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Young pilot plans AdventureAbove aviation journeyYoung pilot plans AdventureAbove aviation journey

Kyle Fosso flying restored Cessna 170 on 50-state tourKyle Fosso flying restored Cessna 170 on 50-state tour

Kyle Fosso vowed in high school that one day he would pursue aviation and share it with others. Now that day has come. Fosso and his flying partner Samantha Sky Hagan, both 22, are rigging a silver, red, and black Cessna 170B with multiple cameras and accommodations for a 50-state aviation odyssey that they hope will become a teaching tool.

The journey’s centerpiece is a fact-finding video that uncovers each state’s hidden treasures, and the adventurers said that aviation will be the device that conveys those highlights.

The couple tested the long-haul concept during an unplanned overnight while returning from EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Anacortes, Washington, in July 2017. Fosso and Hagan landed for the night and camped at a rural airport rather than risk iffy weather, darkness, and other unknowns. They pitched a tent and were up early the next morning under more favorable conditions. “Occasionally Sam’s my autopilot,” said Fosso. “And I’m his support system,” Hagan quickly chimed in.

Fosso and Hagan promise personal interaction to those coming along for a virtual ride as the two discover and document their adventures. They have ambitious technology plans for en route livestreams, question-and-answer sessions, instant messaging, real-time tracking via Spidertracks, and early access to videos for those supporting their two-year mission.

Kyle Fosso, a 22-year-old in Anacortes, Washington, bought a rusted out Cessna 170B when he was 15 and earned his A&P certificate while he restored the aircraft. Fosso plans to fly to all 50 states and produce videos championing general aviation's benefits. Photos courtesy of Kyle Fosso.

Despite the high-tech gadgets aboard N2771C, Fosso and Hagan used an old-fashioned cork board to line up a zigzag route that crisscrosses the United States as a visual reminder of their mission.

During VFR conditions, Fosso, a private pilot and an instrument student, will fly while Hagan handles four different cameras they have hanging from the front, rear, and wings of the restored 1954 Cessna 170.

“The point is for you guys—the viewers—to feel like you’ve been there through us. We figured, ‘Let’s show the best of each state, and use aviation as a tool to do this amazing experience,’” he continued. One of the goals is to influence youth who might not realize they could have an interest in aviation.

AOPA’s You Can Fly initiatives also recognize the importance of building the pilot community through programs that include high school learning curriculum, scholarships, and other pilot-support mechanisms that make flying safe, fun, and affordable.

“I think that if younger people want to stare at their iPad all day, we might as well get them infected with aviation because it can take you somewhere that nothing else can,” Fosso told AOPA.

Fosso honed his aviation maintenance skills on 71Charlie, which was fished out of a lake and stored for 40 years before he bought the taildragger when he was 15. He used “every single penny” he earned from summer jobs washing cars and airplanes, cleaning gutters, and fishing from Alaskan trawlers.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Fosso.

Fosso confided that he wasn’t the best student and often needed additional help with his classes. He said high school “really wasn’t speaking to me at all” until he discovered aviation “at the right time” in his life. With a goal in mind, he soloed at age 16 and has never looked back.

He shined under tutelage from his mentor and IA Mac McGugan where the Cessna was his classroom and Mac was his teacher. Fosso earned his A&P certificate by meticulously cleaning, replacing, or refurbishing every nut, bolt, cable, or piece of aluminum. “I think having someone believe in me sparked an interest,” he added. “Everything I didn’t learn in algebra, I learned in the shop.”

The vintage aircraft now sports a rebuilt 180-horsepower Lycoming IO-360 engine, which replaced a six-cylinder 145-hp Continental. A pair of Cessna 175 wings holds additional fuel to supply the thirstier powerplant.

He and Hagan have already begun their social media blitz. A Facebook poll overwhelmingly indicated they launch the tour just after April’s Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo in Lakeland, Florida. The two described the trip during a recent interview on KING5, a Seattle television station.

He said the project is not just an extended cross-country trip, the likes of which have been documented by countless aviators since the mid 1920s.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Fosso.

“The point is not to just dip my toe in each state. The point of AdventureAbove is to explore each state, make videos of it, and make them available to others,” he added. “The Lower 48 is going to take a year.”

He encouraged aviation enthusiasts who spot the Cessna “not to be so shy, just come up and talk to us,” especially if they have tips for local hot spots.

“We’ll get the East Coast knocked out, rush back over to Oshkosh [for 2018 EAA AirVenture], and then head further West to the High Sierras, dodging winter and chasing summer,” explained Fosso. The tour stops in his home state before jumping to Alaska and then Hawaii.

Fosso is elusive when pressed for plans about crossing the Pacific Ocean but hinted about “an element that is really cool but it’s not set in stone and we have two years to get there.” If successful, the couple will join 27 percent of Aviation eBrief respondents who have visited 26 to 50 U.S. states.

“Either way we’re just gonna do it and see what happens,” he said. “Everyone thinks we're nuts but that’s OK.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Public Benefit Flying, Student, US Travel

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