Author Archives: The Rev. Eric S. Cooter

About The Rev. Eric S. Cooter

Episcopal priest, Certified Flight Instructor, USAF Auxiliary Chaplain.

SERMON Lent 5 St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples 3/18/18

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

Dying to the old, so the new might emerge

Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If you have ever planted a garden from seed, you understand the concept of a small seed becoming a huge plant. In a way, a seed loses to its seed-like identity and is transformed by water and soil, into something more than it was before. However, if a seed is not planted, and if the water does not begin the transformation, it remains as it was, and never reaching its full potential.

Jesus is telling his first disciples and us that new life does not happen in a static environment, but rather it requires change. For change to take place, we must be willing to adapt and allow new life to emerge. We do not like change. We will hold on tightly to the things that we believe define us, which are often those things that make us feel comfortable. Jesus teaches us that we only experience the life he has in store for us, when die to our old selves. In other words, when we with faith let go, God makes things new. Have you ever made a decision, only when you were in discomfort, or you were forced to come face to face to new realities?

The little church that could

Two years ago, one of my responsibilities in my last call was to assist congregations, who were seeking to explore fresh ways and new mission approaches to revitalize their ministry. I was working with one particular church, located north of the Sunshine Bridge that had been experiencing decline for many years. In the late 1950’s this little community was a part of the post WWII boom of new neighborhoods springing up all around South Florida. Things changed though a few years ago, because neighborhood changed, and without the people of God even noticing. Many of the families that had once lived in this suburban area fled further out, when the landscape and makeup of the city began to shift.

This new reality and subsequent decline in membership came as quite a surprise to that congregation, and it brought great anxiety, as they saw their pews begin to empty on Sunday. Things around them had changed, but they had failed to adapt. What had once been a thriving, growing, risk-taking community was now a mere shadow of what God was truly calling them to be. This true story may sound a bit foreboding, but the truth of the matter is there is always great hope, even when things change. Why, because God promises to make things new. There is Good News, even in the midst of this kind of fear and anxiety that is, if we are willing to release the hold we have on our old selves, because the fear of change keeps us from that which, we are being called to become.

Greeks wanted to see Jesus

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” People outside the Jewish community were being drawn to the new Rabbi Jesus. The Greeks were considered outsiders to the Jewish community, but they wanted to see Jesus, which was quite shocking to his closest disciples. Imagine for just a moment being Phillip or Andrew, when all these outsiders decide they want to get in on the action. Put yourself in their shoes, when all the “Johnny-come-latelies” arrive to worship at the festival and yet, you have been with Jesus from the beginning. You become a little nervous about these strangers coming to meet the Lord, changing things, and messing with their world.

Phillip was so distraught over his fear of something new happening, which did not include the insiders, he ran and grabbed Andrew and then the two of them ran to the Lord. When they arrived, Jesus calmly and directly answered their anxiety with a parable about seeds, a story veiled in allegory and metaphor. They probably rolled their eyes, looked at each other and said, “Here we go again, another useless parable.” Jesus tried to teach them, by telling them to drop their preconceived notions about this new community of disciples, and whom they thought was welcome and who was not. Jesus said and I paraphrase, “if we die to ourselves and our own personal desires, and our own comfort becomes less important than allowing Christ to live in and through us, we will find a life that is everlasting.”

Conversion is what Jesus is talking about. Leaving behind that which we were, in order to embrace that which we are becoming is what Our Lord is talking about when he speaks of “dying to self.” Jane Tomaine in her book, “St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living” wrote, “Over time . . . conversions bring us to a different place. We become a different person.” New possibilities, never before considered experiences, personal transformation does not happen when we are immovable, entrenched, stuck in the status quo, when we are comfortable, or when we are lethargic. We usually change through discomfort.

Life and Death and Life again …

If you have faced challenges in this life, it is very likely you have emerged on the other side of that experience a new person. If you have left a place a career to accept a new position, you may have died to your old identity, and you have emerged on the other side with a new vocation. If you have left a home that you loved, you may have endured a death of identity, only to emerge in a new place and a new life. We transform when in discomfort. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean we will have a life of comfort. We have to remember that Jesus was a change agent, a transformer, a reformer, a “turn-upside down the tables” mover and shaker, and the full revelation of God in the flesh. Jesus changed things up! He made the blind see, the lame to walk, the broken hearted to rejoice, and the mourners to celebrate.

So, following Jesus is not does not guarantee arriving at a particular state of being, only to remain there unmoved? Following Jesus means we are always changing and transforming, while facing circumstances in which, we will most likely fall down and have to get back up again. When we live life in Christ, we like Our Lord, must look into the face of failure and change, and even death, and say, “Your power is defeated,” because we believe new life is on the other side, and we will walk this faith together in community.   Transformation happens in community. I believe our world needs authentic, changing, and welcoming community just like here at St. Monica’s. Like the Greeks who came to see Jesus, there is a movement in our nation, there is bubbling movement of people who really want and need to see Jesus.

Show People Jesus

People are beginning once again to test the waters of faith, and people may be dropping into our church, hoping to get a glimpse of the Master’s face, in the faces of his followers. Are we ready for that? I believe we all have friends, especially today, who live with lives of uncertainty, despair, fear, and ambiguity. If we were to truly listen to them, I believe they may be saying to us (and without words), “I want to see Jesus. I want to see alive in you this Good News of faith, in the promises of God you claim.” You see, we the church will be the only lens through which others will see Jesus today.

If we are to remain a reflection of the Master’s face, in the years to come, we must be willing to shrug off our desire for “business as usual.” Like Jesus, we must be willing to adapt, to be nimble, and to be willing to change. That little church north of the bridge that I mentioned earlier is still alive and transforming today. They have experienced a renewed hope and a new focus serving their neighbors around them.

They have partnered with a local school, a local motorcycle club, and they are exploring new mission ventures, inviting their neighbors to do mission together. They are reaching beyond their own four walls to change the lives of their neighbors. They have died to their old selves, so the new life the Spirit is infusing in them is becoming incarnate through them. Jesus is planting seeds in his church today.

Now, like our sisters and brothers 100+ miles up the road, when newcomers come to their doors saying, “We wish to see Jesus,” all the visitors have to do is look into the eyes of those inside. They have been transformed, changed, renewed, and they are bearing much fruit. Like them, we too are being transformed. When our friends come to our community and say, “St. Monica’s, we wish to see Jesus,” we can say with confidence, “My friend, he is right here transforming and making new, each and every one of us. Please join us in this wild and wooly adventure.”

CFI – Certified Flight Instructor: 10/1/2000

cfiTeaching someone else how to do something hearkens back to the days of Master Craftsmen and their Apprentices.  The days when the skilled and experienced artisan passed on their knowledge and training onto a junior aspirant, and it has its roots in religious systems as well.  To pass on a skill, a concept, or a way of being, to share with someone else a passion you possess, is a blessing, a gift, a purpose. I believe each of us in some way possess the gifts of teaching, but I know throughout my secular, aviation, and now priestly vocations, teaching is something I think defines me.

cfi3On October 1, 2000, I completed one of the most difficult FAA aviation checkrides.  That checkride included a lengthy oral exam in which the examiner quizzed me on the Federal Aviation Regulations, the complicated concepts of aerodynamics,  the many logbook endorsement requirements for students, and any other topic he wished to discuss.  Later, I spent nearly two hours in the aircraft teaching the examiner every maneuver for each pilot certificate (private, commercial, and instrument rating), along with more oral questions.  At the end of the examination, and as we were taxing back to the ramp, the examiner looked at me and said something so profound, “Eric, today you are a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor), congratulations.”  He continued, “Today, you begin learning how to become a better pilot yourself.  Let your students teach you how to become a better pilot, as you teach them to become a pilot.”

cfi2I believe that teachers learn more about their subject or skill, when they teach others.  I think we clergy also learn more about our sacred vocation, by those things God’s people teaches we priests.  Teachers are not mere purveyors of concepts, statistics, quotes, and ideas.  Teachers are relationship builders through which, both student and teacher learn together.  I give thanks to my flight instructors over the years who taught me to be a better person:  Evelyn Bryan Johnson, Beth Ford (Lennarz), Mike Figard, Paul Scott (also my first student).  Thank you for not only being a teacher to me, but for giving me the gift of friendship.



SERMON Lent 4 St. Monica’s 3/11/18

john316For God so Loved the World

John 3:16 is a very popular scripture reference for people who, with probably good intentions, yearn to share their faith with others. You often see professional athletes, like football players who put this verse on their eye black, or basketball players’ who write it on their headbands, or other professional athletes’ who come up with unique ways to display that scripture verse. One of the most well-known “scripture bearing” fans is the guy we see on television sitting in the sports stands, with the multi-colored permed hair, wearing a white t-shirt with “John 3:16” written on it.  You have to admit, he is motivated, committed, and he wears his evangelistic fervor with great pride.

If you carry a sign with a scripture verse on it hoping to evangelize, although it may seem like a good idea, it is not very effective. Using signs to convey a message is simply advertising. It is how businesses sell their products and services and usually, the consumer is somewhat familiar with the product. Sharing a biblical reference on a sign, in a culture that is much less religious and definitely unfamiliar with Christian scripture simply does not work. Besides, the meaning of John 3:16 is so much deeper than, “if you believe in this, you can avoid a terrible place, and in along with that you can enjoy eternal bliss.” The Good News of salvation is more than, “if you buy this face cream, you will look years younger” or, “if you drive a Lincoln town car, and sit in the back seat, you too can be as cool as Matthew McConaughey.” Conveying God’s plan for salvation requires more than a simple advertisement that it happens because of something we do.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” What if John 3:16 is not a marketing proposition to do something in order to become a Christian. What if the Good News is an announcement about the grace through which, Christ has completed the work of salvation, and all we have to do receive it and trust God’s promises.

Belief vs. TRUST

The Greek word for “believe” is πιστεύων (pis too’ own). It means “to commit one’s trust, or to put one’s trust in something or someone.” Thus, trusting in God’s grace is the key. Faith is more than a mental assent to the truth of Jesus Christ. Faith is when we put everything, every decision, every action, every thought, every desire, and every circumstance into the hands of a grace-filled God.

It is not easy for some of us to do that “trusting someone else” thing. Sometimes we “pick ourselves up from our bootstrap Americans, believe we can only trust in ourselves.” There was a time when I thought, “I built this whole life of mine all by my own doing and my own hard work.” Today, I realize that only be the grace of God and my constant reliance on Christ, have I been able to endure the difficult times that have led me to today. Theologian David Bartlett asserts, “In this Gospel, faith is above all the faith which decides for Jesus. When we believe in Christ, we choose to trust Christ, and we choose to live in the light of Christ and not the darkness. Faith chooses light.”(1)

Faith in the Light vs. Darkness: Nicodemus

The first few verses of the third chapter of John’s gospel, which we did not hear today, but are essential to understand its context.   John 3:1-15 recalls the story of a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who desired to meet Jesus. “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Nicodemus believed in Jesus as teacher, and he believed Jesus performed signs, and that God’s presence was with him, but that’s as far as his beliefs could take him.

“Nicodemus’s initial profession of faith (“Rabbi, you are a teacher come from God”), (was) not as profound perhaps as Andrew’s (“We have found the Messiah”) or Nathanael’s (“You are the Son of God. “(3) I am not sure Nicodemus really ever came to trust Jesus, but he was pretty curious about this young rabbi. I do not even think Nicodemus was like the committed, dedicated sports fan in the stands who holds the sign with John 3:16 on it.

Maybe some of us are like Nicodemus. We believe in the truth of Jesus, but do we really trust him? Many of us have not fully come to the place in our journey of faith, where we can fully trust our very lives to Jesus’ care, but hopefully we all are on the path, trying to trust Jesus. God promises us joy, peace, and grace even in the worst of times, but even if we struggle to put our trust in that truth, we have grace because faith comes from God. Paul shared this idea with church in Ephesus, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Life Everlasting

Today’s Psalm states, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” That all sounds great doesn’t it, but what about giving thanks when we face tough times in life. If it all starts to fall apart in life, and if an unexpected disease invades our stability, or if a tragic accident changes everything, or if the safety net of financial security suddenly breaks, do we lose our trust in God and the truth he is with us in all things?

I know in my own life, I have cried out to God when real tragedy struck unexpectedly, and in those moments, my faith was challenged and my trust shaken. Theologian Thomas Long says, “To see (the promises of God) as applicable to us, to swallow even one ounce of this claim, we must admit … that we are captive to cultural and spiritual forces over which we have no control, that they have drained the life out of us, that we are unable to think or feel or crawl our way free, (and thus, we) are in urgent need of a God who comes to rescue.” (2) Trusting in Christ means we acknowledge and rely on the God who comes to the rescue, when all around us points to the absurdity of faith.

In a few weeks we will gather on Palm Sunday to move from the “Hallelujahs of Palm Sunday,” to the tragic scandal of the cross, to the glorious resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Please remember that as we walk this journey with Jesus, we Christians must trust the One, who never strayed from the path of trusting his very life to the grace of the Father, even at the point of death.  (John 3:16) For God loved the world so much, that he literally gave himself to us, to show us the way, and to save us from the fear of tragedy and the sting of death. God promises God’s people life everlasting, grace, peace, and joy both at this moment, and on this day, and on every day, for the rest of our earthly lives. God promises us life everlasting now, and when we join the blessed company of all the saints in the life to come. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the living and eternal sign of that truth, and that is one sign in which, you can without a doubt put your TRUST!







(1) Bartlett, David L. “Inclusive or Exclusive Grace.” The Christian Century, vol. 108, no. 7, 27 Feb. 1991, p. 227


(2) Long, Thomas G. “Just as I Am.” The Christian Century, vol. 123, no. 6, 21 Mar. 2006, p. 18.



“Flying down memory lane.”

paul ericRecently, I had the joy of receiving a rental checkout from my first private pilot student.  He now flies corporate jets as a Captain, and he probably has over 8,000 hours.  It was an incredible experience to fly again with my dear friend Paul Scott.  The best part was the  time we had before and after the flight, to reminisce about our old flying days together at Naples airport, to remember old friends, and to learn where they are today.  It has been 18 years since I gave Paul his first introductory lesson in an old Cessna 172.

For my checkout with Paul, we flew an old C172M model, which felt underpowered and sluggish compared to the Cessna 182’s and C172SP’s I have been flying.  It probably felt like flying a brick compared to the Phenom’s and Beech-jets Paul flies now as a Captain.  Nonetheless, it was an incredible day with my dear old friend Paul.  With our move to the Naples area, I will be close to my old friend again, and I hope this will not be the last time we fly together, and I am convinced it will not be the last.

What a joy it is to share the joy of aviation with friends.   Paul reminded me during our flight that I had taught him to put the ignition keys on the dash, so, as we were pre-flighting the aircraft, we would know the keys were not in the ignition switch as we walked around the propeller.  He reminded me of the other little lessons or “isms” I taught him nearly 20 years ago, lessons that he teaches even today.   It is a gift to know that in some way, you had a part in helping someone achieve their life-long dream, and to help a flight student learn the basics of flying. In Paul’s case, he has carried into his professional flying, many of those little disciplines that I taught him back in the day.   I imagine he is passing on some of those lessons to other pilots as well.  Thank you Paul for a wonderful blessing the other day.



SERMON Lent 3 3-4-18 St. Monica’s Naples, FL

spring-cleaning            Terri and I purchased our first home back in the Chicago suburbs in 1998 (20 years ago). With our pending move to Naples, we will have bought, lived in, and sold seven homes, but we are done moving.  With each move we had to do the difficult work of “spring cleaning.” It was not always easy to let go of the things that often weighed down the moving truck or required us to pack more boxes. It was critical though that we toss out a few things, in order to make room for the new things, experiences, and treasures God had in store for us.

Have you ever noticed that when we became a little too complacent as a follower of Jesus that we accumulate spiritual junk?  Maybe we kind of get into a soul funk, because we no longer take time to listen for God in silence, or we fail to pray, or we just muddle through our discipleship like it is a secondary to job, family, of recreation.   Maybe that is a sign that it is time to do some self-examination and allow God to enter into the hidden, broken, frightening places of our lives, and let God do a little spiritual “spring cleaning?”

Jesus’ “Spring Cleaning” in the Temple

The scene in today’s gospel reading is the well-known story of Jesus’ “Clearing the Temple” of Jerusalem.  The temple was the place where the people of Israel believed God dwelt and where their communal identity was centered. Over time the temple changed from a place of prayer and worship, to become a mere marketplace of monetary exchange and social interaction. “Part of the festival worship (of the temple) involved the sacrifice of an unblemished animal, (and) the availability of animals for people travelling from a distance was important.  (Likewise) one could only pay the annual “temple tax” in Tyrian coinage, so money-changers provided an essential service.” (1) So, the central icon of a people built as a place of prayer and worship, became a location of social and economic activities, for which it was never intended.

Jesus was appalled at the scene of animals being sold, and moneychangers doing their work in God’s Temple. Jesus said, with whip in hand, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” Many of us have heard this story, and we are dismayed that Jesus, the meek and mild obedient Savior, would actually display public anger and frustration. This story has been used as an excuse for what some call “righteous anger,” but it has been used as an excuse for unimaginable human violence. Some have said, even Jesus got mad and beat the people and animals in the temple. Many scholars assert, and I agree, there was something more than mere Godly anger happening, when Jesus cleared out the Temple. 

Violence in the Temple or Something Else?

I believe that the “Clearing of the Temple” was an act of love. “But Eric,” you may say, “He beat the people and the animals.” I disagree because that is not what scripture says. Additionally, I grew up on my Dad’s farm, and I know first hand that the only way to get cattle out of the barn, in order to clean it and make it a better shelter is to firmly prod the cattle with a stick and coax them out. My dad and I often moved stubborn Angus cows and bulls out of the barn, so by cleaning it up, their lives were better.

John’s gospel “narrative does not depict Jesus beating the animals; but instead he (actually) saves their lives from sacrificial slaughter in a monetary and religious system.” (2) Jesus’ “spring cleaning” in the temple was not an act of Godly violence or godly anger, it was an act of love, which required the firm hand of grace, in order to save the lives of the animals and in a spiritual sense, the lives of the people who were defiling the temple.

Jesus is always saving our lives by clearing out the spiritual junk in our souls, the temple of God that is, if we allow it. Jesus will upend the worldly idols, self-focused altars, and un-reconciled relationship tables of our lives, which blind us from the way of grace. In a strange way, we are like the precious animals that were readied for slaughter, and by grace Jesus’ firmly “saves our lives.” 

We are the Body of Christ.

I know you heard that the church is the Body of Christ. Theologian Joel Wohlgemut says, “(the Temple of God is) the community, which draws its identity from the death and resurrection of Jesus.”(1) He says that the church today is like “the (early) community (that) . . . sees itself as the dwelling-place of God in the present context.” (1) The church is the Temple of God, the dwelling place of Christ, in us. At our baptism, we were marked with chrism oil, and “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever,” but baptism is much more than a water bath and a rite of passage.

At baptism, and at occasions throughout the liturgical year appropriate for baptism, we make specific promises to God and each other. We promise “to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ,” “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself,” and “o strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Lent is a season for us to take pause, to reflect, and to take stock of how are we doing with those baptismal promises and in a way, that practice is a part of our spiritual spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning for Mission

When Terri and I sold the home we lived in while in seminary, we spent weeks getting ready to move to our first parish in Englewood, Florida. We owned a huge storage building that was filled with boxes of “stuff” that we had carried with us from Chicago to Birmingham, AL, to Florida and back to Tennessee. In boxes long forgotten, hidden in darkness from the light of the sun, we found things we had not seen in years. There were items covered with muck and dust that no longer represented the value they had in the past. There were cards, letters, trinkets, and memories that we needed to toss out and never see again. As a result of this process of cleaning out the old stuff, our moving truck was lighter, our burdens were less, and we traveled to our new home with much less stuff, junk, and clutter.

Each one of us needs to allow Christ to clear out the temple of our lives, the old storage buildings of our souls, the place where we hide things we would rather not have light shine upon. We need to allow Christ to enter into those dark places, and sweep out those bad memories, regretful actions, and broken relationships, which need to be examined and sorted out. We need to constantly evaluate how we treat others, (yes, even in the church) and on the golf course, or in our homes, or in our workplaces. All of that must come under the light of the Christ that dwells in us. As the Temple of the Living and Resurrected Christ, Lent is a time to clean out the caverns of our souls, so grace may become visible and discernable again.

As we move through remaining weeks of Lent, I encourage us all to pray, meditate, read scripture, and practice a daily evaluation of asking this question, “how am I living up to the promises I made at baptism?” If you take on a discipline of daily examination, God will make a way to clear out the spiritual junk. When we come to God with an open, repentant, contrite heart, new life will emerge in our souls. Be advised though, this spiritual “spring cleaning” may be hard to bear, because it will include some overturned tables of worldly idols, and it may include a whip of God’s prodding and coaxing of some unruly animals of sin and broken relationships.

Ready your heart these next few weeks of Lent. Intentionally invite Our Lord to clear out the boxes of hurts and pains, to remove the containers of broken relationships, and to toss out the baskets of forgotten things done and left undone. It is a good time to clear out the junk that weighs us down and holds us back, from accepting the truth that we are joyful, abundantly grace-filled, forgiven, redeemed, and reconciled disciples, God assures us that we are already so named because of his grace, mercy, and love.


(1) Wohlgemut, Joel R. “Where Does God Dwell? A Commentary on John 2:13-22.” Direction, vol. 22, no. 2, Sept. 1993, pp. 87-93.

(2) Alexis-Baker, Andy. “Violence, Nonviolence and the Temple Incident in John 2:13-15.” Biblical Interpretation, vol. 20, no. 1-2, 2012, pp. 73-96.




“Pushing the Envelope …”

“Pushing the Envelope …”      24 February 2018  

Commercial Pilot           The training for the Commercial Pilot Certificate includes a great deal of study, and many hours of cross-country flying (mentioned in my last blog), but it also includes practical training that allows the pilot to demonstrate some key performance maneuvers. According to FAR 91.303, it defines “aerobatic flight as an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft’s attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.” The commercial flight maneuvers, which although takes the airplane to the edges of flight performance and in a general sense, seems like abrupt and abnormal, they do not meet the criteria of being aerobatic flight.

Nonetheless, the pilot who can demonstrate within tolerances of speed, altitude, and heading, all while maintaining constant vigilance outside and inside the cockpit will have shown the examiner that they have mastered a higher level of flight proficiency and aircraft control. Without spending time discussing the technical aspects of each of these maneuvers, I want to specifically share with you my struggles with learning how to fly two of the maneuvers. If you are interested in the technical aspects of “Eights on Pylons” and “180 degree Spirals,” there are hundreds of Yo
uTube videos, and thousands of articles available that provide that kind of insight.


I want to share with you how after struggling to learn how to fly these maneuvers, I eventually I mastered the “Chandelles” and “Lazy Eights.” The chandelle is an aircraft control maneuver where the pilot combines a 180° turn with a climb. The history of the Chandelle comes out of the days of early dogfighting. French aviators during World War I described it as monter en chandelle, or “to climb vertically”.  It was used with success by Japanese Zero pilots of the Tainan Air Group in 1942 over New Guinea.  It was a maneuver in combat that allowed a pilot to either escape a pursuer (if their climb performance was better) or engage an enemy who was approaching at a higher altitude.

The difficulty with this maneuver lies in the use of precise and consistent bank control, establishing maximum pitch and climb rate, while maintaining sufficient rudder input to counteract the increased left turning tendencies of the aircraft at increased pitch and full power. All the while, the pilot is trying to achieve maximum climb rate by taking the aircraft just above stall speed at the 180 degree turn point. Each time I tried this maneuver in practice, I either failed to enter the maneuver with smooth bank application, or forgot the rudder input, or did not maintain sufficient pitch to maximize the climb rate, or I failed to keep my head out of the cockpit to maintain visual clearance. These are normal mistakes for this maneuver, but for some reason I was struggling to pull it all together. Eventually, with some practice, I was able to master “walking and chewing bubble gum” at the same time or better yet, I was able to apply smooth and accurate bank attitude, while entering the climb at a sufficient angle, while keeping sufficient and proper rudder input, and looking outside for traffic.

Lazy 8's

My next challenge was the maneuver called “Lazy 8’s.” The FAA describes this maneuver as “a maneuver that is designed to develop the proper coordination of the flight controls across a wide range of airspeeds and attitudes. It is the only standard flight training maneuver that, at no time, flight control pressures are constant. The lazy eight can be loosely described by the ground reference maneuver, S-turns across the road. Recall that S-turns across the road are made of opposing 180° turns. For example, first a 180° turn to the right, followed immediately by a 180° turn to the left. The lazy eight adds both a climb and descent to each 180° segment. The first 90° is a climb; the second 90° is a descent.” So, from the description you might think that this was an easy maneuver to execute, but it was far from that. Imagine trying to fly across a road using visual references, while maintaining constant pitch and bank changes. This maneuver is fluid and shifting with precision and grace. Imagine two ballroom dancers smoothly moving symmetrically across the dance floor and you will get an idea of how the “Lazy 8” should feel.

First, the pilot selects a long road over which the maneuver can be executed and enters the maneuver perpendicular to the road, and at a pre-determined altitude. Next, she/he identifies the location of three visual references at the 45°, 90°, and 135° points. The pilot begins the maneuver by entering a smooth bank to 15° with a smooth application of pitch to maximum pitch at the 45° point. The pilot continues the climb to maximum bank of 30° and maximum altitude gain at the 90° point, and simultaneously reduces pitch and bank to maximum pitch down and 15° bank at the 135° reference point. As the pilot crosses back over the road, she/he should be at the same altitude at which the maneuver began, with wings level, and at level flight. Without stopping the maneuver, the pilot continues the same dance in the opposite direction, all while maintaining smooth pitch/bank application and maintaining outside visual traffic clearance. Sounds like it is a difficult maneuver right? It is! However, with practice, it can be one of the most incredible demonstrations of the precision and skill of a pilot.

My problem with this maneuver early on was my inability to identify really good ground references at the 45°, 90°, and 135° points. So, my instructor made me create a mental checklist before I began the maneuver. First, set power for maneuver speed and maintain. Second, identify altitude at which the maneuver would begin and end. Third, select the three ground references and be clear about where they are located. Next, smoothly and consistently execute the maneuver like you were dancing with your wife on the dance floor. Eventually, this memorized checklist and the visual reference of dancing helped me to master this incredibly difficult, but absolutely skill challenging flight maneuver.

commercial pilot            In time, I was able to pass the incredibly difficult commercial written exam, master each of the commercial flight maneuvers, and become familiar enough with the complex airplane in which I took my check ride, which I did pass on the first attempt. It was an incredible feeling to have the examiner hand me the Temporary Airman’s Certificate that read “Commercial Pilot, Single Engine, Land, Instrument,” which I carry with pride in my wallet today. Even so, there was an even more difficult task ahead and the training, study, and efforts I put into this next accomplishment would have an impact on my flying career, even to this day. Endless hours of study of the FAA regulations, performance standards, certificate and training requirements, and endorsement stipulations were all just a small part of what it takes to earn a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. I had to learn to fly the airplane to commercial standards and demonstrate all of the maneuvers I learned, all from the right seat, while teaching and flying said maneuvers. In my next blog, I will share with you the frustrations, challenges, and successes I had training for my CFI check ride. More later …



Listen to the Children

We the people …

Our founding fathers and mothers dreamed of a society where all could be free to pursue their dreams. The central idea of our young nation is grounded in a phrase, “we, the people.” As a constituent in a society based on what is best for the community as a whole, we as individuals sometimes may be called on to give up our own individual desires, needs, and wants, for what is best for the whole.

My mother used to tell me about her childhood during the Second World War. She, her family, and most Americans had to give up a lot of things, in order for our nation to be able to defend freedom and justice in Europe and the Pacific. Sugar, flour, meat, gasoline, and other products were rationed to civilians, so our troops overseas would have enough to sustain them in battle.

You see, when we are a society whose ideals are greater than any individual’s desires alone, we must sometimes make difficult decisions to do what is best for all. The debate before us now is about perceived rights to own and use certain self-defense tools, which have shown to threaten the security of the whole, and each of us as individuals. Do we as a nation of “WE, the people” merely hold onto these so-called self security objects merely to falsely satiate our own fears?

Yes, all of this debate is complex, but some parts of the solution are easy. I am no politician, but I am a father of a young woman who will one day teach in our classrooms. I want to be assured that she, and all children in this nation, will be able to go to school every single day without fear.

“We the people” have all seen the images on TV of brave children speaking out and being activists. “We the people” have heard from parents whose hearts are broken beyond repair. “We the people” also have heard the messages of our politicians. “We the people”, can no longer be silent. “We the people” must speak about this issue now, and “We the people” must act for change.

Our voices must join with the voices of those who have experienced incredible pain and anguish as a result of all of these tragedies. If we stand together as “We the people” and listen to the children, the path ahead will set the tone for how we live as a nation of brave and loving people, and not a society of fearful and divided individuals.

“Show me the Money” – Commercial Pilot Training

tshirt            Soon after obtaining my instrument rating, my instructor Beth and I started training for my commercial pilot certificate check ride. Hours of study on regulations, weather, commercial operations, and aircraft systems resulted in my passing of the Commercial Pilot written exam. Speaking of regulations, it may be helpful to understand what FAA privileges and limitations exist for a commercial pilot.

According to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 61.133, a person who holds a commercial pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire, provided the person is qualified in accordance with this part and with the applicable parts of this chapter that apply to the operation. You might think the before-mentioned legal lingo allows the bearer of a commercial pilot certificate to just put himself or herself out for hire, and fly anything and anyone, anywhere. However, there are other parts of the regulations that stipulate additional requirements for air carrier operators so, the commercial pilot certificate alone has its limitations. The holder of the certificate is allowed to conduct (within aircraft and additional certification requirements) the following operations: flight instruction, nonstop sightseeing flights, ferry or training flights, crop dusting, seeding, spraying, and bird chasing, banner towing, aerial photography or survey, fire fighting and power line or pipeline patrol, to name a few.

All that being said, before I could ferry aircraft, crop dust, banner tow, or fire fight (none of which I planned on doing), I had to complete a lot of training, and I had to meet the minimum hour requirements:

  1. 250 hours total flight time
  2. 50 hours of cross country
  3. 3 10 hours instrument training (already completed)
  4. 10 hours of training in a retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller or is turbine-powered
  5. One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure;
  6. One 2-hour cross country flight in a single engine airplane in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 100 nautical miles from the original point of departure
  7. Ten hours of solo flight time in a single engine airplane: One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles, and 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern) at an airport with an operating control tower.

ttail            You may think that this training plan was intense and for the most part it was fairly challenging, but the areas of training where I spent quite a bit of time, included learning to fly a complex airplane, and learning how to demonstrate properly the commercial pilot flight maneuvers. First, we began my complex aircraft training in a T-tail PA28-200 Piper Arrow. This aircraft had a 200 horsepower engine, significantly more “growl under the cowl” than the 100 hp Cessna 152’s and 165 hp Cessna 172’s I had been flying. Also, the Arrow had a variable pitch/constant speed prop and retractable gear both of which, brought two new operational systems into each phase of flight.            prop-zoom-v2

First, the variable pitch/constant speed prop is just that; variable and constant.Constant speed propellers work operationally, by varying the pitch of the propeller blades. As the blade angle is increased, it produces more lift (thrust). At the same time, more torque is required to spin the prop, and the engine slows down. The opposite is true when the blade angle is decreased: the torque required is decreased, and the engine speeds up. At higher altitudes when the air becomes less dense, the pilot can improve the efficiency of the aircraft engine, by increasing the pitch of the prop, and maintain the RPM of the engine, in order to “take a bigger bite” out of the air. That way when the air is thin, increasing its pitch can increase the propeller’s efficiency. It may sound complex (no pun intended), but it allows the airplane to be more fuel efficient at different flight phases.

retract           The Arrow also had retractable landing gear. You can imagine that in the takeoff and landing phases of flight, there are a whole new series of checks and procedures related to retracting the gear (takeoff and cruise), and lowering the gear (hopefully before attempting a landing). Even so, as a commercial pilot candidate, I had to learn the intricate details of both of these systems, how they operate, how to troubleshoot in the event of a failure, and what to do if a gear failure occurred.   Landings were the critical phase of retractable gear operations and in this training I learned a new aviation acronym: “GUMP’s.   On final approach, once lined up on the centerline of the runway, my instructor taught me to call out and verify GUMP’s (GAS – fuel pump on, UNDERCARRIAGE – gear down and three green lights, MIXTURE- mixture control rich, PROP – constant speed prop forward, SEATBELTS/SWITCHES). It was a constant reminder to make sure we landed with gear down, and that the prop was set in case we had to execute a “go around.” In time, I was able to master (or at least feel comfortable) flying the Arrow, and I came to love flying this airplane nearly as much as I now love flying Cessna 172’s and 182’s.

IChandellen my next blog post, I will share with you the flight lessons that taught me to execute the commercial pilot flight maneuvers: Lazy 8’s, Chandelles, “180 degree spirals,” and “Eights on Pylons.”  It took some time, but I was able to learn these performance maneuvers well enough to take and pass my FAA check ride. More later.