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Flight Instructors

They are a rare breed of men and women — FAA Certified Flight Instructors. And have no doubt, these are hardy souls who willingly allow novice pilots to fly them around day after day, in good weather and bad, enduring everything from awkward skids to back-of-the-curve approaches until their charges are seasoned enough to pass the requisite flight tests. At Willamette Aviation, our CFIs are among the best around: high-hour pilots who love teaching the art of the airplane. Come take an introductory flight to find out how challenging — and fun — flying can be.

Willamette Aviation Chief Flight Instructor Stan Swan is a native Oregonian who discovered a love of flying while in his teens, leading him to serve as a Civil Air Patrol cadet throughout high school and most of his university career. After a tour in the Army, he learned to fly on the GI Bill, earning his Commercial, Instrument and CFI ratings. Stan then transitioned to the business world, rising to management positions in several local manufacturing companies, and after a long hiatus he has returned to flight instruction, his first love. Stan owns a Piper Comanche 260, which has provided him with most of his aviation experience. He always looks forward to introducing many new pilots to the world of aviation, while helping old pros become better and safer at what they do.

Bob Wood's life has followed three distinct paths: flying, teaching and acting. He became a Private Pilot in Seattle on his 17th birthday. He then obtained an Associate Degree in Air Traffic Control in 1971 and accepted a position as Flight Attendant with United Airlines in 1972. United taught him how to instruct, so he combined flying and teaching as a Flight Attendant Instructor. Having been "discovered" making announcements on a flight to LAX, Bob began an acting career. He auditioned in Hollywood, and he's honored to have portrayed Capt. Jason Dahl, the Captain of UA92, in the 2005 docudrama The Flight that Fought Back. Refocused on flying, Bob received his CFI certificate in 2007. He also holds Instrument and Multi-Engine instructor ratings, as well as an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, and he became a Certified Cirrus Training Instructor in 2015.

Matthew Mikesh was born and raised in the Portland area, and he first got a feel for airplanes when he was 10 years old and his dad showed him a few basic maneuvers in an ultralight. He credits his father as his inspiration to pursue aviation. Matthew served in the U.S. Air Force, doing operations intelligence for F-22 aircraft at Holloman AFB. He also worked directly with F-22 pilots and spent several weeks training in Air Force simulators. After he left the Air Force, Matthew enrolled in college and studied finance, but the pull of aviation proved difficult to overcome. He earned his multi-engine rating in Hillsboro, and then his CFI/CFII in Bend. "I'm excited to be back the air," Matthew says. "I'm also looking forward to working with others to help them achieve their aviation goals."

From a very young age, Ash Mussman was looking up at the sky, fascinated with airplanes and flight. In 2000, she began flying in Prescott, Arizona, but quickly hit financial roadblocks that forced her to make the difficult decision to discontinue training. After twenty years of thinking about what could have been, she decided to return to the sky, earning her Private, Instrument, Commercial, and CFI ratings all with Willamette Aviation. "Never give up on your dreams," Ash says. "Helping individuals succeed in reaching their aviation goals is the greatest gift I can offer as a Flight Instructor. Witnessing the joy of aviation on a student's face is the greatest gift they can offer to me."

James Neils was born in The Dalles and grew up in White Salmon, Wash. He went on his first airline flight when he was eight years old, which included a brief visit the flight deck. From that moment on, James knew that he wanted to be a pilot. After finishing high school he started his flight training in Troutdale, but he soon put his training on pause so that he could focus on college. James returned to flight training in 2019, this time at Hillsboro. During this time he also met his wife and relocated to Salem. James earned his initial CFI certificate at Willamette Aviation, and he's delighted to join the team. "Flying is my passion," he says. "I'm here to encourage future aviators to achieve their flying goals."

Paul Glatts always has been fascinated by flight. While growing up in rural Montana, he built countless model airplanes and always dreamed of flying a real one. Studying for a degree in engineering at Walla Walla University, he earned his private pilot's license as "just a hobby." However, the lure of aviation proved too strong, and after gaining his instrument rating and commercial license Paul graduated with a degree in aviation. He expanded his flight experience with a paragliding license, and he can regularly be seen hanging under a canopy. Paul now seeks to pass on his love of flying to emerging pilots. "I have a special passion for teaching back-country landings," he says. "I want to prioritize safety and share my enthuiasm with all of my students."

Jeremiah Harkema saw the Navy's Blue Angels when he was six years old and has been hooked ever since. He started learning with flight simulators and radio-controlled aircraft, determined to become a Naval Aviator. Jeremiah enlisted in the Navy at 17 and flew onboard S-3B Vikings off of the USS Kittyhawk. After gaining acceptance to a commissioning program, Jeremiah enrolled at Oregon State University, where he got his Private Pilot Certificate. He then earned his gold Naval Aviator Wings in Pensacola, Fla. Jeremiah flew special operations helicopters in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006 to 2008. He was also a helicopter weapons and tactics instructor, the Aviation Operations Officer (Air Boss) aboard the USS Cleveland, and an Aviation Assessor for the U.S. Pacific Fleet before retiring from the Navy in 2015. "I learned a lot from my military career," Jeremiah says. "As a flight instructor, I enjoy passing my experience on to future pilots."

Graham Lawson was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Sherwood, Oregon. He fell in love with flight during the many trips his family took to Texas to visit relatives, which ignited the dream of flying airplanes one day. After graduating high school, Graham's studies led him to earn a degree in aviation from Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., along with all of his ratings through Multi-Engine Commercial. He also enjoyed working through college at the Bozeman Airport as a ground agent for a regional airline. Though he enjoyed learning to fly in the wide open skies of big sky country, Graham returned to Oregon in 2023 to pursue his CFI at Willamette Aviation. "I have the privilege of helping people achieve their goals in aviation," Graham says. "There is no greater joy than enabling students to become the most safe and capable pilots they can be."

Angela Werner is a native Oregonian who grew up around dump trucks instead of airplanes. She went on her first discovery flight when she was 25 years old and got instantly hooked on aviation. She decided to change careers and become a professional pilot. After earning her Private Pilot Certificate in Oregon, she then relocated to a midwest college to major in Commercial Aviation while earning her Instrument, Commercial, Multi-Engine, CFI, and CFII certificates and ratings. Since she did not grow up around aviation, Angela likes to immerse herself in the general aviation community by participating in various aviation clubs such as the EAA and the 99s. She owns a Cessna 150, which she uses to go on flying adventures, explore new airports, and volunteer as a Young Eagles pilot. Angela is excited to teach and help encourage people to reach their flying goals, whether they be recreational or professional.

Nikita Mehta's journey to becoming a pilot started in India, where she developed a love for aviation and enjoyed traveling to new places. She knew she wanted to make flying a career when she sat in a cockpit for the first time. After passing her knowledge exams in India, Nikita moved to Farmingdale, NY to begin her flight training. She then relocated to the high desert in Redmond, Ore., to complete her Commercial and CFI certificates, followed by her CFII at Hillsboro. She credits outstanding instructors along the way who made the learning process exciting, with each certificate and rating treated as an accomplishment, rather than a stepping stone along the way. "It's how I teach my students," she says. "I celebrate their achievements the same way that I celebrated my own."

Jade Ripplinger was always fascinated by travel and exploring, but she didn't get the opportunity to do much of either while growing up. Born and raised in the Midwest, Jade relocated to the Pacific Northwest during her high school years. After high school, she traveled several times per year, and in 2019 she became a licensed skydiver. Jade decided to make a career out of her love for being in the sky and seeing new places. She was accepted into the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Ascend Pilot Academy. She then completed her training in Oregon, flying at Redmond and Hillsboro. When Jade is not instructing or flying air tours, you can find her skydiving, traveling, in the gym, or on an adventure with her boyfriend and their two ferrets. "My favorite part of instructing is getting to see so many people experience flying a plane for the first time" she says. "I love being able to support their progress as they continue to learn."

Ian McDonough, a Seattle native, began his aviation career as a pilot for the US Marine Corps flying OV-10 Broncos. After seven years as a Marine, he flew charter flights in California before being hired by his first major airline, Continental Airlines flying Boeing 727s. He then joined Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), spending five years flying in the jungles and mountains of Indonesian New Guinea. In 1989 Ian was hired by his second major airline and finished his career as a 737 Captain for Alaska Airlines. Ian now serves as a CFI to share the joy, enthusiasm, and challenges of an avocation that gave him an incredibly satisfying career.