School of Communication teacher doubles as Civil Air Patrol pilot

During the week he’s a School of Communication professor teaching his students the art of writing and how to get at the truth. On the weekends, one might find Rafael Lima running drills for hurricane disaster relief.

This is part of his other job-captain of the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that specializes in rescue missions.

After serving as a lieutenant for a year, Lima was recently promoted to captain of the Tamiami squadron. Lima is one of three captains for the squadron, overseeing the work of 63 people, and serving as the public affairs officer and the senior educational officer.

While Lima tries to spend as much time as possible flying, he is also responsible for implementing the patrol’s main mission of aviation education. He spends two to three hours every Saturday teaching 34 young cadets about aerospace and the history of the CAP.

“In the Civil Air Patrol, I can combine my two passions: flying and teaching,” he said. “I’m able to create a real educational environment for the squad.”

Lima’s love of flying comes from his family, as his father and four of his uncles were pilots in the Cuban Air Force.

“I would look at photos of [my uncle] in his uniform and I always thought he looked so dashing,” Lima said. “For me, the most important thing about flying is the legacy in my family.”

Despite his desire to fly, Lima had to wait until he was in his 30s, when he finally had the money to do so after working for years in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He recently bought his own airplane, a small Skyraider with one seat and open side. He described the flights he will take with his small plane as “low and slow” over the Everglades.

Before he began teaching or flying, Lima was a reporter for newspapers, magazines, and television stations such CNN in El Salvador. His work in El Salvador inspired him to write a play, which is still in production today. There is also a movie based on his play.

Apart from exploring the skies, Lima also encourages his classes to explore their imaginations.

During a recent session, Lima asked several students to close their eyes and envision the scene they were trying to capture in their stories. He asked them to describe everything they could remember, and in doing so, showed them that their writing would be livelier if they could precisely describe the scene, or as Lima put it, “tell the truth.”

“Other teachers give you a structure,” said Tia Dawkins-Hendricks, a sophomore. “He wants you to make your own structure and write what you feel.”

Whether teaching or coaching young pilots on aviation, Lima is hoping to make an impact on students’ lives.

“I like doing for students what was never done for me,” Lima said. “I would be a much better writer if someone did for me what I hope I do for them.”

Kiersten Schmidt may be contacted at