60 Seconds with blind flyer George Kerscher

60 Seconds with blind flyer George Kerscher

We recently talked with George Kerscher, a Delta SkyMiles member with a very special flying companion, Nesbit, his guide dog. Kerscher, who is legally blind, and Nesbit have been traveling together for the past eight years and have recently attained Million Miler status. Nesbit has become Delta’s first official “Million Miler Companion.” Delta officials recognized Kerscher and Nesbit at a recent CSUN Technology & Person with Disabilities Conference in Los Angeles. We were able to catch up with Kerscher (and Nesbit) between flights.

InsideFlyer
How did you and Nesbit meet?
George Kerscher
I’m blind, and I researched the 19 different guide dog programs in North America and selected Guide Dogs for the Blind ( http://www.guidegdogs.com ) and went through their process of qualifying and finally going through school there. It’s a 28-day program and on the third day, they make the match. They look at all the dogs they have available, and then they match the blind person up with the dog. And here I was, saying I was from Montana but I travel a lot and I’m in board meetings and technical meetings. One day I could be in New York and the next day in Montana. This presented a dilemma to them. It was a tough match to make. But they had Nesbit, great dog, great guy who had this ability to chill out when he was at ease — he would just sleep — and he’s amazing that he can be very still for long periods of time but then get right up and work. They made the match and we’ve been together ever since. That was February 3, 1999. He’s going to be 10 May 19th of this year.

IF
What keeps you both on the road?
Kerscher
I’m a technology guy and we are now in the information age. Access to information is a fundamental human right, I believe, and I work on developing technology providing for people who are blind or print-disabled. I coined the term print-disabled back in 1988 or ’89 when I started a company that made electronic books. I pioneered that work. I now work with the Daisy Consortium ( http://www.daisy.org ) and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.

IF
On average, how often do you and Nesbit fly?
Kerscher
Five years ago, my wife kept a diary and said that I was on the road for 116 days that year and I promised her that I would not go over 100 days a year on the road and so far this year, I’ve been on the road 37 days in the first quarter. So, a lot. It’s a teriffic industry but there’s not a lot of experts available and we need the industry to grow. But until that happens our key people are in great demand. I’m not the only one who is on the road a lot.

IF
Now that you are Delta SkyMiles Million Miler, what has changed?
Kerscher
Well, I don’t really think it’s going to change anything. There will be more recognition and I can talk to people who say, “Oh my God, you gotta be kidding!” But in a million miles Nesbit has been perfect. There has never been any kind of incident at all. No accidents. The longest flight we took was from Los Angeles to Paris — 15 hours grass to grass.

IF
What do you feel is Nesbit’s favorite/least favorite aspect of traveling?
Kerscher
I would say that Nesbit’s favorite aspect of travel is all the people he gets to meet. His least favorite would be the long flights and not getting to eat before and during them.

IF
What is your favorite/least favorite aspect of traveling?
Kerscher
I love getting to my destination and meeting with the people I work with. I also love food and enjoy travel. Travel is an education. And my least favorite aspect? I love my wife and I will do everything I can to spend less time away from home.

IF
What have you done with some of your miles?
Kerscher
I share my miles with my family and sometimes with people at work. We’ve been to Alaska, Grand Caymans, Hawaii and my child used miles for a Jamaican honeymoon.

IF
Is there anything else you would like to share about your travels with Nesbit?
Kerscher
Working for non-profits, I travel coach but am often upgraded when the flight attendants see Nesbit. He’s such a popular guy! On one flight, a flight attendant came to my row of three big guys crammed together in our seats, and says, “This poor dog just doesn’t have enough room,” and said that she’d found room for him in business class — and I could come along.

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