Learning to fly, from Day 1 to now.
Ever since I took my first couple of flights as a brand new student pilot, I've always thought that being a certified flight instructor would be incredibly fun. I've never had the desire to go to the airlines or fly for any air carrier, though if an unbeatable corporate job comes knocking on my door, I probably won't refuse, however, my ultimate goal is to bring new pilots into this industry, and be the best instructor I could be. Without instructors, we don't have pilots, so instructing is my way of giving back to the aviation industry.
PRIVATE PILOT TRAINING
In spring of 2010, the flight school I took my original discovery flight with had closed down, but we stumbled upon "Above and Beyond Aviation LLC" based at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS), so we scheduled a discovery flight with the owner, George Farris. I got along with George quite well, so I opted to carry out the rest of my private pilot training with him.
My first "official" lesson took place on May 30th, 2010 at the age of 14. George put me through my paces with all the maneuvers, procedures, and tasks until I finally turned 16, where he then soloed me on February 12, 2012. The rest of that year consisted of nothing but solo flights with the occasional dual instruction mixed in here and there, until my 17th birthday rolled around, and it was time to prepare for the checkride.
I cannot describe how nervous I felt on the morning of my private pilot checkride - my hopes and dreams rested on how well that exam was going to go. Sure enough, I parked the airplane and the examiner said "Alright, I'll head inside and get going on your paperwork and get you your certificate." The joy I felt in that moment was indescribable, but it may not have matched my Dad's. Without waiting to hear how the checkride went, he met me at the airport, looked at me and asked "Well, is my son a pilot?" I replied "He sure is," and I saw his eyes turn glassy - we hugged.
I went through my instrument training in a very unique way. Let's jump back to July 2014 to the first time I met Brandon Maso, a CFII out of the Dallas, TX Area. Myself and some friends were flying formation up to Oshkosh 2014 from Oklahoma, and Brandon was invited by someone in our group. After that, we seemed to get along well when we discovered we think almost exactly alike as pilots.
By the time I was ready to start working on the instrument training, my Dad and I had already purchased our own airplane - a 1976 Cessna 172M, N80991. We got the bird instrument equipped with a Garmin 430 WAAS GPS, and she was good to go.
Since I became close friends with Brandon, a CFII, he took me through all of my instrument training - and we had quite a few adventures throughout the process. There were only a handful of flights that were dedicated solely to instrument training - most of it was flying across the country, getting practical real-world experience. In a lot of ways, it was some serious "baptism by fire."
Lots of very valuable lessons were learned by training in the practical environment. From my first IFR lesson - a rainy night cross country in IMC (video), to aborting a takeoff roll in the mountains due to changing weather (video), to shooting my first approach - a real-world ILS down to minimums (video), it's needless to say that my instrument training did a tremendous job at helping me develop a healthy respect for IFR.
After Brandon and I had taken my Skyhawk from Texas to Georgia, Oshkosh, and California, we touched up a few last items in the PTS and I took the checkride!
About six months after taking the instrument checkride, I finished up another semester of college and utilized the first week of Christmas break to knock out the commercial certificate. Jeremy, a CFII, MEI, ATP out of Temple, TX, reached out to me through my YouTube channel to meet up - seeing that he was local, I agreed to meet and he showed the beautiful 1983 Mooney M20J that he is taking care of for a friend. Little did I know, I was going to end up doing my commercial in that airplane.
Jeremy and I got to know each other over the course of a few weeks, and in late December 2015, we devised a plan for him to help me finish my commercial training in that Mooney. We flew day in and day out until I was ready for the checkride, and on the morning of December 30th, 2015, I took and passed the commercial checkride, and received my commercial pilot certificate.
Certified flight instructor
From what I had been told in the passed from countless flight instructors, I knew that earning the CFI certificate was going to be the most grueling checkride preparation I'll ever endure, and that expectation couldn't have been more spot on.
As I mentioned previously, Jeremy and I worked together on my commercial training in the Mooney M20J. Since a complex aircraft (flaps, retractable landing gear, and a constant-speed propeller) is required for part of the CFI checkride as well, I opted to do my training and checkride exclusively in the Mooney.
I finished the last semester of my second year of college at Texas State University, and Jeremy and I began the horribly long and tedious preparation for this day-long checkride on my horizon. The CFI checkride is known for being one of the hardest checkrides a pilot will go through in their career. A checkride is divided into two parts; the "oral" portion, and the "flight" portion. It was communicated to me that the oral for a CFI initial checkride would last anywhere from four to eight hours, and the flight portion will last about two hours. Needless to say, the pressure was on.