Former NAFI Master Instructors

 

Master Logos

 

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.

 

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.

Click to Download Scott's Press Release!

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."

Click to Download Joseph's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Dave's Press Release!

Nicholas Ahlen, MCFI 03/2016-03/2018:

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!

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.

Click to Download Ben's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Alan's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Helen's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Dale's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Shane's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Rusty's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Joe's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Luke's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Jason's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Sue's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download John's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Mike's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Jason's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Janine's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Jamie's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Elias' Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Whittles' Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Lemke's Press Release!

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.

Click to Download Jose's Press Release!

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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