To become a prolific and successful Mentor, like Faisal Adil, it takes a desire to share your passion for aviation, a little personal time, and a student pilot who seeks advice, motivation, and encouragement throughout their flight training.
In Adil's case, five students look to him for an experienced opinion and guidance - his father, Junaid; his wife, Amber; and three of his co-workers, Phil Shoemaker, Tom Higgins, and Brett Johnson.
"I love talking about aviation. I see through their eyes again. It's really nice," said Adil of Tucson, Arizona. He has been flying since 1999 after receiving his private pilot certificate six months earlier in 1998.
Adil did not have a Mentor during his flight training, but it was his dad who inspired him.
"My dad was always taking me to the airport in Dubai where I grew up. I would lay on the sand dunes near the airport watching 747s land all night long," said Adil.
Adil signed up to be a Mentor with AOPA Project Pilot for his father, who came to the United States in 2005 to live with his son and to eventually learn how to fly. Adil pushed his father to achieve his goal and acquire his certificate in April.
With 1,540 hours logged, Adil understands the importance of talking to other pilots who can discuss flying in different areas of the country and give a diverse perspective.
"More importantly, they have gone through the same frustrations," he said. "It's good to talk to people you can identify with."
Adil admits to talking about flying all the time with his Project Pilot Students, especially at work, First Magnus Financial, where he is a mortgage banker.
"If there are questions or queries, I let them come to me," said Adil. "Most of the time I am a sounding board."
Shoeman and Johnson are close to finishing their flight training. Higgins is just starting out, but the four of them enjoy getting together at the office to share their thoughts.
"They all have different areas they struggle with. For one student it's landings, for another it's VOR navigation," said Adil, who struggled with crosswind landings during his training.
But Adil said he understands his role and does not interfere with the formal training they get from their flight instructor. He is simply there to provide another viewpoint.
It takes a special person to juggle the personalities of five different pilots who are all motivated to fly for different reasons. Like Adil's wife, Amber, who wants to learn how to fly just in case something happens to him in the airplane.
"My wife loves it. She went up once and was hooked," said Adil, who flies with her often in his Beech Bonanza or Extra 400. Their one-year-old son, Liam, is a frequent passenger.
Adil will continue to develop his own proficiency by pursuing his instrument rating. He looks forward to applying the $1,000 he recently won, in the second quarterly AOPA Project Pilot Prize drawing, toward his training. There are two more chances for Project Pilot Mentors to win this year. Sign up today. See the complete rules. - Kate Opalewski
(August 9, 2007)