Category: Just Plane Fun

Flying is Slower than Driving

Michael with Blue Plane

In early December I had an opportunity spend the day with Chris Palmer from Homer, AK. We had met at the Redbird Migration in November and I invited him to fly with me when he was in California visiting with family. We had one of those special days flying and hanging out at the airport that will remain with me for a long time. Read what he wrote on his blog about our time together.

Flying is Slower Than Driving

Dancing among the bumpy air, aviators pierce the blue yonder not in hopes of arriving faster. Instead we air warriors embody the aviation experience as a whole. Soaking in every moment ensures the ultimate journey.

The typical flight consists of many nuts and bolts, both literally and figuratively, to ensure eventual success and safety. As my time as an aviator has unfolded over the years, the technical details are easier to manage. Many have become second nature. This opens up the door for a richer experience of simply enjoying the journey that is “aviation”.

You see, aviation is a fraternity- a brotherhood of sorts. To a deeper extent, sharing this passion for the freedom of flying aircraft is one that borders the spiritual realm. Man was obviously meant to walk the earth, yet I also contest it was our destiny as humanity to break the bonds of soil and shoe. Read the whole story here.

A winged amphibian, a dream come true and a reminder that learning is best when fun

Pro Mark

Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and we passed our checkride.

My passion for flying began when I was eight years old and has been the catalyst for some of the most memorable events in my life.

The most recent adventure involved a trip to Burnet, Texas to add floatplane pilot to my pilot certificate. I was joined by my close friend David Casarez who I had the privilege to teach to fly. We were in Burnet because my good friend and Master Instructor Ken Wittekiend and his team teaches pilots to operate airplanes on the water at ProMark Aviation based at Burnet Municipal airport.

Trace and the ring

Trace and the ring

Little did we know that when we arrived in Austin, on Wednesday May 20th, that we would have a front row seat to watch the power and viciousness of Mother Nature. During the next four days we would find ourselves looking for breaks in the weather so that we could fly to one of the several lakes in the Texas Hill Country that ProMark uses as training venues for their floatplane training program. Before we arrived in Burnet it was clear that weather was going to be a challenge and I shared this concern with Ken. His reply was simple “we can do it”. I had lived in Texas for ten years and was very familiar with how fickle and powerful the weather can be. Needless to say,  I was hopeful but more than willing to return another day to complete the training. Nonetheless, Ken never wavered and was convinced that we would complete the training and always finished his comments with a smile and the mantra “that we will have fun doing it”. He was absolutely right on all counts. As we sat down for dinner on Sunday night we were floatplane pilots and we had a blast doing it. In addition to the tangible outcome of a Pilot Certificate that states Airplane Single Engine Sea there were other events that occurred during the training that proved, once again, that the journey is as good or better than the destination.

Scuba Diving at Lake LBJ. Trace went above and beyond and below all expectations!

Scuba Diving at Lake LBJ. Trace went above and beyond and below all expectations!

The first event occurred during my first training flight and will forever bind me to my instructor Trace Clinton. During a docking exercise, as I was exiting the cockpit, a very special ring that I had removed because it was in the way when operating the throttle fell out of my pocket and into Lake LBJ. It was disappointing but not the end of the world. Trace was having none of this and insisted on trying to find it. He began stripping down to his skivvies as a boat full of people floated by and wanted to talk about the airplane. We were laughing and joking and then into the water he goes. The depth was only up to his neck and I thought maybe there is a chance to retrieve the ring. Down he goes but realizes he needs to stay down longer. The airplane has an emergency breathing device that can be used should the airplane flip upside down in the water. He grabs it and down he goes again, this time returning with a smile and the ring. It was an “unfathomable” (pun intended) outcome and an incredible act of kindness and commitment to others that Trace shared with me that day. I called Ken from the dock and shared the story with him and told him that clearly ProMark will go to any height or depth to insure that their clients have an unforgettable and fun experience.

The second event was realizing that it had been a long time since I was learning something new in aviation and that I was a “student” again.  With this thought I immediately realized what the people who fly with me feel like and that

I need to be even more patient and kind as a coach and teacher. I shared this with Ken as we flew back to the airport after my checkride; a thought he understood and encouraged.

Thank you Ken, Trace and Jeff for guiding us through the learning, making it fun and an adventure that will live on for years to come

“Where there is a will there is a way”

Zack Fort Erwin

Zach at Fort Irwin during his interview for the Army Aviation Warrant Officer Program

I created this blog to share stories of the people that I meet and  share my passion for learning and flying. This story is about Zachary Ramzi.

Zach arrived at one of the airports, where I provide flight instruction, about three years ago and since then I have had the opportunity to observe and guide him as he went through the process of obtaining his Private Pilot Certificate and later as his Flight Instructor for the Instrument Rating.

Throughout this time, it has been my privilege and honor to become both a coach and mentor for Zach as he has pursued his passion for flight. Not only is he a very good pilot both technically and mentally he is a terrific young man. As a full-time Aviation Educator I see many young pilots in the course of a year and to say that Zach is different would be an understatement. Zach is the middle son of a single mother raising three boys. His father passed away when he was three years old and his mom has been his biggest supporter. Since he began flying he has earned the money necessary to learn to fly by working at a golf course and networking with pilots to perform odd jobs, wash airplanes, sweep hangers, whatever it takes. This commitment made it possible for him to earn additional endorsements for flying complex, high performance and tailwheel aircraft. He also has an interest in maintaining airplanes and has worked closely with an A&P as an assistant building the required hours towards an A&P Certificate.  His motivation is impressive and watching him mature, as a pilot and a young man, through his own hard work,  the guidance of others and sheer determination has been a real treat.

Around his Senior year in high school Zach decided to pursue an opportunity in the Army Warrant Officer Flight Training Program. This program is designed to be very rigorous and stressful and has a structured and multi-layered  selection process. Throughout each phase of his preparation he was guided by his Army recruiter to meet or exceed all of the physical and leadership requirements that are required of this program. This required that he lose over fifty pounds, demonstrate a higher level of motivation in the classroom and to act as a mentor for other individuals that wanted to be considered for this program. In addition, scoring well on the various aptitude tests was important. He  met and exceeded all of these requirements and then the real work began. Meeting with the various individuals and boards tasked with identifying and selecting the men and women for this program. The thumbs up in the picture on the left, which was taken during his interview at Fort Irwin, turned out to be prophetic because on July 16 he was notified that he had been selected to enter the Program. To see his excitement and to know how hard he has worked to get to this point is why I love being a mentor, coach and teacher. His dream was to fly and he became a Private Pilot. He wanted to fly in the clouds and he earned his Instrument Rating. He wanted to be a helicopter pilot in the Army and he has achieved the first step in this process. I look forward to the day that I will travel to Fort Rucker, AL  and see him receive his wings because I know that he has the will and the desire to achieve whatever he puts his mind to.

Zuma Beach...will you go to the Prom with me?

Zuma Beach…will you go to the Prom with me?

An example as to why I have no doubt that he will earn his wings are demonstrated in the two images shown here. What girl can refuse a chance to go to Zuma Beach in an airplane? Further, what girl would refuse a Prom date proposal when asked like this? Zach and his best friend Marty cooked up a plan to write the Prom proposal in the sand, at Zuma Beach, because Zach had asked his hoped for date to go for a flight with him. It took Zach longer than expected to get to the shore and the waves kept rolling in and obscuring the message but his buddy Marty made sure that it was easily read from above when they arrived. Of course she said yes and the picture of them at the Reagan Library in front of Air Force One is the perfect acknowledgement of the saying “where there is a will there is a way.”

I will end this part of the story, because there will be more, in Zach’s  own words whenever we talked about commitment “damn straight’!

Of course I will go to the prom with you!

Of course I will go to the prom with you!