Comedian and pilot Dave Coulier, best known as the loveable Uncle Joey on the 1990s sitcom Full House, reveals how he earned his instrument rating in the busy Los Angeles airspace and how his knack for cracking jokes plays out in the air. This passionate aviator who serves as co-chairman of the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society also opens up about his dream aircraft, favorite airports, strangest experience in the air, and a flight with the Navy’s Blue Angels.
AOPA: Have you ever cracked jokes with ATC?
Coulier: Sure, I've cracked jokes with ATC. It was around 4 a.m., and I was flying my B35 Bonanza from Detroit to Santa Monica. There was hardly anyone on frequency and the controller asked: "Where are you headed tonight?" And I told him Santa Monica (SMO). We chatted for a little bit and then he asked: "You're not one of those big, Hollywood actors are you?" I laughed and then said: "Well, I'm not big, and if you've ever seen my work, you'll know I'm no actor." He laughed pretty hard. All I could think was: Is it legal to be talking so candidly on the FCC airwaves? And then told me how big of a Full House fan he was and that I was his favorite actor on the show. Which led me to say: "All those pretty girls on the show with me, and I'm your favorite, huh? There's something very messed up with that!"
AOPA: What’s the first airplane you ever flew in?
Coulier: My dad and his fellow Chrysler worker, Dick Pensyl, took me up in Mr. Pensyl's Cessna 170. I was only 5 years old. He was based at an airport named McKinley in Fraser, Michigan. I never forgot that feeling of when we first lifted off the runway and my dad saying, "Dave, it looks like your miniature train set down there, doesn't it?"
AOPA: What was your strangest flying moment?
Coulier: I was on an approach to SMO and my landing gear motor malfunctioned. I called the tower and they asked if I wanted to declare an emergency. I told them "not yet," and that I would like to make several orbits over the field and try to use the manual hand crank to put the gear in the landing position. After doing that, I asked for a fly-by to confirm that my gear was down. The tower confirmed. Upon landing, there were fire and rescue trucks surrounding the runway, following me to the ramp. I was amazed at how efficiently and quickly it all came together. It made me trust how professional those guys were in an emergency situation.
AOPA: What’s your flying pet peeve?
Coulier: When passengers have to go to the bathroom right after takeoff. I guess that's my "flying pet pee."
AOPA: What made you decide to become a pilot?
Coulier: My dad had a big influence on me. When I was a kid, he would take me flying and to air shows, and buy me model airplanes to build. So when I was 17 I'd saved enough money to start flight training. I ended up getting my private license at the same airport (McKinley) where I took that first flight with my dad.
AOPA: What has been your best aviation experience so far?
Coulier: I got to sit in the back seat of an F-18 and fly with the Blue Angels in El Centro, California. I was very proud to be an American for those two days.
AOPA: What is the dream aircraft you’d like to fly, and why?
Coulier: A Pilatus PC-12. As they say in their ads: "The world's greatest single." And it is: single-engine turbine. 280 kts. 30,000 ceiling. 1,800 miles of range. And enough room for me and three buddies and their golf clubs! Okay, there's also the TBM 850, the Cessna Corvalis TTX, the Lancair Turbine Evolution, the Cirrus SR22T and the Piper Meridian. I could probably keep listing here—I saw so many great airplanes at AirVenture this year in Oshkosh [Wisconsin] that my head almost exploded.
AOPA: What are some of your favorite GA airports?
Coulier: I really like Santa Monica. I guess it's nostalgic for me. It's where I got my instrument rating. I remember my FAA examiner saying: "If you can fly IFR here in Los Angeles, you can fly IFR anywhere." I also like Catalina, just off the coast from Palos Verdes, California. The Buffalo burgers are outstanding and it's like being in another world, away from the hustle and bustle of L.A. I also like Sedona (SEZ). Some amazing eye candy there.
AOPA: What is one piece of advice you’d give to a student pilot?
Coulier: Don't skip any steps on the way. Even though it can seem a little overwhelming at times, the reward is so great when you finish (and we never really finish, do we?).
AOPA: Do you fly yourself on tour?
Coulier: I have many times. I'm between airplanes right now, but I'm doing some training in a Cirrus SR20 to keep current. I would love to host a TV series titled "Fly Away with Dave Coulier," where I fly to destinations that you wouldn't really go to by automobile. I would keep a scooter in the back of the airplane, and when I land, hop on the scooter and explore. Are you reading this huge aviation companies? I want to fly on a show for TV and the Internet! And what better way to promote aviation, right? I guess you'll have to pull me aside at Summit and say: "Hey, Dave, we love that idea! How can we get involved?" All I need is an airplane and your help!
Coulier frequently shares his passion for aviation with enthusiasts, most recently pilots and future pilots alike on Oct. 13 at AOPA Aviation Summit. Earlier this year, Coulier stopped by AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Md., to share more about his passion for aviation.