Recreation Aviation Flying Instructor
Mike Bullock - Instructor Profile
Mike has been flying for 28 years and first achieved his GA instructor rating in 1994. Combined with his many years of training experience in the corporate sector, Mike has developed a relaxed and approachable teaching style that puts students at ease. Mike made the transition to RA AUS when he relocated to Port Macquarie in 2015, and was so taken by these new generation of aircraft, he recently acquired an RAA registered Sonex.
How long have you been flying and what encouraged you to start?
Wow! I hadn’t stopped to think about how long until you asked me! It’s been 28 years now that I’ve been flying. I always wanted to be a pilot as far back as I remember. When I was in primary school there was a TV show called Black Sheep Squadron about US Marine Corsairs in the Pacific. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I think my mind was made up then. I had a friend in primary school whose Dad was building a plane in his garage and I remember sitting in it and making plane noises. This just reinforced the dream. I always wanted to join the RAAF as a pilot but I found out I was short sighted in high school which ruled military flying out for me. I was pretty directionless for a few years before I realised I could learn to fly through general aviation. That was a year out of high school and I haven’t looked back since.
Why did you become an instructor?
When I got my Commercial licence, the instructor route looked like a good career path. I didn’t realise until I started teaching flying just how rewarding it is. Of course, the flying is awesome, but what surprised me was the relationships I built up with my students. I think in most cases, people who choose to learn to fly are passionate about aviation. As such, when you meet people with the same passion, it’s easy to bond with them. I have met some of my closest friends through teaching people to fly
What qualities do you believe a student needs to be successful at any level in aviation?
I think the most important qualities are enthusiasm and perseverance. Like any skill, to get good at flying takes time and commitment. There are a lot of activities out there competing for people’s time and money. There will also be times throughout training when it seems that you just can’t seem to get something right. Being passionate about your flying, and sticking with it when things get tough, are what’s going to make you successful. You don’t need any special skills, I know I certainly didn’t, but if you persevere, I promise it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever undertake.
What’s your scariest moment as an instructor?
I really can’t think of any scary moments as an instructor. I am very careful with my flying and endeavour to never put myself in a dangerous situation. I work hard to instil this mindset in my students also. If you plan carefully, check everything, and aim to mitigate risks, scary things just don’t really happen. It does require a high level of concentration when you are teaching people to land. If things start to go wrong near the ground, you have to be ready to take over from the student. This isn’t scary, it’s just part of the learning process. It’s important to not take over too early or the student won’t realise things are moving out of tolerance. It’s important to give them time to correct issue themselves before taking over from them, and this takes patience and concentration as an instructor.
What is the most interesting or challenging plane you have flown?
Probably the most interesting plane I have flown is the DeHavilland Tigermoth. I am a tragic for the classics and my wife was good enough to get me time in a Tiger as a wedding present. This is really grass-roots flying at its best. Minimal instruments, open cockpit and really feeling what the aircraft is doing. This really made an impression on me. Recently I ticked off an item on my bucket list when I was able to fly a Piper Cub. The Cub is another classic design that has been around since the 1930s, and flying at 500 feet down Lighthouse Beach with the door open is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Do you have a most memorable flight you would like to tell us about?
Picking a particular flight is hard because there are so many memorable moments. I love aerobatics and there are many of those flights that stand out. Apart from some of those mentioned above, there are a few others that stick in my mind. There was one flight I was making with friends one evening that had us dodging thunderstorms up the north coast which had not showed up on our weather forecast. It wasn’t scary, but it did hold our full attention. The sense of achievement you feel after safely completing a challenging flight is very satisfying. I remember flying from Dubbo to Sydney one night with a mate and the moon was so bright, we were able to turn the instrument lights down to almost nothing and they were still readable. It was like flying in daylight. As we approached the Blue Mountains, a fog began to roll in and fill up all the valleys so that the mountain tops looked like islands in a sea of white. It was incredible. I think this is one of the things I love most about aviation. As pilots, we get treated to some of the most beautiful and amazing sights imaginable that other people just don’t get to see.
Finally, if money was no object, what would be your dream plane?
Spitfire. I am all about the warbirds, but in my eyes, the Spitfire is the most beautiful machine humans ever breathed life into. I can’t hear a Rolls Royce Merlin engine without the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. With its sleek pointed nose and those distinctive elliptical wings, Reg Mitchell really hit perfection with that one.