'Spin Doctor' Bill Kershner dies at 77

September 1, 2007

'Spin Doctor' Bill Kershner dies at 77

Bill Kershner

Pilot, flight instructor, and aviation author William K. Kershner, 77, died January 8 in Sewanee, Tennessee, after a prolonged battle with cancer.

"Bill will be remembered as an enthusiastic pilot, great educator and friend," said Bruce Landsberg, AOPA Air Safety Foundation executive director. "He served as a sounding board on many occasions to the foundation. I called on him periodically to discuss airmanship or procedural issues. From traffic patterns to aerodynamics of stalls to IFR techniques, I could always count on Bill for good advice."

Kershner soloed an Aeronca Defender from Clarksville, Tennessee's Outlaw Field - a grass strip at the time - in 1945 at age 16. After four years flying Corsairs in the Navy, Kershner worked as a corporate pilot, flight-test pilot, and special assistant to William T. Piper Sr., then president of Piper Aircraft. With the help of his wife, Betty - who typed his handwritten manuscripts - Kershner authored and illustrated a series of five highly regarded flight manuals; his Student Pilot's Flight Manual alone has sold more than 1 million copies.

Kershner contributed often to AOPA publications, including AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training.

He also was known for his interest in spins, having logged more than 8,000 spins totaling some 35,000 turns; Kershner only counted spins of at least three turns and didn't record spins at all during his first 24 years of flying.

He was the national General Aviation Flight Instructor of the Year in 1992. At his Ace Aerobatic School in Sewanee, Kershner provided spin recovery and aerobatic training to hundreds of pilots, and he continued to teach ground school into late December 2006.

"He had a soft spot in his heart for student pilots and CFIs," said Landsberg. "Being an engineer at heart, he would step up to the blackboard and start doing equations to explain some aerodynamic truth. When pressed to put it in English so that a dumb pilot (me) could understand it - he always could."

Flight instructor Catherine Cavagnaro, whom Kershner mentored into aerobatic instruction, continues to operate Ace Aerobatic School.

Cavagnaro has purchased a Cessna 152 Aerobat nearly identical to Kershner's; his veteran Aerobat is going to the National Air and Space Museum. See a multimedia presentation and hear Kershner reflect on his more than 60 years of flying. The funeral will be private. More details will be provided as they become available.

Kershner was an inspiration to many pilots, including several of us at AOPA who share their reflections here.

January 9, 2007