Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Honoring Some Of Flying's Finest

Whoever said, "CFIs get no respect" certainly wasn't talking about CFIs in Tennessee.

Tennessee just inducted the very first four members into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame. I was the emcee and proud to play a little part in the truly awesome ceremonies.

Of the four inductees, three - count 'em, three - were much-beloved and much-admired CFIs.

Evelyn Bryan Johnson is a most amazing person (see "Fifty Years in the Right Seat," September 1999 AOPA Flight Training). She is the highest-time pilot alive in the world today, with more than 57,000 carefully logged hours. (The only pilot who ever had more flying time than Evelyn was my old friend and one-time fellow employee, the late Ed Long, himself a CFI enshrined in the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.) Evelyn has more flying time than any other woman who ever lived, and is today, at age 92, the oldest active flight instructor in the world.

I first met Evelyn when she was still young - in her mid-80s - at the Tennessee Airports Conference. The presiding officer asked her to "Put on your glasses and come read the minutes, Evelyn." She walked proudly to the lectern and announced, "I don't need glasses to read the minutes, young fellow." Then she read them loudly and clearly, sans glasses. In August I spoke at the 2002 Tennessee Airports Conference, and Evelyn was in the front row.

During the ceremonies, Evelyn was also awarded the prestigious Katherine Wright Memorial Award for 2002 by Don Koranda, president of the National Aeronautic Association.

Chances are you've heard of the next CFI inductee, a fellow by the name of William Kershner. Kershner has written some of the best flight instruction books, but that's not all. He was first a commercial civilian pilot, then a naval carrier pilot, and then a civilian pilot again. He towed gliders, flew parachutists, demonstrated aircraft, and was a personal pilot to William Piper. Most of all, William Kershner was, and is, an instructor of unusual skill and high standards, and he has the ability to write about flight training as well as he teaches it.

The third CFI inductee was the late Col. James Haun, retired from the U.S. Air Force. Like Kershner, Colonel Haun had a civilian flying career followed by an illustrious military career followed by a long and productive career as a civilian CFI. When he retired from the military in the 1960s, he became a CFI in Nashville and Smyrna, Tennessee, just a few miles from Kershner's flight school, and he became one of Tennessee's most adored and respected instructors.

Who was the fourth inductee? Well, you've certainly heard of him, although not from the field of instruction. It was Fred Smith himself, the fellow who founded and built FedEx. What more need we say about him?

I can't imagine a more deserving group of aviators. You should go by and see the tributes to these aviation greats in the beautiful new Tennessee Museum of Aviation. You can land at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (GKT) and taxi right up to the door of the museum. The museum is to a great extent the result of the hard work of the executive director, Bob Minter, who is AOPA's regional representative in the area.

CFIs do get respect, after all - at least in Tennessee.

Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.

By Ralph Hood

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