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Meet Mike McGuirt, UAV Coach’s New Student Support Manager

BY Zacc Dukowitz
1 August 2017

Mike McGuirt is our newest team member here at UAV Coach and will be providing support to our students who are studying to pass the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test for a Remote Pilot Certificate through our remote course at Drone Pilot Ground School.

We wanted to introduce Mike to the community, so we sat down to talk to him about his background, how he first became involved in flying UAVs, and what he’s most excited about in his new position here.

mike mcguirt drone training support
Mike McGuirt, Student Support Manager

When our students succeed, we succeed.

UAV Coach: Welcome aboard! To start out, please tell us about yourself and how you got involved in work with UAVs.

Mike McGuirt: I grew up in Arkansas, where life revolved around either a farm or factory. I knew early on that neither of these options fueled much of a desire in me, or would give me the chance to master the skills necessary to make my mark on the world. Instead, shortly after graduating from high school, I married my wife of now 32 years, Gina, and I joined the Air Force to see what life had to offer outside of Arkansas.

I spent the majority of my years in the Air Force in various positions in Personnel (or Human Resources, in civilian terms). I also spent about five years in Maintenance, working in a precision measurement equipment laboratory, where I calibrated and repaired test equipment used to support a variety of aircraft.

My wife and I traveled for nearly 28 years, living in some very unique places and meeting some really great people from around the world. Along this journey, we were blessed with the opportunity to raise our two sons, Jonathan and Jordan.

After the Air Force, I got into teaching at a high school located in—who would have guessed—Arkansas. I often think about the foreign exchange student who comes to the United States to get an education with the intentions to return to help their family, but never returns to their homeland. What an impact they could have made, not only in the lives of their family but every person they encounter.

As I start my third year of teaching, I now think about what might have happened if I hadn’t come back to Arkansas. Look at the opportunity I would have missed to mentor and impact so many young people’s lives. And to top it off, I get to fly and teach others to fly drones.

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My first encounter with UAVs was in 2015 as a way to introduce Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) into our classroom. Not having flown any type of RC craft prior, I spent many hours watching Youtube videos so I would appear smarter than my students.

After the first few flights and of course a couple of hundred Youtube videos, I was absolutely fascinated, not only with the quality of the video and pics but the technology on board that made it so easy to fly.

Along with my increasing passion for drone technology, our program has grown too. Two years ago we started with one Phantom 3, and we now have 5 drones that include the Phantom 4 and Inspire 1.

One of my goals is to provide students with the opportunity to become qualified and certified to enter the workforce as a drone operator after high school.

UAV Coach: What will you be doing for UAV Coach / Drone Pilot Ground School? Tell us about your new role and your key responsibilities.

Mike McGuirt: I have been brought on to fill the role of Student Support Manager for Drone Pilot Ground School.

The students are the most important part of our course. These men and women are working very hard to prepare for the Part 107 test and attain their small UAS remote pilot license. I ensure student success by responding to emails and phone calls regarding enrollment, course content, technical issues impacting course access, processing refunds, and issuing diplomas.

Although the course is online, the students are never alone.

UAV Coach: You served in the Air Force for an impressive 28 years. Tell us about the work you did there, and how it informs the work you do now.

Mike McGuirt: During my time in the Air Force I provided customer support to the best customers in the world. Their selfless service and personal sacrifice were a constant reminder that each situation is unique and each situation is important. The best customer service takes place behind the scenes by constantly evaluating how things are done and, where possible, putting processes in place that prevent or eliminate user interruptions. In an ideal world, all parts of the process would work so well that I would work myself out of a job.

Students enrolling in Drone Pilot Ground School are unique and their success—not only in completing the course but also in ultimately attaining their remote pilot license—is paramount.

UAV Coach: What are you most excited about in your new role as the Student Support Manager?

Mike McGuirt: I have been a lifelong learner and worked my way through college while in the Air Force, so I know what it is like to struggle through course work.

Group study never worked for me, but one-on-one attention worked every time. I have the ability to impact the success of every student, and I am most excited about ensuring that our students are set up for success.

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UAV Coach: You’re an FAA-certified drone pilot. Can you tell us about your experience preparing for and passing the exam? Is there anything you learned along the way that others could benefit from who are reading this?

Mike McGuirt: I initially started studying everything listed on the FAA website. After printing all of the references, regulations, study guides, etc. I became overwhelmed at the amount of material I had to digest and the time it was going to take to commit all of this information to memory.

The key is this: there is so much information that you should know, but there is only certain information that you need to know to successfully pass the Part 107 test. And that’s what we’re here for, to help you sift through everything and eliminate the stress of ensuring you’re covering the right material.

UAV Coach: Can you tell us about your experience working as a high school aerospace science instructor?

Mike McGuirt: I worked as an Aerospace Science Instructor for three years — our classes were very different from the typical classroom. Our program was designed to educate and train high school students in citizenship, promoting community service, and instilling personal responsibility, character, and self-discipline. We also had a physical fitness aspect that involved individual and team activities to promote healthy living.

We taught a variety of curriculum that included aerospace science, leadership education, and health and wellness. One week students would learn about the principles of aircraft flight, and the next week they would be introduced to organizational layout and design. I think students enjoyed our classes because they were exposed to such a wide variety of topics and they were actively involved in the learning process.

UAV Coach: Is there anything we should know about aerospace science that we may not? What are some of the most common points of confusion among your students when it comes to aerospace science?

Mike McGuirt: First, there were a lot of brave souls who lost their lives in the pursuit of manned aviation. Engineers can dream it up and build it, but someone had to test it.

With regard to manned flight, the majority of people take for granted how things work and simply accept that they do work, and also assume that they must be safe.

When we first dug into the concepts of Bernoulli’s Principle and how an aircraft stays aloft, students did not yet understand the importance of the wing and its surface area. They thought the wings on a fighter aircraft and the wings on a 747 were pretty much the same. The biggest challenge to getting students to understand these concepts was breaking it down into small parts and relating it to something that they had seen or encountered.

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UAV Coach: Please share anything else about your background that relates to the work you’re going to be doing with UAV Coach and Drone Pilot Ground School, or anything that you think would be of interest to our readers.

Mike McGuirt: I have spent the majority of my life supporting others to accomplish their mission and I know what good customer service looks like. Having this opportunity to continue supporting others to accomplish their mission/goal is where I’m most comfortable.

When our students succeed, we succeed.

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