Episode 52. Flight training trends and wing walking, with NAFI's Karen Kalishek

Karen KalishekDesignated pilot examiner, kitplane owner, scuba diver, wing walker, world traveler, black belt in taekwondo - NAFI Chair Karen Kalishek has done it all, and she shares the lessons learned along the way in this wide-ranging episode. She explains the worrying trend she is seeing as a DPE, with a rising failure rate and a lack of systems knowledge among applicants. She also talks about the importance of the pilot in command mindset, how to find a good flight instructor, and learning to fly while raising kids. Karen has plenty of stories from her many adventures, including a wing walking class she did to honor a distant relative who first performed in 1918. In the Ready to Copy segment, she talks about circus training on the trapeze, the best places to dive, lessons from Japanese weaponry training, and eating deep fried ants in the Amazon.  


  • The increasing failure rate on checkrides: “What I have found in speaking with a lot of other DPEs over the last year is we really are finding in the industry almost systemically a decrease in the pass rates.”
  • Topics applicants struggle with: “I can tell you personally what I find is generally a decline in understanding of systems.”
  • What she's looking for on a check ride: “If there’s a really overriding area, it would probably be the mentality of a pilot in command. Understanding the authority and the responsibility.”
  • Why training has to be fun: “I really want to make it both challenging and inherently fun… Enjoyment can include things like introducing them to the community of local pilots.”
  • Training as a wing walker: “So picture climbing out of your car onto the roof, climbing up on top of it and strapping yourself in against a stanchion with a very wide leather belt."

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