A Rusty Pilot Goes Back in the Air

I remember a phrase that I heard some years ago “the sky always going to be there, waiting for you”.

This can be the case of Mark Luetkemeyer, of Plano, Texas. Thanks to AOPA Rusty Pilots Initiative, Mark returned back to the air after being inactive as pilot for more than 25 years.


Mark’s flying desires began when his dad used to take him to the Jefferson City [Memorial] airport” in Missouri, where he learned to fly in the mid-1960s, he said. “I got my certificate when I was 24 while in the Navy, where I was an intelligence officer.”
Meanwhile he was in the military he earned his instrument and multiengine ratings and obtained a Commercial and Instructor Pilot Certificate, logging more than 1.500 hrs. at the moment he stopped flying.

Mark’s decision to stop flying is the reason why many young people get away from aviation and postpone their dream: Money.
Although Mark stopped flying, he didn’t went too far from airplanes, in the 1990’s he worked for a Company named Flexjet in Dallas airport as IT programmer. Later he also worked for a Piper and Gulfstream contractor.
Last spring Mark told his wife about his desires to go flying again “If you want to talk about rusty pilots, that’s me. I’ll be 63 this fall, and a few years ago, I got prostate cancer,” he said.

After obtaining his third class medical, he joined the RFC Dallas Flying Club at Addison airport, the club has three Beechcrafts and two Piper Cherokees.

Luetkemeyer started his flight training in July and finished it in December. “I flew twice a week for six weeks, which helps you bring back and retain muscle memory. This helps you get back in the saddle quicker,” he said. “Then from late August until December I flew about once a week. I did my cross country in late December.” Now, he’s working on getting his instructor certificate back, “so once I do finally retire, I can flight instruct on the side.”

The RFC Flying Club played an important role in bringing Mark back to fly again “I could not have done it without them. The club gave me access to better aircraft that are more suitable for cross-country work. And I wanted to get my ticket back so I could fly from point A to point B,” he said. “There’s a great deal of camaraderie in the club [which] has 100 active and nearly 200 total members.”

The reward, both for him and his wife, was when he flew from Addison to Memphis, Tenn., over Christmas. “It was my wife’s first ride in a GA aircraft”.

Luetkemeyer said he probably spent around $4,300 to get current again, including $3,000 in aircraft rental hours, $600 in instructor fees, the club deposit and initiation fee, and club dues of $360. “It takes persistence, especially if you’re over 60 like me and have medical problems. But if you want to do it, you can.”

Capt. Ivan

FAA Softens Considerably their Apnea Policy

The FAA – Federal Aviation Administration went backward considerably on its sleep apnea proposal. The controversial plan to require sleep clinic testing based on body mass index appears to be dead. Last year, Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton announced, without consultation with aviation groups or the doctors that do flight medicals, that any pilot with a BMI greater than 40 would have his/her certificate suspended and be automatically required to be assessed by an accredited sleep specialist to prove that he or she did not have obstructive sleep apnea.

Under the proposed new rules, assessment may still be required, but the certificate will remain valid until it’s completed, this represents an important step in the right direction over the policy announced last year,”

Under the new policy AMEs have been asking questions about sleep apnea since 2009 and under the new policy if they think a pilot needs further assessment, it can be done by a regular doctor and not a sleep specialist as previously required. It will be up to the second-opinion doctor whether an expensive sleep test ($3,000 or more) is required. The issue prompted bills in both the House and Senate to require the FAA to go through the rulemaking process to enact its previous proposal.

Capt. Ivan

Photo:  AOPA

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