Rich Stowell recently logged his “10,000th hour of total flight time.” For those who haven’t heard of Rich, he’s a flight instructor from Cascade, Idaho. He’s written a trio of books focused on stall/spin awareness and emergency maneuver training.
I found out about Rich’s milestone via Facebook. He wrote it took “almost 34 years to the day since my first flying lesson” to log 10,000 hours. And if you are wondering, those hours were “earned 42 minutes at a time, without an autopilot. These are not airline hours.”
What was he doing when the logbook rolled over 10,000 hours?
“I was doing what I’ve been doing since 1987: Teaching. Trainee Rachel S. was here for many of the same reasons others have come to see me: To overcome fear, gain confidence, and rekindle the joy of flight. We were flying her Cessna 182 in the pattern at Cascade Airport (U70) in Cascade, Idaho.”
Along with his announcement, Rich cited a number of statistics from those 10,000 hours. I called Rich to hear a little more about those stats. Following is an edited transcript.
Ben: Congratulations. Wow, 10,000 hours, that’s amazing.
Rich: Thanks. It felt kind of like a marathon. The last 50 hours were like hitting the wall. Will it ever happen? Will it ever get here?
Ben: In looking at your stats: 9,000 hours of flight instruction given. 8,900 of that in tailwheel aircraft. Is the majority of that in your airplane?
Rich: No. But the majority of it is in Decathlons.
Ben: Anything stand out in your mind, when you look back, at all those hours?
Rich: I’ve been pretty fortunate. I don’t teach primary, so I always interact with people after they’ve gone through the typical training. Students seek me out for a particular reason. Usually it’s they don’t understand something or they’ve lost their confidence in something.
Each one of those has a unique story, but I guess one that really sticks out is Judy Phelps from CP Aviation in Santa Paula. She married into CP Aviation, learned to fly, but wasn’t confident, so she took the EMT (Emergency Maneuvers Training) course and that really sparked her. Since then, she’s become a flight instructor. She’s catching up to me. She has over 8,000 hours and became a national flight instructor of the year. Her career has just taken off.
That’s probably a story that I can relate to you, but it’s one of many similar stories where really my goal is to help people really enjoy flying. If they do, then they go on and they’re active participants in aviation and maybe even carve out a niche for themselves like Judy has.
Ben: I recall you calculated the vertical distance you’ve traveled while spinning. So, how far have you spun aircraft?
Rich: Yes. Right now I’m standing at 34,300 spins, which translates into about 1,600 vertical miles. The way I’ve been trying to put that into perspective is that’s the equivalent of spinning all the way down from the international space station 7 times.
I count one turn and greater and the typical bread and butter course is we work one turn spins, two turn spins and then in the unusual attitude spin recoveries, so we might be a couple of turns per each of those.
Most of the people have a finite of turns in them before they’re no good anymore. They’re used up. It’s better to do 10 one turn spins because of the skills manipulating the inputs on entering recovery than one 10 turn spin. The majority of them are one and two turn spins with the people.
Ben: Oh I’m not feeling so good. It’s time to land.
Rich: Right. By the time we’re done with the stall spin block, which is a three hour block of training, they’ve done on the order of a couple dozen spin recoveries. Way beyond whatever the one or two spin entries, the typical flight instructor has done for the CFI spin endorsement.
Ben: You cite time logged time in 500 aircraft. I would assume that’s 500 different N numbers.
Rich: Correct. Those are unique N numbers in the log book. Knock on wood, I would say the overwhelming majority of them have been pretty much nice flying airplanes and airplanes that I didn’t mind climbing into. There were a couple of, let’s call them, unique airplanes. Picture an experimental side by side open cockpit bi-plane with an in-line continental engine. I’ve only ever seen one. A very strange airplane.
Ben: One comment that stood out to me on your Facebook post was the need to improve. You admitted “the relatively small percentage of hours of dual” you’ve received. Please elaborate?
Rich: Part of the master instructor designation is a commitment to continuing education. We are never done. So to try to perfect my craft and to continue to improve as an instructor, I do a tremendous amount of reading and research and talking with other instructors and learning from instructors who fly with me. They’ve taught me how to teach them, of course. I’ve done a lot of things like that, looking at YouTube and TED talks to learn to be a better presenter and how people learn and psychology type stuff.
I’ve taken training that’s outside of aviation that I think applies because aviation is a hand, eye, foot and mind coordination thing. I take ski lessons from a ski instructor to see how I can maybe take some of those concepts into the cockpit, or defensive handgun training. Are there concepts there that I can apply in the cockpit?
In terms of receiving dual in the airplane, I need to do a lot more of that, where I’m in the cockpit in the role of student. All the dual I’ve recorded are the flight reviews, airplane checkouts, private, instrument, commercial, CFI, acro and seaplane ratings.
It’s taken 10,000 hours just to sort of figure out the one little niche that I do, which is spins and aerobatics. But look at the instrument environment. Look at the float environment. There’s so many of those aspects that I’ve left unexplored, dedicated to a very small niche that still has a lot to learn, just within that.
What does 10,000 flight hours look like?
From Rich’s experience…”9,000 hours of flight instruction given; 8,900 hours in tailwheel aircraft; 25,000 landings; 34,300 spins; 500 single-engine airplanes; 166 airports in 28 states and four foreign countries; 2 total engine failures, multiple partial engine failures, a couple of flight control anomalies; 1 ground loop; Magnificent views from the cockpit; and Friends (and a wife) gained; friends lost.”
Here’s to 10,000 more Rich. Congratulations.