Field Morey, IFR Training Guru

Instructor Field Morey stands next to his Cessna T182T in the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Seth Hofstetter

Imagine this scenario: You jump in your family airplane and depart into a clear blue sky. You’d have to stay aloft for 4.25 years to match the 37,200 hours in flight instructor Field Morey’s logbook. And you’d have to seek out the worst weather along the way to experience what Field has flown through in the almost six decades he’s been teaching his fortunate students to fly on instruments.

Field comes from one of aviation’s well-known families. His father, Howard Morey, was born in 1903, the same year the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Howard took his first airplane ride in 1918, and not long after, he began teaching others to fly in a war-surplus Curtiss JN-4 Jenny. In 1927, the elder Morey even flew with Charles Lindbergh in Spirit of St. Louis when Lindy stopped by Pennco Field, Wisconsin, the flying field Howard had built.

The generational lineage of the Morey family is evident at Middleton Municipal Airport (C29), which was built as Morey Airport in 1942. Field’s son, Richard, and daughter, Debbie, still operate Morey Airplane Company as the airport’s FBO, and for about as long as there have been general aviation airplanes flying in Wisconsin, you could find a Morey flying one of them, generally always Cessna products.

Field first soloed in the family Cessna 195 at the age of 14, signed off by his father/CFI while on a family vacation in Mexico, where there was no age limit for solo. He soon earned his private pilot license and, with a fresh commercial rating, started flying charters at age 19. Field was headed directly to the airlines as a pilot until a conversation with his father—an airline executive at the time—changed that trajectory.

“I wanted to be an airline pilot,” Field says, “but on a fishing trip in Montana, my dad talked me out of it. He told me I’d be flying the same routes with a different copilot every day, and urged me to stay at the family airport and get my instructor rating because working with student pilots who enjoyed what I was teaching them would give me a lot of satisfaction. Two years later, at the age of 22, I earned my limited flight instructor and LFI instrument ratings, passing both check rides in one day.”

Conrad Tietell, center, answers a newspaper reporter’s question during the Salem, Oregon, stopover for the 2014 Capital Air Tour. Courtesy Dan Pimental

Today, Field continues to stay active as an instrument instructor, flying what he calls “IFR Adventure Flights.” These highly effective trips are an ingenious combination of an accelerated IFR training curriculum married to a multiday scenic flight filled with food, fun, and the kind of pilot camaraderie we aviators know and love. His company, Morey’s West Coast Adventures, completed its 465th IFR Adventure Flight in early 2020. He has sought out real-world weather on trips to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, throughout the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest and in busy California airspace in his 2012 Cessna T182T or 2017 Cessna Corvalis TTx. In between flying in the kind of IMC that instills confidence in his students, it is not uncommon for one of Field’s student pilots to pull a pretty nice fish from a pristine Rocky Mountain stream during a stopover.

Interestingly, the IFR Adventure Flights that have defined Field’s career were not part of some grand business plan he conceived; they sort of happened by chance.

Read More from Dan Pimentel: In Depth

“There were a couple of young gas boys who were both pilots working at our airport in Middleton,” Field explains, “and one had a father that was a pilot for Northwest Airlines. He had told his son that Northwest was accepting applications for pilots with two years of college and an instrument rating, with the next class date coming up soon. They knew I was a flight instructor, so we decided that it wasn’t going to cost much more for both of them to get their instrument rating if we went on a long trip than if we just flew around Morey Airport in Middleton.”

The genesis of Field’s IFR Adventure Flights was in motion. One morning in August 1966, Field and his two students departed in a brand-new Cessna 172 Skyhawk with limited IFR instrumentation and headed west. “I was in the right seat,” Field says, “and the two students each took turns flying, with the other student in the back seat watching and taking notes. We’d land, swap seats and off we’d go again. Three days later, we reached the West Coast, turned left, and headed down to Los Angeles before turning left again and heading back to Wisconsin two days later. After seven days and 50 hours of flying, those two students had their ratings, and soon I began regularly flying these IFR training trips to the West Coast.”

Many of Morey’s IFR Adventure Flights are flown in his 2017 Cessna Corvalis TTx. Darin LaCrone

Field found that by condensing the training into a few days, students did not have to relearn what happened on their last lesson. “When I do several instruction days back to back, my students retain the material, and that makes them safer pilots. Of course, I teach the IFR skills they need to know, but the concepts of pitch, power and trim are constantly reinforced. I teach them that your left hand controls your airspeed and your right hand (on the throttle) controls your altitude. These are basic skills that make you a better pilot, whether you’re flying on instruments or visually,” he says.

In 2014, Field and copilot Conrad Teitell flew an ambitious mission in Field’s Corvalis TTx to raise public awareness about how smaller municipal airports can be an important business asset for cities and a gateway for bringing new tourism traffic into the area. Their Capital Air Tour scheduled stops at every state capital except Honolulu in just two weeks. At most stops, the pilots were met by local media, and as cameras rolled, the pilots talked about the many benefits of promoting local airports.

If you’re wondering how Field got his name, you are not alone. The day he was born in 1938, his father was awarded the contract by the city council of Madison, Wisconsin, to be the city’s first airport manager. Field explains that throughout his father’s long career, most landing spots were called “fields,” and so the name Field was chosen for his newborn son, “most likely because naming me ‘airport’ would have just been weird,” he jokes.

Field seems to gravitate toward hard IMC, a signature attribute that has made him one of the flight training industry’s most respected instrument flight instructors. It is a rare opportunity one gets when they train with someone like this because any instructor who has flown through the kind of real-world weather that Field Morey calls home and logged north of 37,000 hours along the way must know a thing or two.

This story appeared in the October 2020 issue of Flying Magazine

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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