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June 6, 2010

In an aviation blog such as this one, you might think that an entry entitled “Props” would revolve around a discussion of airplane propellers.   However, this post is more about giving “props” (proper respect) to the flight instructors who got us where we are today!

If you’ve read the “about” section you know that Heather and I met in Meriden, CT at KMMK while I was doing my primary training and she was getting back into flying after a 17 year hiatus.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the  flight instructors who put up with us (okay… I’m sure Heather was a delight….so I’ll re-phrase…put up with me,) and got us through our training.

My first flight instructor – and the one I credit with teaching me to fly – was Justin.  He taught the ground school class which was made up of roughly 12 men and me.  Justin kept insisting there were other women pilots at Meriden – but I hadn’t met any yet.   It didn’t bother me though…after all, I was in a class full of men;o)  I flew 2 or 3 times per week as weather permitted and Justin brought me through solo and my first of three stage checks before leaving KMMK for a job with the airlines.  Among many other things, Justin taught me to have exacting standards from preflight to landing.  I also aced my written exam immediately after passing the ground school class he taught.

My second flight instructor – and the one I credit with teaching me to be a pilot –  was Manny.   Although I was still training with Justin, he was on vacation through the New Year’s holiday and I wanted to fly.  I remember apologizing for making Manny fly first thing on New Year’s Day and his response was “I’m right where I want to be.”  When Justin left, I turned to Manny to continue my training.  Manny got me through cross countries, stage checks, AND my practical exam.  But his teaching didn’t stop there: Manny remained my go-to source of “what do I do if?” or “this is what happened next…” when related to flying.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met and trained with these two exceptional men!  To this day they remain good friends and mentors.  I’m thankful for their continued support and encouragement throughout the years.

Meanwhile, Heather was at KMMK regaining her proficiency.  As an Air Traffic Controller she was already heavily involved in aviation, but this was her time to get back into the FLYING side of things.  Heather’s instructor, Mike, worked with her to get her back up to speed. 

Heather writes:

Yea Mike!  He did a fine job getting me up to speed and transitioning from Cessna’s to Pipers after a 17 year hiatus.  I remember we took off KMMK IFR with me in the right seat going to KPVD to look at a Warrior for sale there.  He let me land from the right seat at KPVD.  I also remember lots of crosswind practice back at KMMK–and going around a couple of times as I tackled that 28-knot gusting crosswind (though it was only about 30 degrees to the NW for a crosswind). 

For my instrument training, I started with Rob.   Rob was great at showing me the capabilities our Warrior has-he demonstrated “canyon turns” while I was under the hood!  He also introduced me to turf runways and really gave me more comfort with the aircraft.  J.D. took over when Rob took a teaching job.  J.D.’s patience and laid-back attitude helped me progress, as well as his ingenuity in actually creating an approach into Chester which had an arc–with “HETHR” as the final approach fix–just to be able to teach me to do that approach!  J.D. also taught the ground school, and has a wonderful way of breaking down complex concepts to make them easier to understand.  Chris helped finish my instrument training in preparation for the check ride while JD was on vacation.  In those couple of weeks I got about 5 hours of actual IFR time, an invaluable experience as my check ride was in actual IFR conditions.  Chris also has a wonderful laid-back attitude, and he is currently Leon’s instructor. 

[Note:  Chris recently agreed to fly with Heather to Florida since I can’t get down until later in the week.  We’re both very grateful for his willingness to help out.]

My current instructor, Andy, has helped me shake off the rust (more than once….) and is now helping me get ready for the Air Race.  We’ve also started my Instrument training and I look forward to diving into the IFR work over the next few months.   Andy’s calm, cool and collected teaching style keeps me from stressing out in the plane…which makes for a great learning environment.  Thanks, Andy!  I’ll see you Monday.

So… PROPS to all of you – Justin, Manny, Mike, Rob, J.D., Andy and Chris (….and the many other instructors we’ve flown with over the years) – for getting us where we are today! 

We couldn’t have done it without you!

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