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Comeback continues for former rusty pilotComeback continues for former rusty pilot

'You'll make a fine CFI''You'll make a fine CFI'

George Gillett returned to flying wondering whether a private pilot who hadn’t flown for 30 years could still land an airplane. Seven months later, he’s a flight instructor.

Photo courtesy of George Gillett.

When we first shared the story of Gillett’s return from the realm of rusty pilots, he recounted how he took AOPA’s You Can Fly Rusty Pilots online course in the fall of 2018, then took a flight lesson or two.

He quickly discovered that his pilot skills were intact, even though it felt at first like he had “stepped through an aviation time warp.”

Encouraged, he forged ahead, earning his instrument rating on Dec. 17, 2018. From there, Gillett found new goals to pursue: By spring he had earned his commercial pilot ticket, and on May 24, he passed his flight instructor practical test.

“Every flight became a personal challenge, and I set personal goals,” he said.

Gillett, of Knoxville, Tennessee, would welcome opportunities to help other pilots shake off the rust, he said. But mostly the extra training has been about broadening his aviation experience.

Becoming a CFI fit that bill perfectly.

“Flying from the right seat was a real challenge. I’d never scanned a panel from the right, and it was a different perspective,” he said. “It took me quite a few hours to become comfortable. I’d never used my left hand for the throttle or my right hand to control the airplane. It was a real adjustment. Getting used to flying an airplane while splitting my concentration and teaching maneuvers was the biggest challenge.”

He knew it had all come together when he completed the soft-field landing task on his practical test and heard his examiner say, “You’ll make a fine CFI.”

Gillett hasn’t set the next goal in his continuing journey in aviation, but he would enjoy sharing his love of flying, he said.

“I’d like to give back to general aviation.It would be a real thrill to find a pilot that hasn’t flown for 30-plus years and help him or her on the journey back,” he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: You Can Fly, Pilots, Safety and Education

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