Flying old school

A passion for aviation

Jason Grieff is passionate about aviation. As a child he loved hanging out at what he calls “grass-roots” airports, small airports such as the Smith Mountain Lake Airport in Moneta. It was there he learned to fly, the old fashion way, without computerized instruments. Now the 40-year veteran commercial airline pilot spreads his passion for aviation by teaching those same old school skills.

Captain Grieff has been a pilot for Southwest Airlines for 24 years. In 1998 he started a seasonal seaplane operation and school in Vermont. He stills owns and operates Seaplanes R Fun and in November 2017 he purchased SML Aviation from Brant Howell. It is a perfect fit since Grieff and his wife live six months out of the year in Moneta, at the Smith Mountain Lake Airport.

“I’m a flight enthusiast,” said Grieff. “I’m passionate about it. So SML Aviation is going to remain a flight school with sightseeing tours and solo camp for kids and old school aviation. I’ve got a 1941 Piper J4. We specialize in old fashion grassroots aviation. We specialize in tail wheel training and seaplane training, that’s our forte. However, we do have a Cessna 150 and 172, you can get your private and commercial license in too.”

Flight School

That grass roots aviation is what sets SML Aviation apart. Grieff believes learning on these older airplanes, makes better pilots. The Piper J4 starts by hand turning the propeller. Once in the air pilots do not navigate by computer. They navigate by sight; looking for landmarks, following roads and relying on maps.

Aviation seaplane

Courtesy of Jason Grieff

“Flying an older airplane takes stick and rudder skills,” explains Grieff. “The older airplanes are a bit harder to fly than the newer airplanes because the newer planes have an easier take off and landing. And the newer airplanes have instrumentation and avionics that are so much simpler. The older planes are a bit harder to fly, but if you learn how to fly these older type airplanes you can fly any airplane in the world.”
Captain Grieff has more than 37,000 hours in the air. He is an instructor for the airlines and has teaches people to fly many different types of airplanes.

“I can tell you who has stick and ruder skills and who doesn’t after flying with them for a day because a lot of people learn in what we call class cockpits where it’s very simple to navigate,” added Grieff. “In the airplanes we have, these instruments are very old and there’s no easy way to navigate. The old fashion piloting skills that’s what I want to pass on to the youth.”

The Fly-in

Grieff believes passing on these “old fashion piloting skills” gives pilots a foundation that enables them to handle whatever problem they may encounter in the cockpit. You can learn more about the planes and see them up close on April 8. SML Aviation is hosting a Fly-in Open House. There will be a cookout, raffles for a free plane ride and a chance to meet the new owners.

SML Aviation is also having a Solo Camp starting on June 4. “We’ll have room for 6 to 8 high school students who will be able to solo in a Cessna 150 in about 10 hours,” said Grieff. “Hopefully the ones who really enjoy it will further their instruction with us.”
The cost of the camp is $850. It will take about three weeks to get enough hours in to make the solo flight, Grieff said.

Grieff will be 63 in two months. He said developing SML Aviation and Seaplanes R Fun are a part of his upcoming retirement.

Click here to learn more about SML Aviation.

appeared in the March 28, 2018, “Laker Weekly.”

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