Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The Country Pilot
Joining the farm team for tailwheel training
He calls himself the “Country Pilot,” and with his herd of taildraggers and 3,000-foot farm field, he cultivates the art, science and joy of simple stick and rudder flying. He’s even apt to begin sentences with, “I’m just a country pilot…,” when relating how he prefers good weather when flying his PA20 Pacer on the 1,000-mile journey to Sun ’n Fun, or why the Pitts S-2B he bought himself as a retirement present in 2002 has all the performance he’ll ever need for aerobatics.
“I live in the country, and we’re kind of unsophisticated,” Wolfgang Buergel says at his hilltop aerie, Bloecher Farm Airport, near Buffalo, N.Y., explaining the roots of his sobriquet. “We don’t have the TVs and the radios and all the other stuff you got. We’re just sport flyers.”
Don’t let the self-deprecating demeanor fool you. Buergel, tall and slender, is something of a legend in western New York’s aviation community (www.countrypilot.com). Few people around these parts know as much about how to fix, build or fly an airplane. He can take a student from primary training through aerobatics, or repair just about anything from a J-3 Cub to a Boeing 737. But most people come to Buergel and his country airstrip to learn how to fly tailwheel aircraft.
“He’s a wonderfully talented pilot and teacher,” says Rick Volker, of Niagara Falls, N.Y., who took aerobatic lessons from Buergel, and today flies an Extra 300L, Sukhoi Su-26M and a Supermarine Spitfire on the air show circuit. “He can fly a rock.”
“This is the guy to go to, I truly believe, if you want to get a tailwheel endorsement,” says Greg Barnhard, a CFI who did his taildragger training with Buergel. “He’ll say, ‘I’m just a country pilot,’ but he’s probably the best pilot I’ve ever met.” (For the record, Barnhard, of Orchard Park, N.Y., gives equal plaudits to the instructor from whom he got his primary, instrument, commercial and CFI ratings: Buergel’s son-in-law, airline pilot Peter Treichler, of Wales, N.Y.)
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Labels: Features, Flying Skills, Journeys, Learning Center, People and Places, Pilot Skills, Safety, Tailwheels