Not every Gleim Aviation customer who earns their commercial pilot license sticks to norm of flying passengers to and fro. Read about these Gleim customers who are commercial pilots with unique expanded skill sets.

The Art and Artist of Wing Walking

Teresa Stokes Wing Walker and Gene Soucy
Photo courtesy: Gene Soucy Airshows

It started in 1988 with a thumbs up. Twenty-nine years later, aerobatics pilot and wing walker Teresa Stokes is still at it.

When Stokes, who is a pilot with multi-engine, instrument, and commercial ratings, went for a ride with the legendary airshow pilot Gene Soucy, she said she didn’t plan on becoming a wing walker.

“I was an aerobatic pilot when I met Gene,” she said. “He had just finished building this plane for wing walking, and I went for a fun ride for the heck of it. The next Spring rolled around, and the girl who was going to wing walk moved out of the country.”

Stokes, who used Gleim Aviation during her instrument training, and grew up around aviation with “five girls in her family who fly,” decided to fill in and is still at it. Stokes said for her first wing walking flight, she was buckled into the platform on top of Soucy’s modified Grumman Ag Cat.

Teresa Stokes Wing Walker
Photo courtesy: Gene Soucy Airshows

“When you do that on takeoff, the tail is on the ground and nothing is below you until the tail comes up, then the wing is below,” she said. After that experience, she started climbing into the cockpit before landing.

Stokes says it’s still a thrill to “climb onto the top, put the belt on, and then do loops, rolls, hammerheads, and Cuban 8s.”

Teresa Stokes
Aerobatic pilot Teresa Stokes has been a wing walker for 29 years.

She is internationally known not only for her skills as a top stunt woman and wing walker, but also for her aviation artwork.

She started her art career at age 4 by winning a contest and then went on to study art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Atlanta College of Art. As an Associate Member of the Guild of Aviation Artists, Stokes’ specialty is aircraft renditions and illustrations. Her aviation art portfolio ranges from Word War II to space objects, and her work is exhibited in galleries around the world. Stokes also plays the guitar, is a vocalist, and she is a member of the Flying Musician’s Association.

“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet,” Stokes said. “I paint, travel, perform, fly, see different towns around the country and the world and meet a lot of people.”

Learn more about Teresa Stokes and Gene Soucy.

Pilot Transports Donor Gifts of Life

John Rimes
John Rimes

Veteran Commercial Pilot John Rimes was excited to transport a live patient recently to the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. “I went to get a 3-month-old baby from Pensacola and brought her to the natal unit,” he said.

A few days prior, Rimes made a flight to Jackson, Mississippi, to retrieve a set of lungs. As a pilot at University Air Center (UAC), which is based at Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV), Rimes is on call to jump in the charter company’s Cessna Citation Ultra and pick up medical crew, organs, and patients and deliver them to hospitals, the Mayo Clinic, and UF Shands.

UAC Life Flight
Pilot John Rimes transports a medical crew for University Air Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Rimes, who is co-owner of Flying Tiger Airport at New River Estates in Worthington Springs, Florida, used Gleim Aviation to obtain his Flight Instructor certificate.

He said has been a pilot since 1978 and has logged more than 20,000 hours. His role with UAC has been one of his favorite jobs. He said he is honored to use his aviation skills to help hospitals and medical personnel save lives.

“Talk about rewarding. It’s sad that someone had to perish, but somebody got a heart, somebody got a liver, and somebody else has new lungs.”

Learn more about University Air Center and Flying Tiger Airport.

Up, Up, and Away

When Sunrise Community, a nonprofit company serving people with disabilities in Miami, Florida, needs people to operate hot air balloons for fundraising events, they turn to their own corporate pilots.

In order to operate a hot air balloon, a pilot needs a Lighter-Than-Air with Airborne Heater certificate. Photo courtesy Celebration Aviation.

That’s how Gleim Aviation Editor and former corporate pilot Char Hajdaj came to acquire her Lighter-Than-Air with Airborne Heater rating more than a decade ago.

“I flew corporate for Sunrise Community,” Hajdaj said. The company held a yearly fundraiser hot air balloon event, she added. “One year they just decided that their airplane pilots should be a part of it.”

So Hajdaj went to Tampa for training at Celebration Aviation, a full-service hot air balloon company serving the southeastern United States.

“Coming from being an airplane pilot, I thought ‘balloons are nuts,’” Hajdaj said.

“You have absolutely no control; you’re at the mercy of the winds. When I first started I thought, ‘Is this how it’s supposed to be?’” Hajdaj changed her mind after taking the controls and operating the aircraft.

“They’re beautiful,” she said. “When you are flying around in the morning, you’re low. People are getting ready for work, going to school, and are waving and saying good morning to you. “It’s super quiet, except when you apply the heat.”

Char Hajdaj flying a Beechcraft Bonanza

Hajdaj said there are logistics to consider when planning a balloon outing. “Conditions have to be perfect. Low wind, visibility. As soon as the sun comes up, the wind picks up. And you need your chase crew,” she said.

Hajdaj said she hasn’t flown a balloon in a while, so she would need a refresher to pilot one again. “Licenses don’t expire, but you need to keep them current,” she said. “I would need a refresher, and do three take offs and landings in order to take passengers again.”

Hajdaj, who used Gleim Aviation during her multi-engine and Airline Transport Pilot training, was a corporate pilot for 15 years and is a Flight Instructor, Basic Ground Instructor, Airline Transport Pilot, and Remote Pilot. She is now the Gleim Part 141 Chief Ground Instructor and a full-time Aviation Editor at Gleim Aviation.

Learn more about Sunrise Community.

Suzette Cook, Gleim Aviation

About Gleim Aviation
Since 1980, Gleim Aviation’s team of pilots, instructors, writers, designers, and programmers has helped aviators pass millions of FAA knowledge and practical tests using the unique Gleim Knowledge Transfer System. Gleim is an environmentally friendly company headquartered in Gainesville, FL. Learn more at www.GleimAviation.com or call (800) 874-5346 ext. 471.