Webinars, Cherry Bombs and Flying Schools Confidence is a drug.
Use it only as prescribed.
OK, this is a little out of character, but last night, I”combined” (I think that is the expression ) an aviation webinar–largely because it was introduced with the son of my buddy Barry Schiff but also because the topic was intriguing. Longtime captain for a major airline, Brian was soloed by his famously successful aviation daddy on his 16th birthday. At heart, he’s ever been a GA guy who owns and flies a Citabria and is an energetic, accomplished flight instructor. At some time following 11 p.m., glassy-eyed and numb-brained, I abandoned the webinar for mattress. But I had been so impressed with Brian’s briefing and his low-key, fun and (deceptively) casual fashion as a teacher who, before climbing into the sofa, I emailed dad and son Schiff,”Good presentation, learned a lot…mostly,’Stay the hell from SoCal airspace. ”’
Not surprising, I dreamed of flight instructing that night–actual and largely sweet memories of older pupils and planes interspersed with hardship dreams of being a flight instructor in Southern California and headaches about the current FAA airman certification criteria icensing requirements. A nd I recalled (yeah, here I go again), years ago, before I had been a CFI, if a nearby flight school operator and pilot examiner named Don Fairbanks had a well-attended monthly get-together for neighborhood flight instructors. They met on the second floor of this Lunken Airport terminal construction in a clubroom/ bar operated, to this day (usually for some thing more alcoholic than education), from the Greater Cincinnati Airmen Club.
My friend Steve Grote and I had been disgruntled at being excluded, but as fairly newly minted private pilots, we weren’t eligible. We were even more pissed off if a teacher friend named Carl Hilker leaned on the second-floor balcony before the assembly began, taunting us about our lack of qualification. Waiting until the assembly was underway, Steve lit the firework and lifted his arm to lob it over the balcony close to the clubroom door. At that moment, the door to the Lunken FAA flight service station opened, and a briefer on fracture came out into the lobby. Steve– rather nobly, I believed –held on to the cherry bomb, then…well, then it got pretty ugly. We retreated into the Sky Galley pub where I wrapped his hand at handkerchiefs and napkins and purchased something stronger than beer. Finally, in desperation, I called his dad, a formidable, no-nonsense guy who lived in nearby Hyde Park. Mr. Grote advised us to convince ourselves to the home while he called a doctor friend who lived next door. This was the 1960s, therefore this truly eminent surgeon met us at the Grote kitchencleaned and done minor hand operation, also gave Steve a lot of meds–and both of us a bit of his thoughts about stupidity.
Actually, I was well on the way to having the 200 hours needed to get a commercial certification and a CFI rating. In those days, there wasn’t any instrument-rating requirement, and in fact, how most of us paid for that rating was instructing. So, within three decades of getting a personal certification, I had been”a specialist,” instructing for the princely sum of $5 an hour–and only when the meter was operating.
However, I did supplement my income… See, when I had introduced myself
For the CFI practical test at what was then the general aviation office, Leo Wonderly handed me his version of this oral exam–several typewritten pages of queries –and sent me back to an exam room. As soon as I completed, we broke for lunch before flying, and out in my car, I wrote down all the 30 to 40 questions. Together with the answers, I assembled the whole thing into a publication known as the Flight Instructor Oral Examination Guide, which was published and marketed by Sporty’s. I had been not any Bill Kershner, but it was a minor hit.
The questions covered what you would expect: moderate and significant areas of basic schooling theory, maneuvers, techniques, regulations and records. This was in a better time–until CFIs were anticipated to be pseudo-psychologists, assessing a pupil’s personality type, instructing hazard management and decision-making processes.
In the subsequent 10 years, eventually as a multiengine and instrument CFI, I would log well over 6,000 hours. After instructing for some regional schools, I bought a 1966 Cessna 150 with a loan from my father, leased a Citabria possessed by a buddy (to get a half-baked aerobatic course), and launched Midwest Flight Center. By teaching day floor schools at a local college for nothing or little, I brought enough business to keep me and several part-time instructors busy.
Now, getting 141 school approval is ordinarily an onerous and lengthy process with manuals to be filed and FAA inspections conducted. But an FAA district office receives”points” for having certificated entities–Part 135, 121, 141, etc.–and in those years, the Cincinnati (subsequently ) GADO should have been low on points. We were up and conducting a 141 school in record time. When I voiced concern with the required manuals, Leo given me copies of Miami University’s 141 material and said:”Just copy it–and change obvious stuff like location, layout, aircraft, etc.. Submit it, and in a couple weeks, you will receive it back for corrections.”
“But why corrections if it’s identical to already-approved guides?”
“An office never approves a guide on the first attempt. It will always be returned for two or three or more revisions. It’s kind of a’job-security’ thing. But we will expedite the review process, and you’ll be in business.” C’mon, there have been much more guys out there with much more experience and skill begging for FAA jobs. As far back as 1970, at the very early years of the flying-school venture, they offered me an inspector standing in an FAA office, however I was weighing pressures to marry Ebby. I did, however, the union crashed and burned some years afterwards. So, faced with teaching or hungry, I applied, and they hired me–a choice they probably rued for another 28 years.