Rich Stowell
Rich Stowell

SAFE Member #: 0002

Hometown: Santa Paula, CA

Home Airports: SZP & U70

Occupation: Full-time Flight Instructor, Author, & Speaker


Education: BSME, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Pilot Certificates: Commercial/CFI, ASEL, ASES

Airplanes Flying/Flown: My logbook contains more than 400 registration numbers, all of which are light, single-engine airplanes.

Educational Specialty: Spin, Emergency Maneuver, Aerobatic, & Tailwheel Training

Q & A

What drew you to aviation? As a teenager, witnessing the aerial ballets of the likes of Leo Loudenslager and Betty Stewart during the annual Sussex Air Shows in NJ.

How long have you been involved in aviation education? I started instructing in the summer of 1987, immersing myself in it full time by the fall of that year.

What’s your favorite part of what you do in aviation education? Seeing the transformation in my students from trepidation and lack of understanding to confidence and a renewed joy for flying.

What’s your least favorite part of what you do in aviation education? Having to deal with the same old, preventable accident scenarios over and over again. That and having to battle continuously against institutionalized, often dangerous, and totally unnecessary myths about stalls and spins.

Do you have a memorable aviation experience you’d like to share? Circling Niagara Falls on the Canadian side; spinning alongside the Sleeping Giant in Helena, Montana; performing aerobatics in downtown Jakarta; attending sunrise pilot briefings at aerobatic contests; practicing one-wheel take-offs and landings from the ski strip at Fairbanks International Airport; earning a floatplane rating in Rangeley, Maine; rolling an AeroSubaru using Japan’s Mt. Fuji as the reference point.

Why did you join SAFE? To be among the movers and shakers in aviation education – those who have found novel ways to get the teaching job done; those who have carved out their niches and earned the respect of their clients and others in aviation; those who freely give back to aviation to improve piloting skills and aviation safety; and those who realize that the long-term success of students, and thus of aviation as a whole, begins with instructors.

What would you like to see change in aviation? Stop treating general aviation as an appendage of the airline industry whose sole purpose is to breed airline pilots. Day, VFR is the realm of the overwhelming majority of GA pilots. And they could care less about learning to fly in an airline environment with hundreds of passengers in the back. I’ve seen the current methodology literally crush the flying spirit out of many would-be pilots.

Any suggestions on how the above might be accomplished? Divorce general aviation from the airline industry. Implement a training methodology that focuses on what the majority of general aviation pilots actually do with their flying. Aspiring airline pilots should be directed to approved airline pilot training centers.

Any accomplishments in, or noteworthy contributions to aviation and/or aviation education you’d like to mention? Being awarded the 2006 National Flight Instructor of the Year was an incredible experience.

Who are your role models in aviation? Aviation educators Bill Kershner, Sammy Mason, and Rod Machado; test pilot Jim Patton; aerobatic pilots Patty Wagstaff and Vicki Cruse; and too many more pilots and non-pilots to name here.

Rich Stowell