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

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Ben Atnip NAFi MCFIBenjamin Atnip, MCFI 02/2016-11/2023:

This is Atnip’s third NAFI Master Accreditation. Atnip, Gold Seal, CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP AMEL & ASEL, has been teaching since 2005. He attended Utah Valley University. He worked in the construction industry growing up and started flying when he was 19. Atnip’s first flight job was working in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he taught private through commercial students. He then moved back to his hometown, Cody, Wyoming and started a flight school with a local FBO, Choice Aviation. At first, he was the only instructor, with one airplane, but it quickly grew. The flight school and Part 135 operation now employs 22 pilots and has a fleet of airplanes ranging from a Super Cub to a Citation CJ3. Atnip is the Director of Flight Operations for Choice Aviation and is connected with the collegiate program at Northwest College. He also does Aerial Firefighting, Air Ambulance Operations, On-demand Charter, and turbine transition courses for King Air, Meridian and Kodiak. Atnip also is an FAA Pilot Examiner (DPE) for the Denver FSDO and conducts checkrides for Private - ATP and CFI - MEI.

Atnip has a passion to teach and has acquired around 12,000 hours with over 4,700 hours of instruction given. He teaches a variety of courses, but specializes in spin training, tailwheel courses, mountain flying, Cirrus CSIP instruction as well as insurance-approved turbine courses. He is married to Alyssa and they have two daughters ages 5 and 2. In his spare time, he also enjoys skiing, playing the banjo, chess, ping-pong and volleyball.

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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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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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Craig Blumer NAFI MCFICraig Blumer, MCFI 12/2021-12/2023

Blumer started teaching in 2009 at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Instructing part-time in airplanes, Blumer pursued soaring operations and instructed in gliders on his downtime.  He earned a gold seal with a combination of glider and airplane students in 2012.

He departed instruction to pursue airship operations and operated various blimps over national events such as the Super Bowl.  Directing blimps around the United States, Blumer obtained an MEI, single engine seaplane rating, multi engine ATP, and started training coworkers to operate airships.  He earned a master CFI in 2014 and was the first blimp pilot to obtain the accreditation.

Blumer pursued air traffic control and obtained ratings in the terminal environment for radar and tower operations.  He worked at the Springfield, Illinois tower and trained controllers for air traffic ratings at KSPI.  He conducts briefings specializing in air traffic communications and procedures as a FAASTeam Representative.  He delivers these briefings in-person and online to groups of pilots.

As an air traffic controller, Blumer continued flight instructing in his 1946 Piper J3 Cub.  He offers tailwheel training and sponsors the annual Jane Berg Tailwheel Scholarship.  The selected scholarship applicant receives training and obtains a tailwheel endorsement.

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John Boos NAFI MCFIJohn Boos, MCFI 9/2019-1/2024:

This is Boos’ second consecutive NAFI Master accreditation. Boos is a Gold Seal CFI, CFII, MEI and is Chief Flight Instructor at Skill Aviation in Waukegan, Illinois, at KUGN. Boos started flying in 2013 and says he was hooked on aviation from the first lesson. He transitioned into full-time flight instruction in 2016, migrating from a career in electronic engineering. He is a FAA Safety Team Representative and holds an AGI and IGI. At Skill Aviation, he mentors CFIs and runs stage checks and mock checkrides. He refreshed Skill’s Part 61 Private and Instrument syllabuses and developed a tool to generate intermediate milestone dates for students who are on tight end-date timelines. He also developed an accelerated combined commercial-CFI course and numerous educational aids for the school.

In his spare time, Boos and his wife enjoy traveling in their Piper Turbo Arrow. He is an active amateur radio operator and enjoys morse code, which came in handy to identify VORs and localizers. Boos holds a BSEE from UW-Madison, a University of Chicago MBA, and holds eight U.S. Patents. He volunteers with the local Boy Scouts organization as an Aviation Merit Badge Counselor.

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Leo Burke NAFI Master InstructorLeo Burke, MCFI 6/2021-6/2023

Burke has pursued aviation since joining the Civil Air Patrol as a teenager. His first solo was in an airplane in July 1986. He earned his private pilot certificate in January 1987.   He has honed his skills and continued to add experiences and ratings. He has been a flight instructor since 2008 and added his CFII on January 1, 2021. His most recent solo was in June 2021, in a Schweizer TG-7A motor glider – he is currently pursuing his commercial glider and glider CFI ratings.

Burke volunteers as a CAP check pilot, instructor pilot and mission pilot. He conducts primary flight training for 15-to 20-Year-old cadets; as well as G1000 transitions and mission pilot skills to adult members.  He is a colonel in the CAP, having commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels. He has amassed nearly 1800 flight hours volunteering with CAP – including almost 650 hours of dual instruction given.  
In 2006, Burke was the aircraft commander of the first CAP aircrew to be awarded the 1st Air Force/AFNORTH Commander’s Award for the CAP Mission of Distinction. In 2019, he was named Michigan Wing’s Distinguished Aviator. 

A good deal of his 3100+ hours of flying are unusual. He has flown hundreds of Search and Rescue, Homeland Security and Disaster Relief Missions.

As a reserve deputy sheriff in Macomb County, MI, he has also volunteered as an instructor, chief of training and safety for the Sheriff’s Aviation Reserve Unit since 2008.  
Burke also specializes in providing instruction in all models of Navion aircraft.  
As soon as they are tall enough to reach the pedals, he intends to teach both of his grandsons how to fly.   

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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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Alexander CrosettLex Crossett NAFI MCFI, MCFI 4/2022-4/2024:

Crosett has been flight instructing since the age of 18 and enjoys working with pilots at every learning stage.  He’s currently teaching in Cirrus aircraft as a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP) at Mike Goulian Aviation, a Platinum Cirrus Training Center in the Boston area. He says working for Mike Goulian and with his team has been the highlight of his flight instruction career.

With more than 4,300 hours of flight time and over 1,300 hours of instruction, Crosett is rated as a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor. He holds Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates in both airplanes and helicopters and is an Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor.

In addition to flight instructing to pay for his college education, Crosett flew for air ambulance, freight, and charter organizations, and for a Part 121 commuter airline in New England.  Lex is also a Cirrus SR22 owner and active Angel Flight command pilot.

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Aaron Dabney NAFI Master InstructorAaron Dabney, MCFI 8/2013-12/2023:

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

An active flight instructor since 2009 and a Master Flight Instructor since 2013, Dabney was born and raised in Victoria, Texas. As a youngster his weekends were spent at the feet of the World War Two veterans and plant workers who populated the coffee circle of the local grass strip, Ball Airport. Before leaving for college Dabney soloed in his family’s 1946 Piper Cub, and he is now proud to be the caretaker of that same airplane.

Since 2013, Dabney and his wife Alisa have owned Waco Flight Training in Waco, Texas. He prides himself on training staff instructors to marry “old school” stick-and-rudder flying to modern pedagogy, and considers building the General Aviation community in his area to be an essential part of his mission.

Dabney earned both his bachelor of arts and master of science degree in education at Baylor University. Since 2010 he has served as adjunct faculty in that institution’s Aviation Science program, teaching both freshman and upper-level courses and serving as assistant chief ground instructor.

Dabney is an active volunteer in multiple capacities with NAFI, and is a proud Lifetime Member of the Experimental Aircraft Association. When he’s not flying or teaching, he and his wife of 17 years love to travel and share their passion for small business ownership with others.

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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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William E. Dubois, MGI 01/2020-01/2024:

This is Dubois’ Second consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.William E. Dubois is a CFI Academy ground instructor for Airline Transport Professionals (ATP) at the company’s KAPA location, where he helps to prepare new CFI candidates for their initial practical test. Dubois serves largely in a “teach the teacher” role, helping future instructors hone their classroom and cockpit education skills during ten-day intensive ground courses. He also travels the country for AOPA’s You Can Fly initiative, teaching Rusty Pilot seminars as one of the organization’s professional presenters.

Dubois, who’s been a FAA Certified Advanced and Instrument Ground Instructor since 1984, also holds a commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating, and has a degree in Aviation Technology.

In addition to instructing, Dubois is a prolific aviation writer whose credits include AOPA Pilot, CFI to CFI, EAA Sport Aviation, FAA Safety Briefing, Flight Training, Flying, Redbird Landing, Sun ‘n Fun Today, and The Pulse of Aviation. He pens Questions from the Cockpit, a monthly reader Q&A column for General Aviation News.

On the flying front, Dubois holds both a World and a National speed record; and is active with the Sport Air Racing League (SARL), where he’s a two-time national champion. An aviation history buff who has a fondness for old and antique airplanes, he recently chronicled his adventures re-flying one third of the transcontinental airmail route—using nothing but the 100-year-old written instructions—for Smithsonian Air & Space magazine.

In addition to NAFI, Dubois is a long-time AOPA member, and is a lifetime member of the Ercoupe Owners Club.

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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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Steve Goetz NAFI MCFISteven Goetz, MCFI 8/2011-10/2023:

This is Goetz’s sixth NAFI Master Accreditation. Goetz says he has been interested in flying since he was a kid. In his decade as a CFI, he’s earned an ATP, Remote Pilot – SUAS, gold seal CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI, and A&P. In 2008, he began flight instructing for Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), where he is currently an Assistant Professor and Assistant Chief Flight Instructor under their Part 141 certificate providing both flight training and student evaluation for the university. In addition to his work for SIUC, Goetz is a FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) as well as a FAA Safety Team Representative. Goetz also serves with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) as a check pilot, mission pilot, and deputy commander for his local unit.

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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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