Flight instructor Robert "Mac" Smith mostly teaches students in their 20s or 30s.

Flight instructor enjoys
imparting self-confidence

Question: How did you get into flying?

Answer: I have always wanted to fly. When I was going to Punahou, a couple of my friends had gotten their private licenses when they were seniors. And then I had a girlfriend who was a glider instructor (at Dillingham Airfield).

Who: Robert "Mac" Smith

Title: Assistant chief flight instructor, Flight School Hawaii

Job: Teaches people how to pilot airplanes

Robert "Mac" Smith has been a flight instructor since 1981, with just a couple of timeouts to work as an air tour pilot and an air cargo pilot. He works for Flight School Hawaii, which has about 12 full- and part-time instructors, a fleet of seven training craft and about 75-80 students at any one time. Smith, 51, has two grown sons and lives in Salt Lake, "about five minutes from work."

Q: Is gliding very different from regular flying?

A: I would say that glider pilots make better pilots overall because they have to pay better attention to weather conditions ... but a lot of the rules and regulations are the same.

Q: What kinds of planes do you use for instruction?

A: We're a Cessna pilot center, so our primary instruction aircraft is the Cessna 172. For advanced ratings, such as gaining commercial or overland transport licenses, we use a Piper Aztec. I probably do more than slightly half of my instruction in that airplane now.

Q: What does a typical lesson entail?

A: Our normal flight lesson for students is a two-hour block, with about half on the ground talking about what's going to happen during the flight and after the flight. For certification, a private student needs a minimum 35 hours of flight experience, of which about 30 is going to be with instructor and the other five hours solo, with nobody else in the plane.

Q: What kind of people are the students mostly?

A: Most are probably in their early 20s to early 30s. It's mainly male, but we do have a fair number of women students right now. Of late a great number have been coming because they have career aspirations in commercial aviation.

Q: Have you had any terrorists try to take lessons lately?

A: (Laughter) No, but after Sept. 11, the FAA and FBI were over here checking our records to see if we had anybody who fit their watch list.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: It's really gratifying when my students go solo for the first time and they realize, "Hey, I can actually do this," and they realize it's not all that difficult to do. It's very gratifying to me to help people reach their goals in doing something that I enjoy doing.

Q: Would you rather crash on land or in the water?

A: On land. In essence, going into the water at that speed is no softer than land. Basically, if I can get the aircraft down on solid ground, the ground's not going to open up and swallow me. If I'm in the water, I'm in an environment that's not particularly friendly to me.

Q: How did you get "Mac" for a nickname?

A: My middle name is McCorriston. It's a family name. Bill McCorriston, the lawyer, is a first cousin of mine.

"Hawaii at Work" features tell what people do for a living in their own words. This interview was conducted by Star-Bulletin reporter Mark Coleman. Send submissions to business@starbulletin.com



E-mail to Business Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com