All Aviation Articles By keely

So You Think You Want To Be A Pilot

     I first believed in myself when I discovered my plan. Childhood came and went, as did my youthful dreams of one day becoming a Veterinarian. My teenage years brought a whole new light to the subject and before I could turn around and blink three times I was out of the veterinarian stage and driving off to fill out applications to culinary schools. Needless to say, a few years behind the swinging kitchen doors of a TGI Friday’s were more than enough for me to come to the clear realization that my days of working as a chef were limited. During my first two years of college I was waitressing tables at a local restaurant, while and attending classes part time at a local community college roughly studying Nuclear Medicine. I noticed that I no longer had the same spark of certainty that I had once possessed and I longed to rekindle the same passion that I once had to become a veterinarian. Everything changed the moment I stepped into Ron Biddle’s Diamond DA 40 XL. Suddenly I realized that every negative thing that I had ever experienced in the career world had been leading me to that very moment. I spent a long time searching and never once felt right or certain about anything until that day I experienced Ron’s Diamond for the very first time.

     One day, my boss called me into the conference area for our routine meeting. This gathering was nothing out of the ordinary, but what struck me as dissimilar was his rather new interest in my thoughts for the future. He inquires on what I plan to do with my life by asking me what I want to be when I grow up. This question required absolutely no thought on my part at all as I lucidly exclaimed that I want to be a pilot. His reaction left me puzzled; I was under the impression that everyone knew this about me already. As calmly and collected as ever he looked at me and said, “No you don’t.” His tone was gruff like, completely sincere as if he knew my best intentions. Of course, being the stubborn and fussy woman that I am, I immediately wanted to dispute this opinion; but before I could internally prepare myself for battle he offered a truce. “So write about it” he stated. The pressure was on; he was challenging me!

     Okay pilots, here is what I intend to do - I intend to create a short series about the different types of careers that can evolve from a job as a pilot. Therefore I am asking for help from my readers. If you are a professional pilot of any sort, please contact me. I would love to learn about you! Just send in a quick email to [email protected] explaining what your career is and your name. My plan is to then choose several different types of pilots to interview and write about. Everyone has a great pilot story, we want to hear yours!

Achievement Unlocks Great Success

     On a warm spring evening in South Vietnam all is quiet on December 25th. The year is 1966 and a “48 hour ceasefire” has been called and negotiated with the people of Vietnam. Many American Marine Soldiers gather in celebration of Christmas day, and as the officers assemble they share laughter and memories. The soldiers wash away all fears and sadness with merriment, good food and beverages. As the night progresses, the beverages grow stronger while the American Marine Military base grows weaker and more vulnerable against the foreign land. The year is 1966 and America is at war fighting for peace in the Vietnamese nation. Sometime later into this Christmas celebration an American spotter plane is seen passing over the Marine’s camp. The Pilot, fully aware of the temporary “ceasefire” continues north toward the territory known as the Demilitarized Zone (also referred to as the DMZ) when all at once he spots and observes large numbers of North Vietnamese troops on a southbound march. Clearly this is not a march with good intent. The troop’s intentions are blatant and they are not stopping short on such a lucrative target.

“The DMZ! Come in! Thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers are coming across the DMZ!” The spotter pilot’s voice came in loud and clear as he bellowed through the radio frequencies. This man sounded alarmed and utterly distraught as he alerted the Marine Base of the North Vietnamese troops and their foul play just miles ahead of them.

     By this time the Marines were completely exposed and unprepared. Most of these men would be unable to drive a car due to their levels of intoxication, let alone prepare, control and maintain a fully armed aircraft. Alcohol aside, the Vietnamese troops would not disarm the “ceasefire” regulation; it was very much still in effect. Nonetheless, these troops were headed straight for the camp and the Marines were rapidly running out of time. If this were to go uncorrected it would surely mean a Christmas day Massacre; the Marine base had no choice but to send up a pilot. In minutes a clear minded and sober pilot revealed himself. This brave and noble man was an F-4 Phantom pilot and he was prepared to serve his country by protecting his camp. The sober pilot moved quickly on his feet as he grabbed what he needed off the ground. Within moments he and his copilot were off the ground and traveling at 700 miles per hour. The weather was terrible, spitting an awful rain and offering low cloud coverage. The pilot would not have much time to detect the troops and correct the threat. Shooting to kill would be difficult in and F-4 Phantom with a one thousand foot ceiling and it would be doubly difficult to pursue the target enemy with napalm and rockets. Nonetheless, he would do the best he could with what he had. As the pilot approached the enemy he SHOT! Again and again, then he watched as grease spots began to appear on the earth below him. He was instantly filled with sheer pleasure as the enemy troops fell to the ground. Unfortunately, at this point the pilot and his right hand man had officially broken the “cease fire” without hesitation they were advised to continue north to Ubon, Thailand. As the Pilots landed, they were congratulated thoroughly. Due to their wild courage and bravery, the pilot and his co pilot had successfully saved their home camp from the Christmas day massacre.

     It is said that a hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men. The question is, at what point does an achievement become an accomplishment? Is it enough just to follow your dreams? Is it enough to succeed? What is an accomplishment? For Ronald J. Biddle the answer was simple. In May of 1967 Ron Biddle was awarded with his second Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight; thus accomplishing more than he could have ever wished for.

      Ronald Biddle was born in 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky. During Ron’s high school years he took part in an exam which later led him to a full-ride scholarship to the University of Louisville’s Speed School via NROTC. It was here that he completed his first success as he carried through and eventually accepted a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Prior to Ron’s completion however, he was required to take three summer cruises with the Navy on an aircraft carrier. During Ron’s third cruise he was given a choice, at this time he could make a decision between The Navy and The Marines. Ron, similar to many young and talented men of his age was interested in speed and aerial flight so he chose the second option and became a United States Marine Soldier. During his senior year at The University of Louisville Speed School Ron was sent to Kentucky Flying Services located at Bowman Field where he studied and obtained his private pilot’s license with Dick Mulloy. In 1963 Ron graduated college and was sent to Quantico, Virginia for basic infantry training and then eventually Pensacola, Florida where he completed a rigorous eighteen month flight training program. As Ron continued in his training he was offered the first pick of aircraft for being at the top of his class and in time he entered his very first jet; a T-2 Buckeye. The Buckeye was soon followed by an F9F Korean War Fighter. Shortly thereafter Ron graduated from aerial flight training and was sent to South Vietnam where he was to complete a thirteen month mission. It was in Vietnam that he was trained to fly and fight in fully armed F-4 Phantom jets in which he successfully completed several hundred combat missions.

      Six and a half months into Ron’s thirteen month tour he was placed on the ground to complete his mission in infantry combat on foot. In no time at all he was promoted to an Infantry Company Commander and made great used of his previous infantry training. It was during his time on foot that Ron Biddle earned his purple heart.

      Once Ronald had successfully completed his thirteen month tour in the Vietnam War he came back to the United States and was chose to be removed from the active duty Marine Corps. After leaving the military, Ron served as a flight instructor working for Dick Mulloy at the Kentucky Flying Service that is now known as Louisville Executive Aviation. Ronald J. Biddle resides in Louisville, Kentucky today and continues to fly as he is a proud owner of a Diamond DA XL 40.

      It is said that a little bit of hero resides in all of us, just be strong enough to find it. If a hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, and an accomplished one will be found among a hundred thousand men. I would place Mr. Ron Biddle into a category of a hundred thousand men. His dedication became his achievement and with years of hard work I would venture to say that he found accomplishment in his life. It is enough to follow your dreams and it is enough to succeed.

So I dare ask the world one question “what is your greatest accomplishment?”

Award Winning Aviator Shows True Commitment For Aviation Industry

         Imagine this; on a gusty, autumn Friday afternoon a woman lies in her bed desperately in need of a liver transplant. This woman is living in an unreal state of discontent and she wonders to herself how much longer she can survive in her current state. This woman has been placed on a waiting list for a liver and not unlike any other form of a waiting scenario; this one seems to be taking particularly long. It was a variation of this story that happened to AIN’s very own Matt Thurber. Matt’s stepmother was residing in Massachusetts when she was placed on a waiting list for a liver. Several months later when suddenly a liver becomes available to her, the liver was 1,700 miles away from her home. Doctors had advised her against any form of commercial airline due primarily to the high volume of germs and bacteria that traffic throughout public air carriers. Not to mention, airlines would not be remotely dependable enough for a situation as direly important as this one. There would simply be no room for errors and a public airline would certainly lack the necessary sense of urgency. This woman was just shy of frantic as she began her search to discover a safe, quick and efficient route to her desired location. It was at this point when Matt took it upon himself to make the decision for her and charter a Hawker 400 private jet and private pilot to fly the family directly to the hospital where the liver was located. Matt Thurber is a pilot himself and it is because of his well-developed knowledge for general aviation that he was able to quickly think on his feet and develop this solution for his family. Without the charter industry, Matt’s Stepmother may not have made it to the hospital in time; be that as it may, Matt was indeed able to successfully get her to safety.

         Mr. Matt Thurber has been piloting since 1976, when he was first certified to fly in a Piper Cherokee 140 single engine aircraft. His father owned and maintained a small flight school out of Plymouth, Massachusetts and had unknowingly become a sensation in the eyes of young Matt. After high school, Matt continued on to attend school at East Coast Aero Tech where he graduated with a license to maintain and work on aircraft mechanically. From there he was able to get a job as a line man at a local airport where he traded work for hours in the sky, continuing with his pilot training and developing an engrossing passion for flight. Eventually Matt acquired his instrument ratings as well as his commercial license and he became a certified flight instructor. Matt was also able to attain a bachelor’s degree of Science and Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

         One afternoon Matt was sitting in his father’s flight school when he found himself bored and out of work due to the exceptionally foggy weather. As he sat, he pondered; as he gathered his thoughts, he reached for his father’s typewriter and began typing. Without any attempt at all Matt had just written his very first article. Slowly this article developed into a “how to” article providing information for airplane owners regarding how they could maintain their aircraft in the comfort of their own hangars. As Matt reviewed what he had just written he was excited to realize that it was actually written quite well. He was eager to share his work, so without hesitation he submitted his new article to a well-known magazine entitled Air Progress. Needless to say, Air Progress absolutely loved his work. The magazine purchased Matt’s article immediately and it was quickly published and written in. Matt’s natural-born writing skills were an overnight success and thanks to Air Progress Matt was able to begin his career as a published author. Today, Mr. Thurber resides in Los Angles California where he writes articles for AIN Publications and holds the prestigious title of senior Editor. Now, as of NBAA 2012, he is also an award winning author.

         At this year’s annual National Business Aircraft Association conference, held in Orlando, Florida, Matt Thurber was recognized as the winner of the Gold Wing Award. The award recognizes Thurber's article, "Saving Lives, One Flight at a Time" which appeared in Business Jet Traveler's August/September 2011 issue. The article was of course, was originally inspired by Matt’s stepmother and it was intended to inform readers of the importance of general aviation and specifically the charter industry to those in dire need of a replacement organ. The story focused on the key role that chartered aircraft and their operators play in the delivery of these human organs. The world moves very quickly and without general aviation it would be virtually impossible to get an ill family member to a hospital across the country in time for an organ transplant. According to Matt’s 2011 article, livers typically have a 12 hour window of time once they have been removed from the original donor. Pilots, nurses, and doctors are pressured to move just as quickly and efficiently as possible at this point as they are holding lives in their hands with each passing day.

         In conclusion, the aviation industry could use more people like Matt Thurber. Mr. Thurber’s award winning article truly is inspirational and not to mention admirable. It clearly shows Matt’s true commitment towards the aviation industry and all that it has to offer. Promoting what you love seems to be a quick way to find happiness in all that life brings your way. The aviation industry is seemingly becoming scarcer and we rarely find people who work their hardest every single day at the development of the field. I believe that Matt Thurber is truly an inspiration and we could all use just a little bit more Matt Thurber mentality throughout our lives. Hats off and Cheers to Matt Thurber and his award winning article, we sure do appreciate all that you do sir!

Pietenpol (Home-Building) Instructions: Step One - You Gotta’ Have Faith


         On a chilly Friday in October, I met a man with ambitions unlike anyone I have ever met before. Building an aircraft completely by hand from the ground up might not seem so astonishing at first; so marinate on that for just a minute. For 10 years, Jeffrey Faith has owned and traveled by way of a 1947 Cessna 120. This aircraft is fast enough for long distance travel says Mr. Faith, and with clear certainty he states that it is absolutely a blast to fly, nonetheless it bores him. So, in an eager search to rekindle his passion for flight, Jeffrey pursues a mission to once again find the adrenalin in which he seeks.


                   In 1928 Bernard H. Pietenpol designed a homebuilt version of the parasol fixed wing aircraft. The very first prototype became known as the Air Camper and it has proceeded to become an absolute sensation; one of the very first successful homebuilt airplanes ever created. By 1932 Bernard’s success was published in Flying and Gliding magazine, incorporating a step by step manual and reprints provided by the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) on how to build your own Pietenpol aircraft at home. In the 1920’s, although production throughout the United States was moving quite rapidly, we did not yet have means to make an aircraft from ideal or modern materials that might be seen in production today. The Air Camper was designed with an all wood airframe and it was typically composed of Sitka Spruce with either Birch or Mahogany plywood; this was developed to be considered a “value” aircraft (if you will). One of Bernard H. Pietenpol’s original goals with this airplane was to create a masterpiece that was not only affordable but also easy to construct and original. The Pietenpol Air Camper is not available in a kit; therefore each piece of plywood must be made by hand. As one might imagine, this is certainly no walk in the park. In order to produce an aircraft such as this, basic woodworking skills, hand tools and patience are nothing less than necessary.

         Originally the Pietenpol Air Camper was designed to be powered by a Ford Model-A automobile engine; however, since 1929 several hundred have been built, and various engines have been procured and used. Due to the design of the aircraft, the Pietenpol Air Camper is typically considered to be “low and slow” with an average cruise speed of 65 mph.


              In 2010 private pilot Jeffery Faith keeps himself busy and keeps his passion alive by building and producing handmade transportation. This includes a refurbished and modernized 1930’s model truck that he has since sold. This also includes an open-cockpit biplane known as a Ragwing Special. In fact, it was in this very biplane that Mr. Faith first soloed and acquired his license to pilot. He has since sold this masterpiece as well and is in hot pursuit for his next big project. As the pieces of Jeffrey’s puzzle were beginning to fall together he found a copy of the 1932 Flying and Glider Manual Magazine providing the EAA reprints for the Pietenpol Air Camper. Coincidentally, his neighbor had a spare Ford model-A engine; all Jeffrey could do at this point was to give the Pietenpol Air Camper a go. He missed his open-cockpit biplane, so let the games begin!

         On average, the Pietenpol Air Camper generally tends to take most home builders anywhere from five to ten years to complete. This is primarily due to the time intensive labor that goes hand in hand with this aircraft being entirely handmade. Jeffrey Faith glued the very first ribs of his Pietenpol together on Nov 1 2010 and is now officially in the home stretch of completion; finishing in an astonishing two years. Along with completing his aircraft in such a timely manner, he also did his best to keep his purchases local. Mr. Faith built this aircraft directly out of the magazine and he primarily used the AC4313 FAA handbook as his reference. This was his guide for finding and grading different characteristics of wood and it was because of this book that was able to find wood strong enough for his future fuselage. Generally speaking, the ideal wood of choice would be spruce wood that comes out of Alaska, however, since Mr. Faith chose to go local he was opted out of choosing this particular wood and had to research in order to find a commendable substitute.  What he found was Light Popler Douglas Fir and White Fir. Once he had acquired the necessary quantity of wood he used a 100 year old band saw and hand tools to hand carve the propeller.
          As of October 22, 2012 Jeffrey Faith has completed his aircraft almost entirely. Within the month he plans to receive an FAA regulated inspection as well as airworthiness certificate. Once these mandated regulations have been completed Mr. Faith’s Pietenpol will be complete and ready for takeoff. - Yes he plans to show off his masterpiece! Every year, the weekend before Oshkosh there is an annual Pietenpol fly located in Brodhead WI. This fly in usually incorporates anywhere from fifteen to twenty Pietenpol airplanes along with multiple airplane people who are interested in and fly the Pietenpol aircraft. This just one of Jeffrey’s many plans for the future of his most recent masterpiece.

          For anyone who may be interested in building an aircraft of their own, don’t worry, I’ve done the question asking for you. When asked what he might say to fellow plane builders, Mr. Faith states that “anyone can build an airplane. The thing to remember is, work on it every day. Never look at the big picture it will only discourage you; look at the little pictures all and along the way and one you will look up and see your finished product.” Most importantly, Mr. Faith advises the builder to enjoy every minute of it and if you’re anything like Mr. Faith, you might just “like the building part more than the flying part!”

         “I call it Piet (Pete)” says Mr. Faith. There you have it fellow pilots, this is the trick! When the Cessna 120 gets boring, build a Pietenpol Air Camper! The best part is, according to Mr. Faith, “contrary to popular belief, there is no black magic involved in the building of the Pietenpol!” So here it is, this is the spark that Mr. Jeffrey Faith has been seeking all along; the same spark that he seeks to revive his passionate flame for flight.

To see how very personalized the Pietenpol Air Camper can be visit: Mr. Faith says that the coolest part about this aircraft is the originality and the personalization involved. By visiting this website you will get the opportunity to see previously developed Pietenpol aircrafts and view their cosmetic differences such as paint, engines, landing gear, etc.

Question to my readers - Rumor has it that the Pietenpol Air Camper handles similarly to a Piper Cub. If you have ever flown in one of these, please let us know! We would love to hear your input!

Kentucky Institution For Aerospace Education - Reaches For The Sky

MISSION: to improve student learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and create career pathways in aerospace throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

         Albert Ueltschi, born in 1917 and was raised in Franklin County, Kentucky. Ueltschi attended high school in Franklin County and eventually developed the school’s first ever aeronautical course in 1946.

         Decades later, a man by the name of Tim Smith is teaching an algebra mathematics course in this very same high school. Since algebra is often as mentally straining as rocket science, one might presuppose that this subject does not typically come as natural to the average 15 year old. Mr. Smith recognized a potential problem as he watched his students struggle. With this, he began to generate a brilliant solution!

         Mr. Smith began studying; he was searching for a way to reach out to his adolescent peers. He longed to find a method of teaching that would allow room to engage in fun, yet educational activities; both inside as well as outside of the classroom. According to Mr. Smith, students always ask where they will use what they have learned in school throughout their real lives. Without a reason for learning, these students are likely to approach important topics with a lack of motivation and according to Mr. Smith; this lack of motivation creates poor learning habits in students. “Mathematics and science are tough enough for kids as it is. So why not give them what they are asking for?” says Mr. Smith. The STEM program was developed to reach out to these students, providing hands-on training in aircraft technology with hopes of making difficult school subjects more relevant and fun for students, while quietly boosting state test scores as well. He intends to show his students how subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics are relevant in the world and he intends to teach these skills through aviation. “Why not restore and rebuild old aircraft?” He says. With that, The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education was developed.

         As Mr. Smith continued with his research he discovered and learned of Albert Ueltschi and his achievements in aviation at Frankfort High School. “During Ueltschi’s time, the aviators were the rockstars!” Mr. Smith exclaims. “Everyone wanted to grow up to become a pilot, and when people looked up to the sky what they saw were heroes. Now, it seems our students don’t look up at all, growing up to become a pilot is not even considered an option.” He states. Educators hope to use the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education hand in hand with the STEM program to change this theory. Aviation is in fact a very attainable goal; especially for high school students who have been offered the opportunity to jump start their careers through programs such as the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education. An event such as “Aviation Day” out of Capital City Airport is just one of many events that this Institution is reaching out to; all with high hopes of inspiring young adults in our community. According to Mr. Smith, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education simply wants to show young adults how aviation can be a very real opportunity for them. “This is definitely an opportunity that has the potential to change their lives” says Mr. Tim Smith.

         During the first 3 years, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education maintained their program out of Frankfort High School. Only one other school in the area had caught on so they simply worked together. However as more of Kentucky educators began hearing about and sharing this fantastic opportunity, the program grew immensely. Today, a mere 7 years later the program has expanded to include 15 different high schools throughout the state of Kentucky. They have acquired and built a total of 8 aircraft, 2 of which are airworthy and now in use for student training. Recently the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education was offered a generous donation of land from the Capital City airport of Frankfort (FFT) as well as the Kentucky Department of Aviation for the production of their program’s soon to be hangar. Through the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education high school students are able to examine and experience firsthand what it may feel like to work in multiple fields, while receiving college credit to do it. If a student chooses piloting for example, they are given an opportunity to acquire a private pilot’s license completely free of charge to them. If that is of no interest, other programs are offered including Aeronautical Engineering, Space Systems as well as Operations and Maintenance.

         The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education is currently in the process of building a hangar for its students to get more involved. Eventually, the program would like to have an entire facility specifically for the education of its students. This is a 501(c)(3) non-profit program, but with the help of generous donations and grants, Mr. Smith says he would eventually like to see this program offering not only a full staff of teachers, but also specially designed classrooms, aircraft and tools. This is a fantastic opportunity for high school students today. Overall there are a total of 60 programs similar to this one throughout the United States. Of that 60, 15 of those programs are based out of the state of Kentucky thanks to this very program. This is a part 61 training course and there are currently over 600 students involved.

For more information please contact: [email protected]
Or call: (502)320-9490


Above are photos of a Cessna 195 that the high school students of the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education are currently in the process of rebuilding. All of these parts have been salvaged and will be refurbished entirely. Mr. Smith says the objective for this aircraft (as for many others) is air worthiness and eventually student training.

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