Our Instructors' Voices

From NAFI's Chair

Our Instructors' Voices

We give and receive so many wonderful gifts during the holiday season. Of course, the greatest gift of all is seeing and spending time with loved ones and friends. But we also receive many other gifts, both tangible and harder to describe. The latter category is often where advertisers talk about the "gift that keeps on giving." Of course, that is the goal of all education, including flight training. In other words, we instructors are fortunate enough to be able to share what we have learned with our students.

I'm thinking about this because NAFI's Director of Publications and Editor David Hipschman, recently lent me Richard Bach's 1963 autobiographical Stranger to the Ground. It is a wonderfully written introspective about Bach's flying career to that point, told in the Cold War context of flying a USAF F-84 into a thunderstorm and surviving, while at the same time extolling the commonality of all aviators.

It brought to mind a similar experience I had when I first had my IFR rating.  While being vectored through the St. Louis area on the way to Chicago late one spring evening, the controller sent us toward an "area of light rain showers." Of course, this was 20 years ago, and the integration of ATC and weather radar is not what it is today. Those showers turned out to be the cell of thunderstorm. At that moment, as I became convinced that I'd take the lives of my wife and our dog, I heard my instructor's voice say "OK, dummy, you did it. You let yourself get into a thunderstorm. Remember what I taught you about getting through one!" That thought settled me down and allowed me to speak rationally to the controller so we could work as a team to get through it while in a busy terminal area.

When I told Hipschman the recollection Bach's book had triggered, he smiled and told me a similar story. He told me of the time, as a non-instrument pilot, he had inadvertently flown into instrument conditions en route from Wisconsin to Wyoming in his Cherokee. After a few moments of fear and growing panic, he suddenly heard his instructor in his right ear. "Remember what I taught you. Trust your instruments. Level the wings. Establish a two-minute turn. Time the turn for one minute to reverse course." And after what he described as a few harrowing minutes, he flew out into VMC conditions with no adverse consequences.

These are the intangible gifts that we are privileged to both give and receive as pilots and instructors. I know that many of you have had similar experiences hearing your mentors in your mind when they weren't in the airplane with you. We'd love to hear about them.


Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
Share this post:

Comments on "Our Instructors' Voices"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment