AOPA Project Pilot

June 1, 2008

Students and mentors: Just do it

Mentor Mike Boudreaux shares his passion for aviation

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mike Boudreaux realized life is short. So, not long after, he began flight training at the Flight Academy of New Orleans. “Learning to fly was a bittersweet process,” he said. A month after he started in October 2006, his father was diagnosed with cancer. “It really gave me the drive to finish.”

As Boudreaux, 39, dove into IFR training, his father remained a motivating force. Fifteen hours into it, his father became severely ill. It was time to put flying on hold. After his father passed away, Boudreaux refocused, started flying five days a week after work, and finished the rating in February 2007.

Boudreaux loves aviation so much that he drives 120 miles round trip daily to Houma-Terrebonne Airport in Houma, Louisiana, to continue his training toward his commercial helicopter certificate. And this is after he’s already spent a full day working as deputy sheriff for the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s office in New Orleans.

“The idea of flying one day a week does not make you a proficient pilot,” he says, adding that he understands the need for more general aviation pilots and is doing whatever he can to help. Boudreaux has worked with the local sheriff’s office for 12 years. He has aspirations not only to become a professional pilot, but also to mentor student pilots.

One is Keith Zibilich, vice president and chief operating officer at a New Orleans software company, Blanchard Systems. The pair met through mutual friends at a holiday party last year, and their conversation about aviation was a positive sign for Zibilich. He knew it was time to just do it. Zibilich lives two miles from New Orleans Lakefront Airport and has been flying at least twice a week. He and Boudreaux talk on the phone regularly to share their aviation experiences.

“I talk aviation 24/7,” says Boudreaux. “This is in my blood. I spread as much knowledge as I can, as often as I can.”

While working for six years on F-15 weapons systems in the Air National Guard, Boudreaux knew he always wanted to fly and told himself, “One day I’m going to become a pilot.”

It’s with this passion that Boudreaux continue pushing himself and Zibilich. There for mostly moral support, Boudreaux gives a different perspective and helps to keep Zibilich focused. He knows he won’t win any awards, but he will have the satisfaction of having done an important job by helping someone learn to fly.


Keith Zibilich, Lakefront Airport, New Orleans
First solo: March 1, 2008
Hours to solo: 15
Mentor advice: “If you want to do this, until you actually go do it, it’s not going to happen”— Mike Boudreaux
How it helps: “It helps to hear from someone who’s gone through it,” says Zibilich, who has been struggling with landings. “Mike reinforces that this is common and eventually it will just come. I’ve just got to give it a little time.”

Please send us your exciting and unusual student/mentor stories. We also welcome your photos. Although we can’t guarantee publication, we encourage you to e-mail photos to [email protected] or call 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672). For more information or to nominate someone for AOPA Project Pilot, please go to the Web site.