(727) 461-5229

About Our Team

Tampa Bay Aviation

 

Laura Taylor

Owner, Airplane Charter Pilot, C-SIP

Laura Taylor has been a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI, CFII, MEI) in airplanes since 2006. She comes from a family of pilots and grew up around aviation, which fueled her passion. Laura and her husband, Zack, opened up the flight school in March of 2012 and have truly enjoyed growing the company to where it stands today and introducing hundreds of new people to aviation. Laura has completed the Cirrus Factory training to become a Cirrus Instructor (CSIP) and enjoys transitioning people in our SR22 or SR20, or their own aircraft. In addition to flight instructing, Laura also enjoys flying as a contract pilot in a King Air 350, Challenger 604/605, and Citations. When not flying, Laura enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons and being on the water.

Laura has the following ratings:
‚ÄĘ Commercial: Single/Multi Engine Land & Sea
‚ÄĘ Airline Transport Pilot: Fixed Wing
‚ÄĘ Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII, MEI

Zack Taylor

Owner, Chief Helicopter Pilot, Helicopter Charter Pilot

Zack currently oversees Tampa Bay Aviation’s part 61 and part 141 helicopter flight school as chief helicopter instructor and is also Tampa Bay Aviation’s helicopter charter chief pilot as well as director of operations. His previous experience includes flying Eurocopters for AirLife in Florida and Georgia as well as Bell Helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico to the oil platforms. Zack’s extensive experience and knowledge with helicopters drives Tampa Bay Aviation’s helicopter flight school to exceed expectations and continue to grow into a prestigious establishment also including helicopter tours and now helicopter charters.

Zack has the following ratings:
‚ÄĘ Airline Transport Pilot: Helicopter
‚ÄĘ Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII
‚ÄĘ Commercial: Single Engine Land

Chief and Assistant Chief Pilots

Paul Kahler

Chief Fixed-Wing Pilot

Paul is a 19 year veteran of the FAA.  His experience and training are invaluable in ensuring top-notch training for our students.

Paul has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land/ Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII

Daniel Klein

Assistant Chief Instructor, Charter Pilot, Airplane Flight Instructor

Born in Dunedin, FL, Daniel attended University of South Florida achieving a B.A. in International Relations. He started flying at the age of 14 and his first interaction with planes was actually here at the Clearwater Airpark washing airplanes, using the money he earned to pay for flying lessons. He obtained his private pilot license at the age of 17.  He took a sabbatical from flying for a while but returned in the summer of 2016 and achieved his goals to obtain his Instrument, Commercial, CFI and CFII certifications. His favorite aircraft is the Cirrus. Just recently he flew his furthest flight yet to Texas volunteering his flight time flying relief supplies for Hurricane Harvey. He enjoys flying and instructing future pilots to reach their goals in the aviation world.

Daniel has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land/ Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII

Dennis Berghuijs

Assistant Chief Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot, Helicopter and Fixed-Wing Charter Pilot

Dennis Berghuijs, originally from The Netherlands, moved to Florida in 2013 to pursue a career in the aviation industry. After successfully completing the FAA and EASA pilot programs, he became an active Certified Flight Instructor in 2014 and joined Tampa Bay Aviation in 2016. In addition to instruction, Dennis does Tour, Photography and Charter flights.

Dennis has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced
  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII
  • Cirrus:¬† TCI

Airplane Instructors

Robb Swiatek

kevin kovacs

Airplane Flight Instructor

Kevin, who is from Allentown, PA, began learning to fly when he was just 17.¬† His interest in becoming a pilot was ignited by watching his older brother who was taking lessons.¬† After obtaining his flight instructor license, Kevin’s first flying job was a challenging one working for the U.S. Navy in Maryland as a civilian contractor teaching sailors to fly and achieve their first solo in just 10 lessons.¬† Kevin re-located to sunny Florida with its year-round great flying weather so he can log more hours and eventually move on to the airlines.

Kevin has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI
 
Mike Longnecker

Mike Longnecker

Airplane Flight Instructor

Mike was born in Dunedin, Florida where he played hockey for 20 years, and then attended the University of South Florida for college. Mike came to Tampa Bay Aviation to get his private pilot license before going to ATP to complete the rest of his ratings. His parents have worked for an airline for his whole life, so Mike one day hopes to work for the airlines as well!

 

Mike has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Cirrus Training Center Instructor (TCI)
 
Mike Longnecker

Eddie Ruiz

Airplane Flight Instructor

Since Eddie was 7 years-old he has dreamed of flying! For Eddie, there is something about being in the sky with the birds that is absolutely freeing and provides a different perspective on the world. Raised by a single mother, and the youngest of three children, Eddie found his purpose in aviation. Eddie believes life has a way of showing you when and where you’re supposed to be….all you have to do is listen. In June of 2017 he completed his first solo flight and it changed his life. ¬†After nearly 14 successful years in the corporate world and two degrees, he began to pursue his true passion. Eddie started his pilot-training right here with Tampa Bay Aviation and finished it elsewhere. After finishing his ratings and longing for a return to the family style environment, he returned to Tampa Bay Aviation to give back what was given to him and to aid anyone in pursuit of their dreams of flight. One of Eddie‚Äôs favorite parts of instructing is the “AH HA” moment when the light bulb turns on….the moment when someone finally understands what they are doing, how it’s supposed to be done and why they’re doing it. Eddie thrives off of those small victories and uses them as fuel to propel himself and his students towards their dreams and desires.

Eddie has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Cirrus Training Center Instructor (TCI)
Mike Longnecker

Eric Johnson

Airplane Flight Instructor

Eric is a native of Vermont but has instructed in both Vermont and Colorado before relocating to Tampa.  While in Colorado, Eric also worked with Jeppesen in the development and dissemination of instrument approach, departure and arrival procedures.  He began flying in 2009 when he attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona.

Eric hopes to provide the best instruction to his students, constantly improving as a professional and helping others develop along the way.  While at some point he plans to transition to the airlines it is his goal to leave behind a positive impact on the flight training environment.

Eric has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land, Multi-Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII
 
Mike Longnecker

Eric Wettels

Airplane Flight Instructor

Eric is truly a modern day renaissance man when it comes to aviation.  Eric is not only a Certified Airplane Instructor he also holds a commercial helicopter license, is an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic, a Designated Mechanic Examiner and has 22.3 hours in hot air balloons!

Eric began his career in aviation with a degree in Aviation Maintenance from Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma.¬† He has received numerous awards in the mechanic realm and has worked at varies interesting locales including two years at Mauna Loa Helicopters in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.¬† Eric’s goal now is to spend more time flying and providing the same level of award-winning instruction to Tampa Bay Aviation’s students as he has in maintenance to his employers in the past.

Eric has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI
 
Mike Longnecker

Daniel Cooper

 Airplane Flight Instructor

Dan is a native of Tampa and a graduate of Florida State University (BS in Biology) and University of South Florida (Masters in Medical Science).  Dan walked away from a dental career, after already obtaining two degrees in pursuit of it (wow!), because he finally recognized that aviation was his true love.  He started his pilot training here at Tampa Bay Aviation and feels there is no better place to instruct.  Dan feels flying is fun, exciting and makes the world accessible in a way nothing else can, not to mention you cannot beat the people involved in aviation. 

Dan’s dream job is flying a Boeing 777 internationally for Fedex.¬† No doubt he will make it, but in the meantime, he enjoys providing the highest quality flight training to our students just like he received when he was a student here.

Daniel has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII, MEI
 
Mike Longnecker

Allison Abellaneda

 Airplane Flight Instructor

Allison graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS in Biochemistry then, for fun, earned her Private Pilot Certificate in her home state of Minnesota. Upon realizing how extraordinary flying was, her career aspirations changed. She then moved to Florida in September 2018 to pursue her new passion. Allison is the treasurer of the Women in Aviation International (WAI) Tampa Bay Chapter and enjoys continually learning about different aspects of aviation. Gaining her high-performance and complex airplane endorsements, she appreciates her certificates as ‚Äúlicenses to learn.‚ÄĚ She feels honored to have the opportunity to transition her skills from teaching yoga, where she learned each student has unique goals, to teaching students how to fly. Allison strives to not only share the excitement of aviation but also challenge her students in order for them to achieve more than they thought possible.

Allison has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced, Instrument
 
Mike Longnecker

Tony Johnstone

 Aerobatic Airplane Flight Instructor

Tony Johnstone, MD, has been flying since high school in 1967.  He has been instructing aerobatics and tailwheel since 2003 and has given over 2000 hours of dual in his Super Decathlon.  Tony also holds a CFII, MEI, ATP with 2 type ratings in jets, Commercial Seaplane and Glider ratings, and has been in the past designated Master CFI-Aerobatic.  He is a FAASTEAM rep with the Tampa FSDO and a retired general surgeon who practiced in Canada and then Kansas for a total of 30 years.  Tony worked as a demo/transportation pilot for Cessna in Wichita following his retirement from surgery.

Tony has the following ratings:

  • ATP: Airplane Multi-Engine Land
  • Type Rating:¬† C525, C560XLS
  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi-Engine Land, Single Engine Seaplane, Glider
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced

Helicopter Instructors

Mario Rosa

Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot

Mario’s fascination with aviation began at very young age when watching birds fly—hummingbirds in particular due to their graceful ability to hover. Mario was born abroad while his father was stationed in the US Canal zone while serving in the US Army but considers himself Puerto Rican due his parents being from Puerto Rico. In 1992, he joined the world’s finest Navy (although also a proud Army brat) as a jet engine mechanic and then volunteered for special duty as an aircrewman.¬† He has flown on several aviation platforms throughout the world during his Naval career spanning over 20 years. He is excited to transition to a civilian career as a helicopter pilot and instructor and proud to be part of a new team and bring his experience to Tampa Bay Aviation.

Mario has the following ratings:

  • Commercial:¬†Helicopter
  • Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII

Eric Goldsmith

Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot

Eric grew up in the small town of Warroad in Northern Minnesota, a couple miles from the Canadian border.¬† Warroad is also known as Hockeytown, USA and is positioned on one of the best fishing lakes in the world. Growing up Eric spent a lot of his time either playing hockey or outdoors, fishing and hunting with friends and family. Initially Eric attended school for a business degree but after two years decided to pursue something he found more fulfilling and exciting—flight training in helicopters. Although Eric finds it challenging and time consuming, there is nothing quite like the perspective he gets soaring the skies in a helicopter. Someday he hopes to fly utility work such as firefighting or aerial construction, and potentially get into Search and Rescue or MedEvac later on.¬†

Eric Goldsmith has the following ratings:

  • Commercial:¬†Helicopter
  • Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII

Josh Montour

Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot

Josh was born in Vermont and then went on to attend Southern Utah University. Josh trained in Cedar City, UT where he worked through all of his helicopter ratings. He would like to work as an EMS pilot and then work his way up to fire/utility flying!

Josh Montour has the following ratings:

  • Commercial:¬†Helicopter
  • Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII

Helicopter Tour Pilots

Jordan Vera

Helicopter Tour Pilot

Jordan was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, a small town just outside of Toronto. He moved with his family to the Tampa Bay area in 2005 and began pursuing his interest in aviation by obtaining his fixed wing Private Pilot’s license at the age of 17. Jordan attended USF Tampa earning a bachelors degree in Information Technology. After spending 8 years working in the corporate IT world, he decided to once again pursue a passion for aviation, this time flying helicopters. Jordan began his helicopter training at Tampa Bay Aviation in 2016, and by the Spring of 2018 he had obtained his Private, Instrument and Commercial helicopter ratings.

Jordan currently operates out of the Tampa Bay Aviation St. Petersburg location, and is in the process of training towards his CFI and CFII ratings. Now settling into a second career, Jordan aspires to fly as an EMS pilot one day.

Jordan Vera has the following ratings:

  • Commercial:¬†Helicopter

Staff

Katie Gannon Flight School Manager

Katie Gannon

Flight School Manager

Katie was born and raised here in Florida and because her father is an airline pilot she has been around aviation her entire life. She attended USF St. Pete. She has obtained her Private Pilot’s license and recently obtained her instrument Rating at the Clearwater Airpark! Katie is now working on her commercial license and will later be training toward her CFI.

Stella Laclé

Stella Laclé

Marketing Manager

Born in Venezuela under British nationality, Stella grew up traveling around the world due to her parent’s work as international journalists. With over 20 years in the hotel, tour and travel & tourism industry and being trilingual, she brings guest service and tour knowledge to our team here at Tampa Bay Aviation. In her new role as Marketing Manager, she is eager to create and share new programs and be able to promote all TBA has to offer to our students, tour-goers, visitors and charter guests.

Raeven O'Neil

raeven o’neil

Assistant Flight School Manager

Raeven has lived in Florida her whole life. She currently attends USF St. Pete where she is majoring in marketing. Raeven uses her marketing skills to help run our social media as well as take tons of photos for the company. Although not a pilot herself, Raeven loves getting up in the helicopter whenever possible!

TANGO

Assistant Rodent Hunter, Certified In Napping, Part Time Security Guard

Spends her days at our PIE location, greeting customers and taking naps on every possible surface.

BRAVO

Lead Rodent Hunter, Certified In Curiosity, Full Time Security Guard

Spends her days at our PIE location greeting customers. Looking to start flight training soon.

Interested? Contact Us.

If you are interested in learning to fly contact us and we will get back to you right away.

Contact

tampa bay aviation

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