Kershner was an inspiration to many pilots

November 11, 2009

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


Catherine Cavagnaro, Bill Kershner, and Julie Boatman
Bill Kershner with Catherine Cavagnaro
(left) and Julie Boatman (right).

We lost Bill Kershner on Monday, January 8, 2007. He touched my life just generally at first, through his Student Pilot's Flight Manual, and then through his Flight Instructor's Manual - the bible of flight instruction, as far as I was concerned, as a new CFI in 1993. The first time I talked with Bill on the phone followed the publication of a review of his book, Logging Flight Time, in Pilot in 2002, and he called to thank me for it, such a gentleman. I grew fond of his expression over the phone during our exchanges that followed, how it complemented and supported his clear and lighthearted writing style. In writing, you can't quite hear his Tennessee accent, carefully crafted over the years - no, not quite. Part of the loss of Bill Kershner is wondering if at some point I'll forget the sound of his voice.

But a friendship at arm's length between us grew into something more last summer. I went down to fly with his aerobatic school partner, Catherine Cavagnaro, and to learn from Bill again. I was going through a rough patch in my flying, and I talked with them both about it. And when I finished my tale, Bill looked me in the eye and told me his own. He told me that I was on the right track, but more than that, with sharing his confidence he let me know that it would all work out all right, that the family of aviators isn't unforgiving, though the laws of physics may be concrete.

No one could illustrate the separate control inputs for a spin condition and its exit quite like Bill - and certainly not in a way that any person on the street could understand. He got down to the nut in his explanations, peppered them with humor, and delivered them in a measured and easy pace. We've lost a communicator that will be hard to match, and a pilot for whom instructing was a passion and a calling. I'm sure he's up there somewhere, already explaining to the angels just why they fly. - Julie K. Boatman

January 16, 2007