One of the best things about being a flight instructor is that it gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Just as we tend to remember our favorite teachers from school, most pilots can remember their favorite flight instructors. One example is Gerald (Jerry) Greggs, of Wichita, KS, who vividly remembers his first single in 1967 and Jim Schurger, CFI who made it possible.
The couple met at Pearland Airport, a now-defunct general aviation area west of Ellington Air Force Base.
How did the teacher learn?
It was the early 1960s, and Schurger was an Air Force mechanic turned CFI. He learned to fly at Reece AFB Aero Club. Upon his separation from the Air Force, he earned his commercial and CFI degrees and became a part-time instructor. His full-time job was as chief of staff at Ellington AFB to maintain the T-33s and T-38s that were NASA-owned and piloted by today’s astronauts.
This was the age of the Gemini and Apollo space programs, so Schwerger mingled with the likes of Wally Shera, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan, Walter Cunningham, Neil Armstrong, and John Young.
On weekends, Schwerger worked for the CFI at Pearland Airport. This is where he met Griggs, who was 16 years old.
“He was one of those kids who traded working around the airport for some time on a plane,” says Schürger, now in his 80s. He retired from teaching now. Of his 9,000 hours of experience, several thousand hours came from teaching people to fly – that’s a long time in the right seat and a lot of signatures in the logbook.
Schurger admits he doesn’t remember many people he’s traveled with – but Griggs is the exception.
“I remember him because of how excited he was,” Schwerger says. “He would mop the hangar floors and then do whatever needed to be done around the airport to get time to fly.”
Griggs traveled with several coaches before deciding Schwerger was the right fit for him.
“He struck me as the kind of person who took personal responsibility for those he coached,” Griggs recalls. “We did it very well and he was able to instill confidence in me, sometimes in a humorous way.”
For example, when it came time for Griggs’ first solo — on March 4, 1967 — the 16-year-old told Schwerger that he wasn’t worried about the Cessna 150’s take-off or style flying, but the landing part…well, let’s just say That there were a few butterflies.
“Jim looked at me and said, pointing at the sky, don’t worry. You’re going down, no one’s ever been stuck there!” “Then he shut the door shut the Cessna 150 and walked away.”
Griggs was able to complete all three take-offs and landings without problems.
Gregs decided to stick with Schwerger.
“He asked me once about maneuvers I did on my own in the training area,” said Griggs, “and I said, ‘Everything but the stalls, because I was afraid it would spin,” Schwerger replied, “Don’t let it spin. You are in control. If you lower your nose , it will not spin.
“A simple tip like this reinforced the idea that I was in control and had nothing to fear. It instilled confidence in myself and is a technique I use today as an active CFI and DPE to help others overcome the fear of practicing entries/refunds.”
Flight guidance is often a temporary profession for a pilot, and was to some extent for Schwerger, who by the time Griggs was old enough for his private pilot ride, had taken over as co-pilot on a Dassault Falcon 20 jet. However, it didn’t make any difference, because the guys kept in touch as their aviation careers progressed.
Griggs’ aviation resume includes line boy, A&P technician, flight instructor, company pilot, air taxi pilot, FlightSafety simulator instructor, and now designated pilot examiner. He’s been at it for 54 years (and still going). He is still in contact with Schwerger, who still lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife, Pat. Over the years, the two met together at the Griggs home in Wichita, Kansas.
Both men believe in the concept that a flight instructor is a link in the aviation chain.
“Jim and I joke that he is my teacher, I am his pilot, and the ones I taught to fly and directed are his senior pilots. Those senior pilots continue to teach senior pilots and so forth,” says Greggs.
Flying is full of rituals and traditions – for example, the first solo and the shirttail cut. Griggs is sure he’ll fly on March 4, and has invited Schwerger several times to join him in helping him reenact his first single.
On March 4, 2007, Griggs and Schoeger met on a grass strip behind Griggs’ house to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Griggs’ first solo act. He flew a Cessna 150 for reenactment, just as he had done many years before that.
On March 4, 2017 – the 50th anniversary of his solo career – the two met at Colonel James Jabara Airport (KAAO) in Wichita, Kansas, and Griggs flew a Cessna 182. The local newspaper came out and made a story about the event, and Schoerger is bound to remove a few inches from Griggs shirt tails are back for good old times.
It brought back a lot of memories for Schwerger, who said he had some apprehension when he first singled someone out.
“I used to warn them that the plane would feel different without me being in it, and held my breath every time they climbed,” he recalls, adding that the most challenging part of being a CFI member for him was making sure that he was communicating effectively with his students, “and they They interpret what you’re saying correctly.”
Judging by Griggs’ success in aviation, one can say that Schoerger certainly heard what Schoeger had to say.