Having just completed a 3-month course of flight instruction with Charles Lewis which resulted in my Sport Pilot license, I thought I would write an open letter to anyone considering taking similar instruction. I spent a fair amount of time talking to different flight instructors and people who had been through the process before getting started, trying to find an instructor to teach the style of flying that I felt had drawn me to aviation in the first place. My interest is not in working my way up to a commercial license and pursuing a career in flying, although I can definitely understand the allure that a path like that holds for some people. I first came to flying through an appreciation for the basic airplanes themselves – the elegant design that allows a human to experience the joy of getting off the ground and adding a third dimension to their travels.
Charles is a man who not only understands and appreciates this fundamental joy of flying, but has the enthusiasm and ability to bring it to others. His instruction is first and foremost about safety – how to manage an airplane and your own instincts in such a way to recognize and avoid dangerous situations. But his approach is different from a lot of the instruction that I’ve read about and been told about by others. Instead of carefully watching the array of instruments inside the airplane to keep track of what is going on, Charles encourages a more tactile and holistic approach to pilot-aircraft interaction. Instead of constantly watching an airspeed indicator and a coordination ball, he encourages his students to feel the pressures the seat puts on their body and feel the varying stiffness of the controls to judge what’s going on with the airplane. He also is able through diagrams and at-the-controls demonstrations to convey the fundamental physics that govern an aircraft’s flight in ways that are easy to understand and instructive in modifying flying behaviors.
Beyond teaching the fundamentals that turn a student into a safe and proficient pilot, Charles is also uniquely positioned to introduce budding aviators to the excitement that being part of the flying community can bring. There are more than a dozen strips (a couple asphalt, but mostly grass) within 20 minutes flying of Charles’ home strip at South Oaks (05N) and I think I landed at almost all of them during the course of my instruction. Landing in so many different places definitely made me a better pilot, but it was also just a ton of fun. Highlights included landing next to the horse pasture behind Charles’ house and stopping by a friend’s private grass strip one day to have him serve us some cold sodas while showing us around his hangar. This same friend is a frequent attendee at the EAA chapter events that Charles hosts at South Oaks, which are another way that Charles is able to get students introduced to their flying peers.
In summary, there are a lot of instructors who can teach you to fly safely. Charles Lewis is one of the few who goes a step beyond to show his students the joy that being a pilot and a member of the aviation community can bring.
– Chuck Horrell