A Teacher of Flight, a Student of Technology

10:52 PM

Today I sat up near the Hillsboro, OR airport and tried to explain the NextGen of ATC to my step-son Micheal, himself a wannabe student pilot. Next to me – smiling and giggling as always – was his daughter and my first grandchild, Caitlin, all of 10 months old. We had flown in for a quick dinner visit in the Katyliner, which is far from what we know today as a "glass" aircraft.

I explained that by the time Caitlin is old enough to solo, the vast majority of the GA fleet will have glass cockpits, something that will be vital to the successful implementation of the next generation of air traffic control. I told Michael that today, it is critical for primary students (in my humble opinion) to learn glass right from day one, because that is the future of GA. And I told him that of all the CFIs I know, there was one in particular that excels at teaching glass.

At Airventure recently, I enjoyed some fast Italian food with Max Trescott, the 2008 National CFI of the Year. Max is about as nice a guy as you can find in GA, humble as myself but oozing with glass cockpit knowledge. He has mastered this glass realm with such zeal that he's built a book publishing empire based on teaching glass cockpit management to the masses. If you every need help in this area, the only stop you need to make is at his website.

Recently, Max provided World of Flying with a set of detailed answers about glass, being a CFI, technology and his cat. Part one of this interview follows, where we look at how this Silicon Valley high-timer ended up chasing airspeed with low-time flight students in California's Bay Area.

World of Flying: Tell me your background, how many hours, what ratings, type ratings, aircraft flown, when you got your license, all those details.
Max Trescott: I started flying when I was 15 years old. I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time, so my mother used to drive me to the airport, outside of Wellsboro, PA. I finished my Private when I was 19. In college, I received degrees in electrical engineering and Psychology. Then I went to work for Hewlett-Packard. I worked there for 25 years in a variety of Marketing, Sales and management positions. During that time, I continued to fly on weekends and earned my instrument, commercial, multi-engine and CFI ratings. I took my CFI checkride on September 10, 2001—and then was unable to exercise the privileges for 2 months due to 9/11. I taught flying on weekends and added my MEI and ATP certificate. After I left HP 5 years ago, I started a small business I’d been planning. But after two months I decided that I didn’t really like that industry, so aviation became a full-time career.

World of Flying: What was it that made you decide to become a flight instructor? Was there any one incident, or a lifelong dream?
Max Trescott: My decision to get my CFI rating was very serendipitous. At the beginning of the summer of 2001, Tim Johnson, a friend of mine who has since moved to Florida, said “Max I’m getting my CFI and you should too.” Since I’d just entered an uncharacteristically slow period at HP, I thought “What a good idea!” I’ve always looked for ways to raise my aviation game to higher levels and getting the CFI rating—which I’d never really considered before—seemed like a good way to do that. Thank you Tim!

World of Flying: Explain the details of the 2008 National CFI of the Year award, who gave it to you, what it meant to receive the award, and how (if any) the award changed your professional life.
Max Trescott: The General Aviation Awards program is sponsored by about 20 different GA companies and organizations. It’s designed to recognize CFIs, avionics technicians, A&Ps, and FAA FAASTeam safety counselors. The process starts with local FAA FSDOs. There are more than 60 of them and they’re encouraged to nominate candidates. Jack Hocker, the FAASTeam Safety Manager at the San Jose FSDO nominated me. Jack knew me well as I’d presented many Wings program safety seminars in the San Francisco Bay area. The candidates are then reviewed by the eight FAA regional headquarters, which select winners for each region. The FAA passes information about the regional winners to a committee composed of about 10 people, each from a different GA industry company or organization. They then select the national winners.

The award didn’t change my personal life—I still empty the cat’s litter box! Professionally, it gave me a platform for encouraging people to become CFIs and to recognize CFIs for the work they do. I think CFIs are the backbone of the aviation industry and rarely get the recognition they so richly deserve. I was proud to represent them for a year.

World of Flying: It is obvious you are a leader in glass cockpit instruction. What pushed you to focus your teaching in that area?
Max Trescott: Working in the high tech industry conditions employees to always be looking ahead to the next future innovation. So while I was initially skeptical about the value of glass cockpits in small planes, I tried to keep an open mind until I actually flew one. When I did, their value became very clear. While they are more expensive, they greatly enhance the overall flying experience and have the potential for increasing safety for properly trained pilots. I knew instantly I wanted to be associated with something like that.

World of Flying: Tell me what the future of avionics holds?
Max Trescott: I think we’re going to see more of a focus on usability. Right now, the systems are intuitively obvious if you happen to be one of the engineers who designed the system! But for most pilots, operating the systems is not intuitive and requires a lot of study. I’m sure more new features will be added in future systems, but the real breakthrough will come when the systems become easier to use. In the meantime, pilots continue to buy my books and CDs and hopefully that won’t change!

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