Louie Kraushar flies in the right seat of a Cessna 172 with son Ron over Sacramento on Friday, the elder Kraushar's 84th birthday. Louis Kraushar has received the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for his 50-plus consecutive years of safe flying.

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Dreams take flight for Cameron Park man, 84

Published: Sunday, Jul. 17, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 18, 2011 - 9:54 am

It was a Curtiss "Jenny" biplane – probably.

Louie Kraushar isn't entirely sure. But then, what really matters is it was a plane, and it was parked by a haystack in the little Minnesota town of Waubun, and 7-year-old Louie took one look at the first airplane he ever saw and was hooked.

"That picture is plain as day in my mind," said Kraushar, now 84. "I just wanted to fly that dumb airplane."

He didn't, of course. And although he built his own prop engine several years later using an old phonograph motor – after his family had moved to the Sacramento area – that didn't get him off the ground, either.

But Kraushar was, admittedly, "the type to jump off a chicken coop with a little umbrella," believing he would fly. So after attending Grant High School, serving with the U.S. Navy and experiencing the arrival of his first child, in October 1954 he took his first training flight in a little Aeronca aircraft.

Four months later, he flew solo for the first time out of the old Capitol Sky Park in West Sacramento – and set the plane down safely.

He has since made a habit of that.

Last weekend, Kraushar received the Federal Aviation Administration's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which recognizes pilots who have at least 50 consecutive years of safe flight operations in the United States.

Nominees cannot have had an FAA-issued airman certificate revoked, and they must have a detailed summary of their flight history reviewed by the FAA, according to the agency's award information guide.

An online honor roll at the FAA Safety Team website lists about 1,900 recipients nationwide since the award was first issued in August 2003.

"It's pretty remarkable a person is able to get flying experience over 50 years without accident – or getting in trouble with us," said FAA Safety Team program manager Gary Jestice. "We consider it a big deal."

Kraushar's son, Ron, an insurance agent in Fair Oaks, nominated him for the award. When Ron was a kid, not yet tall enough to reach the pedals in the cockpit, Louie would take him up and let him steer.

"I think he's a dreamer," said Ron Kraushar, now a certified pilot himself. "A lot of people dream but don't actually follow through on their dreams. But he does."

Louie Kraushar's first airplane, a Taylorcraft, had to be wound up in order to start, the elder Kraushar said. It had no lights or radio. When he wanted to land at a big airport, he had to circle the tower until somebody saw him and held up a green light clearing him to land.

Flight, he found, was "a thrill, refreshing."

"You get this freedom feeling, when you're up there and you're looking down at all the problems, it makes you feel good," he said Friday, sitting in the terminal at Mather Airport. "Your mind, problems seem to be gone."

Kraushar, a longtime insurance agent now retired, flies less often these days – maybe a dozen times in the last year, he said. The radio traffic that comes with flying over cities, he said, makes it "not as relaxing."

He remains president of the Low Flying Angels club, which he founded 47 years ago, and he still helps Ron maintain and change the oil of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk that the 12 members share.

The deck of the Cameron Park home in which he and his wife, Katherine, live overlooks a runway, and sometimes he sits outside to "see the planes come and go."

When he does fly, as was the case on Friday, his 84th birthday, he climbs into the right front seat of the Cessna with Ron at his left.

During a loop over downtown Sacramento and Cal Expo, Louie Kraushar took the controls for a while on their approach to Mather Airport. Mostly, he shifted his gaze between the instruments and the view to his right.

The landing – a bump, then a smooth roll – had a familiar conclusion. "Made it!" he said. "One piece."

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