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#209 One of a Kind

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We’d had a great flying session. We’d done landings in a turn, slaloms up on one wheel and multiple landings.  We’d finished up with a series of spins, then swooped into our home airport at Sisters, Oregon and were sitting at the picnic table in the hangar debriefing the flight and the course.

Keith, who’d come halfway across the country to fly at Tailwheel Town, turned to me and said, “Let me ask you something… Do you know of anyone else who teaches the things you teach in this course?”

Keith McFarland in the Irrigation Pivot. Keith comes a long way to fly here and I’m glad he does. He’s a good stick and I always enjoy our flights… and our discussions!

There was a time when no one asked me that question.  This year, several fliers who have taken one of the courses here at Tailwheel Town have asked me the same question.

Here’s my answer:  I really don’t know of anyone else who is teaching what I’m teaching.  They may very well be out there, but I just don’t know of them.  Lately I’ve received some correspondence from an instructor or two who are using some of my maneuvers, but I’m sure that they have their own style which makes up most of theircourses.And it should probably be said that this is virtually all I do.  It will come to an end as I turn more to writing and to the production of videos, but for now I seem to be the only guy from whom you can get this type of instruction. Why do you suppose that is?

First of all, let’s jettison any idea that I am an above average teacher of flying.  I firmly believe that even a blind squirrel occasionally gets a nut.  The nut I’ve stumbled on is a result of the fact that I witnessed some superb flying and then simply asked a question.

Bill Warren inverted over the Rogue Valley in his Stearman (photo by Brian Lansburgh © The Lansburgh Collection)

The flying I saw was by Bill Warren.  I really believe that the very moment was when I happened to see Bill goofing off at the Bremerton, Washington, airshow.  He was simply heading from one end of the runway to the other.  He chose to put the J-3 Cub up on one wheel and run the length of the runway like that.  I’d never seen that before.  Then I wondered why everyone couldn’t do that.  That was the question.

I questioned why it seemed that virtually all pilots were pretty helpless when it came to landing their airplane.  What followed closely on the heels of that observation was my own feeling that the modern flight school was mainly responsible.  Young pilots were trained in these schools, then retained by them as instructors.  They used this opportunity to build their time until they had sufficient experience to move on to an airline job.  It was then and remains a horrible, self-degrading system.  I began to call such schools, “Acme Flying School”.  That moniker has occupied a prominent place in my vocabulary and I guess I’ve passed it on to those who’ve come to me for primary instruction.

So I guess I’m like the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Their job is to put an end to drug trafficking, but if they should ever succeed, they will eliminate their own jobs.  If I succeed, which is highly doubtful, there will no longer be any need for a place like Tailwheel Town, where pilots learn to become the pilots they should have become in their primary training.

One of my former primary students was at Oshkosh.  She sat through a presentation by a large and highly successful aviation school.  At the end of the presentation, her friend said that she thought she’d investigate that school a bit more.  She asked what my student thought of the presentation. She responded, “Oh, it’s just like the Acme Flying School on steroids”.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Happy Swooping!