Brad Wooden, M-CFI
Written by Teal Neighbors
Photographed by Randy Mallory
“Ladies and gentlemen, we might experience a little turbulence as we prepare to land, but we’ll soon be on the ground.”
After five years as a commercial pilot with Sky West, Brad Wooden felt God returning him to his alma mater. As LeTourneau University assistant professor and assistant chief flight instructor, Wooden’s world of experience has helped him become one of the top flight instructors in the country.
Wooden holds a Master Certificate Flight Instructor designation, which is an accreditation that fewer than 700 of the 93,000 certified flight instructors in the country have achieved.
The international accrediting authority, Master Instructors LLC, bestows this “Master” designation only after a process that demonstrates a flight instructor’s ongoing commitment to excellence, professional growth, and service to the aviation community. Master flight instructors also must pass a rigorous evaluation by a peer Board of Review. They are recognized as outstanding aviation educators for not only their success in teaching, but for their engagement in the continuous process of learning, both their own and their students’.
Wooden also coaches the top flight team in the country. The LeTourneau University Sting Precision Flight Team won the coveted Loening trophy last year at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON national competition. The Loening Trophy is awarded to the best collegiate flight program in the nation,. “We have always known we had a great program,” Wooden said. “Now everyone does.”
Wooden graduated from LETU in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology. He taught at a flight school in Tyler and then gained valuable commercial experience at Sky West.
“Many students have no idea what it's really like to work in that environment,” Wooden said. "It can be very different than a lot of students think. Knowing the realities of their career choices can help students be better prepared after college.”
Wooden creates media for the aviation program and enjoys showing guests the new Paul and Betty Abbott Aviation Center. He mentors new flight instructors and provides direction and solutions when students need help. Not all of the flight instruction at LETU is in an actual cockpit. Some of the flight training takes place in flight simulation labs where students practice, learn and strengthen their skills.
Students appreciate Wooden’s practical knowledge and insistence on academic excellence. Instructors willing to teach, share and listen are part of what make LETU’s aviation program so widely acclaimed. “Working with Brad is great, both in the plane and on the ground,” said Steve Cantine, a senior aviation major. “He’s got a wealth of airline experience to draw upon when he’s instructing, and he’s built an excellent rapport with students.”
Noting the purple sneakers that Wooden likes to wear, Cantine also noted with a grin, “He’s also got exceptional taste in footwear.” Would purple sneakers fly in the cockpit at Sky West?