Pilot, Friend, Teacher

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By Anna Serbinenko, In Flight USA, March 2015

When I picked up the phone, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Facing some beginner airshow performer struggles – more criticism than love – I was discouraged

and I could really use an ally in this “old boys club” of the airshow crowd. Someone who would simply tell me that there is hope. I searched the ICAS directory for Bud Granley’s phone number, gathered all my courage and dialed. Would he even remember who I am? He saw me briefly at a show where we were both flying, but did he – the legend - even notice then a completely new unknown performer? 

To my big surprise he greeted me very warmly, as if he had known me for years. As I learned later, this is just how he is. He heard my distress over the phone, and offered to come over – he was tinkering with his plane for another hour or so at his home airport in Everett, WA. I said I would fly over RIGHT NOW. That meant my EAPIS was filed 2 minutes later, phone call was made and customs officer convinced to waive the 1h notice requirement, my plane fuelled, and I was airborne less than 15 minutes later. I cleared customs in Bellingham and landed in KPAE – all within an hour. Yes, I flew my super decathlon at “non-economy cruise” on this one.

I found the hangar and Bud gave me a welcome hug. His son Ross Granley was just preparing his plane for the next show a couple of hangars over, and the Discovery Channel TV crew was hovering over the process. Bud and I grabbed vitamin water and sat in the shadow of his Harvard T6 in the hangar. I told my story and the challenges I was facing in my airshows flying. 

I don’t know what I expected. I am usually the one who finds or makes solutions. I expected others to do the same. Now I’m sitting here clueless. Bud and I had a chat. He took me under his wing, but not in an enabling way. I had to “be a good cadet”. Patience does not come easy to me – trust me! But I respect this man so much that I worked really really hard (the easy part) and bit my tongue for the rest (not easy). Shortly after, it turned out that it was the best course of actions, and I am so grateful to Bud for this – and many more later – lessons.

We went flying that day, worked on hammerheads and avalanches. Once again, I was amazed how Bud was comfortably and with precision flying a plane that he flew for the first time.

Many people know Bud’s official biography. From Alberta, Canada, passionate about aviation since the age of 9, Bud was in Air Cadets, then served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He earned multiple awards and the hearts of millions of airshow spectators. But how many people really know this person? Here are a few glimpses from his humble student.

He is kind. His bright smile and open heart are huge! He can make you feel very welcome – at a pilot’s party or in his house. Around Bud you are never a stranger. 

He cares. He will listen and never brush you off. And as busy as he is, it’s unbelievable how he would never make you feel rushed or unwanted.

He is wise. So many times I wanted to rush and do things my way - quick. Bud had a different opinion about it, and I’m sure glad I listened. It has always been better his way.

He makes things happen. Be it paperwork, a flight or a meeting – he is there, on time, and gets results.

He is available. I believe I got emails from him while he was cruising in his Harvard, if my Outlook does not lie…

He connects. Through Bud, I met lots and lots of great people. And the best treat was meeting his family. I had a privilege to learn aerobatics from Ross Granley, find out about kids management from his wife Carol (she is sure a pro after having handled 6!) and teach the instructor rating to Bud’s grandson Kyle.

He is best pilot I’ve seen! Snap rolling 6 000 lbs machine a couple hundred feet off the ground borders on craziness – or genius! (when repeated thousands of times).

Most of times we meet with Bud, we end up going flying. The precision aerobatic flying by Bud never stops amazing me, and each flight is a real treat. He coached me a lot remotely too. But he is more than a flight instructor. He is a teacher and a role model in so much more. Often enough, in other areas, when I was pulling my hair and losing patience with my non-performing team members or my 10-year-old kid slacking from his homework, my partner Peter kept asking me “What would Bud do?”. And when I was smart enough to pause and think, my actions often took a different course. 

Bottom line, it’s hard to express in words how grateful I am for having met this amazing pilot and person. I know for sure I would not have been where I am right now, if not for Bud’s help, guidance, teaching and patience with me.

Epilogue. It’s 3am. I scrape myself off the pillow and slide into the flight suit. I still have over 450nm to fly from Vernon, BC  this morning to Fort McMurray Airshow in Northern Alberta, and I better make it on time for the pilot briefing 10am local time, which is only six hours from now. Last night, Bud and Carol welcomed me, Dave Mathieson and his girlfriend Michelle in their cabin on the lake in Vernon, when we were stranded here by the weather. Bud was leaving much later – he can afford skipping the practice day at the show. Carol was driving us to the airport at this early hour. When I came downstairs, Bud was already finishing packing eggs and toast for the way, that he personally made for the three of us departing. Tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks. This is just kind of man of a big heart that Bud is.

For Bud Granley Airshows: www.budgranleyairshows.com.

About the author

Anna Serbinenko is a class 1 airplane and class 1 aerobatic instructor. Anna is also the only female aerobatic performer in Canada. Her passion for flying lifts her away from the daily routine into the sky with a three-dimensional freedom. The one she calls "Sky Dancing". More about Anna and her airshow schedule: www.annaserbinenko.com

Anna teaches flying in her school Canadian Flight Centre that was established in 1979. Since then, thousands pilots from over 20 countries have successfully trained with us. Graduates of Canadian Flight Centre are currently working at airlines around the world. Today, Canadian Flight Centre trains “from tailwheel to turbine” – with a big variety of courses and aircraft - and offer pilot training in two locations: Boundary Bay – Vancouver, BC and Kamloops, BC. More about CFC: www.cfc.aero

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