Former NAFI Master Instructors


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Below is a list of previous NAFI Master Instructors from the previous two years. We at NAFI thank all former Masters for their contributions and dedication to both to NAFI and the instructional community.


Michael "Todd" Shellnut, MCFI 11/2018-11/2020:

Shellnut has been working in the flight training industry for 18 years now, and although he has performed many duties in his field from corporate pilot to FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, he has always found his way back to his true passion of flight instruction. This is Todd's second nomination as a Master CFI, and he also has received other awards such as AOPA's Best Instructor for 2015 and Distinguished Flight Instructor for 2017 and 2018. Todd is a published author of aviation training texts, an active FAASTeam member for the Atlanta FSDO, and is currently working for ATP Flight School as the CFI Academy Standardization Manager where he is responsible for the multiple training locations across the country for CFI initial training.

Click to Download Shellnut's Press Release!

Nicholas Ahlen, MCFI 03/2016-10/2020:

Nick Ahlen, who holds Instructor ratings in multiple categories, started flying in 1998 at the age of 21. His passion for aviation led him to the U.S. Naval Academy to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. Following graduation, Ahlen entered flight training and has been flying for the Navy ever since.

After deployments in the Seahawk helicopter, Ahlen discovered his true passion through flight instruction. He has instructed thousands of U.S. and international students in both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft for the last 10 years and shows no signs of stopping. He is currently instructing in the T-6B Texan II in Training Squadron Two.

Ahlen keeps busy with aviation outreach through NAFI, EAA, IAC, CAP, RAF, CAF and Young Eagles as well as participating heavily in the airshow circuit as a static display with various military aircraft. Ahlen feeds his aviation thirst by adding ratings in differing types as often as possible.

Click to Download Nick's Press Release!

Jack Stevens, MCFI 9/2006-9/2020:

This is Stevens’ second consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.

Initially mentored by Alby Cornell, CFI & FBO owner at Warrington Airport in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (8N9) Stevens obtained his private pilot certificate in a PA 22-108 in 1969. Sadly, the airport has long since succumbed to stone quarry and homes, he said. His initial CFI was obtained under the tutelage of CFI David Orr in 1981, flying out of Mt. Sterling Airport (KIOB) in Montgomery County, Kentucky.

Stevens serves as chief CFI for Total Flight Solutions at its Pinehurst, North Carolina location. TFS is in final phase of accomplishing Part 141 Certification and is providing flight training for the Sandhills Community College Part 141 Aviation Degree Program.

“I'm passionate about mentoring others in aviation and keep in close contact with past clients. It is so rewarding to receive a call, an e-mail or text from a past student telling me about a new job, obtaining an additional rating or successfully and safely dealing with an untoward situation. As instructor pilots we know that there are four stages of learning: Rote, Understanding, Application and Correlation. I contend that the fifth and highest level is Teaching.”

Click to Download Jack's Press Release!

Lynnwood "Woody" Minar, MCFI 9/2006-9/2020:

This is Minar’s seventh consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.

After retiring from the CIA in 1998, Minar took up flying and received his private pilot certificate in July 2000 in a Cessna 172. The bug hit him hard and after getting his instrument rating and tailwheel and high performance endorsements, he got his CFI in 2003. Since then he has earned his Gold Seal CFI, CFII, Glider CFI (CFI-G), AGI and IGI. That was soon followed by his single engine sea and multi-engine land certificates, and in 2016 his multi-engine sea certificate.

He is also a FAASTeam Lead Representative and since 2012 a designated pilot examiner (DPE) for the Minneapolis FSDO and has given nearly a thousand flight tests for private, commercial, and instrument in Ssngle engine land and sea airplanes.

In 2009, Minar was awarded the Minneapolis FSDO CFI of the Year. In 2012 he was the Minneapolis FSDO and Great Lakes Region CFI of the Year and in 2013 named the Minneapolis FSDO and Great Lakes Region FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year. Nearing 9,000 hours, he teaches seaplane training for Adventure Seaplanes in Lino Lakes, Minnesota and Lake Wales, Florida. He has taught private and instrument ground schools for Osceola Aero and Wisconsin Indianhead Community College and given safety seminars to more than 7,000 pilots throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida. He is a yearly presenter for the FAA and AOPA at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. Minar has served on the board of directors for 16 years and is the chief flight instructor for the Wild River Flying Club and is an glider instructor for the Red Wing Soaring Association at the Osceola (WI) Municipal Airport.

Minar is also a contributing editor for Midwest Flyer Magazine writing safety, humorous, and trip-related articles. He has been married to his high school sweetheart for 48 years; they have two daughters and two grandsons.

Click to Download Woody's Press Release!

Joseph Kotowski, MCFI 5/2016-5/2020:

This is Kotowski’s second NAFI MCFI Accreditation. Kotowski bought a used 1976 Cessna Skyhawk, which was the plane he trained in, and received his private pilot certificate with it in 1981. Moving up the Cessna line to a C-182 and then a T-210 he obtained his instrument rating and commercial certificate doing as much personal flying as family and work would allow. He started instructing in 2009 and then in 2012 decided to retire early from a career as an engineer in the power industry to start a second career flying full time. Ratings and certificates include CFI, CFI-I, MEI, multi-engine ATP, and glider. He instructs in the Chicago area, is the Standards and Evaluation Officer for the Illinois Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, and contributes as an FAA Safety Team Representative.

Kotowski is employed by a local charter company flying Part 135 in a Citation Bravo, King Air B200 and C90. His interest in aviation started with his father who was an Army Air Corps mechanic/inspector during WWII. The passion for flying has been passed on to one of his four sons who flies for the airlines. He lives in Naperville, Illinois.

Click to Download Joe's Press Release!

Brian Schultz, MCFI 6/2018-6/2020:

Schultz has been flying since 2000 and has been flight instructing since 2002. He said he has a strong passion for teaching and loves passing along his knowledge. Schultz holds an ATP certificate in both airplane single engine and multi-engine land, type ratings in the CE-500, CE-510S, CE-525/CE525S, and Lear Jet, a commercial single engine sea certificate, Gold Seal certified flight instructor rating, certified instrument instructor rating, multi-engine instructor rating, and advanced ground instructor rating. Schultz has flown corporate Part 91 in aircraft from a PA-32 to a CE525 all over world, Part 135 charter service in a CE-500 in North America and was an instructor at numerous flight schools, including Flight Safety where he instructed on the LR-jet.

Schultz currently is teaching students from private to ATP. He specializes in turbine transitions for owner pilots. He is also involved with his local airport advisory board, as check pilot for the 501 Squadron of Civil Air Patrol, the local airport AOPA ASN, is a FAAST Representative and Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program Instructor.

Click to Download Brian's Press Release!

Ebiri Nkugba, MCFI 6/2018-6/2020:

Nkugba says growing up on a small, local farm instilled his values of keeping busy and working hard.

He put those principles to use when he turned his attention to the sky. He is an active flight and classroom instructor at West Michigan Aviation Academy; holding industry certifications as a A&P technician, electronics technician, project manager, and instructor. He also operates a drone and data science firm working in the construction and engineering fields.

Before taking a classroom and consulting position in education, he worked in industry as airport operations manager for FedEx Express for 10 years, specializing in dangerous goods transport.

Nkugba says he believes in continuous learning, and is currently studying human factors and systems engineering at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

Click to Download Ebiri's Press Release!

Joshua Bibb MCFIJoshua D. Bibb, MCFI 5/2018-5/2020:

Major Joshua D. Bibb has been interested in aviation since childhood. This led him to the U.S. Air Force he graduated the Air Force Academy in 2005. During college, he earned his Private Pilot certificate and shortly thereafter completed pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. During the following three years, Bibb was a "First Assignment Instructor Pilot." He taught nearly 100 students how to fly and was recognized as the Instructor Pilot of the Year in 2008.

Bibb subsequently completed Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals as a Distinguished Graduate and progressed to fly the F-16 at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. He has served in numerous operational assignments flying the F-16 including at Hill Air Force Base, Utah and Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, where he returned to flight instruction and evaluation. Bibb currently serves as the sole Exchange Officer assigned to the Kingdom of Denmark through the U.S. Air Force Personnel Exchange Program.

In the past fifteen years, Bibb has logged over 2,450 flight hours in all models of the F-16, the T-38C, T-6A, T-37B, L-39ZA, the Beechcraft Baron & the Diamond Katana. He has participated in a variety of exercises throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East including Red Flag, Combat Hammer and Eager Tiger. Furthermore, Bibb has experience as a participant in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE & NATO Air Policing. Bibb is a senior pilot and a recipient of the U.S. Air Medal. He holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Mississippi State University. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four kids.

Click to Download Joshua's Press Release!

Orlando Villaverde MCFIOrlando Villaverde, MCFI 4/2018-4/2020:

Villaverde background in a academia includes a Doctoral Degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Finance and International Management from Nova Southeastern University. He also holds Masters degree in Aeronautical Science and Business Administration in Aviation from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. His experience in aviation included working previously as a pilot and a supervisor for the City of Miami Police Department’s Aviation Detail. He possesses FAA dual flight instructor certificates in airplanes and helicopters with thousands of hours of teaching experience.

He has provided initial and advance training to students seeking a Private, Commercial, Instrument and Flight Instructor certificates and ratings. During his tenure with Miami Dade College's School of Aviation, he was nominated as a General Aviation Flight Instructor of the year, Southern Region for 2005 and 2014 by the Federal Aviation Administration and currently serves as a member of the FAASTeam /Aviation Safety Program. Villaverde says he has great faith in education, which is displayed in the classroom with his students who he believes are the greatest asset.

Click to Download Orlando's Press Release!

Mike Lucas MCFIMichael Lucas, MCFI 8/2013-12/2019:

This is Lucas’ third consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.

Lucas, a CFI for 20 years, is a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. Prior to settling in the Matanuska Susitna Valley, he lived 400 miles west of Anchorage on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta for 30 years. In Bethel, he taught public school, flew missions for Civil Air Patrol, and served as Chief Instructor and Executive Director for Yuut Yaqungviat, a Part 141 flight school. He joined Elmendorf Aero Club upon moving to Wasilla in 2012.

Lucas attended the University of Northern Colorado, graduating with a BA in music education in 1973, and earned a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1992. After teaching in Wyoming and Montana, he moved north to Alaska in 1984 where the Alaska oil boom funded his entry to the world of flying. By 1997, he was a CFI. Lucas is the holder of all three ground instructor certificates and is a CFII, ATP-SEL, with over 2,800 hours of dual instruction given. Writing essays on flight instruction, speaking at safety seminars and creating original power point presentations are things he likes to do to round out his flight teaching. Now settled in the Matanuska-Susitna valley, he instructs on wheels and floats for Elmendorf Aero Club.

Click to Download Michael's Press Release!

david barron mcfiDavid M. Barron MCFI 1/2018-1/2020:

Barron says he remembers always being interested in aviation, as his father was a WWII pilot and later an airline pilot. Barron started by building plastic models, then model aircraft that flew. His father soloed him in 1964 while Barron was in high school. Before graduation he earned a commercial and instrument rating. After a tour in the U.S. Army at the Army Primary Helicopter Base in Mineral Wells Texas, he earned a multiengine rating and joined the Federal Aviation Administration, serving as a controller at Chicago Center and Dupage Tower. He earned his ATP single engine, flight instructor (airplane and instrument) certificates by 1970. During this same period he earned his Ground Instructor Certificate and has been a Gold Seal CFI since then. In 1972 he earned his multiengine ATP, and commercial glider certificates. In 1976 he transferred to the FAA's Detroit FSS, and in 1980 to the Key West FSS. Later assignments took him to the San Juan IFSS, and San Juan FSDO as an accident prevention specialist.

Barron has instructed at Luminair in Sugar Grove, Ill., Key West Flying Service, Key West Fla., and Boca Chica Navy Flying Club, Fla., Roosevelt Roads Flying Club in Puerto Rico, Leading Edge at Tampa Executive Airport, and Plant City Flying Service, Plant City Fla., and is now teaching at First Landings in Apopka, Fla.

Other flying experiences have included FAR 135 freight operations, captain for Provincetown Boston Airlines, Life Guard Flights, sightseeing flights, and domestic and international aircraft delivery.

He currently holds an ATP: Airplane Single and Multiengine Land, CE-500, DA-10, DC-3 SIC type ratings, Commercial Privileges: Airplane Single and Multiengine Sea, Rotorcraft-Helicopter, and Glider, Sport Piot Gyroplane. Flight Instructor: (Gold Seal) Airplane single and Multiengine, Instrument, Ground Instructor: Advanced Instrument, Control Tower Operator, Flight Dispatcher, and Remote Pilot Certificates.

Barron just retired from American Airlines where he taught B-777-200, MD-80, and B-737-800 in ground school and CAE simulators. He has well over 5000 hours flight time in 94 different kinds of aircraft. He says that to solo a student is still a thrill knowing full well that they will return safely with what he has taught them. He was awarded the FAA Wright Brothers Award in 2016 and is a member of the FAAST team.

Click to Download David's Press Release!

Shane Terpstra, MCFI 10/2015-1/2020:

This is Terpstra’s second NAFI Master Accreditation.Terpstra started flying at the age of 16 in Orange County, Calif. and says he has had the flying bug ever since. After nearly 20 years as owner of an IT company, Terpstra decided to pursue aviation full time, earning his instructor rating and changing careers to become an airline pilot. When not flying for the airlines, he is a full-time instructor specializing in accelerated courses. Terpstra is a passionate aviation enthusiast, FAA FAASTeam Member, safety officer and board member of Plus One Flyers, the largest flight club in the United States, as well as an aircraft owner.

Terpstra has been an active member of the Civil Air Patrol in California for almost 30 years, holds numerous ratings in the organization and currently serves as Director of Emergency Services for California. Terpstra has helped locate dozens of missing aircraft over the years and uses these experiences when teaching other pilots.

Click to Download Shane's Press Release!

Denton Finly MCFICharles "Denton" Finley, MCFI 11/2013-11/2015, 10/2017-10/2019:

This is Finley’s second consecutive NAFI Master Flight Instructor accreditation.Finley says he has been interested in aviation for as long as he can remember, but his passion for aviation ignited when he took a discovery flight at the age of 14. After high school, Finley enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s aircraft pilot training program in Waco, Texas. He began working as a CFI for the college in 2005 while continuing his education at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) and raising a family with his wife Lee Ann. Finley graduated from UVSC in 2007 with a Bachelor Degree in Aviation. While at TSTC, he worked his way up through an assistant chief flight Instructor position and ultimately in 2012 accepted a position as the chief flight instructor. Later that year, Finley earned his ATP certificate and accepted a corporate job flying a Beechcraft Super King Air B200 for the Texas Farm Bureau. After five years of flying the King Air, Finley has accepted a pilot position with XOJet and is slated to begin training in November.

When Finley is not flying for work, he continues to give flight instruction as an independent CFI and volunteers as the Lead FAASTeam Representative for the Waco area under the North Texas FSDO. In 2017, the General Aviation Awards committee selected him as the North Texas District and Southwest Region FAASTeam Representative of the year. He has served as a CFI for over 12 years, has given over 3,100 hours of dual instruction, and has logged over 4,300 hours of total flight time. Finley holds an ATP certificate, a Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor Certificate with single engine, multiengine and instrument ratings, as well as an Advanced Ground Instructor certificate.

Click to Download Denton's Press Release!

Fink MCFIEd Fink, MCFI 11/1997-09/2019:

This is Fink’s tenth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Ed Fink spent 16 years on jump status parachuting out of airplanes from 1962-1978.

Ed received his private pilot’s license from Venice Flying Service on September 18th, 1984. He later moved to Cape Coral, Fla. and joined the Sundowners Search & Rescue Flying Club. During this time Ed trained for his instrument rating, which he completed in October of 1986 followed by his commercial pilot’s license in November 1990.

In 1993, armed with an Advanced Ground Instructor Rating, Ed started teaching a Private Pilot Ground School at Edison Community College and at Cape Coral High School through its Adult Community Education Program. In April of 1995, Ed earned his CFI certificate and began teaching full time, earning his CFII certificate a year later and his first NAFI Master CFI designation the year after that, in November of 1997.

Ed has been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary since July 2001 and participated in its aviation program until May 2010.

Ed teaches a Private Pilot Ground School courses at Cape Coral High School and at Cypress Lake High School, and continues to provide individual flight instruction at Page Field in Fort Myers.

Click to Download Ed's Press Release!

Martin Fass, MCFI 3/2015-7/2019:

This is Fass’ second NAFI Master Instructor Accreditation. Fass is an ATP-rated flight instructor in the San Antonio/Austin, Texas area. Originally from Chevy Chase, Maryland, he traveled a lengthy and unusual path to becoming a CFI. By the time he flew his first solo at Birchwood, Alaska, he already had several thousand hours flying and teaching as a U.S. Air Force C-130 and T-43 navigator. Ten years after the solo, he found time to earn his instrument rating through Civil Air Patrol in the Washington D.C. area. His “day job” involved flying as Deputy Mission Commander on international aerial observation flights supporting the Treaty on Open Skies.

While living in the Washington area, he participated in NASA’s Synthetic Vision test program, putting his fingerprints on early versions of the systems that are proliferating in GA aircraft.

In 2004, he earned his Commercial ASEL at Wright Flyers in San Antonio, then moved to Northern California, where he earned his civilian CFI and CFI-I ratings and became Chief Instructor Pilot for the RQ-4A Global Hawk.

Fass retired from the Air Force in 2007 and has been instructing in the San Antonio area, both freelancing and contracting. He earned his MEI and ATP, served as Chief Pilot in a Cessna 340, a First Officer in the Swearingen Merlin, and trained Afghan military pilots and their U.S. instructors in Piper Senecas. He “paid it forward” to Civil Air Patrol by serving as Check Pilot Evaluator and presenting G1000 seminars.

In 2012, Fass was one of the original instructors at Redbird Skyport in San Marcos Texas, training pilots in Redbird FTDs and G1000 Cessna 172s, and serving as the Assistant Chief Instructor. During his tenure the school won the AOPA President’s Award. In 2014, he developed and taught an accelerated course to help military pilots leaving the service earn their ATP ratings, and found time to add a seaplane rating as well.

Fass has nearly 3900 hours as a fixed wing pilot, with over 2600 hours dual instruction given. He now runs Black Hound Aviation, a small Part 61 school in San Marcos training pilots from private through MEI and ATP. He flies several types, including the Columbia 400, Piper Lance and Seminole, Mooney and the G36 Bonanza, and his own steam gauge/Aspen Cessna 172SP. He has recently begun flying pet rescue missions for Pilots and Paws, and enjoys presenting at the San Marcos chapter of the IMC club. He lives in Garden Ridge Texas, and when he’s not at the airport, he enjoys spending pool time with his wife Randi, their dogs Maggie and Finn, and their local kids and grandkids.

Click to Download Martin's Press Release!


Angel Cortes, MCFI 6/2017-6/2019:

Cortes was born in Mexico, and grew up in New Jersey building and flying balsa RC planes, and dreamed of becoming a pilot. He eventually became an IT professional working in that field for almost 20 years. It wasn’t until his wife gifted him with an introductory flight that Cortes was reintroduced to his dream of becoming a pilot.

Shortly thereafter, Cortes began flight training out of Morristown, N.J., where he earned his certificates. He changed careers a little over 10 years ago and now owns and operates a flight training center that he founded to provide training to students for Private through Commercial.

Cortes is a CFI/II and holds Commercial Single Engine Land/Sea, as well as Multiengine Land, holds a Cirrus CSIP Platinum, and has over 4,200 hours dual given as an instructor. He loves mentoring new pilots, flying a Citation in his spare time, and often volunteers for the Teterboro FSDO FAASafety Team.
Cortes is happily married to Sally, his wife of 21 years, and has two children, Billy and Hanna. When he is not flying, he enjoys building and operating flight simulators.

Click to Download Angel's Press Release!

Douglas Auclair, MCFI 11/2013-06/2019:

This is Auclair’s third NAFI Master Accreditation. Auclair is the founder and president of Air Ventures Flying School at North Central State Airport (KSFZ) in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Air Ventures operates in the location of the former Skylanes flight school, which was founded by the renowned aerobatic instructor Sabatino “Sabbie” Ludovici. Auclair renovated the location, and expanded the flight school to include a number of single engine planes and an FAA-certified LaserGrade (now PSI) testing center. Under his direction, the Air Ventures' location has again become a popular destination for local pilots and students, and the site of well-attended airport social events including an annual chili cook-off and holiday parties.

Auclair, a long-time Rhode Island resident, began his flight training in 2005 and has been a flight instructor since 2008. In addition to flight training, he conducts regular ground schools for VFR and IFR pilots and has trained and mentored a number of certified flight instructors who will be joining his team of flight instructors.

Click to Download Doug's Press Release!

Benjamin Jaffee, MCFI 5/2015-05/2019:

This is Jaffe’s second NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Jaffee grew up in California, taking his first flight in a small airplane on a EAA Young Eagles flight and realized that he wanted to be a pilot.  He joined the Civil Air Patrol and then earned his private pilot certificate shortly after graduating from high school. Jaffee then attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, earning his Bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and his AGI, CFI, CFII, and MEI.

After graduation, he began flight instructing and teaching ground schools from private pilot all the way to multi-engine instructor. He has been a Training Center Evaluator and a 141 Check Airman conducting practical tests and end of course tests. While instructing Jaffee added his single-engine sea rating, gold seal, and his ATP AMEL. He also completed a Masters of Business Administration in Aviation and graduated with distinction.  Jaffee is now the assistant chief flight instructor for a collegiate Part 141 flight program and is the advisor to their NIFA Flight Team.  He also currently teaches the private pilot and commercial pilot ground schools.  Jaffee is still a member of the Civil Air Patrol serving as a Standards and Evaluations officer (check pilot), and as an assistant Aerospace Education Officer.  He has over 4,700 flight hours, and over 4,000 of which are as a flight instructor, and has also given over 1,000 hours of instruction in FTDs.

 Click to Download Ben's Press Release!

Nick Larson, MCFI 8/2010-04/2019:

This is Larson's third NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Born in Walnut Creek, California, Larson comes from a family of aviators, from U.S. Navy jet pilots to P-38 World War II test pilots. His passion for flying began when he attended his first airshow in 1989 at March Air Force Base in southern California. After attending the Community College of Allegheny County for flight training, Larson began working at the College of Beaver County near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for its Professional Pilot and Air Traffic Control Initiative Programs before moving to Florida.

Larson joined Sunair Aviation, located in Leesburg, Florida, in 2009 where he became flight operations manager & Part 141 chief instructor pilot for all land and sea training programs. He also oversees Sunair's commercial air tour operations, veteran's programs, and conducts new hire and yearly FAA Part 141 instructor evaluation flight checks. Larson specializes in seaplane and multi-engine add-ons, instrument training, and Garmin G1000 transition courses. Sunair is an FAA approved 141 flight school for land and sea, FAA approved 136 Air Tour Operator, FAA approved CATS testing center, and the only Veterans Administration-approved school in the United States that offers Part 141 seaplane training to veterans.

Since moving to Florida, Larson also spent some time flying corporate in King Air 90s, PC12s, and King Air200s. With over 5300 hours of total logged flying time and 4100 hours of instructor time, he holds an ATP certificate for both single and multi-engine land, a type rating in the CL604, a commercial pilot with a single-engine sea rating, a Gold Seal CFI land & sea, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI, and holds a sUAS certification. Larson is an active member of EAA, flies Young Eagles and participates in Pilot-n-Paws.

Larson lives in Mount Dora, Florida with his wife Christie and their three dogs, Kyra, Jet, and Zoey.

Click to Download Nick's Press Release!

Matthew Cummins, MCFI 11/2014-11/2018:

This is Cummins' second consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. While serving as an emergency room registered nurse and firefighter-paramedic during the summer of 2000, Cummins fulfilled his childhood dreams by earning a pilot’s certificate. He said it forever changed the course of his life. By the end of the following summer, he was working as a Certified Flight Instructor holding Instrument Instructor (CFII) and Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI) ratings. After the events of September 11th, Cummins volunteered for military service and began a career as a United States Air Force pilot.

Over the past 15 years, Cummins has flown and instructed in over 50 different aircraft types and holds an Airline Transport Pilot rating and Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science. He serves as an evaluator pilot-chief functional check pilot for the United States Air Force Academy and helps coach the intercollegiate Precision Flying Team.

Although Cummins has had many aviation experiences such as flying supersonic and piloting trans-global flights lasting nearly 24 hours, he says his most memorable times aloft are those spent “low and slow” or on flying adventures with the family.

Cummins is an enthusiastic mountain flying and tail wheel instructor who’s been the “caretaker” of several unique aircraft, including an L-19 Bird Dog that he and a friend restored to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh award-winning condition. He continues to spread his passion with the capable help of a lovable J-3 Cub and versatile Cessna Skywagon. His children have inherited their dad’s infectious love of flight and can often be seen camping with him at Oshkosh or on some beautiful remote mountain airstrip.

Click to Download Matthew's Press Release!


Francis Goeddeke, MGI 11/2016-11/2018:

Goeddeke took his first flying lesson in 1986 and says that one flight changed his life. When he began flight instructing, he also enrolled in Embry-Riddle’s bachelor’s program in Professional Aeronautics through the independent study program. From there, he took an educational leave from his day job to attend Embry-Riddle on campus in Daytona Beach to study for his Master of Aeronautical Science degree, specializing in Human Factors. While studying, he realized there are a lot of great human factors researchers, but the bigger problem is management doesn’t always use them. From there he went on to study for his MBA and PhD in management.

When he retired from his day job, he joined the Peace Corps where he spent 4-1/2 years in Mongolia. Upon returning to the United States he was on the beach in Miami, wondering what he was going to do with his life. Then he saw a DC-3 flying overhead making an approach into Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. That gave him his answer. So he showed up at the airport the next day and started working at Wayman Aviation.

At Wayman, he became Assistant Chief Flight Instructor and teaches many of the professional pilot ground school courses. In this capacity he has developed his own 32-hour ground school for aspiring flight instructors. He also teaches online in Embry-Riddle’s Master’s program and with St. Thomas University’s Education Doctorate program. He is also a FAASTeam representative.

Frank says he would like to thank all the instructors he has flown with, especially Todd Birdsall, Jeff Hall, Mike Zielke, Alex Alvarez, and Alfredo Wayman, for being such great role models.

Click to Download Frank's Press Release!

Jack Morton, MCFI 10/2016-10/2018:

Morton has always lived in the Indianapolis area. He says he has always been fascinated with flying but like many, life sort of got in the way. “I realized as I passed into my 40s, it was now or never and walked into the local county airport.”

During instrument training a good friend and local DPE encouraged him to consider teaching, which was intimidating for someone with so little experience. Ten years into instructing and says he’s glad he listened. Since retiring from an information technology career in 2011, he’s been instructing full time and enjoying every day.

In 2002, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, which owns and operates Indianapolis International Airport, four reliever airports and the downtown heliport. "Participating in the direction and growth of the Indianapolis aviation environment has been an incredibly rewarding experience," he said.

With several primary students at the same point in their ground training, he began group sessions that have morphed into a monthly ground school for anyone that wants to attend. The group varies from 10 to 20 primary students through commercial pilots who pick the topics they want to cover.

In 2015, he formed the local IMC Club and has a steadily growing group working to polish their instrument skills. He also serves as the flight advisor to EAA Chapter 1121. "The most rewarding and satisfying aspect of instructing is seeing the confidence emerge as students realize they have taken on something significant and can claim what only a small percentage of people have accomplished," he said.

Click to Download Jack's Press Release!

Timothy Timmons, MCFI 10/2016-10/2018, AMCFI 2/2015-2/2017:

This is Timmons’ second NAFI Master Accreditation. Timmons started flying in 2005 and earned his CFI certificate in 2012. After a 21-year career in the U.S. Army he retired from the military in 2013 and began to pursue his love for aviation and flight instruction full-time. He currently serves as the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor for Cochise College’s Aviation Department (Part 141) in Douglas, Arizona. In 2015 he received honor roll instructor recognition as part of AOPA’s Flight Training Excellence Awards.

Timmons earned his ATP AMEL earlier this year and also holds commercial privileges for single engine and private privileges for seaplane and glider. He is an FAA Gold Seal Instructor with CFII, MEI, AGI and IGI certificates. His education includes a masters degree in Aerospace Operations from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Timmons says he believes strongly in serving his community through aviation. He serves as AOPA's Airport Support Network representative for Tombstone Airport (P29), in Arizona and as a volunteer pilot for Flights for Life, LightHawk, and EAA’s Young Eagles program. He also recently became a FAASTeam representative for the Scottsdale FSDO. He has accumulated more than 2,300 pilot-in-command hours with over 1,100 hours of dual instruction given. He lives in Anthem, Arizona.

Click to Download Tim's Press Release!

David Cecchino, MCFI 10/2016-10/2018:

Cecchino grew up in Virginia Beach near the Oceana Naval Air Station. Hearing the thunderous roar and feeling the sonic booms of the Blue Angels rocket across the sky was intoxicating, he said, and a pivotal event that inspired his motivation to fly. The bumper sticker “I LOVE JET NOISE” was ubiquitous in his hometown in the 1980s.

Cecchino began flying in 2003 while working as a Systems Engineer and earned a private certificate at Manassas Regional Airport (KHEF) in 2004. In 2006, he earned his ground instructor certificates and taught private and instrument ground school in Leesburg, Virginia. He received his CFI certificate in 2011, and said he continues to enjoy teaching motivated students and flying multi-engine aircraft.

In 2016, Cecchino earned a Bachelor of Aeronautical Science degree, graduating magna cum laude from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University while he was instructing part time. For his final capstone course, he wrote a research paper on Human Factors in Cockpit Automation. Cecchino is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree at Embry-Riddle with a specialization in aerospace.

Cecchino is a commercially rated pilot and a Gold Seal CFI/I, MEI, AGI, and IGI. He has given over 1,000 hours of dual instruction and teaches at Leesburg Executive Airport (KJYO). “I emphasize the highest degree of safety in my flying and inculcate that same level of safety to my flight students,” he said.

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Tim Reeve, MCFI 8/2016-8/2018:

Tim Reeve is a full-time helicopter air ambulance pilot and safety representative based in Orlando, Florida. He holds a FAA Rotorcraft Helicopter ATP certificate with CFI, CFII and Advanced Ground Instructor ratings, FAA Airplane Commercial/Instrument certificate and European Commercial Pilot License for Helicopter. Reeve retired after 22 years military service in 2005 from the Royal Air Force, where he served as an aircraft maintenance manager. He first began flying helicopters in England in 2000 and gained pilots licenses in Australia and New Zealand. Reeve came to the United States in 2005 and gained his FAA certifications to begin his teaching career at Air Orlando, a Part 61 and Part 141 flight school. He quickly developed a passion for flight instruction as he gained the teaching experience, which resulted in the Gold Seal CFI award in 2007. He became the Air Orlando's Chief Helicopter Pilot and Assistant Chief for the Part 141 program. Full-time jobs flying news and medevac from 2007-8 allowed Reeve to continue his passion for teaching people to safely fly helicopters. He completed an aerospace science master's program in 2014, majoring in safety and human factors at Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University, achieving a GPA of 4.0. Now as a part time CFI for local flight schools in Orlando and Kissimmee, Reeve is still teaching pilots and is a source of knowledge and guidance for those schools as they pursue Part 141 accreditation. He has been a CFI for 11 years, has 3400 hours of flight time of which half has been as a CFI in helicopters. He has recommended more than 50 students for check rides, ranging from private through CFI/CFII and has a first time pass rate of 95 percent. He lives in Orlando with his wife and young son.

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Gregory Gorak, MCFI 05/1998-06/2018:

This is Gorak’s Tenth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Greg Gorak is an 8,600 plus hour Airline Transport Pilot as well as a dynamic educator. Gorak started flying in 1962 in a J3 Cub and received his Private Pilot's License in a 7 ECA with long time instructor Al Sabota and examiner Hugo Picco. At the time he was a member of the West Allis flying club which allowed him to get all his ratings starting with his private in 1963, commercial in 1966, and CFI in 1967. Gorak was Chairman of the Career Pilot Program at Gateway Technical Institute for nine years and also taught for the National Association of Flight Instructors in 1976. Gorak then founded Gaits Aviation Seminars, Inc. in 1977 and has been on the Presenter's Circuit for 43 years. Gaits Aviation Seminars has now graduated over 17,676 flight instructors. Gorak flew charter for seven years with Scott Air Charter at Mitchell Field, accumulating thousands of hours in various turboprops including most Beechcraft King Air type aircraft the Beech Baron, Cessna 421, Shrike Commander, and Cessna Citation. During this time Gorak had five children one of which (Mark) followed him into aviation getting his helicopter rating at Fort Rucker and is now a Colonel serving in the Pentagon.

The Federal Aviation Administration named Gorak the Flight Instructor of the Year for the United States in 1975 and The National Association of Flight Instructors inducted him into the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame in 2013. Gorak has written a number of articles for publications including FAA Aviation News, Midwest Flyer, Professional Pilot, and NAFI Mentor.

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Gregory Smith, MCFI 04/2008-05/2018:

This is Smith’s Fifth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Smith began flying 17 years ago while working as a sales executive for the WD-40 company. After earning his CFI certificate in 2002 he began instructing part time. In 2004 he made the career jump to full-time instructor.

He currently flies a G-58 Baron and C441 Conquest II out of Waukegan, IL for Aldridge Electric. He instructs part-time at the Westosha Flying Club in Wilmot, WI where he is also on the Board of Directors and serves as the club treasurer.

He completed his ATP in March of this year, is a FAASTeam representative and a FAA Gold Seal Instructor holding CFII, MEI, and AGI privileges. He has given over 6,000 hours of dual instruction.

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John "Jack" Stevens, MCFI 05/2016-05/2018:

Stevens is an ATP (airplane) & Commercial (helicopter), CFI-I, MEI, CSIP, FAASafety Representative and Chief Flight Instructor (Part 141 Instrument) with the Moore County Airport Flight Center in Pinehurst, NC (KSOP).

He started flying in 1969 at a small grass strip in Warrington, PA, getting his private pilot certificate in a Piper Colt (PA22-108). He recalls that the approach to the 1300-foot runway was over a barn, uphill then downhill. The Colt had no flaps and all landings were short-field/soft-field. Sadly, he says, Warrington Airport has long since been gobbled up by residential development and a quarry expansion. In 1980 his growing family moved to Flemingsburg, KY where he shared non-aviation professional employment with his wife Ellen. He received his CFI certificate in 1981. Thereafter, as an avocation, he provided flight instruction at the Fleming-Mason Airport (KFGX), was an FAASafety Representative with the Louisville, KY FSDO, and served with the Civil Air Patrol, mentoring other pilots and conducting search and rescue missions in eastern Kentucky. In 1983 his family moved to Mt. Sterling, KY where he worked with Kentucky Airmotive at the Montgomery County Airport (KIOB), providing all levels of flight instruction, including aerobatic training in his Decathlon (8KCAB). Following a move to Pinehurst, North Carolina in 1992 he provided free-lance flight instruction at the Moore County Airport and upon retiring from his professional job in 2012 he joined the staff at the Moore County Airport Flight Center, and in 2015 assumed the Chief Flight Instructor position for the Part 141 instrument program. He is a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot, serves as FAASafety Representative for the Greensboro, NC FSDO and is serving on the advisory committee exploring the possibility of establishing an aviation degree program at Sandhill’s Community College in Southern Pines, NC.

“I’m passionate about mentoring others and keep in close contact with past clients," he said "It is so rewarding when I receive a phone call, an email or text from a past student telling me about a new job, qualifying in a new aircraft, obtaining an additional rating or dealing with an untoward situation that they safely handled."

"Collegial interaction with fellow CFIs is also a satisfying perk, even if the salutation is to the grey beard in the group," he, added. "As instructor pilots we know about the published four levels of learning. Actually, the fifth and highest level of learning is Teaching. ”

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Scott McBrayer, MCFI 03/2014-03/2018:

This is McBrayer’s second consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. An Edmond, Oklahoma native, McBrayer is the first aviator in his family, and began flying in January 2004 while a student at Oklahoma State University.  He said he had always loved flying and dreamed of doing as a child, but never thought that he could actually become a professional pilot.  His first major in college was aerospace engineering, but he switched away from it the first semester when he realized he had a much greater desire to be a pilot.  He said his desire grew to become involved with missionary aviation and he began to realize that flying was something he was made for.  He changed my major to aviation sciences and "the rest is history," he said.  While at OSU, McBrayer was also a member of the Flying Aggies and was a student teacher for the department's cockpit automation course, where students learned systems for the CRJ200 and the Collins 4200 FMS.

After college, McBrayer earned his first CFI job in Oklahoma City for Oklahoma Aviation and became its first Assistant Chief Flight Instructor as he helped the company obtain its Part 141 certificate.  During that time, he gained experience in over 30 different aircraft, from single-engine pistons to multi-engine turbines, and began doing corporate flying in conjunction with his flight school duties.  He also became a Cirrus Standardized Instructor and began to conduct transition training and insurance checkouts for Cirrus owners and pilots in the region.

McBrayer then moved to Waco, Texas to partner with a mission organization and go through its training program.  He met his wife, Jenny, while in the program and decided to stay in Waco longer than originally expected.  He earned a job as a faculty member for the Texas State Technical College Aircraft Pilot Training Department and began teaching collegiate level ground classes.  After his first semester of teaching, he was moved to the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor position and then to the Chief Flight Instructor position eight months later.  Since assuming that role, McBrayer says he has worked hard to ensure that his love of flying gets passed on to those that enroll in the program and that the department graduates the most qualified pilots possible.  When possible, he still takes occasional corporate flying jobs.  He said he feels he has been blessed to be part of seeing some of the highest numbers of flight hours, graduates, and pass rates that the department has ever seen.  He also serve as an advisor on the City of Waco's Aviation Advisory Board, a member of the Waco Aviation Safety Committee, and has been working as a subcontractor with L3 Communications and has been conducting turbine transitions, tailwheel transitions, missions systems training, and type specific training on DOD contracts.

Above all else, he said, he gets to help others discover the path to realizing their dreams fulfilled as professional aviators.

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Joseph Kotowski, MCFI 04/2016-04/2018:

Joseph Kotowski’s says his interest in aviation began with his father, who was in the Army Air Corp in World War II, and a family friend who was an aircraft owner that he flew with as a young person. Kotowski then bought a partnership in a C-172 in 1980 and started taking lessons, and later partnered in a C-182 and a T-210.

Kotowski worked in the power industry for 36 years as an engineer. Though he enjoyed his work in the power industry he says he always longed for a career in aviation, and in 2009 he obtained his CFI and worked part-time as an instructor, He retired in 2012 and began a full-time career in aviation. Kotowski currently holds an ATP, MEI, and CFI-I and private glider certificate.

"I am currently Chief Flight Instructor at a local FBO and have found flight instruction rewarding and enjoy the challenge of finding the right approach for instructing people with varied backgrounds and experience," Kotowski said.  "... I believe it is important for all Instructors to help improve our industry’s safety record, promote the interest of young people, and help ensure the future of General Aviation. To that end I conduct safety seminars, contribute as a FAA Safety Team Representative, and participate in Civil Air Patrol and other aviation organizations. I also fly for our company’s charter operation in a King Air C90 and Citation Bravo. This constant learning and expanding of experience is what drives my passion in aviation, and I have found this is true of most pilots."

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David Hensley, MCFI 01/2002-03/2018:

This is Hensley’s eighth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.

Dave Hensley is a Part 142 Training Center Manager based in Orlando, Florida. He holds the ATP with CFI/CFII and MEI along with the advanced ground instructor designation. Hensley is a retired Air Force Colonel with extensive experience in both high altitude reconnaissance and jet training operations. Hensley first soloed in 1974 while a student at the USAF Academy. His military flying career started with Air Force pilot training and led to lots of instrument time as a WC-130 “Typhoon Chaser” weather reconnaissance pilot.

After several years of hurricane flying, Hensley cross trained into jets as a T-38 “Talon” instructor and check pilot at Reese AFB, Texas. Next, he volunteered for the U-2 program and fell in love with high altitude operations flying as a U-2/TR-1 “Dragon Lady” mission pilot, instructor and evaluator.

After a full military flying career, Hensley retired and continued to fulfill his passion for aviation as a flight instructor. He was a flight academy Part 141 Chief Instructor as well a Part 142 Training Center Evaluator. He is a FAA Gold Seal flight instructor and has held the National Association of Flight Instructor’s Master Flight Instructor designation since 2002.  Hensley has over 10,000 flight hours with over 5000 hours of dual instruction given, and has earned a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction from South Dakota State University. Hensley has been a CFI for over 33 years.

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Ben Atnip, MCFI 02/2016-02/2018:

Ben Atnip, Gold Seal, CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP AMEL & ASEL, has been a commercial pilot in Wyoming since 2005. He attended Utah Valley University. He worked in the construction industry growing up, and started flying at 19 years old.

Atnip’s first flight job was working in Riverside, Oklahoma where he taught private through commercial students. Atnip 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 now employs 13 pilots and a has fleet of airplanes ranging from a Super Cub to King Airs. Atnip is Chief Flight Instructor and is connected with the collegiate program at Northwest College.. In addition he is Chief Pilot for the company's Part 135 certificate.

Atnip has a passion to teach and has acquired around 8,000 hours with over 3,500 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 an insurance-approved King Air instruction Atnip is married to Alyssa and they are expecting their first baby girl in April.

In his spare time, Ben also enjoys skiing, playing the banjo, chess, ping-pong and volleyball.

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Alan Frazier, MCFI 10/2009-12/2017:

This is Frazier’s fourth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Frazier began flight training when he was a teenager living in Tennessee. He worked at Stones River Aviation as an aircraft lineman in exchange for flight time. Frazier earned his private pilot certificate at Stones River and went on to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor's degree in aerospace administration. He relocated to California and accepted a position as a police officer with the Glendale Police Department. Seven years of his 28-year career with Glendale PD were spent assigned to the Air Support Unit, where he flew MD-520N helicopters and served as the officer-in-charge. During this time, he also worked at Glendale Community College as the chairman of the Aviation Department. Three summers were spent flying for the National Park Service in Alaska. In 1990, Frazier earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California. He retired from law enforcement in 2010 and accepted a teaching position at the University of North Dakota., where he serves as an associate professor teaching helicopter flight courses and a public safety aviation course, and has collateral duties as a helicopter stage check pilot. Frazier’s academic research centers on the use of small, unmanned aircraft in law enforcement missions. He has accumulated over 7500 pilot-in-command hours with over 4400 hours of dual instruction given.

He possesses an FAA Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with AMEL and BE-1900 ratings, and an FAA Commercial Certificate with ASEL, ASES, RH, and Glider ratings. Frazier is active in the Civil Air Patrol where he serves as the Standardization and Evaluation Officer for the North Dakota Wing as well as a check pilot and mission check pilot. In his spare time Alan flies a BE-1900 for Alpine Air.

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Helen Woods, MCFI 11/2009-11/2017:

This is Wood’s fourth consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Helen Woods has been a passionate general aviation pilot since 1998. A biologist by training, she spent several years serving as a search and rescue pilot and managing a search and rescue training program prior to accepting a job as a wildlife survey pilot. She earned recognition from the National Association of Flight Instructors as a Master Flight Instructor from 2009 through 2016 and in 2015 was recognized by the FAA as the Baltimore District and Eastern Region Flight Instructor of the Year.   Today, as a flight instructor, owner, and manager of Chesapeake Sport Pilot, she is dedicated to sharing her love of aviation with others through affordable, quality flight training.

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Dale Wilson, MCFI 10/1999-10/2013, MGI 10/2013-12/2017:

This is Wilson's second NAFI Master Ground Instructor accreditation; he is a seven-time consecutive NAFI Master Flight Instructor. Wilson teaches courses in flight crew physiology and psychology, threat and error management, aviation safety management, and aviation weather as a professor in the Aviation Department at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. For the past nine years he has also taught private pilot ground school in the department’s Part 141 flight training program. A pilot for more than 35 years, he has logged several thousand hours in single- and multi-engine airplanes in the United States and Canada. He holds, or has held, pilot certifications including: ATP, CFI, AGI and IGI from the Federal Aviation Administration and ATPL and Class I Flight Instructor from Transport Canada.

Wilson has devoted his professional life to studying why pilots make the mistakes they do. In his efforts to better understand human performance factors such as perception, attention, memory and decision- making, he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trinity Western University in British Columbia (1994) and a Master’s degree in Aviation Safety at the University of Central Missouri (1996).

He has written extensively in scholarly journals and professional magazines, including NAFI Mentor on such human factors issues as the visual limitations of detecting other aircraft and flying at night, cognitive biases in pilot decision-making, and VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). Managing Risk: Best Practices for Pilots, a recent book co-authored by Wilson and published by Aviation Supplies and Academics, describes many of the significant threats to safe flight operations, offers insights into how and why pilots make errors that exacerbate them, and provides best-practice countermeasures needed to successfully manage them.

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Shane Terpstra, MCFI 10/2015-10/2017:

Terpstra started flying in 1992 at the age of 16.  While pursuing a career in information technology, he stayed true to his passion for aviation by continuing to fly or advancing his ratings over the past 20 years.  Terpstra is a passionate aviation enthusiast, FAA FAASTeam Member, safety officer and board member of San Diego's Plus One Flyers, the largest flight club in the United States, as well as owner of a Piper Archer II and a Cirrus SR-22TN.

Terpstra is an active member of the Civil Air Patrol, and achieved 25 years of involvement last year. Within CAP Shane holds the ratings of incident commander, mission pilot, check pilot, and ground team leader.

Terpstra has helped locate dozens of missing aircraft over the years and uses these experiences to help ensure these incidents don't happen to others.  He currently serves as CAP's California Wing director of emergency services. In his spare time, you'll probably find him in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Sarah.

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Reginald "Rusty" Henderson, MCFI 8/2015-8/2017:

Rusty Henderson, an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI, has been instructing since 2009. He was born in western Arkansas and resides there with his wife Cindy and son Chase. He has practiced veterinary medicine in Fort Smith, Arkansas for nearly three decades.

A certified pilot for the last 30 years, Henderson never envisioned being involved in flight instruction..  He was introduced to the joy of general aviation while in his second year of veterinary school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Flying became an integral part of his life from that point. Henderson then developed a passion for sharing the aviation experience ,and with encouragement from a very important mentor, he acquired his flight instruction certification.

Henderson teaches at local air fields. He is also an instructor and check pilot for the Arkansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, where he served as wing vice-commander. He is also a FAASTeam Representative and president of The Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association. In February of 2015 he was designated a Pilot Examiner by the FAA’s Little Rock Flight Standards Office.

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Joseph Perrotta, Associate MCFI 5/2015-5/2017:

Joe Perrotta of Peachtree Georgia was bitten by the aviation bug at an early age. Visits to John F. Kennedy International Airport with his father to watch the takeoffs and landings convinced him that he wanted to fly.

Perrotta attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Science and his flight instructor certificate. He then added his CFII and MEI at the university.  After graduation, he returned to Embry-Riddle as an instructor to share his passion with incoming students.  He honed his piloting skills while flying for a Part 121 carrier.  Due to his commitment to safety and “by the book” approach to flying, he was selected to take part in a risk analysis assessment used to identify threats on the flight deck and design procedures to minimize those threats.  He now instructs under Part 61 at his local airport with a good friend he met while flying the line.  This is where you will find him whenever he isn’t caring for his future student, his son.

Perrotta’s commitment to quality teaching motivated him to obtain his Master’s Degree in Physics Education. He is most proud of the aviation club he formed at a local high school to introduce young adults to the many career paths in the aerospace field.  The club has toured corporate flight departments, aviation museums, and approach control facilities.  He also has a love for warbirds, so he has taken the club to see an AT-11, B-17, B-24, P-51, SBD Dauntless, and Corsair.  In addition, he has helped many of the club members earn their private pilot certificates.   He hopes to see the club grow in size, and to be able to continue to mentor young adults towards successful careers in aerospace.

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Luke Watters, MCFI 4/2015-4/2017:

Born and raised in Whitefish, MT, Watters began flight training at age 12 in the mountains of the Flathead Valley, soloed on his 16th birthday and had his pilot's certificate by 17. The first pages in his logbook include rolls, loops, and hammerheads in a glider as well as backcountry flights in a Cub. From those flights on he was hooked on aerobatics and dirt strips. Watters received his Bachelors in Aeronautical Science at LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, where he also completed his CSEL/CMEL, CFI, CFII, and MEI Certificates. Luke, a Gold Seal flight instructor, has logged 3300 hours of flight time, over 2700 hours of which are dual given. His specialties include aerobatic flight training in an Extra 300, mountain/canyon training, and upset recovery instruction.

Watters is currently the chief flight instructor and a backcountry charter pilot for a small FBO in Utah. He previously worked as a Part 141 assistant chief flight instructor and director of flight operations in Texas, before deploying to Afghanistan on a one-year contract to operate the RQ-7 Shadow 200 UAS in 2011. Watters enjoys skiing, riding motorcycles, playing guitar, shooting guns, and spending time with his wife, Sarah Beth.

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Jason Depew, MCFI 3/2015-3/2017:

Depew was the kid who was terrible in Little League because traffic at the airport next to the soccer field constantly distracted him from the game.  He started flying at Colorado Contrails Aviation during high school and moved on to instruct in gliders as a cadet in the USAF Academy’s soaring program.

Since the academy, Depew has accumulated more than 1800 combat hours on deployments to Afghanistan, Djibouti and elsewhere.  He’s served as an Instructor and evaluator pilot and has flown the B-1B, U-28A, T-6A, T-38C, E-11A, TG-4A, and TG-10B/C/D.

Unable to fully satisfy his appetite for flying at work, Depew is also active in general aviation.  He has flown as a mission pilot, instructor and evaluator with the Civil Air Patrol any time his deployment schedule allowed.  He’s given civilian glider instruction as a member of the Black Forest Soaring Society and the Black Hills Soaring Club.  As chief pilot of EAA Chapter 1493, Depew has helped introduce dozens of young people to aviation through the Young Eagles program.   He also gives tailwheel and military-to-GA transition training in his 1950 C-170A.

Depew’s favorite students so far are his two children who fight over the copilot seat in the family Cessna.  He’s worked with some friends to publish “The Flying Adventures of Panda and Baileron,” a series of eBooks based loosely on his daughter and her dog.  He hopes they’ll inspire kids, especially girls like his daughter, to get excited about aviation.

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Sue Ballew, MCFI 3/2015-3/2017:

Ballew earned her private pilot certificate in 1996 and began instructing in 1999.  She received a Citation V Type Rating and then was hired by American Eagle to fly in the Caribbean, Miami, Bahamas, and Cuba.

Since 2007 Ballew has been instructing fulltime as an independent flight instructor and has logged 6,000 hours of dual given, and is seaplane rated.

Ballew is very active in the Ninety-Nines, having won numerous awards within the organization, and was named CFI of the Year for West Valley Flying Club (the largest flying club in the U.S. at the time). She organizes monthly flyouts and is newsletter editor for the club, has flown in several air races, was named to the AOPA Honor Roll twice, and was inducted into the international Forest of Friendship in 2014.

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John Cutcher, MCFI 2/2015-2/2017:

Cutcher wanted to be a pilot from early age, crediting his career path to some of his fondest memories as a child while playing in a B-36 bomber.

Cutcher learned to fly at the former Ramey Air Force Base Aero Club in Puerto Rico (the base closed in the 1970s), and earned his private pilot’s certificate in high school. He later worked as a CFI for the Kirtland Air Force Base Aero Club in Albuquerque, while attending University of New Mexico.

Cutcher later completed U.S. Navy flight training and spent a career flying multi-engine aircraft, including instructing in the Beechcraft C-12, Grumman TS-2A and Lockheed P-3 B/C. After retiring from the navy, Cutcher flew for US Airways, based in the Baltimore, until retiring from airline flying and becoming chief pilot for a pharmaceutical company.

Cutcher is a Gold Seal freelance CFI, and was asked by the Baltimore FSDO to serve as DPE and FAASTeam representative.  In his time as a FAASTeam Representative, Cutcher has produced and conducted safety seminars in Maryland, Pennsylvania , Rhode Island and New York. He also recently became the only DPE in the United States to complete the Searey Flight Instructors Association training program in one of the first factory certified Seareys produced. Cutcher has also owned a Cessna 150/150 Texas taildragger for over 20 years.

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Michael Schwahn, MCFI 12/2014-12/2016:

Schwahn is a born and raised Montana resident who was first introduced to aviation at the age of 16.  Aviation was always been a part of his life growing up, but the decision to make it into a career didn’t come until September 2006.  While studying mechanical engineering at Montana State University, Schwahn decided to pursue aviation as a full-time major.  His first flight lesson ensued through Summit Aviation and he soloed in October 2006.  He received his Private, Instrument and Commercial ratings at Summit Aviation and added Airplane Single Engine Sea in south Florida.  Schwahn’s drive for knowledge kept pushing him towards CFI, CFI-I and eventually through MEI, at which point he was hired by Summit Aviation in 2010.

With only 300 hours total time, Schwahn began instructing.  From the beginning of his CFI training until today, he has stood out from his peers with his ability to relate to any individual.  This ability to adapt to all learning styles is one of the many reasons he was chosen to be an Assistant Chief Instructor for Summit Aviation.

Schwahn is also a captain for Summit Aviation’s charter service and crews a Phenom 100 jet. His ratings include: ATP Multi-Engine, Commercial Single-Engine Land and Sea, CFI, CFI-I, MEI, EMB-500 type and Instrument Ground Instructor. Schwahn has also been recognized by AOPA two years in a row for the Flight Training Excellence Honor Roll.

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Jason Grafel, MCFI 11/2014-11/2016:

Jason Grafel was born in Laramie, WY.  As an “Army Brat,” while growing up he had the opportunity to live all over the United States and Germany.. As the son of a U.S. Army aviator, he developed a passion for aviation early in life. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Grafel served in the army both stateside and in Iraq and Korea as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic and crew member. After his time in the army, Grafel pursued a corporate career in the insurance industry. Realizing that he did not have passion for what he was doing, Grafel left his corporate job in 2011and returned to college to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. He attended Montana State University where he completed his professional pilot course work.  While attending MSU, Grafel trained at Summit Aviation where he completed his pilot ratings from zero time to CFI in 20 months. After graduation, Grafel was hired at Summit as a full-time flight instructor. He is currently assistant chief instructor at Summit and on the adjunct faculty at MSU teaching courses in aircraft systems, commercial, and instrument ground.  His certificates include CFI, CFII, MEI, and IGI. Grafel was recognized on the 2014 AOPA Flight Training Excellence Honor Roll for outstanding flight instruction.

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Janine Nunes, MCFI 11/2014-11/2016:

Janine Nunes began her flight training just after her 15th birthday.  One year later she soloed with 99 hours.  She continued with her flight training, becoming a multi-engine private pilot on her 17th birthday.  Having no idea what she wanted to do, but knowing that she never wanted to be a teacher, Janine went to Kansas State University to pursue her college degrees.  After becoming a commercial pilot at 18, she took the next step to becoming a CFI, even though she felt no grand desire for it.  Once she began instructing in 1999, that all changed and she has never stopped teaching.  Even as her career progressed to corporate and then the airlines, Nunes kept returning to teach at K-State.  As an assistant chief instructor for KSU, Nunes taught all levels of college courses and found her passion was teaching private pilots and CFI initial applicants.

In 2009, Nunes left the plains of Kansas for the mountains of Montana where she is the chief instructor for Summit Aviation in Bozeman and continues her love of teaching at Montana State University in its aviation degree program.  She oversees 20 of her personally trained CFIs as they flight instruct over 150 students to completion each year.  She has led the flight school to be named an AOPA Top 5 Flight School with the Summit Aviation CFIs taking AOPA Outstanding Flight Instructor awards.  For someone who never wanted to be a teacher, she sure seems to be enjoying it.

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Jamie Poppe, MCFI 10/2014-10/2016:

Jamie Poppe was born in West Lafayette, Indiana while her parents attended Purdue University.  Her father graduated when she was 6 months old, and the family moved away from Indiana. When Poppe was 18 years old, she fell in love with flying and returned to West Lafayette to attend Purdue University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology and a Master of Science in Education.

Poppe is now the chief flight instructor at the Purdue College of Technology.  She has been flying for 23 years and has accumulated over 8,800 hours and given approximately 7,500 hours of dual instruction. She has a gold seal CFI certificate with single, multiengine, and instrument airplane ratings.  She has been training and mentoring new flight instructors for over 18 years and specializes in initial CFI training. In addition to instructing, Poppe has flown corporate transportation in a Beechjet 400 and a Phenom 100. She holds a flight engineer certificate in a B-727.

Jamie is also judge for the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) and emphasizes spin and upset recovery training.  She has several hundred hours teaching basic aerobatics in an American Champion Decathlon and a DeHavilland Chipmunk. Poppe’s son Kevin is 12-years-old and often volunteers at IAC contests.  He hopes to major in aeronautical engineering at Purdue.

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Elias Kontanis, Associate MCFI 10/2014-10/2016:

Elias began flying in 2001 at the East Hill Flying Club in Ithaca, New York.  He earned his CFI with Aviation Adventures in Manassas, Virginia in 2012 and became a part-time instructor for the company the same year.  As a one-time "Rusty Pilot," Elias is passionate about encouraging lapsed pilots to re-engage with aviation.  To this end, he specializes in comprehensive flight reviews.  He equally enjoys working with those aspiring to earn their private pilot certificates and commercial certificates.  Elias also volunteers as a FAASTeam representative for the Washington FSDO and was recognized on the AOPA 2014 Flight Training Excellence Awards Honor Roll.

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James Whittles, MCFI 5/2002-8/2016:

This is Whittles' Third NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.Whittles was raised during his formative years in Kettering, Ohio just a short distance from the Wright’s Cycle Company.  His inspiration for flying was inherited from his father, who flew as an instructor in the Army Air Corps.  Despite a keen interest, Whittles didn’t start flying until his mid thirty’s, earning Private to CFI in only two years. He then successfully developed a flight school in Holland, Michigan after the local FBO left in 1991. His biggest thrill during that time, was helping a young paraplegic man who had been injured in a car accident learn to fly and successfully earn his Private Pilot Certificate.

Whittles joined the College of Aviation at Western Michigan University in 2001 as a Lead Instructor. In this position his duties include giving progress and stage check to students, as well as standardizing new hire instructor staff at all levels. He also had the privilege of teaching upset/unusual attitude/spin training in the two University Extra 300s.  In addition to his flight responsibilities, Whittles teaches the instrument ground school, and has done so for over thirteen years, including a transition to technically advanced aircraft. This transition brought Cirrus SR-20’s to the University, and allowed for him to achieve his Cirrus Standardization (CSIP) in 2007. With knowledge in teaching flight using advanced avionics, Whittles leads a contract for the University working with FAA inspectors for Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) training. He also routinely works with FAA Designated Examiners that want to provide check rides in the University fleet.

Whittles speaks annually at the Great Lakes Aviation Conference on topics related to flying with technology, dependence on automation, human factors, and using new skills with tablet technology. He also spoke and facilitated a seminar for the State of Michigan Department of Transportation on iPad use in the cockpit and recently spoke at the WATs (World Aviation Training Conference) Conference on Engaging the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals with Tablet Technology.

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Timothy Lemke, MCFI 7/2002-8/2016:

This is Lemke's Seventh consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Tim Lemke was fascinated with airplanes and aviation from the time he was a small child, growing up on a dairy farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin. He began pursuing that aviation interest in his mid-twenties by earning his private pilot’s license in 1976. Lemke continued his training by obtaining an instrument rating in 1985, followed by a commercial pilot’s license in 1987 and the flight instructor license in 1988. Lemke now has accumulated over 5200 flight hours including more than 4200 hours of dual instruction given and has recommended more than 75 pilots for practical tests.

Lemke is the current president of the Winnebago Flying Club based at Wittman Field Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a position he has held for the past dozen years. He is also a representative for the FAA FAASTeam and a member of the National Association of Flight Instructors, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Experimental Aircraft Association. Lemke serves on NAFI’s Master Flight Instructor Board of Review, and was awarded NAFI’s Jack Eggspuehler Award in 2013.

Lemke retired from Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in 2011 where he was the manager of the Manufacturing Engineering function at Gulfstream’s Appleton, Wisconsin facility.  He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Arts Education from Stout State University.

Lemke continues to be very active with flight instructional activities at both the Appleton and Oshkosh Airports. He specializes in primary and instrument instruction and also provides tailwheel instruction and specialized instruction for the Garmin 430/530 GPS.

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Jose R. Vargas Otero, MCFI 06/2014-06/2016:

José Vargas was born and raised in a small town in Puerto Rico called Guaynabo.  It was there where his enthusiasm and interest in aviation developed as he observed military fighters flying over his house in Puerto Rico. His full devotion was attained when he experienced a small flight in the Grand Canyon as part of a scenic tour. In 2001, at the age of 19, Vargas received his acceptance to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue his airline pilot career.

At Embry-Riddle, Vargas completed all his flight training along with a Bachelors of Science in Aeronautical Science degree.  In 2012, he completed a Master of Science in Aeronautics degree from the same institution.

Since 2004, Vargas has been serving as an instructor pilot for his alma mater, Embry-Riddle.  He currently holds an ATP with ASEL and AMEL ratings, a Flight Instructor certificate with ASE, AME, & IA ratings, Ground Instructor certificate and over 4,500 hours of total aeronautical experience. In 2008, he became a Part 142 Training Center Evaluator (TCE) for Embry-Riddle; he continuously serves as a designee for the performance of practical tests for all courses.

In 2008 he became the Assistant Training Manager for the Flight Standards team at Embry-Riddle; a job he conducts with passion while hiring and standardizing instructor pilots.  Vargas also is one of three Assistant Chief Flight Instructors and an adjunct professor for the Aeronautical Science Department.

In addition to his work related duties, he is the President of IAMAW Local Lodge 501-Daytona Beach Pilots; a flight instructor union that remains in solidarity since 2001.

He is about to celebrate his 10th anniversary as a flight instructor with the accomplishment of his MCFI and is aspiring to reach new heights in his aeronautical career.   Vargas would like to give his gratitude to his family, especially to his grandfather, Leonides, his grandmother, Cecilia, and his Uncle Papo for their shared dreams of flight.

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Nathan Grupenhof, MCFI 05/2014-05/2016:

Nathan was born and raised in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. His aspirations to become a pilot as a child came to fruition in the fall of 2007 while attending Ohio University. During his time spent at Ohio University, Grupenhof acquired all certificates and ratings required for graduation, and was able to flight instruct during his junior and senior years while completing course work for graduation.

After graduation in March 2011, Grupenhof moved back to the Cincinnati area and began working as an independent contractor. He primarily instructs through Lunken Flight Training Center specializing in Cirrus SR20, SR22 and C172SP training. While working as an independent contractor, he has been afforded the opportunity to fly over 20 different aircraft types ranging from a Velocity XLRG to B350.

While not instructing, Grupenhof also serves as a King Air 200 pilot for FlightLogix Aircraft Management. He is an FAA Gold Seal Instructor and an accredited CSIP Instructor (Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot), with more than 2600 total hours, including more than 1800 hours of dual given When not flying, Grupenhof enjoys spending time with his wife Chandra of one year, and with close family and friends.

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James Kapenas, MCFI 05/2014-05/2016:

James Kapenas is a 7400 hr Airline Transport Pilot and currently a full time Gold Seal/Senior instructor with one of the largest flying clubs in the world consisting of over 1400 members and 60 aircraft.

After high school, Kapenas spent four years in theUSMC infantry and then attended the University of Massachusetts, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in English and History.  He then moved to San Diego to begin his flying career in the year 2000.

Kapenas specializes in private pilot through ATP training as well as all cfi candidates and advanced avionics transition training.  He is the founder and chief pilot of San Diego Sky Tours and has recently begun a foray into the charter world flying a King Air B100 and an Eclipse jet.

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Richard Weber, MCFI 05/2014-05/2016:

Richard Weber is the Chief Pilot/FW for the Jacksonville (FL) Sheriff’s Aviation Unit, where he has been assigned since 1998. Weber began his flying career in 1987 and earned his first flight instructor rating in 1995. Weber has spent his career flying law enforcement missions in helicopters as well as airplane fugitive extraditions across the United States. He has over 7,600 flight hours and holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate for SEL, MEL and Rotorcraft/Helicopter and is a FAA-Certified Gold Seal Flight Instructor for Single and Multi-Engine Airplane, Rotorcraft/Helicopter, Instrument Airplane and Helicopter. Weber is a graduate of the USAF’s Advanced Instrument School and NVG Instructor School. He is Bell Helicopter factory trained in the Bell 206 and 407 and also receives currency training at the Simcom Training Center for the Piper Aerostar and Beechcraft King Air 200.

Weber travels around the U.S. and Canada presenting aviation-related training topics to include Spatial Disorientation and Inadvertent IMC. He has provided this training to law enforcement pilot’s at ALEA seminars and conferences, EMS helicopter pilots at various bases, commercial operators at Heli-Expo and other FAAST events as a FAAST team representative. Weber also provides Single, Multi-Engine Airplane and Helicopter training through his consulting business, Webair Aviation Training, LLC.

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Benjamin Hastings, MCFI 05/2014-05/2016:

Originally from Hillsdale Michigan, Benjamin Hastings started in aviation at an early age. His father, an aviation enthusiast, was instrumental in encouraging him to achieve his dream of flight. From the age of three, Hastings knew that he wanted to fly airplanes and has focused on that goal ever since. In November 2005, Hastings started taking flight lessons at his local airport in Hillsdale Michigan. "I was fortunate to have the support of my parents and my high school." Hastings stated. "I was even able to earn high school credit while in the air." He continued his flight training and earned his Private Pilot License before graduating high school.

In the fall of 2008, Hastings enrolled at Western Michigan University's College of Aviation. As an aviation administration major, he learned the fundamentals of aviation business while continuing to earn additional licenses and ratings. It was during this time that Hastings was able to participate on the Precision Flight Team. As a competing member, he traveled around the Midwest and worked closely with his teammates to capture a seventh and fourth place finish at the national flight competition. During the 2012 national competition, he earned the Top Scoring Contestant award and placed second for the Top Pilot Award. To Hastings however, the real achievement was being able to fly with 15 of his closest friends.

While attending college, Hastings worked closely with his flight instructor to achieve his own flight instructor certificate. In August of 2010, he completed his practical test and earned the privilege to teach the art of flying. During the spring of 2012, he was promoted to Chief Flight Instructor and continues to enjoy working closely with his staff and students.

Hastings is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFII, MEI) and holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate. He currently resides in Wauseon Ohio and is employed by Stewart Aviation Services, Inc. as Chief Flight Instructor.

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Michael Reichert, MCFI 04/2012-04/2016:

This is Reichert’s third consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation.Michael Reichert is an East Coast CFI specializing in Flight Instructor initial training, G1000 transition training, and Helicopter instruction.  Reichert’s flying “career” started at the age of 8 when his father took him for his first ride in a light twin airplane.  Unbeknownst to him, sliding back and forth across the back seat was just enough for his foot to inadvertently shut off fuel flow to one of the engines.  Crisis averted, it made a lasting impression.  It forever sparked the skyward fever, as well as provided early education for the necessity of good passenger briefings.  Reichert is currently a contract pilot as well as the Chief Flight Instructor for a Part 141 program in Pennsylvania.  He is a Gold Seal Flight Instructor holding CFI A&H, CFII A&H, MEI, and AGI.

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Ted Sanders, MCFI 07/2008-04/2016:

This is Sanders' Third consecutive NAFI Master Instructor accreditation. Sanders’ friends say he wanted to fly before he was born. In first grade Sanders started building and flying U-Line controlled gas powered model airplanes. He was competing in combat and rat race competitions through 4th grade. Sanders joined the United States Marine Corps in 1969 and became a CH-53D Crew Chief flying in excess of 1200 hrs. Upon return to the states in 1972 Sanders took flying lessons at the base flying club earning his Private License on July 4, 1973. He returned home and used his GI benefits to earn his Instrument Rating and Commercial License. In January 2002, Sanders returned to flying and since then he has gone from an 800hr. pilot with those ratings to a Commercial Pilot with ASEL, ASES, AMEL and, Glider. He also is a CFI, CFII, MEI, CFI-G, Gold Seal Instructor, NAFI Master Instructor and FAAST team Representative. For three years Sanders flew freight for Northeast Aviation as a Captain and Training Airman. Sanders has logged in excess of 6000+ hrs.

In addition to joining the NAFI Board, Sanders chairs/participates on several NAFI Committees. Sanders enjoys his obligations as a member of the NAFI Board of Directors. 

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