Ryan Lowrey: Flight Instructor & ATC Applicant
If you make the decision to start taking flying lessons, chances are you will come across an instructor similar to Ryan. They're young, full of energy, and have the skill set and knowledge that seems beyond their years. All over this great country and around the world, there are small general aviation (GA) airports with a flight school. The sight of the small Cessna sitting on the ramp waiting for it's next student is a common fixture at these airports. Inside the lobby you'll find pilots sipping on coffee and telling stories of, "there was this time when...". You hear the chatter over the UNICOM radio of pilots in the pattern practicing touch and go's. Behind the desk sits a friendly face to welcome you, answer your questions, and get you set up with your instructor. All at the same time they're answering phones and talking to pilots on the radio. This is where it all starts; the small flight school where most all pilots begin their careers before advancing in their ratings and moving on to corporate, regional, or commercial flying.
Ryan Lowrey - Flight Instructor, air traffic controller applicant. Meet Ryan Lowrey. He's a 23 year-old Tampa native working as a flight instructor for Atlas Aviation at Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF). Ryan caught the flying bug at a young age when his uncle would fly in to "Peter O" with his twin engine Beechcraft Baron 55 for visits. Realizing his interest in aviation, Ryan's dad set him up with an introduction flight with one of the flight instructors. This flight took place in a Piper Tomahawk. An aircraft I once flew during my flight instruction and one of the most squirelly planes a student pilot could ever fly. Ryan recalls the day being very windy and bumpy. The wind gusts were over 20kts and the Tomahawk was rocking and rolling yet he loved every minute of it. He continued on with flying lessons, eventually soloing for the first time at 16 and passing his private pilot check ride at age 17. While in high school, he completed his private and instrument ratings. Ryan moved on to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University earning his Air Traffic Management degree. While attending Embry Riddle, he completed his multi-engine, commercial, and flight instructor ratings.
When I asked him about one of his most rewarding moments instructing, he brought up the story of a student passed on to him by another instructor. This student was marked as "untrainable" and he wasn't too sure how he could help improve this person's skills. Ryan says, "The issues were evident during our first lesson together. It got a little interesting on landings. This was the area his other instructor said he wasn't trainable. I got with him and tried a little different technique and approach to see if I could improve his ability. Approximately a month later I was able to get him to the point where he could finally solo."
Everybody learns and interprets information differently. There are those who are practical learners and grasp things easier by performing the task. You also have those who are your book smart, test taking, lay their head on the book and absorb the information by osmosis learners. Personally, I was the first type. To have success as a flight instructor, you quickly have to figure out your student's personality and style of learning. Ryan says he really tries to learn how his new students learn within the first couple of lessons. Learning to fly a plane isn't just hopping behind the controls and taking off. Besides the "soft skills" required to learn to fly the aircraft, you have a large amount of knowledge to prepare for the written exam. From airport operations, air traffic control operations, physics of flight, and rules and regulations you have your work cut out for you. Your flight instructor is right there with you every step of the way.
The majority of flight instructors are instructing solely for the reason they are building time before landing a job with an airline or other corporate or regional carrier. Ryan's degree is in Air Traffic Management and he's currently in the hiring process with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be an air traffic controller. Unfortunately, this year's federal sequestration has frozen the hiring process. Until he gets that call, he'll continue with flight instruction. His love of flying is evident in the fact that during our whole conversation he never stopped smiling regardless of the topic. Like most pilots, he does his share of hangar flying. On his days off or days he has no students schedule, he finds himself hanging out at the airport. I can't say that I blame him. For those who love aviation, the time spent hanging around the airport talking to other pilots and enthusiasts is unmatched.
The general aviation airports of this country are vital to the local economies they serve. They provide jobs and are a center of commerce. From the tenants who base their aircraft on the field to those who are flying in to do business, these small airports provide additional economical support along with the bigger international airports. Due to urban sprawl, complaints from residents who live nearby, and a struggling economy these airports face the risk of closure. Chances are, most of you may know someone involved in aviation. I encourage you to visit your local general aviation airfield. Talk with a manager, a flight instructor, or a pilot and find out what goes on there. I guarantee that you'll run in to someone like Ryan who will be more than happy to talk shop with you. Careful though, you may find yourself visiting for longer than expected.
I'd like to thank Ryan for sitting down and meeting with me a little earlier than his scheduled time at work. Nothing is better than talking with someone who absolutely enjoys what they do.
Keywords: Atlas Aviation, Aviation Photography, CFI, CFII, Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Jason McLemore, Peter O. Knight Airport, Ryan Lowrey, Tampa
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