Flying is Slower than Driving

Posted in I love to Fly, Just Plane Fun on January 3rd, 2016 by Michael

In early December I had an opportunity spend the day with Chris Palmer from Homer, AK. We had met at the Redbird Migration in November and I invited him to fly with me when he was in California visiting with family. We had one of those special days flying and hanging out at the airport that will remain with me for a long time. Read what he wrote on his blog about our time together.

Flying is Slower Than Driving

Dancing amongst the bumpy air, aviators pierce the blue yonder not in hopes of arriving faster. Instead we air warriors embody the aviation experience as a whole. Soaking in every moment ensures the ultimate journey.

The typical flight consists of many nuts and bolts, both literally and figuratively, to ensure eventual success and safety. As my time as an aviator has unfolded over the years, the technical details are easier to manage. Many have become second nature. This opens up the door for a richer experience of simply enjoying the journey that is “aviation”.

You see, aviation is a fraternity- a brotherhood of sorts. To a deeper extent, sharing this passion for the freedom of flying aircraft is one that borders the spiritual realm. Man was obviously meant to walk the earth, yet I also contest it was our destinty as humanity to break the bonds of soil and shoe. Read the whole story here.

A winged amphibian, a dream come true and a reminder that learning is best when fun

Posted in Just Plane Fun on June 1st, 2015 by Michael
Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and we passed our checkride.

Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and we passed our checkride.

My passion for flying began when I was eight years old and has been the catalyst for some of the most memorable events in my life.

The most recent adventure involved a trip to Burnet, Texas to add floatplane pilot to my pilot certificate. I was joined by my close friend David Casarez who I had the privilege to teach to fly. We were in Burnet because my good friend and Master Instructor Ken Wittekiend and his team teaches pilots to operate airplanes on the water at ProMark Aviation based at Burnet Municipal airport.

Little did we know that when we arrived in Austin, on Wednesday May 20th, that we would have a front row seat to watch the power and viciousness of Mother Nature. During the next four days we would find ourselves looking for breaks in the weather so that we could fly to one of the several lakes in the Texas Hill Country that ProMark uses as training venues for their floatplane training program. Before we arrived in Burnet it was clear that weather was going to be a challenge and I shared this concern with Ken. His reply was simple “we can do it”. I had lived in Texas for ten years and was very familiar with how fickle and powerful the weather can be. Needless to say,  I was hopeful but more than willing to return another day to complete the training. Nonetheless, Ken never wavered and was convinced that we would complete the training and always finished his comments with a smile and the mantra “that we will have fun doing it”. He was absolutely right on all counts. As we sat down for dinner on Sunday night we were floatplane pilots and we had a blast doing it. In addition to the tangible outcome of a Pilot Certificate that states Airplane Single Engine Sea there were other events that occurred during the training that proved, once again, that the journey is as good or better than the destination. Read more »

“Where there is a will there is a way”

Posted in Just Plane Fun on July 17th, 2014 by Michael

I created this blog to share stories of the people that I meet and  share my passion for learning and flying. This story is about Zachary Ramzi.

Zach arrived at one of the airports, where I provide flight instruction, about three years ago and since then I have had the opportunity to observe and guide him as he went through the process of obtaining his Private Pilot Certificate and later as his Flight Instructor for the Instrument Rating.

Throughout this time, it has been my privilege and honor to become both a coach and mentor for Zach as he has pursued his passion for flight. Not only is he a very good pilot both technically and mentally he is a terrific young man. As a full-time Aviation Educator I see many young pilots in the course of a year and to say that Zach is different would be an understatement. Zach is the middle son of a single mother raising three boys. His father passed away when he was three years old and his mom has been his biggest supporter. Since he began flying he has earned the money necessary to learn to fly by working at a golf course and networking with pilots to perform odd jobs, wash airplanes, sweep hangers, whatever it takes. This commitment made it possible for him to earn additional endorsements for flying complex, high performance and tailwheel aircraft. He also has an interest in maintaining airplanes and has worked closely with an A&P as an assistant building the required hours towards an A&P Certificate.  His motivation is impressive and watching him mature, as a pilot and a young man, through his own hard work,  the guidance of others and sheer determination has been a real treat.

Zach at Fort Irwin during his interview for the Army Aviation Warrant Officer Program

Zach at Fort Irwin during his interview for the Army Aviation Warrant Officer Program

Around his Senior year in high school Zach decided to pursue an opportunity in the Army Warrant Officer Flight Training Program. This program is designed to be very rigorous and stressful and has a structured and multi-layered  selection process. Throughout each phase of his preparation he was guided by his Army recruiter to meet or exceed all of the physical and leadership requirements that are required of this program. This required that he lose over fifty pounds, demonstrate a higher level of motivation in the classroom and to act as a mentor for other individuals that wanted to be considered for this program. In addition, scoring well on the various aptitude tests was important. He  met and exceeded all of these requirements and then the real work began. Meeting with the various individuals and boards tasked with identifying and selecting the men and women for this program. The thumbs up in the picture on the left, which was taken during his interview at Fort Irwin, turned out to be prophetic because on July 16 he was notified that he had been selected to enter the Program. To see his excitement and to know how hard he has worked to get to this point is why I love being a mentor, coach and teacher. His dream was to fly and he became a Private Pilot. He wanted to fly in the clouds and he earned his Instrument Rating. He wanted to be a helicopter pilot in the Army and he has achieved the first step in this process. I look forward to the day that I will travel to Fort Rucker, AL  and see him receive his wings because I know that he has the will and the desire to achieve whatever he puts his mind to.

Zuma Beach...will you go to the Prom with me?

Zuma Beach…will you go to the Prom with me?

An example as to why I have no doubt that he will earn his wings are demonstrated in the two images shown here. What girl can refuse a chance to go to Zuma Beach in an airplane? Further, what girl would refuse a Prom date proposal when asked like this? Zach and his best friend Marty cooked up a plan to write the Prom proposal in the sand, at Zuma Beach, because Zach had asked his hoped for date to go for a flight with him. It took Zach longer than expected to get to the shore and the waves kept rolling in and obscuring the message but his buddy Marty made sure that it was easily read from above when they arrived. Of course she said yes and the picture of them at the Reagan Library in front of Air Force One is the perfect acknowledgement of the saying “where there is a will there is a way.”

I will end this part of the story, because there will be more, in Zach’s  own words whenever we talked about commitment “damn straight’!

Of course I will go to the prom with you!

Of course I will go to the prom with you!

Determination, focus and commitment to excellence….well done!

Posted in Dreams Realized on February 21st, 2014 by Michael
The dream started long before this day.

The dream started long before this day.

June 30, 2014 first solo in the T-45C

June 30, 2014 first solo in the T-45C

Do you think there is a smile behind the visor? I know there is.

Do you think there is a smile behind the visor?

The dream continues to get better.

The dream continues to get better.

When I first arrived at the Camarillo airport I met Joey Kirksee who was working as a “line guy” at the airport. I was immediately captivated by his energy, enthusiasm and joyful attitude. As I got to know him I discovered that he was on a mission to become a pilot in the Navy and so many of our visits focused on his goal and the progress he was making both on the ground and in the air as he was determined to be as prepared as possible as he worked his way down the path toward being selected for flight school by the Navy. Read more »

Postscript to Professor Emeritus to student pilot~classroom to cockpit

Posted in Always Learning, Milestone on February 19th, 2012 by Michael

I had a terrific time this afternoon~felt like one of the big kids.

Michael made his first unsupervised solo yesterday and sent me the following note which I am sharing because it captures the essence of learning and realizing that the hard work is worth it.
“I had a terrific time this afternoon–felt like one of the big kids just sauntering in, being handed the book and the keys, doing my preflight, then jumping into the cockpit for a 1.3 hour flight.
I headed for the Ventura shore, skirting the Oxnard airspace and climbing to 3500, where I did some steep-bank turns, slow flight, then some power-off and power-on stalls. (A year ago stalls really freaked me out (to use the vernacular), so I’m delighted that I could do them and do them pretty well, without any apprehension.) Then I headed for Oxnard. I didn’t lose enough altitude before I entered the right downwind (confession), so I went around the first time, then did four landings and taxi-back take-offs. The wind was 180 6-7, so all the landings were crosswind but no sweat. I think I even got the nose more or less straight. Then back to SZP and a descent landing. I think most  of my radio work at Oxnard was fine; at least I didn’t hear about any omissions. You may detect a certain self-satisfaction in the above, but I’m sure you will forgive it.” Not only is it forgiven I applaud you for your success and look forward to our next flight together.

Professor Emeritus to student pilot~classroom to cockpit

Posted in Always Learning, Milestone on February 14th, 2012 by Michael

Captain O'Connell sailing in Eurpoe

I created this blog to share stories about the people I meet and the opportunity that I have to share the adventure of learning to fly with them. The time that I have spent with Michael O’Connell is time that has been both challenging and rewarding. Michael is an accomplished  scholar with an interest in  Renaissance literature and medieval and Renaissance Drama and a passion for the sea. He is Professor Emeritus at UCSB. The following from the English Department website lauds that  Professor O’Connell’s work as an English scholar, instructor, and Education Abroad Program director has left a lasting impact on the department and campus. “Michael’s 30 years of service to the department and the university at large have demonstrated that his good cheer and friendly disposition extend well beyond the classroom. For his entire career, Michael has been a focused scholar, candid leader, and wonderful friend to his colleagues at UCSB – and will continue to be in his well-deserved retirement.” The “well-deserved retirement” gave Michael the opportunity to pursue an interest in flying which he developed while flying with a friend. Learning to fly in your sixties requires commitment, patience and a willingness to accept the fact that age is both a blessing and a curse. For reasons, outside of his control, Michael had a number of instructors and was introduced to me with a significant number of hours in his logbook. This is not a bad thing but having numerous voices and teaching styles rolling around in your can be confusing. Read more »

Solo Flight>>Step One

Posted in Milestone on December 25th, 2011 by Michael
First Solo~The perfect way to celebrate the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk

Saturday December 17, 2011 started out as the second day of what we call “wind event” days as our tip of the hat to Santa Ana winds that blow here in Southern California. The plan was to have Evan Zalesak solo on this day but I had told him not to count on it as the wind may be a factor. He concurred but nonetheless his family had decided that they would come to the airport just in case something changed. As we began the winds were still too strong for a solo but good for a solo tune-up. We had performed a number of landings and as to be expected Evan was a bit nervous and I was nit-picking his performance to squeeze the best out of him. It was clear that Mother Nature had decided that today would be the day and the winds had calmed considerably.  As we were taxiing back to Runway 4  I asked him if he had any comments about his performance. He looked at me and said it was hard to concentrate because I was talking. I smiled to myself because this was the sign that he was ready to solo.  Needless to say, he performed well and after completing seven landings celebrated his accomplishment with his family. Read more »

Simulator Training is Coming to Ventura and Santa BarbaraCounty

Posted in Flight Training Ground School on June 18th, 2011 by Michael

It has been my goal to open a simulator training center in the area of Ventura and Santa Barbara county and finally the goal is coming to fruition. Aviation Instruction will be offering simulator training for general aviation pilots from our center at the Camarillo Airport (CMA). We have ordered a Redbird SD simulator and will be offering training on standard gauges and the G1000 Avionics Suite beginning in early August. You will be able to learn more at our website which will be up and running in the very near future. In the meantime we will post additional information on our blog. If you have questions or comments please let us know with a post.  We look forward to sharing this incredible training tool with you.

Persistence~Frustration~Determination~The Dream~The Odyssey

Posted in Dreams Realized, Milestone on January 8th, 2011 by Michael
The dream began in Calaveras County

We begin this story when David Casarez was carving a runway out of a hillside in Calaveras County. David was a young man and in the process of building his reputation and his experience as an excavation contractor. After he completed the work he was given an opportunity to do some flying and the spark and his love of flight was ignited and he made a promise to himself that he would one day land on the runway that he had created.    

Fast forward to December 24th, 2004 when David was introduced to me by a mutual friend who felt that I would be a good fit for him as a flight instructor. Neither of us ever imagined that as a result of this meeting that we would share an experience that lasted six years and created a friendship that will last forever. Read more »

It’s About Time!

Posted in Milestone on December 7th, 2010 by Michael

Clay flying a Stearman when he was twenty-something

 Clay Phelps grew up with flying and aviation as part of his DNA and so it is no surprise that he has spent most of his life around airplanes, airports and people who fly. Clay (along with his wife Judy) is the owner of CP Aviation which is based at one of the jewels of aviation Santa Paula (SZP) airport. 

When I joined the  staff, as an instructor at CP in 2008, Clay had been working on his Instructor rating for over 20 years and this love affair with procrastination was a long-standing joke amongst his many friends. Actually, the numbers that accompany this saga are 24 years and six sittings for the Fundamentals of Instruction and the CFI Knowledge Test (passed them every time) not to mention the countless hours spent studying and putting off completing the process. Read more »