Meet Our NAFI Master Instructors (O-U By Last Name)

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Gene Peterson NAFI MCFIGene Peterson, MCFI 1/2019-9/2025:

This is Peterson’s second consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Peterson became a CFI, CFII and MEI in 1974. In 1977 he went to work for Braniff Airways. He moved to Northwest Airlines in 1982, and went along when it merged with Delta in 2006. All the while he kept on teaching. Some days it would be in a Cessna 172 and the next day checking out a new pilot on the 747. In his 35,000 hours total time, Peterson has flown anything from the Ercoupe to F-16s and 747s. When asked to comment on 45 years of teaching Peterson said, "Each airplane is a little bit different, but the fundamentals of flying never change. It's the fundamentals that will always bring you home safe. Always try and instill that in your students."

 

 

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Alex Reed NAFI MCFIAlex Reed, MCFI 05/2023-05/2025:

Reed’s aviation career started in Novi, Michigan in 2016. As a child, Reed had always been interested in airplanes. He is a first-generation pilot in his family. He began flight training in the Civil Air Patrol with several volunteer instructors who were willing to mentor him into the industry. A number of these instructors were also NAFI members who possessed a Master Instructor Accreditation or Associate Master Instructor Accreditation.

Reed continued flight training through high school and achieved his private pilot certificate in early 2019. Following high school, Reed moved down to Daytona Beach, Florida to attend ATP flight school. During his time at ATP, Reed earned his instrument rating, and commercial, commercial-multi engine, and CFI certificates. He ended his ATP journey to move back to Michigan and instruct at Solo Aviation, a local flight school.

One of his goals as an instructor is to make a difference. He said his biggest desire is to be the instructor students look at for an example. Reed wants to share his love of aviation and has donated numerous instructional hours in Civil Air Patrol to help pilots knock off the rust or help a student pilot see what instruction is all about. He loves to help deserving pilots reach their goals, no matter what it takes. Earlier this year, Reed finished the requirements to earn the FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor certificate.

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Killian Ribeiro NAFI MCFIKillian Ribeiro 03/2022-03/2024:

It all began on Ribeiro’s roundtrip commercial flight in 2006 from his hometown Paris, France to Lisbon, Portugal when he was fortunate to be invited to visit the flight deck both directions. Since that day Ribeiro’s passion for aviation had continued to grow. He says that as a child, he used to fall asleep counting the airplanes passing in front of his window in the direction of Charles de Gaulle Airport on the outskirts of Paris. His dream of becoming a pilot materialized when he was accepted into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Ribeiro’s passion for both the United States and aviation made Embry-Riddle an ideal choice. From Paris to Daytona Beach was the first step of a long journey.

Ribeiro had his first training flight on April 11th, 2017, his first solo on June 5th, 2017, and completed his private pilot certificate on July 11th, 2017. He then obtained his instrument rating on October 26th, 2017 and his commercial certificate on May 9th, 2018. Ribeiro was then fortunate to join the Embry-Riddle Fast Track summer program, where he completed both his CFI and CFII instructor certifications and in August 2018 became an ERAU flight instructor. Beginning part-time, Ribeiro transitioned to a full-time instructor position in May 2019. He then obtained his AGI in November 2020 and became an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor. Ribeiro became a flight standards check pilot at Embry-Riddle in February 2020, completed his MEI at Spruce Creek on June 11th, 2020, and transitioned to a full-time check pilot status in June 2021. Ribeiro was granted the position of Assistant Chief Flight Instructor at Embry-Riddle in November 2021.

Ribeiro obtained his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science in two years and one semester as a Summa Cum Laude graduate from ERAU Daytona in May 2019, and received a Master of Business Administration in Aviation with an International Business specialization with Distinction at ERAU Worldwide in March 2021.  

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Dick Rochfort NAFI MCFIRichard "Dick" Rochfort, MCFI 2/2005-2/2025:

This is Rochfort’s tenth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation earning him Silver Legacy Master status.

Rochfort provides training, pre-purchase consulting, aircraft relocation, and expert witness services to owners, pilots, and instructors of the Piper PA-46 aircraft. He holds ATP, commercial, and Gold Seal flight instructor certificates with SEL, SES, MEL, CFII, MEI, and CE-525S ratings. He has been a full-time flight instructor since 1992.

Rochfort has researched, written, and published hundreds of articles and demonstration videos specific to the operation of the Piper PA-46 aircraft. This body of work is available online at the PA-46 Pilot reference library and is the only collection of its kind in the world. These videos have been viewed more than 2.5 million times and Rochfort’s YouTube channel has over 10,000 subscribers. He serves the PA-46 community worldwide and his training programs are PA-46 type-specific, insurance industry approved, FAA/Industry Training Standards (FITS) approved, FAA Wings approved, and are fully insured.

Rochfort is director emeritus of the Malibu Mirage Owners and Pilots Association (M/MOPA), and instructor emeritus of the M/MOPA Safety and Training Foundation. He is a member of EAA and NBAA. He is the official Meridian instructor for Red Bull air racer Kirby Chambliss and Team Chambliss.

Rochfort worked from 1976 until 1991 as an industrial engineer training manufacturing personnel to produce communication and navigation equipment for the United States military. Before that, he served as a Green Beret staff sergeant E-6, B Company, 2nd Battalion, U.S. Army Special Forces Airborne as an A Team radio operator, training indigenous personnel in field radio communications and other critical skills.

His education includes undergraduate degrees in clinical psychology and engineering, and a master’s degree in business administration. Rochfort lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and has two daughters. He is a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified Open Water Scuba instructor, a DAN (Divers Alert Network) certified first aid instructor, and an Eagle Scout.

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Matthew Sawyer NAFI MCFIMatthew Sawyer, MCFI 9/2022-9/2024:

Like many pilots, Sawyer’s interest in aviation started at a young age. His grandmother would drive him and his sister to his parent’s business where they would pass a billboard every day advertising Air Force pilot careers. The billboard posed the question, “Why not you?” From that time, Sawyer knew he wanted to fly
airplanes.

Sawyer’s passion for aviation grew over the years and he was able to take his first flight in a Beechcraft Bonanza with a family friend when he was a teenager. Upon graduating from high school, Sawyer earned his private pilot certificate at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease in New Hampshire. His instructor introduced him to the Vermont Technical College (VTC) Professional Pilot Technology Program in Williston, Vermont. Sawyer enrolled in the spring of 2016 and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in May of 2019. Along the way, Sawyer earned his CFI, CFII, MEI, and SES certificates and ratings.

Sawyer was offered full time employment at Vermont Flight Academy (VFA) after graduating from VTC. He has created custom training syllabi for the Part 61 and 141 training courses at VFA, helped re-write its standard operating procedures, and most recently, helped VFA purchase a new Tecnam P92. The P92 is the first new airplane VFA has owned, and is the most fuel efficient and training-oriented aircraft in VFA’s fleet.

Sawyer has held multiple positions at VFA including front office staff, flight instructor, and lead flight instructor. Currently he serves two roles — assistant chief flight instructor and director of operations. He intends to continue building on VFA’s operations and lead the path forward to better, more economical and environmentally friendly flight training. Sawyer’s passion for general aviation runs deep and he hopes to leave a positive impact on the industry throughout his career.

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Jorge Sierra Rodriguez MCFIJorge Sierra Rodriguez, MGI 5/2022-5/2024:

Sierra's dream of flying began at a very young age. He had a mentor who instilled a taste for aviation as a job and lifestyle. At 18, he started his career as a student pilot in Colombia. In 2011, he won a scholarship to an aviation school in Kissimmee, Florida. He completed his FAA Commercial Pilot multi-engine license and returned to Colombia, where he was hired at 21 years old as a First Officer for Avianca Airlines. He flew the Airbus 320 and 330 and started flying the Boeing 787 in early 2015. By 2018, he was chosen as a B-787 Instructor for Flight Training Device and Ground School. Working closely with flight standards and training, Sierra has been participating in developing recurrent training programs, evaluations, and courses designed for B-787 pilots. He is currently a Subject Matter Expert in aircraft and special operations for the airline. During the Covid-19 crisis, Sierra led the training and instruction of the flight crew members selected to do the first flight in the airline's history from Colombia to China to transport medical supplies. He was also one of the members of the flight crew.

Sierra holds an FAA ATP license with an A-320 type rating, FAA Advanced and Instrument ground instructor, and remote pilot certificate. Additionally, he has an ICAO ATP License and ICAO Instructor License for Full Flight Simulator, Aircraft Systems and Operations, Aerodynamics, Aviation Weather, Navigation, and Human Factors.

He continued his academic education while working as a pilot instructor. In 2020, he obtained a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and was admitted to the Master of Business Administration in Aviation program at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; he expects to graduate by October 2022. Sierra also graduated from U.S. DOT as an Advanced Safety Officer and Advanced Air Accident Investigator.

In 2022, the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators chose him to represent over 700 pilots of Colombia as Delegated Pilot Instructor at the U.S. World Aviation Training Summit. He was also hired by the worldwide provider of simulation-based training, CAE, as a B-787 Full Flight Simulator Instructor.

He said he is proud to have joined the FAA Safety Team, Latino Pilot Association, Professional Pilots of Tomorrow, MRAeS of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a new member of the National Association of Flight Instructors.

Sierra is passionate about flight training, education, training systems design, aviation curriculum development, learning management systems, and adult learning. He sees himself in the future as a pilot and instructor for a U.S. Legacy carrier, and actively participating in the industry as a CBTA/EBT expert.

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Steve Rutland, NAFI MCFIJames "Steve" Rutland, MCFI 9/2000-9/2025:

This is Rutland’s 11th NAFI Master Accreditation. Rutland is a professional pilot and flight instructor with 50 years of aviation experience, beginning in 1973 at Murray, Kentucky. He completed his first FAA flight instructor certificate in 1978 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Rutland attended the U.S. Army flight school in 1975 and is a Master Army Aviator. He is also a U.S. Coast Guard aviator, having served as a search and rescue pilot stationed in Los Angeles, California. Rutland has 38 years of experience as a government civilian flight instructor for the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Fort Novosel, Alabama.

Rutland holds three airline transport pilot ratings (ASEL, AMEL, and helicopter), five FAA flight instructor ratings (CFI-ASEL, AMEL, helicopter, CFII airplane and helicopter), and two type ratings. At Fort Novosel, Rutland completed ten different military instructor pilot courses. He has flown 27 different aircraft, with 21,000 accident-free flight hours. Rutland has almost 20,000 hours in the cockpit training flight students — 17,250 in flight and 2,200 in full motion simulators. He has almost 40 years in the classroom teaching ground school and has served as a mentor to countless military and civilian flight instructors.

Rutland has trained officers from the five branches of the United States armed forces. He has trained military flight students of every rank from warrant officer candidate to Master warrant officer five, and from second lieutenant to colonel. Flight instruction programs taught include primary, instrument, combat skills, aero scout, night vision goggles, advanced aircraft, and instructor pilot qualification in five different military aircraft. He has served as a UH-60 standardization instructor pilot and instrument flight examiner.

Working part-time under 14 CFR Part 141 and 61 flight schools, he has trained airplane single and multiengine land student pilots for private, commercial, instrument, airline transport pilot, and CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates.

Over his career, Rutland has earned awards including the Embry-Riddle Alumni Achievement Award, three-time FAA Regional Flight Instructor of the Year, Department of the Army Civilian of the Year Award, Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award for 28 years of service, Order of St. Michael Award for significant service to Army aviation, and the Sikorsky Helicopter Rescue Award.

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Nick Schillen NAFI MCFINicholas Schillen, MCFI 02/2020-02/2025:

Schillen currently lives in the state of Florida where he has resided after 24 years of military service in the U.S. Air force. During his time in the USAF Schillen served as a B-52 radar navigator for four years and then subsequently earned his Air Force pilot wings after 52 weeks of the best flight training in the world. He soon graduated with the equivalent of a commercial pilot certificate with instrument and multiengine ratings along with formation and acrobatic endorsements.  

Flight school was followed by the ubiquitous Vietnam tour as a special operations pilot. During which time, Schillen flew the military version of the venerable workhorse of aviation, none other than the DC-3, a.k.a. “Gooney Bird.” After several years as a flight instructor, he was assigned as a military advisor and air attaché in Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Salvador. After this assignment in Central America, he completed the balance of his military career working in Washington DC in various staff positions.

After retiring from the Air Force, Schillen went into commercial aviation and initially worked as a B-727 ground instructor at Eastern Airlines, until it went out of business in 1991. Shortly after, he was hired to start and operate an Air Force Junior ROTC program at a high school in South Florida.

After ten years with ROTC, Schillen moved on to open and operate his own flight school (NS Aviation). Since then, he has worked as the Chief Instructor at Atlantis Flight Academy located in North Perry Airport (KHWO) and SkyBlue Jet Aviation at Whitham Field (KSUA).

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ASAF SHMULEVICH NAFI MCFIAsaf Shmulevich, A-MCFI 10/2023-10/2025:

Shmulevich grew up in Israel and previously served in the Israeli Defense Force. Being around Air Force pilots and personnel triggered his interest in aviation.

In 2015, Shmulevich started working as a flight attendant for a major airline in Israel and was eventually promoted to its business and first-class flight attendant in charge of passenger safety.

During layovers in the United States, Shmulevich began pilot training and realized he wanted to do this for the rest of his life.

Shmulevich moved to Maryland in February 2020 to pursue his aviation goals, earning his pilot ratings and then CFI. He began to mentor new CFIs, became a safety director, and is now an FAA Safety Team Representative.

Currently Shmulevich is an FAA Gold Seal instructor, AGI, CFII, MEI and works as a charter pilot on a PC-12.

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Brenden Shower NAFI MCFIBrenden Shower, MCFI 5/2022-5/2013 and 11/2023-11/2025:

This is Shower’s second  NAFI Master Accreditation. With a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Southern California, a master’s in business administration from Temple University, and graduate certificate from the USAF Air Command Staff College, Shower spent much of his career managing large components of technology infrastructure for a large multi-national financial services company. In parallel, Shower earned his CFI certificates in 2004 and was hired as flight instructor and chief instructor under the United States Air Force Services Flight Training Center at Yokota Airbase in Tokyo, Japan.

Shower was contracted for 12 years to instruct and lead a team of eight dedicated flight instructors. He was charged with providing Part 61 flight instruction to United States Department of Defense and U.S. Embassy staff in Japan. While in Japan, he had opportunity to help build and develop an overseas squadron for USAF-Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol (CAP), where he served as check pilot examiner and deputy commander of the Yokota Overseas Squadron, (NHQ-103). NHQ-103 remains the only overseas squadron to incorporate flight operations providing orientation flights to CAP cadets.

Shower has spent time in Japan, Singapore, and Poland prior to relocating to North Carolina in 2021. He is currently contracted as Part 141 chief instructor for Total Flight Solutions in Louisburg, North Carolina which, together with 10 CFI professionals, provides Part 61 and Part 141 fixed wing and helicopter training at Raleigh’s Triangle North Executive Airport and Moore County Airport. He has recently been designated as an FAA Safety Team Representative under the Greensboro, North Carolina FSDO where he can further explore his passion for flight safety providing value to the aviation community. 

With 3,000 hours total time amassed and 1,700 hours dual instruction given, Shower holds ASEL and AMEL airline transport pilot certificates, CFI, CFII, and MEI Gold Seal with a C525 type rating. He remains impassioned and committed to service excellence in aviation education and aviation safety.

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Kenneth Solosky NAFI MCFIKenneth Solosky, A-MCFI 10/2023-10/2025:

Solosky began learning to fly in 1988 and earned his private, instrument, commercial airplane, and ATP ratings at Farmingdale Republic Airport.

Originally from Mineola, New York, Solosky retired from the New York City Police Department Aviation Unit as a lieutenant/chief pilot in 2007. He was chief pilot and helped lead the aviation unit during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Upon retirement, he served as the chief pilot for the Newark, New Jersey police department for three years.
Currently, Solosky is an ATP-Airplane and Helicopter, CFI-Helicopter, Advanced Ground Instructor, Instrument Ground Instructor, and sUAS Part 107 (drone) pilot. He teaches at the Airborne Public Safety Association’s annual conference and has taught domestically and internationally on aviation related topics He is a regular contributor to the Airborne Public Safety Association Association’s magazine Airbeat.

Solosky is a ground instructor for Nassau Flyers and teaches its private and instrument ground school courses. Additionally, Solosky is associate professor of aviation at the State University of New York Farmingdale and teaches undergraduate aviation courses.

Solosky serves as a FAA FAAST Team Representative for the Farmingdale FSDO. He is currently employed by Northwell Health and among his varied duties is the chief pilot for its sUAS program. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s University in public administration and a Master of Arts degree in criminal justice from City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Solosky currently lives in Mineola, New York with his wife Susan and their two sons, Kenneth and Patrick.

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Matt Speare NAFI MCFIMatt Speare, MCFI 11/2023-11/2025:

Speare has been flying airplanes and helicopters for more than 30 years, including 23 years flying attack helicopters for the United States Army. He has earned his private, instrument, commercial, and CFI/CFII ratings in both airplanes and rotary wing aircraft.

Originally from Silver Lake, Ohio, Speare is the chief operating officer of Carter Bank. He serves as the director of training for the Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO) and specializes in instructing in the Lancair 200/300 series, Legacy, ES, and IV/IVP models and regularly conducts transition training for new owners of these airframe types. He also currently serves as president of the Western Flying Club in Burlington, North Carolina — one of the oldest flying clubs in the United States.

Speare currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Martha.

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Wesley Spier NAFI A-MCFIWesley Spier, Associate MCFI 05/2023-05/2025:

Growing up in Central Oregon, Spier developed a passion for aviation as a child and was fortunate enough to obtain his private pilot certification just after high school. Aviation introduced Spier to a newfound passion as he discovered the possibilities of being an aviator are virtually endless. The experiences, views, and unique opportunities are afforded only to a small population of the world, and he was ecstatic to be a part of it. Unfortunately, the expense of flying barred his ability to continue into the field. Spier instead shifted gears and became a paramedic until such a time that pilot demand grew, and financial programs allowed for a clear pathway into the field.

Spier finished his certifications from ATP flight school in Las Vegas, Nevada earning his instrument, commercial multi, CFI, CFII, and MEI. After graduation he began working as a flight instructor for a local flight school where he had the privilege to share his passion of aviation with students. Watching their careers develop with each checkride pass is the ultimate privilege and he couldn’t be prouder to be a part of a community with such opportunities.

Spier said being selected for the Associate Master CFI program by NAFI is an ultimate dream. His first DPE was a Master CFI who consistently encouraged him to be the best he could be, while also lifting up those around him to their dreams and goals.

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Thomas Stehler NAFI MCFITom Stehler, MCFI 04/2021-04/2025:

This is Stehler’s second NAFI Master Accreditation.

A native of the St. Paul, Minnesota area, Stehler attended Purdue University where he worked as a corporate pilot and check instructor after graduation. He founded Purdue’s winning team for the newly formed collegiate class of EAA’s AirVenture Cup Race in 2019. Stehler is now a captain on the Boeing 737 at Sun Country Airlines, as well as the chief flight instructor at Lake Elmo Aero in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. He has experience in many different single and multi-engine aircraft, with more than 1,200 hours of flight instruction provided. He recently purchased a 1950 Cessna 140A to go on even more flying adventures.

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Yu Takahashi NAFI MCFIYu Takahashi, MCFI 12/2023-12/2025:

Takahashi holds FAA Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates. He provides quality instructions at a local flight school in the Willamette Valley area in Oregon. He has been teaching aviation since 2018, accumulating nearly 5,000 hours of instruction time in general aviation aircraft.

His passion for aviation has grown since high school, and he initially aimed to become an airline pilot. However, his focus shifted toward the general and corporate aviation realms as he progressed in his aviation career. His future aspiration is to establish a flight school specializing in multi-engine and advanced aircraft training for both domestic and international airline candidates, as well as GA enthusiasts, while spreading the excitement of general aviation.

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Naoya “Tama” Tamanaha NAFI MCFINaoya ‘Tama’ Tamanaha , MCFI 07/2021-09/2025:

This is Tamanaha’s third NAFI Master Accreditation. Tamanaha has been an active CFI for more than 31 years, including 19 years at the USAF Flight Training Center in Japan. He has mentored more than1,000 pilots, from teenagers to retirees, with aviation goals varying from private, professional, to military-aspiring pilots. He was an FAA designated pilot examiner from 2000 to 2013 and has issued more than 200 FAA pilot certificates and ratings.

He has been a FAASTeam representative for more than 23 years, serving local communities including high schools, colleges, aviation organizations, and Coast Guard, on and off bases in Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. He has a weekly radio show in Japan, which promotes aviation to the non-aviation community.

Tamanaha’s passion and skills in aviation earned him a U.S. immigration visa. His next mission is to increase the number of Master CFIs who can contribute to the aviation community.

Tamanaha currently works for AirSmart Aviation Academy as a chief flight instructor specializing in the Pathway Program to AirSmart first officer position. He also flies as a PC-12 captain for AirSmart.

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Steve Tupper NAFI MCFISteve Tupper, MCFI 04/2023-04/2025:

Tupper is a CFI in gliders and single engine airplanes with an instrument airplane rating. He is a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) lieutenant colonel and serves as check pilot examiner and mission check pilot examiner, training and evaluating CAP pilots and other aircrew in search and rescue and other related missions. Tupper was director of the CAP glider program in Michigan Wing for several years before passing the reins, but he continues to fly and instruct in CAP gliders. He has served as cadre for CAP's Mission Aircrew School at the National Emergency Services Academy. He also serves as a judge advocate and on CAP's national headquarters operations staff as an aviation advisor and is one of CAP's primary aviation counsel.

Tupper is an FAA letter of operation-holding Recognized Air Boss/Single Venue. He is the originator of the Tuskegee Airmen Detroit River Days Airshow, a surface-waivered air show over the Detroit River abeam downtown Detroit. This event includes aerobatics, formation demonstrations, and military participation in some of the most complex airshow airspace in North America. He also consults and/or is the air boss for other air shows in the region. He is a Red Star Pilots Association Formation and Safety Team (F.A.S.T) formation lead, and trains and performs with the world's only formation glider team.

Tupper serves as a director and instructor and has served as chief pilot of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum in Detroit, as well flying the museum's WWII warbird aircraft. He assists with the museum's program that trains underrepresented youth to become career pilots. He specializes in self-launch glider operations and in tailwheel transition training.

Tupper holds AMEL and ASES ratings and a second-in-command type rating in the DC-3/C-47.

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