This past week, I had the pleasurable opportunity to speak with one of our own Severn Alums, Mr. Russell Buhrer. Mr. Buhrer is currently a flight instructor and has his commercial airline certificate. In speaking with him, I was able to gage his perspective on how Severn prepared him for his career and what specifically he has been up to since the time he graduated.
Q & A with Mr. Buhrer
Tell me a little bit about your background as a pilot. Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a pilot, maybe at Severn or later on? If so, what was that moment?
Mr. Buhrer responded saying that he had a love for flying from a young age. At that time, aviation was something fun for him, rather than a career path he wanted to take. He ended up majoring in real estate and finance in college. After soon realizing that this was not truly his passion, he decided to attend the ATP Flight School in Jacksonville, Florida. From then on, he was able to pursue aviation, which he authentically enjoyed.
What was your favorite class at Severn and how did it influence your love of aviation?
Although, Mr. Buhrer did not know he wanted to be a pilot while he was at Severn, some of his favorite classes were slightly different than the career path he ultimately chose. His favorite teacher, Roger Clark, influenced him greatly as his advisor, geometry and statistics teacher. Another one of his favorite teachers was his 8th grade English teacher, James White. One of Mr. White’s most inspirable and memorable phrases he told Mr. Buhrer was, “Apply yourself in my class as if it was an airplane”. Mr. Buhrer recalled this message later in life, realizing that it was his calling.
How was the training to become a pilot? What were some obstacles you faced along the way?
Mr. Buhrer first obtained his private pilot’s license, also referred to as a multi engine instructor ticket. It took him 9 and a half months to get his flight certificate. However, there was one main obstacle that made this process challenging. Mr. Buhrer noted that the ground study was tough, specifically learning the physics aspect of flying and understanding the airplane’s systems.
What types of planes do you fly?
Mr. Buhrer said that he currently flies the Cessna 172 and the Piper Seminal and Warrior.
What are some of the farthest places you have flow to?
The farthest that Mr. Buhrer has flown to was Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, departing from Tipton Airport in Fort Meade, Maryland. A few of his other longest flights were from Jacksonville to a small airport in Tennessee and Jacksonville to Naples.
What does your pre-flight routine look like?
First and most importantly, Mr. Buhrer emphasized how crucial it is to fill out the “I am Safe” check list truthfully. This list keeps track of sickness, mental state, alcohol consumption, and fatigue. Once this is completed and Mr. Buhrer is ready to fly, he loves to drink an iced tea before takeoff.
Did you ever have a scary experience in the air? It could be due to weather, air traffic, etc.
One specific instance that Mr. Buhrer was able to recall was one of his first solo flights as a student pilot. As part of this test, he took multiple laps taking off and landing at the same airport. The first few laps were with his flight instructor and the last few were by himself. When the time came for his instructor to exit the aircraft, the wind started to pick up, once he reached cruising altitude. As one can imagine, landing was extremely difficult because of the windy conditions. Mr. Buhrer recalled how he thought he was not going to be able to land the plane. Yet, after 4 to 5 aborted landings, he was finally able to put the plane on the ground.
Have you ever had a hostile person on a flight? If so, how did you handle it?
Mr. Buhrer said that he once had a student upset with him on an instruction flight. The student was not following his orders and started yelling at him. That is when Mr. Buhrer called it enough and said that they were going back immediately.
Have you ever flown an aircraft with mechanical problems If so, how did you handle it?
On a flight out of Jacksonville, Mr. Buhrer illustrated how a simple joy ride with his friends went south. After taking off and landing multiple times, it was time for Mr. Buhrer and his friends to return to Jacksonville. However, he realized the break felt funny and figured out that the break on the left side was not working. Knowing this, he had to be cognizant of this issue on his return flight. Thankfully, he and his friends handled the problem well and arrived back in Jacksonville safely.
What is your favorite airport to take off from or fly in to and why?
Mr. Buhrer’s favorite airport to land at is on Sea Island, Georgia. He favors this airport because he enjoys landing right over the water.
If you had to choose your favorite aircraft, whether you have flown it or not, what would it be and why?
The Boeing 757 is Mr. Buhrer’s ideal aircraft to fly; however, this plane is close to retirement, so his goal may not be attainable. Although, his more realistic goal is to one day fly the Airbus 320. He would most likely fly for Delta, since that is the A320’s primary operator. Additionally, these flights would be short and have fast turnovers for the opportunity to fly commercially multiple times in one day.