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Wings over Paso Robles

November 6, 2018

Flying high above the landscape is full of thrilling exhilaration and challenges for pilot winemakers Matt Trevisan and Hank Donatoni. “The engine is the heart of the airplane, but the pilot is the soul.” ~ Walter Raleigh

Matt Trevisan


How did you get into flying airplanes? What size/type of airplane do you fly? From my earliest memories, I dreamed of flying.  As a child, I would turn my eyes to the sky in awe of the planes flying overhead.   At the age of 7, I took my first small plane flight from Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, CA to Big Bear Airport and I was hooked.  Later, when I was around 8 or 9, my father purchased one of the first computer flight simulator programs for our portable commodore sx64 computer with a 6-inch screen.  Now when I say portable computer, the unit was like an early 90’s IBM desktop with the screen embedded and the full-size keyboard snapped onto the CPU, weighed about 25 pounds.  I would sit in front of this computer playing the flight simulator, using the keyboard for all functions of flight, which included a World War 1 dogfight simulation game.  You really had to use your imagination and be very patient with the extremely touchy controls.

At the age of 18, I started at Cal Poly in Aeronautical Engineering.   I really thought that I wanted to design airplanes, but in reality, I just wanted to fly them. I switched to Biochemistry because of that.  I completed my ground school at Cal Poly and began Flight training on 7/31/1991 and earned my Pilot License on 6/17/1992 at the San Luis Obispo Airport.  Today I fly two airplanes regularly.  The first one is a Cessna T210, a six-seater, turbocharged family hauler, great for Western State trips.  A flight from Paso Robles to San Diego is 1hr 30min, San Francisco is 50 min.  The second plane is a Citabria 7GCBC, this is a for the love of flying plane, a super simple yet aerobatic 2 seat tandem aircraft. I can crawl into the cockpit of this plane and fly by the seat of my pants.  It’s a great place to experience the exhilaration of flight from and yet smell the roses.

What’s the most exhilarating part of flying? The most exhilarating part of any flight is the unknown.  Will everything work? What weather will be encountered?  How professionally can I perform?  With every flight, I’m striving for perfection.  There are always going to be challenges and how you handle those challenges creates the outcome.  I could say that spinning the plane from of a stall is exhilarating or going upside down, but really from the moment my wheels leave the ground until I’m parked in the hangar the exhilaration for me is to work in a system of Air Traffic Control, other Pilots, and operating a piece of machinery with precision.

Do you have any superstitious traditions before or during a flight you follow? I’m very superstitious.  Luckily, the aviation world is extremely superstitious and has created standard operating procedures that help keep everything in check.  Prior to a flight, I check the weather, both current and forecast, I have a routine that looks for all the available information for each flight.  I pre-flight the airplane looking at the nuts, bolts, fuel, and oil.  The goal with aviation is to not have problems.

What’s the scariest moment that has happened to you during a flight? I really haven’t had any scary moments, just situations that required my complete attention.  Ice in the clouds is never fun and requires a quick escape, this can require a 180-degree turn, an altitude change or diverting to another destination.  Ice makes the wing not function as a wing and that’s a bad, bad thing.

What is your dream route to fly? My dream route is wherever I’m headed next.  My least favorite route is the desert, middle of the day in the summer, bumpy like a mechanical bull.

Tell us about something majestic you’ve seen while in the air? Top 5 majestic things that I’ve seen from the air 1) Sierra Nevadas  2) Crater Lake  3) Rocky Mountains 4) Colorado River 5) California

What does winemaking and flying have in common? Winemaking and Flying are related in so many ways.  Winemaking/ Winegrowing are at the whim of the weather,  every flight is a dance with the weather.   You need to know your equipment in both operations and you need a thorough knowledge of the mechanical systems.  There needs to be a common trust of what you are doing and how that is going to affect the outcome of what you are trying to produce (wine/flight).  Both operations provide a wealth of learning experiences and we grow from these experiences with a pursuit of perfection.


Hank Donatoni


How did you get into flying airplanes? A Navy recruiter suckered me into coming down to the base for a free airplane ride. I was a Naval aviator and instructor for 16 years!

What size/type of airplane do you fly? I flew for 36 years for United Airlines. I retired off of the 747-400 which was a dream to fly.

What was the most exhilarating part of flying? Making a really great landing or “Greasing it In”.

Do you have any superstitious traditions before or during a flight you follow? In the Navy I always wore the same pair of wings that I qualified in as a Naval Aviator.

What’s the scariest moment that has happened to you during a flight? As a Naval Flight Instructor students were often either trying to aim or kill you – is  It was my job to make sure they didn’t!

What is your dream route to fly? LAX to SYD (Los Angels to Sydney Australia)

Tell us about something majestic you’ve seen while in the air? Every time I flew over the Grand Canyon it was a magical experience & flying over the Great Wall of China was a humbling experience.

What do winemaking and flying have in common? Absolutely Nothing…!! LOL