I retired from the USAF ten years ago. I have been blessed to be able to earn a living as an instructor. My roles have included performing as an adjunct instructor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as a rider coach for the North Carolina motorcycle safety program and as an independent flight instructor. I have the pleasure of helping people learn about things I love.
Years ago I was returning to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan from a deployment and I noticed a sign “Kadena Aero Club.” I signed up for a discovery flight and I was immediately hooked. I landed, took my Harley off order and signed up for 30 days of leave. My instructor, and dear friend, Naoya Tamanaha taught me how to fly. He is a brave and patient man who provided an excellent example of how to combine precise professionalism with endless enthusiasm. Flying has allowed me to interact with a multitude of interesting people.
During the last ten years I have logged over six thousand hours and had the pleasure of working with over 200 individuals. Fifty of those folks went on to complete a rating or certificate. Some of them were returning to flight after a long hiatus and others were blank canvass that I was able to mold in the image of my mentors. The saying “we see so far because we stand upon the shoulders of giants” especially applies to aviation. My teachers and mentors each gave me additional tools and insights in both the technical aspects of flight and the art of instruction. My students have inspired me, scared me and, at times, frustrated me.
Inspirational students include Jessica who overcame a physical disability and went on to set world records in the light sport category. When I feel like complaining about my ailments I am shamed into silence. If I had her heart nothing would stop me.
Emmanuel is another student that taught me about life. He started his aviation journey as a young man, too young to drive. He had plans, I remember him telling George how he was going to proceed through the ratings and become an airline pilot. It was my privilege to help him achieve his goals. We had to wait until his birthday on several occasions because he was too young for the FAA rules. He is living his dream. His level of maturity and focus are indeed motivating but how he treated people was even more enlightening. As a young, talented aviator he had every right to be proud and this often leads to arrogance. But he showed humility in his words and deeds. Whether interacting with “air bullies” who seek aggrandizement over their ratings, aircraft or experience or speaking to timid potential students he was respectful and candid.
One of the joys of aviation is the fact that the airplane does not care who you are. Rich or poor, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation or creed it is merely physics and the human machine interface. If you are truly honest there are no excuses only performance or lack of. Either you are humble when you start or the aircraft affords you opportunities to learn humility. The students that scared me include ones that were arrogant and did not recognize their limitations and occasionally ones that surprised me during critical phases of flight or fright.
The students that frustrate me divide into two basic categories ones who fail to achieve because they won’t listen and those whom I can not figure out how to present the material. This may be different sides to the same issue. Either I do not know what to say or do that will allow the student to learn the skill or knowledge or I have not presented it in a manner that they think is useful. I am rarely frustrated because a large part of the fun of teaching is to figure out how to present the same material translated for the individual.Some people ask "when are you going to move on to bigger and better things?" I have no plans to move on because it is hard for me to think of too many things that are more fulfilling.
I need to start a series of “inspirational people” so I can talk about George, Sam, Stan, Gene, Betsy, James, John, Tonya, Jay, Hanna, Catherine, Len, Greg, Bob, Grover, Jan, Kory, Harrison, Ashok, Emily, Shelley, Mauricio, Steve, William and many others. What a great time I have had, I look forward to the next ten…(second, minutes, days, weeks, years).