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Free flights aim to inspire woman to become pilots (video)

By BY KELDY ORTIZ - KORTIZ@VICAD.COM
March 9, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

McKinsey Kuester, 11, gazes out  a window while taking a flight above Victoria during the Calhoun Air Center-sponsored free flights for women at the Victoria Regional Airport. The flights are to honor the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week. Sunday is the final day of  free flights.

Flights continue

• WHERE: Calhoun Air Center at Victoria Regional Airport, 276 Hangar Drive South

• WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

• WHAT: Calhoun Air Center is sponsoring free flights for women of all ages interested in experiencing their first flight.

• Call 361-575-2359 in advance to schedule your flight.

McKinsey Kuester, 11, ran toward the airplane when it was her time to fly Saturday morning.

She waved goodbye to her mother as she strapped on her seat belt and put on headphones, preparing for takeoff at Victoria Regional Airport. After a 20-minute flight, McKinsey returned to earth.

"I was a little nervous, but once we got in the air, it was so much fun said the Dudley Elementary School student."

McKinsey was one of more than a dozen girls who participated in free flights for women sponsored by Calhoun Air Center. The flights are to honor the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week and are part of an attempt to increase the number of female pilots in the profession.

"We want to let women be aware that this opportunity is available," said Dianna Stanger, owner of Calhoun Air Center, who has been flying since 1994. "Just to watch people come away smiling about these flights - it gets them excited about flying."

While McKinsey was ascending through the air, her mother was taking pictures. Unlike her daughter, she's afraid to go inside a small aircraft. Two years ago, Kuester said McKinsey flew in a helicopter.

"It can keep her from having the same fears I have," said Michele Kuester about her daughter flying. "This is a whole new experience for her because she is right in front of the action."

Braelyn Del Bosque, 10, flew in a helicopter. She was also scared like McKinsey.

"I got use to it," said the student at Our Lady of Victory. "I suggest people go on that helicopter."

Heights used to frighten flight instructor Erin Michael before she began piloting airplanes, but over time, she conquered her fear.

"Being on an airplane is not the same as being on the top of a building. When you're in an airplane, you have a sense of security," Michael said. Working as a female pilot, she said, is "realistic, and the fact is that it's going on in Victoria."

McKinsey, while sad that her mother did not fly with her, said she looks forward to having more opportunities to join her.

"It's something that I'll look at in the future," she said.

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