A big shout out to Captain Ralph J. Rina who turned 70 this week. I met Ralph in early 1967 at our flying club at the Hawthorne Airport sponsored by Rose Aviation. In June of that year, when I graduated from Hawthorne High School, my mother gave me a present of $200.00 in which I was going to take advantage of the super deal Ralph was offering in his Piper Apache N4013P. Ten hours of dual instruction toward a Multi-engine rating on my now four month old private pilots license. This began our friendship, and later he was my instructor for my commercial and flight instructors licenses.
A co-pilot for Continental Airlines when we met he taught pilots at his work and his 'off time'. At Continental in the training department, at one time he flew Robert Six, the founder of the airline, to various locations. A loyal employee, he rode through the turbulence of the labor strife that buffeted the airline in the mid 1980's, and into eventual profitability and into the now combined United / Continental airlines.
Never one to offer unsolicited advice, he was always willing to listen to your problems and offer another perspective, as well as good advice that always served me well.
I recall an incident in the summer of 1967 that boosted my self confidence needles to the stops. Ralph had asked me to fly the Apache down to the marine corp air station in Yuma Arizona to pick him, and two other marine reservists up. Flying into this strange airport, in this plane with twin engines, requesting the tower for clearance to land, and still just 17 years old, affirmed my confidence as a pilot.
All my best to the best pilot, and certainly the best flight instructor that I know.