I’m completely blind at 500 feet right next to this hill, which is a terrible altitude to be at and be blind.
I kept really, really calm, and I had the compass and I had my altitude indicator for the position of the airplane. Not the location; just for the airplane in reference to the sky and the earth, what level it was at, and my speed. Just by using the instruments, I was able to turn the airplane around and land after a couple minutes that seemed like hours. It really made me feel like a pilot.
Q: What’s next up for you?
A: The plane will be in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this summer for the largest air show in the world. It’s the EAA Air Venture. I’ll be there. We’re going to put [my] plane next to one that’s actually completely original. This plane was built in ‘54, so we’re putting it right next to one that was restored original, and mine’s modified.
I think it’d be great to take teenagers for their first flight and really show them what this is all about. Even a 14-year-old with no money who has a mind for being resourceful and say “I’m going to do this no matter what it takes, no matter what comes up. I’m going to do it.” That’s the mindset I had. I was going to do this. I want to share aviation with them, and hopefully get some more people interested in becoming pilots or ultimately just pursuing whatever goal is on their minds. That’s what’s next. To use it to create more dreamers.
American Family Insurance believes that every dream - and dreamer - deserves support. It’s why we’re so passionate about going far beyond insurance to inspire, protect and restore your dreams.