Local aviator gets head start on ‘flying the friendly skies’
What began as a boyhood interest in buzzing around Merrill in Ultra-Light aircraft with his father Steve, has now led to the fulfillment of a dream and passion for Merrill native Brian Krueger. As of mid-January, Krueger earned one of the highest level of credentials possible for civilian pilots, that of an Air Transportation Pilot license (ATP).
As Krueger explains, he was hired by Minneapolis based Sun Country Airlines in November.
Upon securing employment, he embarked on an 8-week training course involving four weeks of classroom instruction on various topics such as aircraft systems, company regulations as well as FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations. After completing the classroom portion, the next step was four weeks of simulator training, followed by two, hour-long oral examinations with FAA officials.
The final step, which would decide pass/fail if Krueger was bestowed with the coveted ATP credentials, was a 4-hour “check ride.”
“A check ride is very similar to a driver’s test in a car,” Krueger explains. “Except this is a 4-hour test in the air with FAA officials. It was very nerve wracking, but fun at the same time.”
What is perhaps the most attention-grabbing of Krueger’s accomplishment, is his relatively young age.
According to Merrill Municipal Airport President Gary Schwartz, the 29-year-old Krueger is pretty far ahead of other aviators.
“Most pilots don’t even begin training for their ATP until their mid to late 30s,” Schwartz said. “This is a pretty high honor, and for Brian to accomplish it at such a young age is very impressive.”
In looking back on Krueger’s aviation career, there is little wonder as to his fast track.
“I was 15 when I took my first solo flight at the Merrill airport,” he says with a grin. “My dad Steve had his pilot’s license, so he taught me how to fly Ultra-Lights. The more I learned, the more I enjoyed it, so I decided to pursue a private pilot’s license. Thanks to Brad Pophal, who has been an instructor for 25 years or so, I earned my private license at age 17.”
From that point on Krueger’s aviation career lifted off full throttle, as he went on to attend Minnesota State University-Mankato, majoring in Aviation.
By the end of his freshman year in college, Krueger earned all of the necessary certifications to become a flight instructor at the University’s flight school.
By his Sophomore year, Brian had already landed his first airline job with Mesaba Airlines, flying commuter planes out of Minneapolis.
“I flew the same type of aircraft that are flown out of Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee,” he adds for clarification. Shortly after graduating college in 2010 at age 25, Brian earned captain status with the airline and moved up to flying regional flights. That is where he remained until he set his sights on fulfilling his dream of international flight with the Boeing 737 airliner. With his ATP license, his dream has been fulfilled.
“It’s been a great ride and I’m very excited. My roots began right here at Merrill airport and I’ll never forget it,” he added. “Now I go wherever they send me!”
“This is what aviation is all about,” Schwartz added, “starting off at the bottom and working your way up to the left seat of an airliner, which is the captain’s seat. Brian worked hard and has earned everything he has accomplished.”