Monday, May 02, 2022

Why Teach?

Why teach?

Many years ago, when I watched some gliders run down a hill and get flight, I was so excited to see this. I had been a paratrooper in the Army and always wanted to fly again. I reached out to the skydiving community, but they wanted to charge me extra for my bad static line Army habits and charge my little brother less. I thought screw you guys. WTF? I’m a paratrooper, wtf could you teach me about jumping out of an airplane? (hehe, I had no idea back then).


I bought a wing and a harness, and no reserve. I rode a jet ski to Catalina Island on the 4th of July in 1989 with my wing on my back. I had no lessons except for watching my buddy Brian fly. I crashed that Sunday and was paralyzed for a couple of months. I told myself that if I recovered, I would do everything possible to make sure NO ONE EVER felt that pain I did and that I would devote my life to teach people to fly paragliders without the suffering I had endured.

Thirty-five years later and hundreds of students later I fulfilled my mission. I also spent many years since 1995 launching and rescuing paragliders when no-one else wanted to. As of 2021, I have successfully rescued over 175 pilots and two fatal recoveries. John Clifford died in a river in Pemberton that I found, and James Oroc (Aka Kiwi) we found in Eureka, NV last year. Closure is an amazing life spirituality. It’s good for the living.

I have found myself over the years defending not only myself but the innocent students of our lifestyle. It’s crazy to think about but it’s the truth. I find that at every site I’ve ever been to that the locals don’t want to either fly or acknowledge the fact that beginner pilots need to learn and fly these sites with more experienced pilots. That the local pilots fear these new pilots for many reasons. One of the reasons could be incidents and the subsequent losses of the sites, or many other excuses which could cause concern to the local more experienced pilots. The more experienced pilots seem to forget they once were those beginner pilots and I fought for their rights to fly too.

This ‘fight’ to defend and support the beginner pilots and students over the years has had a very significant impact on my career and my sanity as a pilot. The constant barrage from the more experienced pilots against my teaching and my school has caused me to defend my students, and my love to teach.

To teach is to sacrifice oneself to not hardly ever flying. To use the good days to fly, to teach. To watch your friends, fly and go XC whilst you stay in a training site and maintain the professionalism to enjoy the teaching in optimal conditions for you students, while the whole time you wish you were flying with your buddies. Year after year after year….

What ultimately happens is you loose respect of your peers as they never get to fly with you, no more xc flights, no more stories over a cold beer. Maybe, you spend thirty years or more inspecting, checking radios, launching, chasing, rescuing, hiking, coordinating rescues, finding dead bodies, and losing touch with your buddies. Maybe, someday, someone will acknowledge the fact that all you want to do is fly…

To teach is the ultimate sacrifice for what you love and what you can create. I have created several National Champions, I have created many teachers, I have created hundreds of safe pilots, and I have created a lifestyle for hundreds more that have safely devoted their lives to our amazing flying. I have saved and rescued many more that might have quit or lost it all. Teaching is the most rewarding and yet most self-sacrificing career there is. 

If it were not for the teachers, none of of you would exist to fly?

Pete "Reaper" Michelmore

USHPA Garbage collector


3 comments:

Waianae Jim said...

Reaper: I personally can never thank you enough f0r being my teacher and an inspiration. I hope to get to fly with you again soon, I'm sure I'll always have more to learn from you.
Mahalo Nui Loa!

nightshift said...

Reaper, you taught me to never hook in without the brakes in my hands at Kualoa Ranch. You walked up to me on the hill and said, "Where are your brake handles?" I said, "Right down there." You said, "Huh", and pulled a couple of A lines. On my face I went, drug over the grass. I never did that again.

firedave2 said...

Yes Reaper, many have tried but no one could ever match your enthusiasm for teaching. I always understood it took a special balance of caring and not caring to be a successful instructor. I know you have saved my ass and lots of others many times over the years.

At the same time instructing and tandem flying as well are a cause of most of the problems seen by the outside public. I don’t ever really see any way around that, at lest here on Oahu.

I survived the initial training and flew mostly unscathed for 20 years and when I finally crashed in 2020 it was your voice that came over the radio asking if I needed help. Thanks again.

The photo at the top of you and Alex is a classic. With the love swing and that little flavor saver (cum catcher) under your lip!

Good times!