Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A little about myself

I really appreciate all of the comments I have gotten since I started doing this. It has been quite fun to create this little corner of the web to call my own. Admittedly, I haven't been posting as often as I did when it was new, but I do intent to continue posting from time to time, indefinitely.

I got a very cool comment from an anonymous poster, so to answer his question, I'm going to talk about myself a little more than I have before.

How old are you? I really look up to you. I mean it. It's awesome to know how much you love your profession.

I'm a freshman in college, work at an airport and fly off to the side, and am DYING to get my CFI-I once I get out of school.

I always wanted to fly. I remember being 7 years old, doing enough research to find out there is no minimum age required to receive flight training. I asked my parents if I could take lessons, and of course the answer was no. Obviously, I had no idea what all is involved in becoming a pilot.

Fast forward a few years to my freshman year in college. I was an engineering major at the time, and realized I had never lost the desire to fly. I also realized that I could fund it myself by working hard over the summer, and that is exactly what I did. The day after my last final exam, I took my first flight lesson. I waited tables all that summer, and when I was not at work I was either at the airport or studying at home. I read constantly, especially online. The AOPA forums (I'm still an active poster) were one of many excellent sources of expert information and camaraderie with other pilots of every level of certification. Five months to the day after my first lesson, I passed my private pilot checkride, paid for in cash from my job.

While in school (I eventually left the engineering department for chemistry, and ended up graduating with a BA in history), I managed to fund about one rating per year. I became an instrument pilot the summer before my junior year, earned my commercial license the first half of my senior year, and finally got the coveted CFI-Airplane my final semester in school. Obviously, by this point I had decided to pursue aviation as a career.

While there are many problems with aviation as a career (which might justify a future post, if anyone is interested email or comment please), I decided I at least had to try.

I have worked pretty hard to get myself to where I am, but I have also been very lucky. I work at an FBO/flight school with 2 other instructors. We have trained over 10 private pilots and a couple instrument pilots since May. In the middle of a huge economic disaster, the business has done far better than ever before. They needed an extra CFI, I had just graduated and needed a job, and it is the same FBO I had always rented from (though I trained with a CFI at another airport). Talk about right place, right time, I have flown over 400 hours since May 2010 and trained 4 private pilots (the first got his certificate a couple weeks before my 23rd birthday), two more coming in the next month. While working full time, I also volunteered time in the maintenance shop and FBO office, trading the time out for airplane rental, which I used to train and test for my CFI-Instrument rating.

To the commenter, and anyone else who is young and looking for a path into aviation, I hope you find it. None will be easy, but it is possible. Being assertive, friendly, and honest with the people you deal with is a good first step. Taking aviation seriously is another. You can't just tell people to follow the checklist, then throw it in the back when you are out solo. Even in something as stone simple as a Skyhawk or a Cherokee. You have to be real with people, and they will appreciate it. When you run up against the limits of your comfort level or experience, admit it, and explain what your thoughts or concerns are. Everyone from your boss to your student will appreciate it. Take care of the people you deal with and they will take care of you. I have had some awesome opportunities (flying various aircraft, high altitude endorsement in a Piper Meridian) because of this attitude.

I do love what I do. I will credit my life right now to hard work and the generosity of others. I hope you can also find a route into flying professionally, if that is really what you want to do - just be realistic about what it takes and what it is like.

Some recommended reading for aspiring CFIs:

Stick and Rudder by Wolfgang Langeweischz - read it several times, slowly, think about what it says. Really good stuff, especially about how to judge an approach.

Weather Flying by Robert Buck - Not the beginning or the end of studying weather, but it has a lot of useful, practical strategies for real-world flying. Don't rely on that NEXRAD image on the 696 too much.

The Savvy Flight Instructor by Gregory Brown - has a lot of good general advice about networking, teaching, how to act like a professional, etc. I would consider this an essential part of CFI training for anybody I may train for their CFI in the future.

I'll leave you with a picture I took one October morning on the ramp. There was a very thick fog over the airport, the sun had just come up, and one of the other CFIs was giving a new client his very first flying lesson. Yes, this was taken on full color without any processing or filtering, that is what it looked like in real life.


  1. Thanks for the slightly more personal post - it's great to get a little more of the "background" to go along with the usual stuff.

    I almost went a similar career route - enrolled at Western Michigan in their aviation program before changing my mind (before I ever started classes) and deciding it wasn't a great time to become an airline pilot. Aviation's still my passion, though, and I intend to get the IR and Commercial - and possibly the CFI down the road - and figure out some way to get paid to fly, at least on occasion. You're only a couple years younger than me but it's great to see another young person so involved in aviation, we need more of us!

  2. Absolutely beautiful post. Love this blog. I'm a student pilot, and its taken a while to get my private (im about a month from getting it), so it's great so hear your success story! I would love to hear your thoughts on strategies for studying for the private checkride (thats what IM doing now). Thanks again for the GREAT GREAT blog!!

  3. Having flown with you several times over the past few months I can say your students are in good hands. You not only have the flying skills but also the temperament needed to be an effective teacher. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks from the anonymous poster!

    I appreciate it, and hope to follow in your footsteps.

    I am currently studying a field that I have passion for, not related aviation, at a university. I work hard on the weekends as a lineman. I fly at least once a month, only cross country, so I can hit the 50 PIC cross country requirement for part 61 IR. I'm doing that this summer.

    You definitely give me support to go to school full-time, work, and pursue certificates/ratings. I'm surprised you got out of school with your CFI, you must really have pushed yourself. Good for you! I hope to do the same!

    I feel like I'm doing everything right. I've worked at three airports, keep all my connections (CFI's/FBO's), joined local pilot organizations, go to every safety seminar, etc.

    I truly look forward to see future posts. I find it fun to read a post from a young, passionate CFI. As my primary instructor said, "Damn I wish I could have written a book of all the things I learned the first year of instructing!"