I was flying part time for two different companies, just starting out my aviation career and had a little over five hundred hours in my logbook. That was almost enough to take the SAMRA and SARON, two exams that make up part of the qualifications for the Canadian Airline Pilot Transport Licence. I told a mentor I was just going to study for it on my own because I had lots of study materials and was an experienced student. He laughed at me and said, "You don't take this course to learn the material. You take this course to make contacts." So I pulled out my credit card and signed up for the course he recommended.
I was never a very skilled schmoozer, so I can't say I have exchanged job tips with or remember any of my fellow students ever after, but the teacher was terrific. He kept everyone involved and motivated, made the material interesting and kept people learning whether they thought they were lost or thought they knew it all. During a break on the last day of the three-day course, I got a desperate call from one of my companies. I had taken the day off, which they had assured me was no problem, but the pilot rostered for that afternoon had forgotten to renew his medical certificate and the pilot who was supposed to be his back up said he was sick. So instead of going back to class after the break, I had to go to to work.
The instructor, Peter Shewring, was very understanding and promised me I could sit in on the next class, next time he was in my city, any time I wanted. I went to that course, and aced the exams. He wanted students to tell him about any tricky exam questions, and I tend to remember questions quite well so I sent him a list. And then I e-mailed him from time to time for no reason, just because something I had encountered that day was something his course had prepared me for. Funny thing is, it's regarded as a cram course, with the syllabus matched to the exam, but he taught useful material, little tips and tricks in a way that made the on-the-exam stuff easier to remember and the real life stuff easier to do. He encouraged me and said he wanted to do my next IFR ride (he was an examiner too). And I always meant to call him for one, but political reasons determined the next one and then I was in the wrong city, and then I was doing PPC rides instead. I went back to the same course again, years after the first one, for a refresher and Peter remembered me.
I'm not an easy student to have in a class. If the material is interesting and new I become engrossed and ask challenging questions or answer rhetorical ones, which may interfere with the flow of the class. I'm overly helpful and I have been known to unintentionally trample egos in pursuit of knowledge and correct information. Peter kept me interested and channelled my enthusiasm into actually helping others in the class. He even suggested that I might join his team of instructors. High praise indeed. The timing wasn't right then, but just the other day I was thinking I should call him back and see if I could help out anywhere.
And then today I learned that he has died. I don't know the specifics, but I know I'm not the only one who will miss him. There's a thread on AvCanada full of stories from people who feel the way I do.
Update: An obituary.