DAVID A. DERBY
I am a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor with over 35 years and 6000 hours of experience who operates from Gillespie Field in El Cajon where I provide primary flight instruction, tail-wheel training, flight reviews and ferry services. My early professional career was as a business executive in the electronics and aerospace industries where I flew in support of my business as well as for pleasure. I began providing flight instruction only after I retired from active business management several years ago.
Along with a passion for flying I have considerable experience in older, tail-wheel airplanes such as the 1943 Stearman I have owned for nearly 30 years. This experience coupled with the demanding nature of the tail-wheel airplanes in which I teach offers students an unusual opportunity to learn the fundamental skills so important to the proficient pilot. And, perhaps more importantly, my experience can be shared with those who would otherwise never know the raucous cough of an awakening radial engine as it gasps for breath in a cloud of blue smoke, the smell of warm oil mixed with varnished wood and waxed fabric, the caress of the wind on a cheek or the music of the flying wires in an open cockpit.
The Young Eagles program affords me a perfect opportunity to introduce young people to the joys of flying in the grand old World War II trainer that is the Stearman. Most aviators in that Great War endured their first lessons in this sturdy, cantankerous anachronism, eight thousand eight hundred and fifty of which were built from the late thirties to 1945. It is testimony to the sound design and solid construction of the airplane that after teaching thousands of ham-fisted neophytes to fly, the Stearman soldiered on for another thirty years as the mainstay of the aerial application (crop dusting) fleet, finally earning a well-earned rest in sheltered hangars where, lovingly restored, this prosaic machine may still touch and perhaps inspire another generation.