Professional pilot alumnus Brian Youngers has been awarded the 2023 Alumni Fellow for Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus.
The Alumni Fellows program, through the K-State Alumni Association, selects a distinguished alum from each K-State college every year to come back to their alma mater and meet with students, faculty and staff. During this time, the fellow can share their professional and educational expertise as a way to foster mentorship and connections.
A 2005 graduate, Youngers has more than 15 years of professional aviation experience that has taken him through several career advancements and includes more than 7,000 hours of flight time through 38 countries. He credits his overall experience at K-State Salina — not just his academic experience — for helping him become the director of aircraft management at Lone Mountain Aircraft while at the same time starting his own business, Ad Astra Flight Group, headquartered in Wichita.
Ad Astra Flight Group provides professional aviation services specializing in aircraft management, worldwide aircraft delivery and pilot services, as well as fixed-based operator and flight school business consulting. Through this, Youngers enjoys his passion for flying while also getting to own and operate a business.
“The combination of all of the things that I did while a student at K-State Salina has really helped me in my career,” Youngers said. “The academics and flight labs teaching me how to fly was obviously important. Beyond that, it was my involvement in the student government and a student entrepreneurial club that has led me on the path of my career. I am a pilot, but at the same time, I have gone into the business side of aviation, and all the things that I was involved with while on campus have helped.”
Youngers’ resume includes being the director of aviation camp programs at the Cosmosphere and general manager of Wells Aircraft, both in Hutchinson. He served as general manager of Signature Flight Support in Wichita and SouthWind Global Aviation in Moundridge before starting his own business.
As a child, it was sitting in the cockpit of his uncle’s F-4 Air Force Phantom jet that sparked Youngers’ interest in aviation. He eventually learned how to fly an aircraft while in high school and picked K-State Salina because of its size and reputation as a prestigious flight school. Youngers says it was Bill Gross, the late longtime chief pilot of K-State Salina’s aviation department, who helped him realize how to be successful professionally.
“From the moment that you put on your flight uniform, you just felt professional, and I took my education seriously,” Youngers said. “My experience with the campus’s leadership at the time was Bill Gross, you knew that professionalism is what he expected. It wasn’t an option. That really helped me in my career because that is the expectation of this industry.
“At the same time, I had a lot of fun with it. My education was a unique experience that was also exciting.”
Being named Alumni Fellow of the Salina campus is an honor for Youngers as he remains involved with the campus. Not only is Youngers interested in helping K-State Salina students, but he also enjoys helping leadership usher the campus into a new era of education.
“Brian’s role to our campus brings much-needed perspective,” said Alysia Starkey, K-State Salina CEO and dean. “As both an alumnus and business owner, he has a unique point of view on what makes K-State Salina great and how our students can impact the industry. With his years of diverse professional experience, his knowledge of the aviation industry helps us identify how our campus can position itself as a global leader in aerospace education.”
For more information about the Alumni Fellows program, visit k-state.com/Fellows.
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