“And they overcame [satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…”
Hey, My name is Michael Burbella. I am 20 years old, I am a commercial pilot, and I was just hired to work for Southern Airways Express flying a Cessna Caravan out of Hawaii! This is my dream, as well as a tremendous opportunity, but it would not have been possible without the journey I took with Inspiration Aviation Ministries.
I was born in Canada, and it was in the same place that I took a discovery flight in a Cessna 172 that made me fall in love with aviation. Since then, I decided to pursue an aviation centered career, which ultimately led to where I am today. Having a family without any aviation industry experience did not stop me from getting involved in it, and I found myself at a hangar in Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida (where I lived). It was a promotional event for IAM, where I met some of the organization’s key contributors, including Roscoe Bartlett and George Niemann. One chat led to another, and soon I was seated in the left seat of a Piper Warrior for my first flight lesson! Under normal circumstances, beginning my flight training so early was not more than a dream, and here I was landing the airplane on my own for the first time, and I just started highschool! Not only did I score a few hours of flight training, attending IAM’s summer camp in Maine gave me exposure to ground school, simulator training, and hands-on experience building an experimental aircraft. Inspiration Aviation Ministry’s mission is to instruct young adults in order to get their pilot’s license in a Christ-centered environment, and the members of IAM did exactly that. I enjoyed it then, but I would not realize how important it was for me until much later.
Out of highschool, I took an unusual route in contrast to my college bound peers, and enrolled in a Christian trade school called the International ALERT Academy in Texas. Following some miscellaneous training including firefighting and diving, I began working on my Private Pilot’s License. As I progressed through my early lessons, I picked up in-flight maneuvers quickly, and so far ground school was easy to grasp. Now I’m not making this point just to gloat, I did not realize why I was doing well until my instructor remarked about the previous entries in my logbook. It made sense, my previous experience with IAM, that started in that simple airport hangar, prepared me for the lessons I had taken, and set me ahead of the game. Around 50 hours of flight time later, I passed my Private Pilot checkride; however, my aviation journey did not stop there. Following my graduation from ALERT, IAM heard about my recent checkride pass, and reached out to me about getting my Instrument Rating.I returned home from Texas, said goodbye to Mom and Dad yet again, and jam-packed one suitcase for a one way ticket to Waterville, Maine, to begin my next chapter in my aviation biography.
The next 3 months were challenging. A different house, a different neighborhood, a different car, no friends to hang out with. I was not in Florida anymore… Instead, I was actually missing the heat, as the temperature dipped below 50. On top of that, getting your Instrument Rating is no easy task, and it was easy to feel overwhelmed considering the whole situation. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” I spent heaps of time worrying, struggling to understand my material, along with coordinating lessons among multiple instructors. “What if I don’t do well on my stage check?”, “What happens if I fail my written test?”. Looking back on my experience now, what I really needed to worry about was doing my best, because that is what is in my control, and God will take care of everything else. One Instrument checkride later, I stepped out of the Cessna 172 RG and, still filled with euphoria, thought about kneeling down and kissing the tarmac. I had finally earned my Instrument Rating! Looking back, I was and still am very grateful to instructor Eddie Mosch, who flew all the way up from Florida to give me ground and flight instruction, as well as George Niemann, who both did my stage checks, and gave me a flight lesson in a float plane! I also got all of my time in a Redbird simulator, and a bulk of my flying time thanks to Instructor Gregory Jolda. These instructors were the backbone of everything I learned, and they supported and encouraged me throughout my entire training experience. I also had the opportunity to volunteer for the same IAM summer camp that I attended when I was younger, and it was a lot of fun investing into the next generation of pilots. With the biggest hurdle out of the way, it was time to get my Commercial Pilot’s License.
With my Private Pilot’s License and Instrument Rating in the books, the last step I needed to take was my Commercial License. IAM made another great deal with me, and I got myself a one-way ticket back to Florida just like I had coming to Maine… except this time in a Piper Warrior, and a much much longer ETA at 130 mph. To my surprise, it was the same Piper Warrior airplane that I did my first initial flight lessons in at the beginning of highschool. Piper Warrior and I became best buds over the next few months as I built flight time and practiced maneuvers. With so many hours to build, I had several incredible opportunities, including: introducing friends and family to flying for their first time, delivering a package for mission work in Africa, and even taking my Dad to a Living Water’s board meeting. These ventures eventually led up to my latest checkride, and as of right now, I can confidently tell you that I am a certified commercial pilot at the age of 20! I am very grateful for the opportunities that both God, and Aviation Inspiration Ministries provided me with because without them, I would probably still be saving money to even begin my flight training. My involvement with IAM, and their mission to train young pilots for mission work, has and continues to be very important to me, and I am excited to see what God has in store for me in the aviation field.