Robert French, Flight Instructor
Home phone: (XXX) XXX-XXXX (Not accepting new business, sorry)
Cell phone: (XXX) XXX-XXXX
I've been flying since 1997. During that time I've owned two airplanes and have flown more than 4,300 hours. More than 1,300 of those hours have been on cross-country trips - literally! I have flown all over the United States, from Seattle to Florida and from Los Angeles to Boston. I even helped fly a helicopter back from Alaska. I believe that it's important for an instructor to have a lot of real-world flying experience, and my extensive personal and business flying gives me a unique and practical perspective on aviation.
My formal training is in computer science and engineering, and I hold degrees from MIT and Stanford. I spent 20 years in high-tech working on embedded software and semiconductor design, but decided in 2002 that it was time for a change. And what better career to choose than flight instructor? It combines two of my loves: flying and teaching. Flying is an amazing activity - it combines the challenge of learning and perfecting a new skill, the responsibility and judgment of being solely responsible for your destiny, and the utility of making trips that would be inconceivable by other modes of transportation. I've also always enjoyed teaching - either as a dance instructor for the past 17 years or in academic or business settings. More recently I have also become interested in astronomy, and am currently working towards a M.S. in Astronomy while working part time as a research assistant studying the rings of Saturn. However, my schedule is very flexible and flying and teaching remain important parts of my life.
I'm a FAA "Gold Seal" instructor and 100% of my students have passed their checkride (private, instrument, or commercial) the first time over the past four years. I currently hold these FAA ratings:
I have experience in the following aircraft:
I specialize in advanced avionics, and my computer science background gives me a valuable perspective on the use of modern equipment. I have experience with:
I became a flight instructor because I love to teach. I am not trying to build hours towards a job with the airlines. My goal is to help you achieve your dream of becoming a proficient, safe pilot.
I am a strong believer in teaching material thoroughly. I do not teach to the FAA competency minimums, but instead hold students to a higher standard. If you are looking for the quickest, cheapest flight instruction I am definitely not the instructor for you. On the other hand, if you want to be a skilled, safe pilot I will be happy to help you achieve your goals.
I have a strong technical background and have spent countless hours studying both the technique and the physics of flying (my living room sports more than 300 books on aviation). I also continue to subscribe to many aviation magazines, newsletters, and news services, and pride myself on staying current on the ever-changing field of aviation. I will be happy to discuss any subject with you at great depth if that's what you want.
I believe in tailoring the instruction to the student. Everyone learns differently, and if the instruction is not changed accordingly the student won't learn as well (or at all).
If I don't know the answer to a question, I will happily admit it. I will not try to snow you with an answer that doesn't make sense. I will do everything I can to find the answer to your questions as quickly as possible.
I know that most people find learning to fly somewhat stressful. I have a calm demeanor and always try to be positive in my feedback. I also try to use humor to make flying more fun and less stressful.
My teaching tends to be full of anecdotes, either from my own flying experience, that of my students, friends, and fellow instructors, or from the commercial and airline industries. I believe that relevant stories can make learning more fun, more meaningful, and more memorable.
Finally, I realize that not every instructor is a match for every student. If I think you would benefit from working with a different instructor, I will gladly tell you so. The goal is to have you learn, not to generate business for me.
To learn more about my teaching style, I recommend reading through some of the testimonials from previous students.
I live in Sunnyvale, CA, in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you own your own airplane, I will be happy to fly with you out of Palo Alto, San Carlos, Hayward, Reid Hillview, or San Jose airports, although I generally only take long-term students at Palo Alto and San Carlos. If you need to rent an airplane, I am an instructor at the West Valley Flying Club at the Palo Alto and San Carlos airports. West Valley is the largest non-profit flying club in the world, with 85 airplanes for rent.
What Services Can I Provide?
I will be happy to help you with any of the following:
Don't know if you want to learn to fly? What better way to find out than to take your first lesson? Here is more information on demo flights. Demo flights are inexpensive and easy and entail no obligation.
Training for a Private Pilot License
The private pilot license is the first pilot's license people receive. It involves learning everything needed to safely transport yourself and your passengers anywhere in the country, with the exception of flying inside clouds. You will learn:
Training for an Instrument Rating
Tired of being unable to take a trip because the weather is a little too low for safe VFR flight? Wish you could just climb through the morning stratus layer to a beautiful blue sky on top? The instrument rating is a great add-on to the private pilot license. It dramatically increases the utility of your flying while making you a more skilled and precise pilot in many ways
Training for a Commercial Pilot License
The commercial license will introduce you to more complex aircraft (retractable landing gear, variable pitch propeller) and will also help sharpen your flying skills. The main goal of the commercial license is to turn you into a graceful, smooth, highly skilled pilot. A side benefit is that you can now charge for your services!
While many pilots look at the flight review (also called the Biennial Flight Review, or BFR) with dread, I believe it is an important opportunity to regain old skills or to learn something new. After all, if you don't learn something in the process, it was just a waste of money. While there are certain items that I think are necessary in any flight review, I will gladly tailor the remainder to the particular pilot's needs. Please note, however, that I do not believe in "quick signoff" flight reviews. If you aren't current and proficient and expect to accomplish your flight review in one flight, please find someone else.
The FAA Pilot Proficiency (Wings) program is an excellent way to stay current and proficient. It consists of a continuing series of proficiency flights and ground study. A completed Wings phase will count as a Flight Review, and is also looked upon favorably by both the FAA and most insurance companies. You
Transition to a New Aircraft
Every airplane is different, and it is a good idea (and usually required - either by a flying club or by insurance) that a pilot receive some instruction before flying a new type of aircraft solo. Some transitions are relatively straightforward, such as moving from a Warrior to an Archer, while others may involve new skills related to retractable landing gear, variable pitch propellers, turbocharging, new avionics, pressurization, radar, etc. Whatever the aircraft, I will be happy to help you with your transition.
Have you ever wanted to fly to Tahoe for the weekend? Or go skiing at Mammoth? Flying in the mountains and landing at high-elevation airports involves special knowledge, skills, and new types of judgment. Most flying clubs require a mountain checkout before you are allowed to take an airplane to a high-elevation airport or fly across high terrain. A mountain checkout involves a ground lesson on mountain weather, aircraft performance, and mountain navigation followed by a flight to a mountainous area so that you can experience first-hand the issues involved. The mountain checkout is a fun flight that includes gorgeous scenery and visits to new airports.
I have mountain flying experience throughout the Sierras and the Rockies and have made trips to many high-altitude airports, including the highest airport in the United States (pictured at right). I also helped design the mountain flying checkout process for the West Valley Flying Club.
Cross Country SupportNever flown outside California before? Want to take a long trip to the southwest, the east coast, or even Canada? I will be happy to provide you with support both before and during your trip - planning, accumulating necessary equipment, and flying. (Pictured at right is the Marble Canyon airport next to the Navajo Bridge in the Grand Canyon, one of my favorite destinations.)