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Professionally Speaking

Success stories in aviation

Flight instructing was the start

In late October I ate lunch with Paul Maupin, Paul Jarvis, and Dave Naumann at a restaurant at the airport in Birmingham, Alabama.

Maupin is aviation department manager and chief pilot for a major bank; Paul Jarvis--who is much younger than the rest of us--is a corporate jet pilot at the same bank. Dave Naumann is chief pilot for a major health services company also operating jet aircraft.

All of us are old friends. Maupin, Naumann, and I worked together at Huntsville Aviation in Alabama back in the 1970s and '80s. Prior to that, Jarvis--then a teenager--got his first aviation job, washing airplanes at Montgomery (Alabama) Aviation, where I was selling and insuring airplanes.

Our lunch started with a tour of the bank's hangar, a class act with white polyurethane floor, executive conference rooms, shop, parts room, fuel farm, pilots' ready room, and three--count 'em, three--nearly new corporate jets. Maupin is in charge of all that, and rightly proud.

Over lunch, we reminisced about old times, alternating back and forth between recalling them as worse than they were and better than they were.

Maupin, Jarvis, and Naumann are all doing what they once dreamed of, and they all flew as full-time, professional flight instructors in their younger days. And I would bet the farm that at one time or another they all moaned, groaned, and griped about the rough life of a CFI.

More times than not, when you meet a successful person in professional aviation you will quickly learn that he or she was a CFI. I don't know of any other field in which such a high percentage of successes started at one particular job.

Why, then, do we still hear people grousing that instruction is a dead-end job, when all evidence is to the contrary?

I will tell you flatly that if I had a kid or grandkid who asked me how to make it in aviation, I would say, "Start as a CFI."

The late Bob Hudgens, who started and built Montgomery and Huntsville Aviation, among other things, had a son, Bill, who wanted to follow his father into aviation. Bob Hudgens gave him several strong bits of advice--get a Harvard MBA, become a working CFI, and become a working aircraft mechanic. Bill did all three, and he now runs Montgomery Aviation (among other things).

By the way, another thing Maupin, Jarvis, Naumann, and Hall have in common--they all have darned good references from people who worked with them in the past, and they used those references to get those jobs.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying since 1971 and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating. Visit his Web site.

By Ralph Hood

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