Tempe Huscha thinks her grandmother flies all the planes.
In fact, the first time the 4-year-old saw a plane in the sky and was in the same room as her grandmother, Brenda Tibbs, Tempe looked at her grandmother with a face of confusion.
“She didn’t know what was going on,” Tibbs said. “My daughter tells me she always points and says it’s Grandma” in the sky.
Tibbs doesn’t fly all the planes. But she’s earning quite the reputation for teaching people to fly them. She was selected by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association as the best flight instructor in the country in 2016 for her Bravo Flight Training school at Frederick Municipal Airport.
“That was very surprising,” Tibbs said. “But I think I just have wonderful students. I love what I do, and I think it helps that I keep them active outside of just training.”
Tibbs started the business in the spring and officially opened in August. For the first couple of months, she operated out of her car, until she eventually leased three planes and one flight simulator to use for training.
Her love of flying started when she went to an air show in Frederick, which left Frederick in 2003 and moved to Martinsburg, West Virginia. She was 32 at the time.
The air show had a stand that offered introductory lessons, and she decided to sign up for them. She was hooked. It took a while for her to make the call that this is what she wanted to do, but she finally did it.
Tibbs started working at the Airways Inn, the airport restaurant, in 2009 while she took classes to become an instructor. The job was a means to an end, and it gave her the flexibility to be around the planes as often as possible.
But it was there that she met a group of women who introduced her to the Sugarloaf Ninety-Nines. The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of approximately 5,000 licensed pilots from 35 countries. The Ninety-Nines work to provide women more opportunities in aviation and provide networking and scholarship opportunities.
Tibbs moved to two different flight schools, where she worked as a part-time instructor and eventually a full-time instructor. Before opening her business, she worked for the AOPA as an aviation technical specialist.
Tibbs’ children, Randy and Rihannon, joke that their mom’s real goal is to work in every building at the airport.
“If I become a state trooper I’ll be in good shape,” Tibbs quipped, referring to the Maryland State Police’s rescue helicopter, Trooper 3, based at the Frederick airport.
Steve Richter credits Tibbs’ demeanor for making her such a successful flight instructor.
Richter, who works as a banker and lives in Eldersburg, has been using Tibbs as his instructor since 2012. Tibbs was teaching at a different flight school at the time, but Richter immediately gravitated toward her. He used Tibbs as his private instructor to earn his private pilot certification.
Now, as he strives to earn his commercial pilot’s license, he attends Bravo Flight Training for Tibbs’ instruction.
Tibbs is easygoing, but also demanding of Richter. She demands perfection of her students, and Richter likes that. Richter cast his vote for Tibbs as instructor of the year.
“I know that if I pass by her standards, then I am going to exceed the minimum standards for any test I go to take,” Richter said.
Despite the high standards, Richter still feels like he can joke around with Tibbs. He recalls a time he was preparing to fly and tried to move the plane forward, but the plane wouldn’t move.
Tibbs had her foot on the brake. So, Richter lightheartedly smacked her on the knee.
“Don’t touch my plane,” Richter joked. “I’m in charge now.”
Tibbs has also worked to foster a sense of community among her students. Because flight schools can take from a month for tremendously dedicated students to years for people taking their time, building relationships is an important aspect of being a good instructor.
She offers her students tours of the control towers at the airport. She also brings in pilot examiners to come talk to students to ease the pressure of exams.
She has even organized flights with her students to go to breakfasts and lunches throughout the state.
“Flying is a lot of fun, but it’s even more fun when it’s a community,” Richter said. “You get together with people you share a common interest with, and you have the opportunity to get together and have fun. It also allows me to meet people that can help me with practice and serve as a safety pilot. So it’s incredibly valuable.”
Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.