Flight Training - May 2021 - 17

FIVE QUESTIONS

SHINJI MAEDA

PILOT OVERCOMES EARLY ADVERSITY
A MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH THAT BLINDED

Japanese-born Shinji Maeda in one eye
at age 18 nearly extinguished his dream
of becoming a professional pilot. Now
41, Maeda overcame the physical and
mental trauma of a crushed optic nerve to
become a commercial pilot and inspirational speaker. Growing up on his family's
farm in Hokkaido, Maeda dreamed of
flying. Maeda's mother went to the local
library to search for a special aviation
high school so Maeda could begin his
aviation studies, and he thrived in the aviation-specific high school. However, a car
hit him, causing a severe skull fracture,
brain swelling, and other damage. " Doctors gave me a 50/50 chance of survival, "
he said. Maeda lost vision in his right
eye; " In Japan I was considered handicapped. That meant I would not get a job
or have a career. My father said to me,
'Shinji, why not go to the United States
and study aviation?' " Maeda attended
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in
Prescott, Arizona. With safety professor
Ed Wischmeyer's help and his parents'
blessing, Maeda navigated the red tape,
regulations, and training to become a certificated single-engine land pilot in 2005.
He then earned his multiengine certificate and instrument rating. Maeda is a
CFI for Snohomish Flying Service, has
approximately 1,400 flight hours, and is a
Boeing operations analyst. He is planning
an around-the-world flight in May 2021.

mentally. Everything stopped. People here
in the U.S. tell me " One eye? So what? " but
it's completely different in Japan. With
this physical condition, I was called handicapped and you cannot be whatever you
want to be in Japan like in the U.S.
What is your favorite aviation-related
activity? Whenever I see a big smile on
a student's first solo flight or overcoming
an obstacle, it pays me off a lot! Especially, after they get their license, I always
feel that " We did it. Yes, we did it! " like I
became a pilot. Being a CFI is not my job,
it's my pay-it-forward opportunity. 

What is your avorite aircraft? My 1963
Beechcraft Bonanza P35. We named her
Lucy. Her birthday is the same day as
mine-7/31. Needless to say, she is much,
much more mature than me. 
Do you have any advice for students?
American aviation gave me a second chance in my life. Life is sometimes
painful. Some people complain about
everything. But guess what, suck it up
and let's move on because we are living
in a wonderful country. Have the right
attitude and you will never ever stall in
your life.

aerozypangu.com

How did you get started in aviation? I
started my aviation dreaming as a
child. There is a Japanese government
flight school where I was born, and I
watched their training Bonanzas from
my father's field. I enrolled in one of the
oldest Japanese aviation academies in
high school and studied aerospace engineering as a college student. I came to
the U.S. to study at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. 
CHRIS ROSE

What were your biggest challenges?
The car accident in 1998 in Japan when
I was a university student; I was 18 years
old and it hit me so hard physically and

AOPA.ORG/FT  17


http://www.aerozypangu.com http://www.AOPA.ORG/FT

Flight Training - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - May 2021

Contents
Flight Training - May 2021 - Intro
Flight Training - May 2021 - Cover1
Flight Training - May 2021 - Cover2
Flight Training - May 2021 - Contents
Flight Training - May 2021 - 2
Flight Training - May 2021 - 3
Flight Training - May 2021 - 4
Flight Training - May 2021 - 5
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Flight Training - May 2021 - Cover3
Flight Training - May 2021 - Cover4
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