Paramotor Safety

Free Training? Kurt Fister & Flight Junkies Review

2014-03-30 Sometimes "free" is way more expensive (aka Kurt Pfister)

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Calling a capable instructor and threatening him was the last straw. Kurt Fister (aka Kurt Pfister) needs to be exposed for his horrifically inadequate "instruction," misrepresentation, and dishonest bully tactics.

The most obvious indication of his willingness to toss reality aside is a video he posted calling certified instructors, "Scammers"--a claim that is patently ridiculous. It would be like calling PADI or NAUI instructors scammers. These are people who have demonstrated skills and knowledge PLUS, in order to rate students, they must use a thorough training syllabus. Secondly, the organization, USPPA, at least until 2016, actually offers (or did) students up to $100 incentive for completing their rating. Clearly USPPA is not in it for the money.

Far more telling are the stories. And there are many in spite of how he berates and threatens anyone who exposes his methods. I've have been since posting this. But after hearing about the video and hearing yet another story, by a well respected instructor in the sport, it's time to let others to know.

My strong recommendation is to avoid training with Kurt Fister. Even if he does get you airborne it is anything but real training. I've heard more horror stories about poor training with this "instructor" than anyone else by a long shot, several involving intimidation after failed efforts, including those with injury.

Real Training?

Real training takes time. It's hard, it's sometimes tedious, and different students learn at different rates. A good instructor knows this and will take the time needed. You will almost certainly *NOT* get that time from Kurt Fister.

Free?

First off, it's most certainly not free since you are required to pay for Kurt Fister's transportation, food and lodging. He usually gets the student to buy gear. As of 2015 he was selling the single worst inflating paramotor wing I've ever encountered (Power Atlas). I  hope you've not already been duped into buying one of those, especially if you're foot launching. The problem is that the amount of "A" pull required to inflate it in no wind curls the leading edge making it far more difficult to foot launch in calm air.

Real training is hard and there is risk, even with a conscientious instructor. In fact, it is probably the riskiest phase of a student's progress (not to be confused by specific accident causes). Kurt's methodology, which frequently involves almost no actual training with the wing, is particularly risky because it flies the student solo well before they are prepared to handle themselves in the air.

Several "students" have reported almost no kiting before they were assisted into the air. That would be like a SCUBA instructor sending his diving student into a deep dive with no pool experience.

Kurt does not do tandem or towing, either. These are not necessary but are very helpful. And if you DON'T do either one, then students must become moderately adept at kiting (or taxiing if on a cart) before venturing aloft.

Of those who have done "training" with Kurt and succeeded, many have told how they succeeded in spite of it.

He lies enthusiastically, and is very convincing, using bully tactics where he can get away with it. Don't fall for it.

He is all about selling gear and getting free travel. If you don't buy gear from him, expect even less.

Don't Skimp on TRAINING,
it's your LIFE!

Training is the absolute worst place to skimp in this pursuit. Find an instructor that will take you through the full USPPA program to a rating or at least go through the entire syllabus with or without actually getting the rating. Also, there are a number of schools that will rent you gear for training. That's even better because now they're interested only in your success, and the more successful you are, the more likely you are to buy gear -- a win win.

Lying

So what are the lies?

1. He makes the preposterous claim of being "the preeminent PPG flight instructor in the country". Rest assured that is the opposite of reality. In fact, students that come out of his "training" are suspect, being barely beyond self trained. They can succeed -- I know and respect several of them -- but they learned essentially on their own by THEIR OWN ACCOUNT!

I've observed for years that no instructor leaves a wider wake of ill-prepared students than Kurt. These observations have come from talking with students and the instructors at various schools that I have visited whether USPPA certified or not. I kept quiet until I saw, first hand, his willingness to disregard someone's site (Beach Blast) for his own childish behavior.

2. He has made the claim that I profit from USPPA -- utterly false. In fact, I put practices in place that are quite the opposite. Writing, for example. Authors for the magazine are entitled to payment. When we started doing that I implemented a policy that says officers would be excluded from the payment. At the time I was the only one (still do over 50% of the writing). I have never taken a dime of payment nor do I need to. I have turned down probably $2000 worth of otherwise eligible payments for columns and photos. Kudos, by the way, to Jeff Hamann who also donates his author's fee back to the org.

3. At the last Beach Blast he says he didn't fly low over people at the beach. What he didn't know was that I was airborne and saw him doing it quite clearly. I was just beyond the surf and he was obviously over the people. This was the first time I wrote publicly about his behavior after which he deluged me with phone calls and text messages, first threatening a lawsuit then just being annoying.

4. He tells people I "elected" myself as the first president of USPPA. Another blatant lie. Alan Chuculate was the first President. I replaced him by action of the officers after Alan Resigned due to differences in vision (he wanted a more strict ratings program with a PPG 4). Nobody has contested any office until recently and indeed new officers were voted in.

5. Kurt says that I continue to make money from USPPA. Again, I don't make a dime. None of the officers do. In fact, we have only has one paid position and it's to a contractor (the New Mojos Gear) employing a very, capable girl, Kristin who, ironically, happens to be the daughter-in-law of Kurt's supplier Chris Bowles.

6. Kurt claims that I use USPPA to market my materials. Go to USPPA.org and see. None of my products are sold or promoted in either the magazine or the website. Nothing more than an announcement is made when new products come out. I have no financial stake in Risk & Reward, having given all the rights to Lite Touch Films--another effort to avoid any possible appearance of conflict.

7. Kurt tells people (he had it up on a video) that I work 1 day a week because I get money from USPPA. This is laughable given that (a) I don't make ANY money from USPPA, (b) even if I did it sure wouldn't be worth giving up flying a 737! and c) I KNOW what I work and, as AMAZING as my schedule is, it's unfortunately far more than one day a week. At roughly 80 "trips" per month my pay is nearly a matter of public record.

I'm not terribly bright financially in many ways, though, since I spend copious amounts of time on Airhead creations stuff and give away some amount of 737 flying most months to pursue it. By time, FootFlyer nets me around $10 per hour. It's a passion. The airspace video is a good example of spending WAY too much time on a project that will likely be the least commercially appealing.

So think about it, if he's willing to lie so blatantly, and with so much conviction, about subjects that are so easily verifiable, how far can he be trusted in anything else? I'm passionate about presenting good information. That's why I took on the publishing business. It's why I'm willing to engage a $10/hr endeavor. I won't just print another 4400 books, for example, I'll do another edition--spending hundreds of hours in the process. This is a labor of love. And seeing people like this duping unsuspecting newbies is too much not to say anything.

Of course the moment he sees this he'll go berserk. So be it.

Intimidation

Part of his intimidation includes calling instructors or those who have recommended against training with Kurt and pretending to be an interested customer. Then he goes nuts on them, being insulting and verbally abusive. Supporting Kurt Fister in any way is supporting this paradigm of business and has no place in our sport or any other human endeavor.

2014-Apr-12 Since exposing his inadequate training in this article, I have received over 60 texts with everything from remarks about my personal life to an "offer" to come to my house. Of course I knew this would happen but it has never been my style to avoid doing the right thing.

People need to be aware.

You be the judge.

Finally

I've felt this way for some time but always viewed Kurt as merely bad for the individual while Dell Schanze was bad for the sport. But after talking with two prominent instructors about Kurt's training and intimidation I was motivated to act.

It's your life, don't treat it cheaply.

Avoid Kurt Fister (Phister) and Flight Junkies.

But Wait, There's More

2014-April-14

Today, another 4 of pages of texts, another "offer" to get together and, as if harassing me wasn't enough, he called a good friend of mine. Now he's wanting to do a "demonstration" of his instructing which is comical in its irrelevance.

This is complete nonsense. Of COURSE he'd be more thorough if he's being watched!

And it utterly misses the mark on why his "training" is so inadequate: no practice.

He'll frequently leave "students" with no more than 5 flights and those have been assisted. Then he goes abusing real instructors or anybody who points this out. And bullying those who point it out. Several have told me of their horrific experiences but would rather not do it publicly. Of course I can understand why.

There's a video by a former "student" that the owner won't show because he doesn't want to deal with what I'm dealing with right now. He offered for me to put it up but I'm trying to get the Airspace video done. My goal is that people be warned about inadequate training. That's another reason why I encourage new entrants in the sport to go to an instructor willing to use the entire USPPA program through a rating.

He discredits USPPA instructors because there are accidents. Learning is a very dangerous part of a pilot's career but your BEST ODDS are to choose someone who embraces a thorough, methodical approach. USPPA at least is trying to set standards. He would no more report an accident than he would follow an organization's syllabus. And the accident database is open to him.

It's just a travesty and the fact that he is willing to spew this stuff with so much volume is detestable. The constant bullying, too -- calling those who speak honestly about him incessantly -- is one of a number of horrific behaviors. All the attempts at personal attacks and lies -- it's impressive in its lack of tact.

They're not conversations about anything, they're threats. "I know of accidents that haven't been reported by your instructors" he says. WELL REPORT THEM!!!! The incident database is open TO EVERYBODY!!!!

I've written about accidents by Kurt's students and have NEVER ONCE mentioned who the instructor was--a courtesy I extend to anyone. Accident writeups are about learning. I will still honor that.

One of his many and lengthy texts accused me of hiding accidents--that I don't write about them. A fire, a drowning, wires, etc. But of course *I DO* write about them! In gory detail. I've written about every single one of them that I know about including the recent drowning!

This is what I mean about his willingness to make stuff up out of whole cloth. It's truly amazing.

Don't skimp on training! Find an instructor willing to take you through a full program, including ground good ground handling skills and knowledge.


© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!