Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Light-Sport Chronicles: Heart Like A Wing

In celebration of CFIs everywhere, and one in particular

John, a 6,000-hour CFI, (5,000 spent teaching), works out of Premier Aviation at Connecticut's Hartford Brainard Airport (HFD). I was his first light-sport student three years ago. Since then, he's racked up 1,000 hours teaching in the FBO's Flight Design CTLS.

As a teener, he dreamed of taking the rock group he formed in high school, Society's Children, to the big time. Flying, a longtime "someday" dream, took backseat to making it in the music world. The group became known throughout New England, headlining big names like Joan Jett, and cutting some tracks in the same RCA studio Elvis Presley had graced. But larger fame remained just out of reach.

One night in his late 20s, John took a flight with an old high school pal. "That was it for me. The city lights below, the way the moon reflected off the water...." His eyes still sparkle with the memory.

Next came a discovery flight, and disappointment. "It was bumpy. I couldn't see well out the windscreen; I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was almost more unnerving than enjoyable. I hadn't expected that!"

The instructor told him to relax. "But I didn't understand how anything worked. I thought, 'I don't know if I can do this,'" John reflected.

Unwilling to cave to his misgivings, he persevered and got his private. In time, he missed flying, in particular, the training experience. "I needed a goal, so I went back for my instrument, then commercial, then multi. I didn't have any career plan, no road map. I just liked learning the skills. I liked the feeling of achieving that next goal," John said.

John has taught for years out of Premier, a super-friendly flight shop run by Gary and Deb Ciriello. They operate a CTLS on leaseback that books for instruction so regularly, they need another for rental flights—any takers out there?

"I think I'm lucky I felt anxiety on that first training flight. It made me sensitive to it in other people," John explained. "I make sure not to focus on the danger aspect during first flights. I feed them bits of information so they know what to expect: 'We're going to turn; here's what's going to happen.' I like to put students at ease.

"And I use humor to help with that," John said. "Maybe we're turning base, and I'll point to the ground. 'Hey, see those big round oil storage things down there? You know, those...uh...' And they'll say, 'Tanks?' And I say, 'You're welcome!' Sure, it's dumb, but it sets a light and fun mood right away. They laugh, they realize, 'Oh my gosh, it's going to be okay.' They breathe a little bit. They relax. It helps."


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