MEET THE SUNSTATE AVIATION TEAM

Steve Graham

Chief Instructor, CFI, CFI-I, ATP

Steve is the founder and CEO of SunState Aviation. He provided accelerated flight training as an independent flight instructor for many years and served as the Chief Flight Instructor for a very large flight school prior to opening SunState Aviation in 2002. Steve hails from Cullman, Alabama.

Isaiah Maldonado

Director of Student Affairs, CFI

A native to Florida, Isaiah received his Associates in Physics from Valencia College & Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies from Liberty University, where his concentrations were Aviation & Computational Sciences. Before going into aviation, Isaiah was a middle school & high school math teacher. At SunState, he is always happy to serve not only with flight instruction, but also with guiding students throughout the flight training process. Apart from aviation, Isaiah is a car/motorcycle enthusiast & loves astronomy.

Sean-Michael Kemp

Director of Flight Training,
CFI, CFI-I, MEI, ATP, Gold Seal Instructor, Check Instructor,
FAAST Team Lead Representative,
Currently a JetBlue Pilot

A native to Florida, Sean received his Bachelors in Logistics Management at the Florida Institute of Technology. He currently does progress checks at SunState when he is not flying with SkyWest Airlines. Sean is also a former elementary school teacher and currently helps out as a soccer referee in youth, high school, college, & professional games. 

Jay Irvine

CFI, CFI-I, MEI, ATP,
Check Instructor,
FAAST Team Representative,
Currently a United Pilot

Jay hails from Nova Scotia, Canada! After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree, he moved to the US in 1998 to start a career in aviation. He attended a flight school in Florida where he received his Private, Instrument, Commercial and CFI ratings before being hired to instruct there. Jay instructed for 2 years before moving onto the regional airlines in 2001. In 2006, he moved to Dubai to work for Emirates Airline, where he flew the A330, A340 and A380 during his 10 years overseas, eventually leaving as an A380 Captain, Instructor and Check Airman. Since 2016, Jay has been back stateside working for United Airlines, where he’s flown the B737, B757, B767 and currently flies the B777.

Shane Weber

CFI, CFI-I, Gold Seal Instructor,
Currently a PlaneSense Pilot

Born & raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, Shane has over 16 years of experience in the aviation industry. He has served in the U.S. Navy where he worked as an Airframe Mechanic. After his term of service ended, Shane attended Broward College where he earned his pilot certificates all while working part-time as an aircraft mechanic, G.I. Bill certifying official, & in the Navy Reserve. Shane then went on to work in finance at a large aircraft manufacturer where he dealt with Part 91 & 135 operators & also did part-time flight instructing. Eventually, he decided to leave that career behind to become a full-time flight instructor where he is passionate about seeing his students grow & develop. In his free time, Shane loves to visit all of Central Florida’s attractions with his wife & two kids.

Sara Landrum

CFI, CFI-I,
Check Instructor,
2021 AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor

Sara grew up in Virginia where she also earned her Bachelor’s in Education from Liberty University. Afterwards, she spent a few years in Education, but she soon began flying after work in order to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot. Eventually, she moved to Florida to continue working on her flight ratings. Sara is excited to be a part of SunState Aviation & looks forward to training her students.

Juliana Correa

CFI, CFI-I

Born in Colombia, Juliana moved to the U.S. with her family when she was only six years old. Throughout her life, her father always instilled in her that “there is no such thing as luck, only hard work”. Juliana attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she majored in Aeronautics. For the past three years, she has worked in customer service while also earning her instructor rating. Juliana hopes to help her students not only learn to fly, but to fall in love with the sciences involved. In her free time, she enjoys acrylic painting, anime, & fitness.

Cesar Achurra

CFI, CFI-I

Born in New York City, Cesar moved to Panama at the age of 2, where he completed high school & his culinary arts degree. After that, Cesar decided that aviation was the field that he wanted to be in, so he moved back to the US to do so. Once he obtained the necessary licenses, he decided to become a CFI. Being a CFI has brought him a lot of satisfaction as he sees his students grow and he plans to continue to help his students reach their dream of flying an airplane. Cesar eventually wants to be able to apply to an airline or cargo company to further his aviation dream. In his free time, Cesar likes to draw, read & write novels, cook and travel.

David Bliek

CFI, CFI-I

Dave hails from New York State. He received his Bachelors in Physics from Clarkson College of Technology & his Masters in Optics from the University of Rochester. After retiring from being a Product Development Manager for Xerox Corp., he obtained his Commercial, CFI & CFI-I certifications. Since then, he has instructed in the state of New York & joined the SunState team last year. His objective is to train the next generation of aviators. Dave’s greatest thrills in aviation come from the “aha” moments experienced by his students & ultimately, their checkride successes.

Garrett

Garrett Paladino

CFI, CFI-I

Garrett went to school at UCF and completed his flight training in South Florida. Throughout his training, he has had the opportunity to gain experience in several different Cessna and Piper aircraft.  Garrett is also a US Army Veteran and is excited to help you achieve your aviation goals!

Orlando Rivera

Orlando rivera

CFI, CFI-I

A former Valet Supervisor, Orlando was Born and raised here in Orlando, FL where his passion for aviation started at a young age. Right After graduating from High School, Orlando went on to receive his flight training in Sanford, FL. His dream is to share the passion of flight with as many people as possible, and being a flight instructor is the best way he knew how. His dream is to also be a motivational speaker. His interests are in Gaming, Fitness, and still plays pickup basketball regularly. He is very excited to train the future of aviators here at Sunstate.

Zach Pic

Zachary Hawkins

CFI

Zach grew up in Atlanta in an aviation community, full of airline employees, including his dad (a Delta mechanic) who passed down his passion of flight. He attended the University of Georgia, where Zach received a B.S. in International Affairs and Finance. Following college, he worked as an Operations Manager for Delta Air Lines at the busiest airport in the world (ATL). It was here that he realized that flying airplanes was his true calling in life. Zach’s life-long goal is to become a Delta pilot. In his spare time, Zach loves cooking for his wife, traveling the world, and taking care of his two cats.

 What is a Gold Seal Flight Instructor?

The FAA issues the coveted Gold Seal Flight Instructor certificate only to those instructors who give a lot of flight instruction and whose students have an 80% success rate of passing their checkride on their first attempt! This means you can have a high degree of confidence that the training you are paying for is up to date, accurate, and efficient. Inefficient training is expensive, and having to retake a flight test can cost hundreds of dollars more. At SunState Aviation, you can expect to be given top quality flight training and to pass your check-ride on the first attempt. A Gold Seal CFI certificate is the seal of approval the FAA gives to exceptional instructors.

 What is an AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor?

The survey encourages anyone who has taken flight training in the past 12 months to candidly share their training experiences. Survey participants included pilots of all experience levels, from new students to those earning advanced ratings or taking a flight review. 

The overall performance of the survey respondents’ flight training providers is measured through their responses and also highlights areas where they are successful and where they have opportunities to improve.