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My First Cross-Country in the Stearman; Q&A with Dennis

I recently had the privilege of flying my first cross-country in the Stearman. We flew it to “the Great Lakes International Airshow”

For those of you who don’t know, Dennis is my mentor and instructor.

His personal airplane is a 1942 Boeing Stearman that he restored himself over a period of 3 years.

Dennis made it extra challenging for me by requiring me to do the outbound trip with nothing but paper charts (remember this is an open cockpit plane :).

And he put me in the front cockpit which has zero navigation instruments.  The back cockpit at least has a compass – but he wanted to see me do it with nothing but good old pilotage.  It went well and I earned the right to use my iPad with ForeFlight for the return trip.

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While we were hanging out at the show I asked Dennis some questions which made for an interesting interview, so we were inspired to share:

When did you decide to get into instructing?

I pursued instructing first because my dreams of airline flying were crushed, then because I honestly wanted to help people enjoy this amazing activity. This was further cemented by the tragic death of two friends of mine that I believed was caused by inadequate instruction.

Who has been a mentor to you and why?

Everyone I meet in aviation that has more experience and /or insight into flying is a mentor.

What was a pivotal moment for you in your career?

I haven’t really had one big one yet. But often, I am given the keys and the trust to fly other people’s treasures which I am very honoured and grateful for. The most exciting day was the first flight of the Stearman.

What is a goal that you’re working toward now?

My next goal is a checkout in the TBM 900 as an acquaintance just bought one and wants me to join him on training.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew early on?

I don’t look back – there’s nothing to see.

What’s one piece of advice that has served you well?

Always ask yourself, What’s the worst that can happen?…

Can you tell the FlightChops Community about a time you screwed up so that others can learn from your mistake?

In thirty years, 8000 hours in fifty different types?…You screw up a lot and I’ve learned from every one. Making mistakes is human nature but at least don’t make the same mistake twice. And learn from others, it’s a lot cheaper and safer.

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I’m a Private Pilot, doing my best to stay current and learn. I fly for fun and might just be the least cocky pilot on the internet! My self analysis videos can seem self deprecating at times, but I am trying to learn from the small mistakes to avoid making a big one; I’m happy to share and find it rewarding to help other pilots or aspiring aviators in any way that I can. How does the saying go? “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards”. And in aviation, not all tests are survivable.

My virtual “ride-along” flying videos are aimed and sharing my experiences and giving back to the aviation community which has been so helpful to me. I shoot multi-camera angles, get detailed real time instrument panel shots, and have radio intercom audio. I respect people’s time, so I put a fair bit of work into editing to keep the videos concise and engaging; I add animations and further graphics and voice overs where needed to add context and explanations.

My hope is to continue to grow and evolve the “Flight Chops” project with input and support from the aviation community!


Steve Thorne, aka "Flight Chops"

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Flight Chops Disclaimer

I am a “weekend warrior” private pilot, I fly for fun with no intentions of going commercial. I have had my PPL for over 15 years, but still consider each flight a learning experience – I generally take detailed notes after each flight to remind myself what went well or what I could do to improve…. Having the GoPro cameras to record flights like this is invaluable. I find these self analysis videos very helpful in my constant quest to improve, and am happy to share.

Feedback is invited; however, please keep it positive.

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