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A youth’s aviation dream is realized in the Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Donna Jeffries
  • 108th Wing

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- A New Jersey Air National Guard officer’s childhood military aviation dream became a reality upon his recent graduation from the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training school at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Second Lieutenant Kayan Slater, a 108th Wing pilot assigned to the 141st Air Refueling Squadron, said he set his eyes on serving his country as a pilot as a young boy and now plans to promote diversity in the aviation community for everyone.

“At age 11 Kayan told [us] that he would like to become a pilot when he grew up and he immediately pursued his dream,” said his father, retired, Lt. Col. Barry Slater, physician assistant. 

Exposure to aviation was the spark that set young Kayan on his journey.

“My father was a member of the Air Force (Reserve) and as a child we had many family trips to McGuire Air Force Base, especially for the air shows,” Kayan said.  I became fascinated with air mobility and was determined to fly one of these planes as an adult. I immediately began pursuing this dream and geared my high school classes and extra curriculum activities toward aviation. I joined the New York Civil Air Patrol - Floyd Bennett Composite Squadron where I began flying at age 12.”

He attended Embry Riddle Aeronautic University from 2014-2017 where he graduated with his Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical Science and a minor in Unmanned Aircraft System Science.

In 2017, having heard of Kayan’s pursuits through his father, Col. Eric Guttormsen, 141st ARS commander, offered Kayan the opportunity to join the unit. Kayan accepted and joined the Air National Guard in April 2018 as a student pilot and graduated from officer training school, receiving his commission as a second lieutenant July 10, 2020.

Kayan is now scheduled to go to Altus AFB to learn to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker.  With 485 hours of flight time under his belt, once he completes tanker training he plans to apply to the commercial airlines to continue his piloting career in the civilian sector.

The young pilot’s aspirations extend beyond the flight deck.

“Prior to entering undergraduate pilot training I worked for the New York Family for Autistic Children as a direct support professional. Helping those in need and less fortunate is a passion of mine,” he said.

Knowledge gained is best shared and Kayan sees himself as a role model for people of color looking into a career in aviation.

“I plan on donating my free time to help racially diverse children, teens and young adults, especially in the minority community, explore their interest in flying, he said. I want people of color to know that there are more career options. Hopefully I can make a difference in increasing the percentage of pilots of color for future generations.”

Air National Guardsman 2nd Lt. Kayan Slater completes undergraduate pilot training Feb. 4, 2022 at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and is ready for KC-135 Stratotanker training next. Assigned to the 141st Air Refueling Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., the young pilot started his journey to earn his Air Force wings at the age of 12. (U.S. Air Force photo)