"Most kids want to be a doctor, policemen, fireman – not me," says Keith Alder, adjunct professor, Aviation, at County College of Morris. "I wanted to be a pilot. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do."
He still remembers the first time he saw an aircraft at the age of 5 at Caldwell Airport."An F4U Cosair fighter plane from World War II and a 1930s Grumman Goose were sitting on the tarmac," he recalls. It was love at first sight.
Alder has been flying for more than 25 years and never tires of being airborne. "I see the world from the vantage point of birds," he says. "It offers an amazing perspective and makes me try not to sweat the small stuff."
He began his career with Continental Airlines working on the ramps, then through operations, quality assurance and finally as a pilot. Unfortunately, before he was assigned an aircraft, 9/11 occurred and he, along with many other airline employees, was laid off. But he doesn’t regret his ground time with Continental because it taught him how the industry works.
During his 14 years as a flight instructor at Morristown Airport, he calculates that he has taught well over 100 students. Some of them went on to jobs in the airlines. Many simply wanted to learn for pleasure flying.
One of the most challenging students he ever had was a young man who wasn’t fluent in English. "I not only had to teach him how to fly solo but also how to speak English so he could communicate properly with the tower," Alder recalls. "Watching him taxi away, take off and land without any help from anyone was very satisfying."
For the past three years, he has taught aviation at CCM including Introduction to Aviation, Private Pilot Ground School, Aerodynamics and Instrument Ground School.
He says the most gratifying aspect of teaching comes from returning graduates.
"I try to bring real-world experiences into the classroom. When they’ve started to fly and come back to say that the lessons I tried to instill in them were correct – what I described really does happen – that’s rewarding."