Bill Kershner showing his illustrations of the stall and attitude vs. angle of attack. Probably in the early 1980's.
William K Kershner fell in love with aviation as a boy watching airplanes fly over his house. He later learned to fly at Outlaw Field near Clarksville, Tennessee. After weeks of bicycling to the airport to earn flight time by washing, fueling and propping planes (starting the no-electric-system planes of the day by turning the propeller by hand), he soloed a 65 HP Aeronca Defender at the ripe old age of 16 years, 28 days with 8 hours, 20 minutes of flight instruction. Continuing to work at the airport to earn flight time, he progressed through Private and Commercial certificates to become a flight instructor at the age of 19. Those certificates allowed him to both build flight time and earn money by towing advertising banners and flight instructing. In January of 1952 he joined the Naval Aviation Cadet program and began training to become a Naval Aviator. Even with day after day of instruction in North American SNJ’s (the Navy’s version of the T-6 Texan), he made the occasional flight in an Aeronca Champ. Carrier qualification came in an SNJ on the aircraft carrier USS Cabot, followed by solo in the high performance Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat at Kingsville, Texas. It was while in training in Texas that he met his future wife of 55 years, Betty. In 4 and 1/2 years in the Navy Bill flew the radial engined SNJ, SNB (Twin Beech), F8F Bearcat, F6F Hellcat, and F4U Corsair as a night fighter pilot off the USS Philippine Sea. He also flew the jet powered TV-2 Lockheed Shooting Star, F2H Banshee, F9F-2 Panther and F9F-6 Cougar. Bill returned to civilian life and was hired as a pilot by Texas Gas Transmission Corporation to fly a Bonanza, Aero Commander 560 and as co-pilot in a DC-3. He and his family of 4 lived in Owensboro, Kentucky until he decided to return to college at Iowa State University to study journalism and aeronautical engineering (while still instructing). Part of his journalism training led him to write a flight training manual to improve on the limited manuals of the day. Written based on his many hours instructing (and filled with his hand-drawn illustrations), this was the first edition of The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual. That same month (June 1960) Bill was hired by the Piper Aircraft Corporation of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania as a demonstration and test pilot. He started work on a new book while at Piper, The Private Pilot’s Flight Manual (later renamed The Advanced Pilot’s Flight Manual). He flew some unusual aircraft types during his test flying days at Piper: the prototypes for the Comanche 400, the fiber-glass Papoose and a Twin Comanche with 290 HP engines (versus the normal 160 HP). In 1961 Bill was contacted about running the airport at Sewanee, Tennessee. He didn’t have an interest in the job, but remembered the beauty of the location when he decided to take up writing full-time in 1964. The family moved to Sewanee and Bill wrote and instructed at the Sewanee-Franklin County airport near the University of the South. The third manual printed was The Instrument Flight Manual in 1967, followed by The Flight Instructor’s Manual in1974, The Basic Aerobatic Manual in 1987 and a collection of articles and short-stories, Logging Flight Time, in 2001. William K Kershner died at home on January 8, 2007.
A few of the many honors received by William K Kershner
General Aviation/FAA Flight Instructor of the Year
GE Lecturer at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Elder Statesman of Aviation
Flight Instructor Hall of Fame
International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame
Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame
William C. Kershner
Growing up near Sewanee, Tennessee, Bill worked at the Sewanee/Franklin County Airport as a youth and soloed a TG-3A glider in Eagleville, Tennessee at the age of 14. Becoming more interested in marine biology than flying, he graduated from the Sewanee Academy and earned a B.S in zoology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Bill then spent a few years after college working in oil exploration, with time spent as a navigator on seismographic ships off the coast of South America (traveling around Brazil on his time off). At 26 he returned to Sewanee to learn to fly from his father, soloed in 1983, got busy flying in 1985 and earned the instrument and multi-engine ratings plus commercial and CFI/CFI-IA certificates. He began flight instructing out of McGhee-Tyson in Knoxville, Tennessee. Hired in 1986 by Tennessee Airways, Bill flew Bandeirantes (EMB-110) as co-pilot and captain, then flew as co-pilot on Metroliners for American Eagle in Nashville, Tennessee. He's been with American Airlines since 1989, flying right seat on the Boeing 727, MD-80, Fokker 100 and Boeing 777, with captain time in the Fokker 100 and Boeing 737-800. His favorite airliners are the Fokker 100, 777 and 737, in that order. When not spending time with his family or flying the silver 737, he flies a 1977 Cessna 182.