Saturday, January 23, 2010


Everybody knows when you become an instructor that it's something you have to grow into. None of us like to admit it, but there is just as much of a "fake it till you make it" element as most other endeavors. So, your first few flights with students you stick to the syllabus and hope you're not screwing anything up. You start seeing some lightbulbs going off, but you're still a ways away from the local Designated Pilot Examiner signing off on your work.

In that vein, I've had two milestones in the past week. They've both demonstrated to me that I actually know what I'm doing and left me hungry for more new pilots to teach.

The Solo

June 21, 1999 is an important date in my logbook. That was the day that I first soloed. It was in the family Cub at Ball Airport. It's also a date I'll never have to look's committed to memory. I finally got to give somebody else an important date in their logbook last week.

In fairness, I inherited this student. He was flying at another flight school and it just wasn't working out, so he came to us with about 10 hours. After flying together a couple of lessons, we both realized that although he had the hours we were really starting "at the beginning" given his experience with the other flight school. He really struggled with landings for quite some time, but I stayed patient and figured out ways to show him what he needed to see. Last Wednesday, I soloed him.

I watched the whole thing from the tower at Waco. It's really a neat feeling to know that this guy you've taught it up there by himself in the airplane you're watching, and hopefully your voice is echoing in his head. "Fly that downwind a little tighter. Control that airspeed on final. Flare it, flare it, not too aggressive, let off on the back pressure momentarily. Good job."

Just like Joe Kosler, the family friend who taught me how to fly, did back in June of 1999, I cut his shirt tail. I still have mine hanging in a frame in my home office, and I know Jeff will keep his too. I'm looking forward to adding to my collection of shirt tail photos.

The Checkride

This week, my first student passed a checkride. It was pretty appropriate because it was an instrument student, which was the first instructor rating I earned back in July. It was even more appropriate because it was Adam, the very first student I really gave instruction to. We started working on his instrument rating back in early September. After the typical, life in general, class (he's a college student), we were finally able to get him ready.

Although the oral exam and the flight were a couple of days apart due to some GPS issues beyond our control, he kept his cool and did well. The examiner told us that he's a safe, competent instrument pilot and that I prepared him well. I'm also ready for more conversations like that.

A cool sidenote about this checkride: The oral exam was January 19, 2010. My first instrument lesson was January 19, 2009. That's what I call a productive year :).

With three more students nearing their soloes and a couple of other checkrides coming up in the very near future, this story is most definitely to be continued.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Watching 2009 fly into the sunset...

What a year! I've already done one of those counting-the-hours posts (back in August, right after I completed my CFI), so I'll spare you more numbers. Suffice it to say, in 2009 I just about tripled my lifetime flight experience and earned almost 100 hours of instruction given as a CFI. Even a year ago right now (January 2), I couldn't have imagined just how well 2009 would go.

Thank you for following me so far. I haven't been as good about updating here since I actually started working as an instructor, but you've followed me from a 10-hour-a-year private pilot who could barely center a VOR needle to a confident CFI/I.

What's ahead for this year? For me, there are a couple of housekeeping items I need to take care of. I have exactly "0" hours in multi-engine aircraft, and I plan to solve that this year by adding multi-engine rating to my commercial certificate. I'd also like to upgrade my seaplane rating to the commercial level. There's no reason for anything on my license to say "private privileges" anymore :). Of course, I'll take you along for the ride on both. Somewhere in there, I also plan to keep gently nudging Alisa in the direction of learning to fly. She's willing, but she needs a few extra pushes. If you're reading this, you could help with that!

Also, I'll be teaching the same Aviation History class at Baylor that I co-taught as a TA last spring. The difference is, this time it's all me! I'm excited about doing this. Not only do I like the curriculum, but presence among these students is a great way to get the word out about my full-time gig and being back on campus in a faculty capacity proves once and for all that the problems at my old job lay with the management.

For Waco Flight Training and Legacy Aircraft (our parent company), the sky literally is the limit. WFT will probably begin a radio ad campaign later this spring, and we are continuing to add students. Legacy Aircraft is about to expand into some cool new markets, and I'll share more about that as things happen. Parker and I really are working on turning ourselves into what I think of as general aviation solution specialists, and that's pretty exciting. It may keep me in a place where I can wear boots to work and keep me out of the cockpit of a Saab or ATR for a while, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I may have actually stumbled into a career here.

I'll close with a photo I took from N2150G the week before Christmas. Parker and I had flown down to my old stomping grounds at David Wayne Hooks in Houston to do some work on his CFII and I caught this sunset on the way home. Really good metaphor for 2009, I think. A day that I wasn't really in a hurry to see end, but ended beautifully all the same.

Blue skies!