NAFI CFI Challege

This entertaining and unique video series, hosted by NAFI Director of Program Development John Niehaus (CFII/ATP), poses the same ten questions to current and retired flight instructors about their flight training experiences. Without question we know that shared learning and wisdom is vital in aviation. That’s what this program intends – to hear about the varying experiences our fellow instructors had in the same situations to learn in ways we otherwise might not.

Questions include:
“How did you come to be a flight instructor?”
“What did you learn as an instructor that benefits your efforts outside of flying?”
“What was it like when you gave your first lesson?”

Viewers can directly compare the unique responses and experiences of these instructors for common threads of success in flight instruction and beyond. The benefits include getting ideas for one’s own instruction practices, get tips on how ways to transition into other areas of aviation such as flight school ownership, airlines, NAFI Master CFIs and more.

If you have an interest in participating or have a friend or colleague you recommend, send us an email to [email protected].

Ep. 25 w/Rod Machado Aviation Author/Columnist, Speaker, and Humorist:

Rod Machado has taught... 
  • Hundreds to fly from the right seat as a Certified Flight Instructor
  • Thousands as a classroom instructor
  • 350,000+ through his over 400 aviation articles
  • 100,000+ through his training materials
  • Several million with his flight lessons on MS Flight Simulator


  • has degrees in Psychology and Aviation Science
  • is Airline Transport Pilot rated with all fixed wing-flight powered instructor ratings
  • started instructing student pilots full time in 1973
  • taught grounds schools often to classrooms of 200 starting in 1975
  • has taught many hundreds of aviation safety seminars—US, Canada & Europe
  • has taught hundreds of Flight Instructor Re-validation Clinics—US, Canada & Europe
  • 10,000 hours flying were earned the HARD WAY—ONE flight instructor hour at a time
  • co-wrote and co-anchored ABC’s Wide World of Flying for five years
  • was the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's National Flight Instructor Spokesman for 15 years (AOPA is the largest aviation association)
  • asked by Microsoft to design the lessons and be CFI voice for MS Flight Simulator
  • was a columnist for AOPA Pilot magazine for 18 years
  • was a columnist for Flight Training magazine for 25 years
  • personally writes and illustrates all of his own training materials—unlike some who put their name on employee's work
  • uses humor like no other to help you remember the lessons
  • has Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido black belts and 20 years experience in Gracie Jujitsu  (Maybe why Rod never has difficulty collecting his instructor fees.)


Ep. 24 w/Karen Kalishek, NAFI Board Chair and DPE: Karen Kalishek is a Designated Pilot Examiner, three time NAFI Master Instructor, CFI, CFII, MEI, CFI-G, AGI, IGI, FAA Gold Seal Instructor and FAASTeam Lead Representative. She holds an ATP certificate and has ASES and Glider Commercial privileges. In 2019, Karen was honored to received the National FAASTeam Representative of the Year award. She has held officer positions in and is actively involved with several aviation organizations. She is also a Major in the Civil Air Patrol, serving as a CAP volunteer flight instructor, check pilot, examiner, mission pilot and cadet orientation pilot.

She is an independent flight instructor, has a particular fondness for antique aircraft and enjoys spending quality time with her RV-6. Before becoming a full-time flight instructor, she was an executive in the banking industry, taught graduate school, and as president of her own corporation, spent over 20 years providing international consulting services in 37 countries.

Ep. 23 w/Jason Miller, Founder of The Finer Points Podcast/Online Ground School:
Jason Miller is a CFII with more than 20 years of aviation experience and nearly 10,000 hours of instruction given. Jason is a member of the FAA safety team, an instructor for AOPA’s Air Safety Institute and was named by the FAA as the western pacific CFI of the year for 2009 and 2016. “I am passionate about developing systems that help pilots become safer and more efficient.” Says Miller. Using his background as a performer and experience on the flight line, Jason created The Finer Points – Aviation Podcast, one of the most recognized and well respected aviation podcasts in the world. Check out The Finer Points here!


Ep. 22 w/Barry Schiff, Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Inductee, Aviation Author and Journalist: Barry Schiff: holds 13 type ratings, 7 flight instructor ratings, and every category and class rating except airship. He is a retired TWA captain and his 28,000 hours have been accrued in 363 different types of aircraft. He has been an FAA-designated check airman on the Boeing 767 as well as in general aviation.

He has written more than 1,800 magazine articles—most notably in AOPA Pilot. These plus his 13 books have earned him 11 journalism awards. In addition to holding 5 world aviation speed records, Barry is the recipient of a Congressional Commendation, the Louis Bleriot Air Medal, Switzerland’s gold Proficiency Medal, and an honorary doctorate in aeronautical science. He also has been inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation.


Ep. 21 w/Todd Shellnutt, Flight Standards Manager Airline Transport Professionals (ATP Flight School): Shellnut has been working in the flight training industry for 18 years now, and although he has performed many duties in his field from corporate pilot to FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, he has always found his way back to his true passion of flight instruction. This is Todd's second nomination as a Master CFI, and he also has received other awards such as AOPA's Best Instructor for 2015 and Distinguished Flight Instructor for 2017 and 2018. Todd is a published author of aviation training texts, an active FAASTeam member for the Atlanta FSDO, and is currently working for ATP Flight School as the CFI Academy Standardization Manager where he is responsible for the multiple training locations across the country for CFI initial training.


Ep. 20.5 w/Kimberly Dawn, Founder of Advancing Aviation: Kimberly Dawn is a Canadian Class 1 Flight Instructor with international certifications in Aviation Training Management, Advanced Instruction and Virtual Classroom Instruction. Owner of Advancing Aviation and the Facebook Top Instructors and Students Group.


Ep. 20 w/Russ Still Founder of Gold Seal Online Ground School: Russ Still is a career flight instructor holding ATP, CFI/CFII, Gold Seal CFI, and 8-Time Master CFI ratings and certificates. A longtime aerospace author, Russ is based in Atlanta, where he founded the Gold Seal Training Network in 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Florida and can be contacted via

Ep. 19 w/Greg Brown, CFII Rotorcraft, Director of Education and Training Services at Helicopter Association InternationalGreg Brown is a retired US Marine Corps aviator who flew Sikorsky CH-53D and CH-53E helicopters and was an instructor pilot for both. Greg is the director of Education and Training Services at Helicopter Association International, where he creates continuing education resources for members and other aviation professionals. A pilot for over 35 years, Greg holds FAA commercial SEL and rotorcraft helicopter certificates, as well as a CFII rotorcraft helicopter rating and a remote pilot certificate. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner) and has a master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


Ep. 18 w/Meg Godlewski, CFII/MEI/8xMCFIMeg learned to fly during the Reagan administration. She considered a military career but they were downsizing, so she decided to pursue a career as broadcast journalist and flying was a hobby.  She says that she "figured if I could find a job that combined aviation and writing I'd be in the sweet spot."

Meg holds instructor certificates for CFI/CFII/MEI/AGI/IGI and has in excess of 5,500 hours dual given at this time. Her specialties are ground school and scenario-based teaching in Advanced Aviation Training Devices.

In 2009 Meg became a full-time CFI and part-time writer. She tried the airlines BRIEFLY in 2015 which was a mistake on the level of Bay of Pigs and decided she was very happy to go back to being a full-time CFI. She kept very busy, logging 1,000 hours dual given in 2016. In 2017 Meg became a rusty pilot presenter for AOPA, which enabled her to travel to reach more Learners.

In 2018 Meg was hired part-time by to write their online ground school. They had heard about her background in broadcasting and needed someone who could write scripts. Part-time became full-time when the pandemic hit, although she still teachs in the air a few times a week.

Meg holds the Gold Seal from the FAA, and has been a Master CFI eight times and a Master Ground Instructor five times.

7/19/2021 Ep. 17 w/Max Trescott, CFII/MEI/4xMCFI:
Currently the host of the podcast Aviation News Talk, Max is a general aviation advocate and thought leader. He's passionate about preserving and growing general aviation in the U.S. so that it remains available for future generations. He is the President of the SiliconValleyGA, which protects and promotes General Aviation in California's Silicon Valley. He is the "2008 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year."

Max graduated from Swarthmore College in 1978 with a BA in Psychology and in 1979 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. In 1983, he graduated with a MBA in Management Strategy and Marketing from the New York University Stern School of Business. In 1979, he began a 25 year career at Hewlett-Packard in marketing, sales and management positions. For the last 8 years, he was in Enterprise Computing and managed HP's relations with a number of billion dollar companies in Silicon Valley.

He began learning to fly at age 15 and became a part-time flight instructor while working at HP. In 2004, he left HP to found Glass Cockpit Publishing, a publisher of aviation training materials. He actively teaches flying, is recognized as an expert in glass cockpit aircraft, and is one of 18 people in the world that concurrently holds both Master CFI and Master Ground Instructor designations.

Max is a frequent speaker on aviation topics and speaks to capacity audiences each year at AirVenture, Sun ‘n Fun and to other aviation groups.

Listen to Aviation News Talk Podcast here:

Ep. 16 w/Robert Bash, CFII/MEI NAFI Board Member
Robert R. Bash holds a master’s in healthcare administration from Duke University and a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Ohio State University. He has worked as a CEO and administrator in the healthcare industry including stints at hospitals and medical centers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama.

Bash served as pilot/captain in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps after graduating from the U.S. Army Flight School with a rotary wing-commercial certificate in 1969.

He attended the Army instrument course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and added a rotary wing-instrument certificate in 1971, earned his commercial fixed-wing certificate and instrument rating in 1972, and earned his certificated flight instructor and instrument instructor certificates in 1974. He has more than 6,000 total hours in fixed-wings and helicopters, including 800 hours of combat flying.


Ep. 15 w/Eric Goodman, CFII/MEI/ATP Captain for Textron ProOwnership Program: With nearly 12,000 hours and 12 type ratings, Eric Goodman has achieved much that the aviation industry has to offer. He is a CFI/I, MEI, ATP, A&P Mechanic, and has over 31 years of instructional experience. Currently working in the ProOwnership Program for Textron, Eric has been a Demonstration Pilot, a Chief Pilot , Flight Safety Program Manager, and Professional Flight Instructor. He has extensive business aircraft experience specializing in international operations.


Ep. 14 w/Mike Jesch, MEI/2xNAFI MCFI/787 Airline CaptainWith 40 years of flying experience, including more than 30 in airline flying, Captain Mike brings a wealth of experience to the table. Mike Jesch has been a ground and flight instructor since 1985, and has flown many thousands of hours “In The System.” his (mostly) day job has been with a major airline since 1987, where he has flown as Captain on the Boeing 737 since 2002. But his “real” flying takes place in an IFR-equipped Cessna 182 based at Fullerton, CA, or whatever his clients show up in to fly that day. He is a two-time Master CFI, and a FAASTeam Lead Representative in the Long Beach (CA) FSDO. As a speaker on the national stage, he has presented on a wide range of subjects across the country for numerous groups, including AOPA, many EAA Chapters, The 99s, and many more.


Ep. 13 w/Warren Smith, CFII/MEI/ATP/Former DPE: Warren has been an aerial application instructor, tailwheel instructor, aerobatic instructor, 141 Chief Flight Instructor, an Air Carrier Check Airman and Chief Pilot, and Aviation Accident Investigator.

Warren has also spent time as a corporate pilot, charter pilot, flight school owner and airline pilot. He served thirteen years as a Designated Pilot Examiner, and holds type ratings in Saberliner, Falcon 10, Falcon 20, Falcon 900, and CRJ. He has served as the chairperson of the National Aviation Trades Association (NATA) Flight Training Committee alongside Rudy Frasca of Frasca International, Hal Shevers of Sporty’s, Irv Gleim, author Greg Brown, and many others. Warren has also been a forum speaker at the FAA Safety Center at Oshkosh during AirVenture.

Warren spent many years flying domestically and internationally as a corporate pilot for Jimmy John’s Subs and the current owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Kahn. He currently serves as the FAASTeam Program Manager for the FAA at the Springfield, IL, Flight Standards District Office promoting Aviation Safety.


Ep. 12 w/Jim Pitman, CFII/MEI/ATP/DPE: Jim Pitman started flying in 1992. He has been a flight instructor since 1997, an airline pilot since 2016, and an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) since May of 2019. Jim loves flying and teaching. Benefits of training with Jim include his experience, customized training, and flexibility. To learn more about Jim, access his online resources, or to inquire about a checkride visit:

Ep. 11 w/Christine Mortine, CFII/MEI/DPE, AOPA Air Safety Institute:
In addition to a career in classical music spanning over twenty-five years, Christine Mortine turned from conducting and playing instruments to flying them. She is an active flight instructor, having obtaining her CFI, CFII, MEI, Cirrus Training Center Instructor, as well as SIC in the Citation 500. Christine is a FAA appointed Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) and has joined the AOPA Air Safety Institute as an Instructor for the Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC). To learn more about Christine, or to inquire about a checkride visit:

Ep. 10 w/Kirby Ortega, 2x NAFI MCFI, 2002 National CFI of the Year, 2014 Flight Instructor Hall of Fame Inductee:
Kirby Ortega is currently the Chief Pilot for Yingling Aviation’s Aircraft Management Program in Wichita, flying Citations, Conquests, and Caravans. He also mentors pilots in their own airplanes.

Kirby started flying as a teenager in Kansas, then worked as a pilot for Cessna Aircraft for 29 years. He flew hundreds of customer and press demo flights, in everything from the Skycatcher to the Citation X. During his time at Cessna, he conducted Caravan operations in 90 different countries. He assisted in writing the single engine operations manual used by Cessna today, and has also written articles for Flying, AOPA, and Cessna Owner’s magazines.

He’s an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor, a two-term NAFI Master Flight Instructor, and an FAA FAAST Team member. He was the FAA National Flight Instructor of the Year in 2002, and was inducted into the NAFI National Hall of Fame in 2014. He has more than 24,000 accident/incident-free flight hours logged, and he’s given more than 15,000 hours of dual instruction.

Learn more about Kirby or to inquire about training with Ortega Aviation Services


Ep. 9 w/Gary Reeves Founder of, ATP, NAFI Master CFI, 2019 National CFI of The Year:  Gary, has over 7,800 hours in over 50 different aircraft including turbo-prop, and turbo-fan most of which is instruction given.  He provides private 3 Day Avidyne or Garmin Mastering Single-Pilot IFR programs to airplane owners all over the world from Alaska to Australia! He is a well known and popular national speaker on aviation safety and you see him live at all of the biggest shows, including Airventure-Oshkosh, AOPA Fly-Ins,  NW Aviation Expo, SunNFun and more.

Learn more about Gary or to inquire about training visit


Ep. 8 w/Catherine Cavagnaro, Owner/Chief Instructor of Ace Aerobatics Flight School, 2020 National CFI of The Year:  Catherine Cavagnaro of Sewanee, Tennessee has been named the 2020 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year. Dr. Cavagnaro is a mathematician by training, earning her B.S. in mathematics at Santa Clara University in 1987, and her Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Illinois in 1995. She serves as Professor of Mathematics and formerly as Chair of the Mathematics Department at Sewanee:  The University of the South. In that capacity, she has developed and implemented courses in such areas as aerodynamics, differential equations and mathematical modeling. Aviation provides a treasure trove of real-world examples for her mathematics courses.

Catherine owns and operates the Ace Aerobatic School in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she has become widely known as an expert on spin recovery and avoidance as well as recoveries from unusual attitudes. She films her own videos that help pilots understand the complex aerodynamics of spins and unusual attitudes and her presentations have drawn rave reviews.  Catherine has filmed a 60-turn spin in her Cessna Aerobat to show that the recovery is the same after three turns. During 2004-2008, Professor Cavagnaro served as a test pilot, spin demonstration pilot, researcher, and visiting professor of aviation systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. While there, she served on the icing team that modeled the longitudinal stability characteristics of NASA’s Twin Otter in various icing configurations, and configured the variable-stability Navion to duplicate these characteristics.  In 2018, Catherine was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.

She is an Airline Transport Pilot (ASEL), a Commercial Pilot (ASES, AMEL, glider) and a Flight Instructor (ASE, AME, instrument). She serves as a lead representative for the FAA Safety Team with the Nashville FSDO, and was honored as 2018 FAASTeam Representative of the Year. She also serves the Nashville FSDO as a Designated Pilot Examiner.

Catherine is a monthly contributor to AOPA Pilot Magazine for which she writes on safety, proficiency and technical aspects of aviation.  She is a highly sought speaker and has a knack for making complex aviation concepts accessible and entertaining to non-technical audiences. One attendee at Catherine’s presentation at the 2017 AOPA Regional Fly-In in Groton, Connecticut, told AOPA that “Catherine Cavagnaro’s seminar was the best one I’ve ever seen on any topic.”

When she isn’t teaching aviation or mathematics, Catherine loves exploring our country with her sons, Jack and Pete, in their acrobatic Beechcraft Bonanza. [email protected]

Learn more about Ace Aerobatics School:


Ep. 7 w/Nick Frisch, 4xMaster Instructor, Former Executive Director of Fit Aviation and Former FlightSafety International Program Manager: Nick Frisch, is a former Executive Director of F.I.T. Aviation, brings to his post more than 20 years of experience in aviation management and education.

Prior to joining the Florida Tech team, Frisch was Director of Aviation Education for Galvin Flying Services, where he managed two flight schools in Seattle and Honolulu. From 1999 to 2007 he was flight school manager and chief flight instructor for that company.

He has also been a program manager and an instructional technologist for FlightSafety International, where he created and implemented classroom and simulator training programs for the FSI/Beech/Raytheon Learning Center. In the early years of his career he was an instructor at the Beech Aircraft factory and for FlightSafety International as well as a government contract analyst at Beech.

He has been designated four times as a Master Instructor by the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI). Frisch earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management from Wichita State University in Kansas in 1984 and commercial pilot certification in 1982.


Ep. 6 w/Sarah Rovner 2xNAFI MCFI, Airline Pilot, Author, Business Owner: Sarah is a 2 Time NAFI MCFI and holds an ATP certificate with B-767, B-757, B-737 and CL-65 type ratings and is currently an FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, Master Instructor, Gold Seal Flight Instructor, and pilot for a U.S. Airline. Since changing careers after years as a senior network engineer for the oil and gas industry, Sarah obtained her ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6200 hours. As the owner and chief pilot of an international ferry pilot company, FullThrottle Aviation LLC, Sarah has flown over 145 different types of general aviation airplanes in 20 different countries, including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through mentoring and education; volunteering at many different events and presenting original seminars on aviation safety and human factors.

For More Information on FullThrottle Aviation LLC visit:


Ep. 5 w/John Niehaus, NAFI Program Director: John Niehaus is an aviation flight and management graduate from Western Michigan University. He has been flying for 15 years, and flight instructing both Part 61 and 141 semi-regularly for 11. John is an ATP rated pilot and has earned two type ratings to date while while actively maintaining a CFII certificate. His current passions include being a 135 Captain on Lear Jet 45/75 models and working as Program Director for the National Association of Flight Instructors, of which he is celebrating his 10th year.


Ep. 4 w/Guest Greg Brown: Greg Brown CFII/MEI/ATP, Greg Brown’s passion for flying is obvious to anyone who knows his “Flying Carpet” column from AOPA Flight Training magazine, or who has read his books, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane, The Savvy Flight Instructor, The Turbine Pilot’s Flight Manual (with Mark Holt), Job Hunting for Pilots, and You Can Fly!(with Laurel & Tom Lippert.)

A licensed pilot since 1972 and a CFI since 1979, Greg was 2000 Industry/FAA National Flight Instructor of the Year, winner of the 1999 NATA Excellence in Pilot Training Award and the 2013 AOPA Let’s Go Flying Award, and the first-ever Master Flight Instructor. He has flown professionally in both scheduled and corporate aviation, and holds an ATP pilot certificate with Boeing 737 type rating, and Flight Instructor certificate with all fixed-wing aircraft ratings.

Along with his writing activities, Greg has been an avid photographer from childhood. Since earning his pilot’s license at age 19, he’s been shooting photos from aloft, many of which have illustrated his Flying Carpet column and book. Greg’s most memorable aerial photographs are now available as Fine Art Metal Prints.

Learn more about Greg's projects including his Podcast:


Ep. 3 w/Guest Tom Turner: Thomas P. Turner is Executive Director of the American Bonanza Society Air Safety Foundation. He was a founding member of EAA’s Type Club Coalition, serving as its chairman for two years, is a Life Member of NAFI and is a past NAFI Board of Directors member. Specializing in Beech instruction for over 30 years, Tom was inducted into the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame. Subscribe to his educational newsletter here:


Ep. 2 w/Guest NAFI Chairman Bob Meder: Robert Meder is a CFI with single- and multi-engine and instrument privileges. He was recently named the St. Louis FSDO 2009 CFI of the year, the Lincoln 2010 FSDO CFI of the year, and the 2010 Central Region CFI of the Year. He has been a check airman for a 141 operation, an active FAASTeam Lead Rep. He is active in volunteer activities at EAA AirVenture each year. Robert serves on the board of the National Association of Flight Instructors and is also an operating department manager with one of the largest railroads in the United States.


Ep 1. w/Guest Captain Brian Schiff:  Brian Schiff is a captain for a major US airline and is type-rated on the Airbus A320, Boeing 727, 757, 767, DC-9 (MD-80), CL-65, LR-JET, and G-V. Schiff’s roots are deeply planted in general aviation where he has flown a wide variety of aircraft (95 types). His total flying time is over 20,000 hours. He is a Gold Seal flight instructor and FAA Safety Team Representative and holds several flight instructor ratings. He is recognized for his enthusiasm and ability to teach in way that simplifies complex procedures and concepts. He has been actively instructing since earning his flight and ground instructor certificates in 1985. Schiff also has been an FAA-designated examiner. He attended San Jose State University, and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and his Master of Science Degree in Aviation Safety from the University of Central Missouri. He regularly teaches and conducts seminars about aviation safety and techniques to student and professional pilots alike. Learn more about Brian's Activities: