Judy Phelps named National Certified Flight Instructor of the Year

March 02, 2011
Santa Paula News

When you drive east on Santa Maria Street and come to the parking lot of Santa Paula Airport, turn right and head straight: you’ll be stopped by the CP Aviation building, home to Judy Phelps, the recently named National Certified Flight Instructor of the Year.

The announcement that Phelps, who has only been a pilot since 1994, was selected as the nation’s top instructor was not a surprise, as she previously was selected for the Western-Pacific regional honor.

At least not a surprise to others, although, “I was very surprised by it,” when Phelps said she learned of the award February 22. “Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about it, knew they were going to pick a winner,” but the pending announcement had submerged into her subconscious, perhaps because, Phelps said, she did not expect to be named.

“It’s a very humbling experience, a huge honor” that garnered Phelps and her husband Clay an all expense paid trip in July to the world’s largest air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the award ceremony. Also traveling to Oshkosh will be Phelps’ friends, aviators Robin Sullivan and Judy McCarthy; she said her father would meet her there for the days of festivities.

Phelps said the award is especially appreciated, as “The first time I ever took the controls it never crossed my mind” aviation would become her passion. And her career: “Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought I would become a flight instructor... it didn’t start out that way, it was just something I was going to do. It really just happened - me being me, doing things I like. The real love of aviation,” she noted, “came from being at the airport, CP Aviation, the people I’ve met - aviators and students.”

Although a pilot for less than 20 years, Phelps has already racked up a lifetime’s worth of awards, recognitions and accomplishments. A three-time Master and a member of IAC as well as SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators), Phelps recently renewed her Master CFI-Aerobatic accreditation.

Phelps specializes in aerobatic and Emergency Maneuver Training, and she also serves as a FAASTeam representative in the FAA’s Van Nuys FSDO area. She was the first woman to earn the aerobatic accreditation, and is in rare company: of the approximately 93,000 CFIs in the nation, fewer than 700 have achieved the higher distinction. The last 15 national Flight Instructors of the Year were Master CFIs, while Phelps is one of only 51 California teachers of flight to earn this prestigious “Master” title, and one of only 24 nationwide to earn aerobatic accreditation.

Her accreditation as a Master CFI-Aerobatic (Certificated Flight Instructor-Aerobatic) was renewed by Master Instructors LLC, the international accrediting authority for the Master Instructor designation as well as the FAA-approved Master Instructor Program. She first earned this national professional accreditation in 2006, has held it continuously since then, and is one of only 81 worldwide to earn the credential three times.

Phelps’ father-in-law, the late legendary aviator Bob Phelps, taught Judy how to fly and she got her private pilot license in 1999. The owner/operator with husband Clay of CP Aviation, a staple of Santa Paula Airport, she also serves as the president of the Board of Directors of the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula.

The mission of the AMSP is “to educate the public of all ages in aviation and its history, both in general and as it relates to Santa Paula, and to inspire, motivate and challenge the younger generation to carry on the dreams of our aviation pioneers.” As president, Phelps is currently focused on the renovation and development of the Museum’s new Home Hangar and offices.

Phelps was recognized by the Ventura County Chapter of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots (an organization co-founded by Amelia Earhart) as “2006 Woman Pilot of the Year,” and the Southwest Section of the organization awarded her “2008 Professional Woman Pilot of the Year.” As past chair of the local chapter Phelps remains active in chapter activities, promoting and encouraging women in aviation. She has taught seminars for pilots throughout the state.

She has also been an active member of the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) Chapter 49, serving on the board, competing and working in various volunteer positions at aerobatic contests, and hosting many of the chapter’s meetings at CP Aviation. Phelps is qualified as an aerobatic judge, and has sponsored IAC judge’s schools at Santa Paula airport.

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