Meet Our NAFI Master Instructors (A-G By Last Name)

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James Alexander NAFI MCFIJames Alexander, MGI 06/2023-06/2025:

Alexander, of Hollywood, Maryland, found his passion for aviation at a local air show at age 11 and has been a private pilot since his 17th birthday. He has a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. His long aviation career includes U.S. Air Force instructor/evaluator/navigator (retired), former NASA flight engineer, and chief of safety at the University of Maryland UAS Research and Operations Center. He recently completed his second year of teaching private pilot ground school for minority youth aspiring to be pilots. He also teaches aviation science courses as adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and serves as a crew resource management instructor. He has created a free website with references and resources for general aviation pilots: vfraviation.wordpress.com.

His volunteer activities include Ford Trimotor operations at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, FAASTeam Representative, WINGSPro, Civil Air Patrol, and airport advisory board member for St. Mary's County Regional Airport (2W6). Alexander has been a lifelong aviation enthusiast and enjoys being an instructor to help others on their aviation journeys. His current flying goals are to continue learning new things and enjoy new challenges and experiences. He recently completed his seaplane rating and is on a quest to fly as many different aircraft types as possible.

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James Archer MCFIJames Archer, MCFI 9/2020-10/2024:

This is Archer’s second NAFI Master Accreditation.

Archer is a certificated airline transport pilot for multi and single engine land aircraft. With more than 14 years as an instructor, he holds training certificates in instrument, single, and multi-engine aircraft as well as instrument and advanced ground instructor. Archer specializes in instrument training, instrument proficiency checks, flight reviews, and advanced ratings and certificates. He says he enjoys teaching aeronautical decision making, safety, and professionalism. His aviation experience encompasses 200 aircraft models including cabin class aircraft and the Beechcraft King Air 90. He has also received ground and flight training for the Boeing 737.

In August 2020, Archer was approved as a FAASTeam Representative and assigned as a remedial CFI by the FAA Atlanta FAASTeam Program Manager. Other activities include assisting the Transportation Education Foundation of Georgia with advanced flight and ground training curriculum development, as well as with SkillsUSA Georgia Conferences.

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Doug Auclair, MCFIDouglas Auclair, MCFI 11/2013-08/2025:

This is Auclair’s fourth NAFI Master Accreditation. Auclair lives in Rhode Island and owns and operates Air Ventures Flying School, which he started in 2010. Auclair holds a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in space operations.

Auclair started flight training in 2005 and has been a flight instructor since 2008. He is qualified to fly and teach in a range of airplanes from Piper Cubs to Citation jets and has dedicated his professional career to the development and improvement of the flight training industry.

Auclair and his school have received awards from AOPA, including the 2022 Eastern region Best Flight School, and 2023 Eastern region Best Flight Instructor. When he is not flying or teaching, Auclair enjoys spending time flying his Stinson 108 and exploring the world with his family.

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Joe Bertapelle NAFI MCFIJoeseph Bertapelle, MCFI 02/2023-02/2025:

This is Bertapelle's second NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.

Bertapelle owns the Augusta Flight Center (AFC), a flight school at August Municipal Airport in Augusta, Kansas. He arrived in Wichita in late 2006 as a KC-135 navigator for the United States Air Force, going on multiple temporary duties and seven deployments. He became a USAF instructor and evaluator for the navigator schoolhouse, obtaining several squadron and group-level awards. Bertapelle received an honorary discharge from the Air Force in 2012 as a captain for mission-planning software and worked on base as an independent contractor for another seven years to support the KC-135 and the KC-46.

He created Joe Bravo Aviation, LLC to diversify his student base and offer flight instruction to the public. Teaching flight instruction at multiple airports in his spare time, his bolstered reputation afforded him the opportunity to teach at Beechcraft’s Cessna Flying Club, a rare exception to its employee-only stipulation. In 2019, Bertapelle was sought to teach at Flight Safety International in the Caravan G1000 program until 2020 when downsizing from the COVID-19 pandemic furloughed him. Through this seemingly unfortunate circumstance, he has been able to focus his efforts entirely on AFC, becoming its owner in August 2020. It now has a current fleet of 11 planes, ranging from the Cessna 172 through the Beech Sierra. He is checked out in more than 50 different models of GA aircraft and routinely travels to meet students, maintaining a competitive level of expertise, proficiency, and flexibility. He offers instruction of all levels on advanced avionics in aircraft, aerobatic maneuvers, commercial, IFR, tailwheel, and upset training.

Bertapelle has CFI, CFII, MEII, AGI, and remote pilot ratings, and is a Gold Seal Instructor and aircraft dispatcher. He is vice president of the International Aerobatic Club Chapter 119, which recently awarded four aerobatic scholarships to AFC to help students pursue their dreams of aerobatic instruction.

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John Bolton NAFI A-MCFIJohn Bolton, Associate MCFI 11/2023-11/2025:

Bolton is currently a United States Army officer who teaches military history at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is an AH-64D/E Apache Longbow aviator, with more than 800 hours in combat. In his spare time Bolton has achieved CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings and teaches at a local FBO.

 

 

 

 

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Mark Cook NAFI Master Flight InstructorMark Cook, MCFI 11/2019-2/2024:

This is Cook’s second NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Cook says he knew he wanted to be a pilot since junior high.  He started his professional pilot career as “freight dog” flying for a regional shipping company. Cook is currently working as contract pilot for three construction companies. He specializes in single-engine turbines, including Pilatus PC12s and Socata TBM aircraft. He has flown over 9,400 hours with 2,600 hours of dual instruction given, and piloted 64 different types of airplanes.

Working as an independent flight instructor, he is an active CFI who has a special fondness for tail wheel, ski and float plane instruction.  As a Minneapolis FSDO, FAA Safety Team Representative and NAFI Master Flight Instructor, Cook has hosted and presented aviation safety seminars throughout northern Minnesota, on topics ranging from winter operations to airplane performance.  He enjoys flying in his Champion 7GCB float-plane on his free days.

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Ty Corfield NAFI MCFITy Corfield, MCFI 7/2022-7/2024:

Corfield’s interest in aviation began while he was studying at Florida State University. One of his professors was a board member of a popular amphibious light-sport startup, and the thought of flying for a living began to sound exciting.

After graduating, Corfield decided to attend ATP Flight School in Jacksonville, Florida. Success in the program led to the offer of a CFI position at ATP. He has held various roles over the past few years — primary instructor, flight standards instructor, curriculum developer, and multi-engine instructor.

Corfield has enjoyed the challenges and excitement that ATP and the world of aviation has offered him so far. He is currently exploring future opportunities and said he can't wait to continue to learn and grow with the best office view in the world.

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Lex Crosett NAFI MGIAlexander Crosett, MCFI 4/2022-4/2024, MGI 8/2023-8/2025:

Crosett has previously been accredited as a Master Flight Instructor. Crosett has been flight instructing since the age of 18 and enjoys working with pilots at every learning stage. Crosett is an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor and he holds airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates in both airplanes and helicopters.

In addition to flight instructing to pay for his college education, Crosett flew for air ambulance, freight, charter organizations, and for a commuter airline in New England. Crosett is an FAASTeam volunteer representative and is active as an Angel Flight and Patient Airlift Services command pilot. 

Crosett is a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot and teaches in Cirrus SR aircraft at Mike Goulian Aviation, a Cirrus Platinum Training Center in Massachusetts.

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Aaron Dabney MCFIAaron Dabney, MCFI 8/2013-12/2025:

This is Dabney’s sixth NAFI Master accreditation and distinguishes him as a Bronze Master Legacy Instructor.

Dabney’s earliest memories are of aviation. He grew up riding in the family J-3 Cub with his grandfather and uncle, and his family claims he was three months old the first time he went up. His Saturdays were spent at historic Ball Airport in Victoria, Texas, where he consumed a steady diet of flying stories from World War II veterans, agricultural pilots, and the many other characters who populated that gathering spot. Dabney eventually soloed the family Cub and is now its caretaker.

In 2009, Dabney earned his CFI/II and co-founded his first flight school with a close friend and business partner. It was there that he fell in love with teaching and running a small independent business, and he’s never looked back. He credits small business ownership for making him a better flight instructor, and vice-versa.

He and his wife Alisa now own Waco Flight Training in Waco, Texas, where he trains and mentors the instructional staff with a focus on serving as teachers rather than right-seat pilots. He is also an active contributor to the aviation sciences program at Baylor University. He serves there as assistant chief ground instructor and teaches the introductory course, as well as a first-of-its-kind, standalone course on the fundamentals of instructing.

Dabney is an active volunteer with NAFI, assisting with the Master Flight Instructor program and coordinating the monthly MentorLIVE broadcast.  In 2022, he was elected to his first three-year term on the board of directors.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degree in education from Baylor University. He has been married to his college sweetheart Alisa for nearly 20 years. They love to travel in their free time, including a yearly non-negotiable pilgrimage to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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Anderson Dowling, Associate MCFI 9/2022-9/2024:

Dowling’s career in aviation stemmed from a childhood passion for flight. As he approached age 30, Dowling decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. He began flight training in October 2019 and nine months later was a certificated flight instructor. Dowling instructed out of Orlando Executive Airport for more than a year and then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he currently instructs at Lake Norman Airpark (14A).

Dowling said, “The success of my students is my greatest motivation, but the challenge of adapting to different learning styles is my favorite part of the job.” He said his plan is to eventually fly for the airlines but hopes to continue his instructing career either in simulators or the flight deck as a Line Check Airman.

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Bradley Fenster NAFI MCFIBradley Fenster, MCFI 06/2023-06/2025:

Fenster loves aviation and has a passion for teaching. He is an instructor in both fixed wing and rotorcraft and is also an accomplished seaplane pilot. Fenster is the owner and primary flight instructor for ETL Aviation in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is the chief flight instructor. In addition to instructing, Fenster has authored three books: IFR Study Guide, The Helicopter Study Guide, and Guide to Seaplane Flying. Prior to learning to fly, Fenster spent several years in the military as a special warfare combat craft crewman in the U.S. Navy and Ranger-qualified infantry officer in the U.S. Army National Guard. Fenster is a father and lives in Kentucky with his wife.

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Brandon gardner NAFI MCFIBrandon Gardner, MCFI 9/2022-9/2024:

Gardner developed a passion for aviation at the age of twelve after a flight in a Mooney as part of a program between the Boy Scouts of America and the EAA Young Eagles. Since then, his dream was to become a professional pilot.

Gardner is a graduate of The University of Central Florida College of Business Administration with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Gardner lives in Orlando and began flying at Orlando Executive Airport, where he obtained his pilot certificates and ratings. In 2019, he founded Premier Flight Solutions, which quickly developed into one of Orlando’s top flight training institutions and aircraft management companies.

Gardner is a three-time AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor award winner, FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor, and Bahamas Private Flying Ambassador. He is an active member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA), National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), American Bonanza Society (ABS), Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Malibu M-Class Owners & Pilots Association (MMOPA), Mercy Flight Southeast (part of the Air Charity Network), and the Central Florida Business Aviation Association (CFBAA).

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Fred GibbsFred L. Gibbs, MCFI 12/2020-8/2025:

This is Gibbs’ second NAFI Master Accreditation. Gibbs is the retired CEO of his aviation consulting firm, The ABC Group, founded in January 2000. The company specializes in air traffic issues with the FAA and many of the aviation industry's major air traffic players, including Boeing Air Traffic Management, Raytheon, DynCorp, DME, Washington Consulting Group, and Lockheed Martin.  

He currently runs Wiseman Aviation flight school in Flagstaff, Arizona, and is its only flight instructor providing more than 1,000 hours of ground and flight training per year. He is a former second vice president of the Arizona Pilots Association, was director of its safety and education programs through 2018 and is currently director of safety and education programs emeritus. He also served as safety officer for the Civil Air Patrol squadron in Flagstaff, as well as flight check pilot and certified search and rescue mission pilot.

Gibbs has been a pilot since 1973, holding ATP, multi-engine, commercial SMEL, CFII, and remote (drone) pilot certificates. He has been an instructor pilot since 1976 with more than 16,000 hours of instruction time given with a total of slightly more than 19,000 hours total. He has also flown 2,500 hours in his own Bellanca Super Viking.

Gibbs has been a Safety Counselor/FAAST Team Lead Representative since 1973 and a former FAA designated pilot examiner. He was the 2003 Safety Counselor of the year for the state of Arizona.

As a finale to his flying career, in 2023 he will receive the FAA's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe flight. He has also been immortalized on the National Air and Space Museum's Wall of Honor at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

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Steve Goetz NAFI MCFISteven Goetz, MCFI 8/2011-11/2025:

This is Goetz’s seventh  NAFI Master Accreditation, and distinguishes him as a Bronze Legacy Master Instructor.

For as long as he can remember, Goetz said he has been interested in flying. In 2004, he finally got his chance to start. Now Goetz is a Gold Seal CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI, and an A&P mechanic. 

In 2008, he began flight instructing for Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he is currently the chief flight instructor under their Part 141 certificate, and an associate professor providing both flight training and student evaluation for the university.

In addition to flight instruction, he works with youth through summer camps, the Civil Air Patrol, and Young Eagles. He also works with the FAA Safety Team as a representative.

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Bryan Gutraj NAFI Associate MCFIBryan Gutraj, Associate MCFI 10/2022-10/2024:

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Gutraj’s passion for aviation began as a child on a commercial cross-country flight on United Airlines to Disneyland. Later, he studied accounting at Eastern Illinois University and began his private pilot training shortly after graduation. While attending law school in Chicago, Gutraj would take the Orange Line “L” to Midway Airport for flight lessons in his “free time” and earned his private pilot certificate in 1998 at Midway. He went on to earn his instrument rating at Stick and Rudder Flying Club in Waukegan. He took a hiatus from aviation for a few years while he built his law and accounting firms in Illinois. 

Although Gutraj did not log many hours over the next decade, he stayed close to aviation by assisting pilots, aircraft owners, mechanics, flight schools, and others with their business, tax, and estate planning matters. Finally, thanks to the persistence of several of those clients, he decided to return to his passion for flying and began working on his commercial pilot certificate in a Cessna 182RG based in Marshfield, Wisconsin. He has since added a multi-engine rating and CFI, CFII, and MEI to his certificates.

Although Gutraj’s pilot and flight instructor training was conducted almost exclusively in old school steam gauge six pack Cessnas, at the urging of one of his clients, he took the Cirrus Aircraft Advanced Transition course in the modern G1000 glass cockpit Cirrus SR22 G6 airplane. Following that certification, Gutraj has amassed nearly 200 hours in various Cirrus aircraft flying missions all around the continental United States.
With his newly-minted flight instructor certificate, and at the outset of the COVID pandemic, Gutraj decided to take a sabbatical from practicing law and accepted a flight instructor position in the University of Dubuque (UD) Part 141 aviation program. At UD, he instructed a broad spectrum of students from student pilots through multi-engine instructor candidates in the University’s G1000 single engine Cessna Skyhawks and multi-engine Piper Seminoles.

Following the results of a nationwide survey of flight students in 2021 conducted by the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilots Association (AOPA), Gutraj was awarded Distinguished Flight Instructor honors from the AOPA for the Central Southwest region. With more than 100,000 flight instructors nationwide, the AOPA bestowed this honor on the top 100. The award recognizes the highest levels of achievement in the flight training community, with the goal of encouraging others to adopt similar characteristics of success.

Later in 2021, the FAA awarded Gutraj its Gold Seal designation, which is issued to flight instructors who have maintained a high level of flight training activity and who meet special criteria with a proven track record of excellent performance. When he is not flight instructing or practicing law in Illinois, he can be found flying around the country with his rescue dog Shelby in a Cessna 210.

Gutraj also serves as an FAA Safety Team representative and is active in EAA Chapter 327 as a member of its scholarship committee and Young Eagles Flight volunteer. Gutraj credits several other CFIs who have supported him in his journey to become a flight instructor. “The legendary Wisconsin DPE Duffy Gaier and CFI Howard Joling were both instrumental in helping me hone my skills as a commercial pilot and flight instructor applicant,” he said. “University of Dubuque’s chief flight instructor Suzanne Peterson took a leap of faith in hiring a very green instructor with only Part 61 experience from outside the university’s program. Mrs. Peterson has also been extremely patient in mentoring me from a new flight instructor into an Associate Master CFI. Finally, a dear friend, pilot and instructor, Charles Kalvoda, has always been there throughout the past decade offering words of encouragement to support my passion for aviation.”

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