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Vortex Member Spotlight: John Impaglia

Sonja Wosnitzer When did you join the Jersey Aero Club? And how long have you been a member?

John Impaglia The computer says I've been a member for about three years, but I belonged to it back in the 90s. Then I took about ten or eleven year hiatus from flying, the JAC and the whole bit. And then recently ran into Dave at my store before I retired, and we spoke about it, and then I came back to the JAC.

S.W. Tell me about yourself. Are you a professional pilot? How did you find yourself in aviation?

J.I. I had a consulting job, and I used to meet a plane at Allaire to take me to Florida for a few days a week and take me back. And I stopped in at Gibson Air Academy. I don't think you know Billy Gibson, but he was an old hand at flying. He knew everything, and he convinced me to take a flight with one of his instructors, Jim Hamilton, who's a member of the club. And I liked it. So, I started learning how to fly. I probably was 40 years old then, or something. I wasn't a young guy. It went on from there. I took that one flight and I started on my private. I got my private and then I got my instrument. You know how that feels, don't you?

S.W. (laughing) And then I got my commercial. And then I went for my CFI, and I got that. It was funny, every day we go to lunch, Billy Gibson, would go to lunch. There will be all kinds of pilots, corporate pilots, airline pilots, private pilots. And everybody will go to lunch. And this one guy he congratulated me on passing my CFI. And then he says to me, does this mean I have to hire you? (laughing) So I said yes and I had my job right there. I probably gave about 5000 hours of dual in my career.

S.W. Wow. That's a significant amount of dual.

J.I. Now, while I was there, I wanted to go for additional ratings. And I had joined the Civil Air Patrol. My commander, by the way, was Tom Fleager in our club. I taught the aerospace course over at Fort Monmouth for them. As a fringe benefit, I was able to join the flying club at McGuire Air Force Base, which was very well subsidized by the Air Force. I went for my multi engine rating, multi engine instructor, multi engine instrument instructor, ATP, and got all the rest of my ratings there.

S.W. Is that still a flying club?

J.I. No. I think a few years after I finished all my ratings, they got a new base commander, and the base commander says, I don't want that here. So it wasn't there anymore. That was it. Harry Bishop, very nice guy, and my instructor while I was there... he now works for Joe Holt at the school over at Old Bridge.

S.W. Yeah. Harry Bishop. I did my multi with him.

J.I. Right? Exactly. I did my multi with him, too.

S.W. Yeah. And he's very good at what he does.

J.I. And I'm sure he put you in one of those steep turns and killed one of the engines. Which engine was going out, right?

S.W. Yes, (laughing) I'm thinking, 'dead foot, dead engine?' Yeah. That was a lot of fun. That rating. So, you didn't ever think about flying for the airlines or doing corporate?

J.I. Well, I was kind of old and my business was already going, so I was doing well. I didn't need another job, and I started seeing that sometimes those jobs are not that stable. You get a job and a company goes out of business or merges with another company, and you may not be able to live home. And I certainly didn't want to move away from my family to get a job making way less than I made at my business. I didn't really go for a job, but I was doing the ratings because they were a challenge and a lot of fun.

S.W. Tell me more about your involvement with the the Civil Air Patrol?

J.I. Yes, I was a member for three or four years. There's different areas, some areas, they do a lot of flying and search and rescue and things like that, but not so much in this area, because if something goes down in this area, the people in the house on the street where the plane landed call the cops right away, they call 911. But, it was interesting to meet a lot of nice kids, a lot of nice people. We went on some nice trips, and it's a very good organization.

S.W. I know you've been on the board for the Jersey Area Club, but what other roles have you been a part of or what other committees have you contributed toward?

J.I. Well, I'm on the membership committee, and that's a difficult committee because Cheryl works so hard, I don't get a chance to do a heck of a lot of anything, but it's very nice being on the committee with meeting the people coming in. I've sponsored quite a few members through that. Last year, I think I was the head instructor, and that's a little challenging. You get to do unpleasant things from time to time when the members are messing up. I didn't have it too bad, though. One or two little things, and that was it. But I was instructing too in the club. I've been retired for about three years and all of a sudden, anytime I wanted to do anything, I had to check my phone because I had appointments to fly. So, I retired from flight instructing. Now I go to fly whenever I feel like, if somebody hits me at the right time, I'll go with them. But I don't want to be busy working at anything. I've worked long enough, and I love to fly. And I love watching young, enthusiastic members like you working very hard towards all your ratings.

S.W. Thank you. Yeah, I love flying, and I'm kind of like you. I'm coming at this a little bit as a second career, but fingers crossed, it actually becomes one.

J.I. I'm sure it will. Every time you pay one of your flying bills, I'm the one who applies your payment, so I see how hard you're working.

S.W. (laughing) Well, then you of anyone in the club, you know, second to me!

J.I. Yes. And don't worry, no matter what they do, they can pull my nails off, I'm not talking to the IRS. (laughing)

S.W. You've got a job over there. How many tickets do you process a day or do you do it in segments?

J.I. Well, I'm retired. So, two or three times a week. I sit at computer for a couple of hours each time and process. But I have to go through all of them, and it always cheers me up when somebody takes the soda for $0.50 and writes up a ticket for $0.50 because they don't have two quarters in their pocket. S.W. That's sweet. For a second, I froze and I thought, oh, my God. Was I supposed to make a ticket as well as putting the $0.50 in the bin? S.W. Well, I know you said that you came to flying kind of later in life, but was it something, do you have pilots in your family? J.I. Let me tell you something, I never flew in anything until I was about 21. And I was going out with a Swedish girl, and we were going to Sweden to get married. This is 50 years ago, and we took a four engine propeller plane from from Kennedy to land in Sweden. It must have landed in six or seven places. We landed at Iceland. We landed at everything where we saw land, I think. And it was 24 hours from when we left New York to where we got to Stockholm. And that was my first flight. First time I was in an airplane, so I didn't get on a plane young, I don't have any relatives who were in aviation. And actually, when I took my first lesson, I wasn't thinking of getting my pilot's license. I didn't think I'd make it. I was doing this because it was cool. And I just kept going.

S.W. I love that, sometimes people have these crazy stories, or the Top Gun movie watchers. And I'm just like, your story is just as valid as anyone else's. Like that's my story. I have no pilots in my family, no one's in the military, none of that. I never thought that I would be flying really, ever as a pilot and traveled a lot, but never thought of it for myself. And here I am.

J.I. I'll tell you a little story, too. Did you ever hear about my off field landing? I did at Earl?

S.W. No.

J.I. I was with a student one day in the 152, and we were 1500ft over earl and the engine cut out. Went through all the procedures. We landed on the roof of like, a nuclear weapons bunker.

S.W. Are you serious?

J.I. Yeah. It's a dirt kind of bunker and it is where they store the nuclear weapons. So we landed there successfully, thank God, as you can see. But, the plane flipped over upside down at the end of the bunker because it was a little edge to it. In any case, the guy who was doing the 100 hours inspections Lenny at what is now called Ocean Aire. So, guess who the FAA appoints to do the investigation of why the plane lost its power? Lenny. So, he was investigating himself. Guess what he found wrong with the play? Nothing. They said nothing was wrong. But from that point on, every time I walked into the shop, everybody would stop working and say, Hi, John. It's good to see you. They were all very happy they didn't kill me.


Yeah. They owed you one.

J.I. One those funny stories!

S.W. When you landed on this, like, nuclear bunker, did they not have a lot of protections around?

J.I. Well, I said to myself, I got my student out of the plane. I got her out of the plane to get away from the plane in case something catches on fire. I said, don't worry. We'll sit here because this is the most protected spot in the whole country. It was about 25 degrees. There was snow on the ground. The wind was blowing at 30 miles an hour. And we waited ten minutes, I said ok we can't wait anymore. We walked for about 40 minutes before we found an 18 wheeler vehicle going down one of the roads, which I flared it over. They have radios in their truck, so he radioed in and that was the start of World War Three. Then everybody came out in force.

S.W. Yeah, of course.

J.I. They wanted to take us in an ambulance to get checked out. So neither one of us would go. The ambulances leave and one of them crashed into a security vehicle.

S.W. Speaking of instructing, since you do have an amazing amount of dual, what's sort of like your advice to any new CFI or someone studying for a CFI, like me?

J.I. I always tell them that when you're teaching somebody, it's not all what you say to them that's going to develop their style of flying. It's what you do in front of them. When you're in front of a student, you don't show them how to take chances, even though you're not saying it, you show them that sometimes the wise decision is not to fly, and you do it with your actions and not so much with your words. Like kids, they do what you do, not what you say. The other stuff is all in the book.

S.W. I think those are wise words because I'm thinking back even to my private instruction, and it was, you know, yiu don't know anything. And so you're right. You pick up the habits of your instructor, or you should at least. Over time you don't realize it, but you start to pick up their mannerisms and even their level of comfort with risk. I even realized sometimes myself, like, flying with new people and thinking, wow, I did not realize that you could even consider a flight under these conditions because I had been taught to be very conservative with certain things. So it's interesting that, that the law of primacy, the things you learn the first time is what you remember the most.

J.I. Yes, exactly.

S.W. I think that puts a lot of pressure on the CFI, but at the same time, they give you your license, you know what you're doing?

J.I. Well, getting the license is not exactly the same as knowing what you're doing. And we all are going to make mistakes. And there are some mistakes that we will never tell anybody else that we made. But that's the same thing that happens to kids growing up, too. There's always some things your mother and father will never know that happened.

S.W. What did you study in College and you said you're a consultant? Are you still a consultant, or do you have another business?

J.I. It was a temporary job. I had an electronics business that was a repair business, and there was a business in Florida that was in trouble, and they wanted me. It was kind of a political thing, too. So it was almost an unlimited amount of pay. I didn't want to go. So they paid me very well and they transported me back and forth so I could be there three days a week and be back at my business for the rest of the week. I was making substantial amount of money, I did it for a few months, but I really was still in my own business.

J.I. The JAC has really been great though for me.

S.W. Yeah, I agree. After I took my private check ride I took with Greg Hill, and he was like, oh, there's a flying club. Have you heard of it? And I'm like, no, and he's like, you should look into it. And I'm like, okay. And then I looked into it. I applied, and I did not think at that moment that I would be here a year later, I'll be a full member I think at this meeting, and here I am, I've added licenses, ratings, I've met amazing people. I've learned to fly different types of aircraft.

J.I. You're moving faster than anybody I've experienced. You're really doing well. And I'm sure it's not going to be long before you get a real job.

S.W. Well, thank you. That's really kind of you, but it's been awesome, actually. So I'm happy that I found the JAC.

S.W. What planes at the club do you find the most? I know you find a Mooney a lot, right?

J.I. A lot. I used to be fly the six a lot. When we had a six. I never even went back to get checked out in the Saratoga because I don't have that many people to fly around anymore. But I like the Mooney. In fact, I'm sure I have over 1000 hours in Moonies. One of my students, after he got his commercial, he went through the instrument and his commercial. We flew down to Kerrville, Texas, and I watched him hand a check for 600 grand over to Mooney for a brand new one, a turbocharged equipped with de-Icing equipment with oxygen, 25,000 foot service ceiling and it'll cruise there at 200kts.

J.I. From there, we flew up to Colorado Springs, took a mountain flying course, we went through flight safety course and emergency procedures and so on down in San Antonio and then flew around the country and everything.

S.W. So how often do you fly club planes now?

J.I. Cheryl and I fly all the time. She's my instructor. I'm her instructor, and we usually fly once a week, but we're going to start scheduling twice a week because we missed too many flights recently.

S.W. Thank you, John, very much for your time. This has been great!

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Serving as editor in chief of the Vortex, the storied publication of the Jersey Aero Club, since 2021, I am excited to pass the task over to the capable hands of Elias Zwillenberg. Throughout my tenur


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