Aviation enthusiasts and members of the public alike are encouraged to nominate their favorite flight instructor to the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame’s twentieth anniversary class of 2017. The honor is a unique opportunity for unsung training heroes because “anyone can nominate themselves or anyone else,” said John Niehaus, the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) program director, who stressed that membership in the instructor’s association was not a required prerequisite.
Niehaus explained that the program is managed and supported by NAFI but emphasized that the association shows “no bias in selection whether it’s our own members or not. If you are a NAFI member it does not give you a leg up” for nominations, which have been extended until June 12.
The hall is “kind of a who’s who when it comes to flight instructors,” added Niehaus, rattling off a handful of names familiar to many aviators.
Thomas Turner, director of the American Beechcraft Society’s safety program, and Frederick Nauer, who helped train FAA air safety inspectors in glass cockpit technology, were co-inductees in 2015. Rudy Frasca, who founded the flight simulator company bearing his name, brought home the traveling wooden trophy in 2012. Hal Shevers, the driving force behind Sporty’s Pilot Shop, shared the trophy awarded posthumously to Wolfgang Langewiesche, author of the aviation skills manual Stick and Rudder, in 2007.
Sometimes the inductees know ahead of time that they’ve been chosen for the next Hall of Fame class, and sometimes it’s a complete surprise. “In 2015, we inducted the Bonanza Society’s Tom [Turner] along with Fred [Nauer]. Tom knew it was coming but Fred didn’t. Tom is a wonderful guy and has been a mentor for me so it was really cool to be part of the induction.”
Nauer, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) advocate, was nominated by Cirrus around-the-world pilot Judy Rice, an educator who founded the Think Global Flight program to inspire future aerospace awareness. She had relied on Nauer’s navigation expertise for her transcontinental journey.
The award itself consists of three different pieces, said Niehaus—a large wooden stand with an outstretched wing engraved each year with the names of new inductees, a smaller acrylic replication, and a wall hanging.
Inductees can display the main piece in any way they choose, similar to the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. Although the Stanley Cup has served as the vessel of choice for chugging beer and champagne, winners of the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame trophy “can’t really drink out of it,” said Niehaus, because the trophy isn’t designed to hold chilled adult beverages, but that’s about the only limitation.
“For the year they have it, they are free to do anything they want with it. I’m pretty sure Fred [Nauer, Class of 2015] had it displayed at a local restaurant that he was friendly with. Just prior to the yearly celebration we get the trophy back to prepare it for the next Hall of Famer.”
Niehaus encouraged aviation enthusiasts to think about which instructors have made the most impact on their life or someone else’s. “All we ask is to tell us a little about the nominee, their accomplishments, and the things they’ve done.”