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Article appeared in Flying Magazine August 2019
by Martha King

Ray Dolby, the father of Dolby Noise Reduction systems for automobile radios, flies his own Cessna airplane from a small airport in northern California (Photo by Jim Sugar/Corbis via Getty Images)

He could have been a 10-year old kid.  He was certainly acting like one.  We were at the Helicopter Association International annual convention and John was sitting in a helicopter pretending to fly it.  He gradually became aware that someone had been standing beside him waiting for him to come out of his fantasy.  “I am so sorry,” John said.  “I just realized you’ve been waiting to get into the helicopter.”

“No,” the patient man said, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you.”

The person waiting had recently used our courses in his studying to learn to fly and he wanted to explain that we had helped him with something that meant the world to him.  As the conversation progressed, John began to realize that this very expressive, personable man was an extraordinary person.  “I’m John King,” John said as he extended his hand.  “I’m Ray Dolby,” the good-natured man replied.  John can be slow on the uptake at times, and it took him a while to realize that this was the Dolby who had created the noise reduction system and the company that was known world-wide for extraordinary innovations in audio systems.

As John and Ray talked about flying, Ray explained that he had discovered flying late in life and deeply regretted the many years he hadn’t been experiencing the joy of flying.  Ray was now in a hurry to drink deeply from the well of satisfaction and fulfillment that flying provides.

As John and Ray talked, they realized that they had much more to talk about than the circumstances allowed.  Ray invited us to spend a weekend with him and his wife, Dagmar, at their Lake Tahoe vacation home.  There we discovered that this was a person with deep passions not only about flying, but about many subjects.  He had lots of interests, and, even in his 70s, was always learning.  These were habits he had all his life and they served him well.  They certainly made him interesting company.  We became friends and did many things together, including taking flying vacations.  We never ran out of fascinating things to talk about.  It was a relationship that we continued to enjoy greatly right up until Ray passed away.

We knew what Ray meant to us—he was a great friend and a fabulous intellectual companion.  But it wasn’t until we attended his celebration of life that we began to realize what Ray meant to the rest of the world.  He had improved the quality of sound experienced in movies, symphonies and every other form of music so significantly that people in those communities referred to time as BD and AD—Before Dolby and After Dolby.  At his service, representatives of each of these communities were there to explain how Ray had improved their world.

When John and I read the articles about Ray afterwards, we began to fully understand that he was an enormous success in about every way you could measure—including in his contributions to the communities he served and financially.  We had never considered that he was a billionaire.

This made us very thoughtful.  There are not that many billionaires around, but as we began to think about it, we realized that we knew more than a few.  Why did we know so many billionaires?  Because we had spent our lives teaching, talking about, and living and breathing flying.  Flying attracts successful, motivated winners, and, we believe, supports them in becoming even more successful.

Since the beginning, humankind has envied the birds in their command of flight.  It is only in the infinitesimally short time frame of the past hundred years or so that we have begun to take to the air ourselves.  Our relatively newfound ability to explore and utilize the third dimension is a powerful attraction and, as learning pilots discover, deeply rewarding.

When a person does decide to learn to fly, they commit themselves to a prolonged period of habitual effort and study.  While they are learning the skills to command the flying machine, they concurrently develop the habit of managing the risks of operating in this new environment.  Perhaps most significant, they also develop the habit of remaining calm and in control in stressful, even threatening situations in this environment, until so recently foreign to humans.  These are wonderful habits that, once developed in flying, automatically carry over to other realms of life.

Significantly, flying attracts many people who already have habits that make them successful people and great contributors to their communities, and they serve as wonderful role models for the rest of us.  But for all of us, the activity of learning to fly—and continuing to fly— develops and strengthens beneficial habits.

As John and I have observed this, we have developed an acronym to help describe and remember these habits.  The acronym is PLAY.  Please bear with me.  This explanation is hokey—but John and I often strain to craft tools to help people remember things.

The “P” stands for “Passion.”  Flying often introduces learning pilots for the first time to the joy and benefits of having a passion.  People with a passion explore things deeply and tend to persist even in times of difficulty.

The “L” stands for having “Lots of Interests.”  Flying develops new interests.  People with lots of interests have a habit of exploring new things.

The “A” stands for “Always Learning.”  Flying gets people into the habit of learning.  Habitual learners enjoy the process of learning, and when learning is required, as in flying, they embrace it.

The “Y” stands for “Yet Again.”  People who stick with flying have these behaviors as ingrained habits, and they keep circling back to practice them over and over again.

People with these habits develop the knowledge and intellectual resources that empower innovation.

We have another acronym that we think explains how innovators can best advance their ideas.  The acronym is TNT.

The first T stands for “Trust.”  If you aren’t perceived as trustworthy, it is very hard to accomplish anything through others.  The N prompts us to seek out the “Needs” of others.  The last T is a stretch, but it reminds us that we “Triumph” by providing solutions to the needs of others.

Using PLAY and TNT you have the makings of great contribution and success.  As a result, like Ray Dolby, you will wind up making the world a better place for lots of people.

So when you have an opportunity to encourage someone to learn to fly, I urge you to encourage them with enthusiasm.  It will give them great satisfaction, help them build and strengthen these wonderful habits, and put them in great company.


  1. Bayardo L. McElroy

    Good evening to everyone at the king school of aviation. Thank you, thank you for the Ray Dolby story it very interesting and RIP Mr. Dolby. Love all the commentary! I flew in 1997 at Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis, IN where flew and accomplished my solo in a Cessna 172. Since I was a kid I always wanted ti be a commercial airplane pilot but, my financial situation just wouldn’t allow me to accomplish my dream I still look at videos and read book from the king school. I still will accomplish my dream one day. If anyone have any information on how they can help me pls let know I’m passionate, fast learner and love to follow my dream. and my number is 317-454-2258. Thanks to all and GOD bless.

  2. Michael Sager

    Hi John…… T.N.T. Is exactly how I got into flying, surrounded by mentors at North Central Airlines….. a life changer, Thanks John

  3. Jamie Klaes

    Great article! Very interesting concepts. Flying does attract some of the best people, some people because they have money have the ability to fly, and others have no money because they put it all into their airplane (more the case in Alaska!) thank you to Ray Dolby for your contributions to the world.

  4. Dale Sumersille

    Great read. Thank you John and Martha for all of the great training tools and what you do to educate the aviation community. I enjoy your videos, especially the Private Pilote checkride, and proud to say that after 10 years (due to life circumstances, so yes persistence and passion lead the way to complete my training) I passed my PPL checkride last year. Will start IFR training this year.

  5. Robert Cone

    What sixty years of GA has done for me is build a foundation upon the pursuit of excellence. Ernest Gan in his book FATE IS THE HUNTER best illustrates this with a flight from Pittsburg to NJ. The IFR flight was assigned an altitude of 5K which placed the DC 3 between an undercast and overcast, therefore a very dark night. The second officer was flying the aircraft. The Captain told the second officer that while your flying skills are strong, why not fly at the assigned 5000 feet rather than the 5000 you are maintaining. One can imagine the thoughts going through the second officer’s mind as they descended the 50 feet. About a minute later, two exhaust plumes passes overhead by about fifty feet. The pursuit of excellence likely saved numerous lives that day. This is a commitment that should be followed in all avenues of life. Great book and once you start, it is almost impossible until the reading is complete.

  6. Derra Huxley

    Awesome post! It is very helpful for everyone who wants to become a pilot. Your blog provides great information to start a pilot career. Thanks for sharing this awesome post.

  7. Shaun Hays

    I am not a pilot- yet – but have often been told by pilots that I think like one. This article helps me see that better. After a complete “wipeout” financially due to identity theft, a wonderful new baby boy, and then an allergic reaction to medicine that attacked all my muscles… I had to dig deep, scrape my way through the muck and rededicate myself. Currently I am driving semis and pursuing a new business in custom golf car painting. Once I get bills, school and other things securely budgeted and this shop underway, I can begin lessons /logging again!!! 😁 – I think I’ll probably end up custom painting airplanes etc before long as well. Thank you for encouraging those of us who can only dream until we free ourselves of earths ground chains once again!

  8. Bobby Cone

    Martha and John, what a wonderful summary. Aviation to me, over almost 60 years, has brought to center that a second “P” which is related to Passion, is Persistence. Before the days of GPS, Loran and VOR, we used ADF and low frequency ranges which supplemented DR and pilotage. For me, persistence was required to master these arts. No different from today with although the neat new additions and gizmos. This learned trait has served me well over my professional careers and continues so today. Me and my Mooney, both senior citizens, thoroughly enjoy our work. I, on many occasions have told people that aviation saved me from all sorts of non-worthy and non-productive activities. If you happen by a Mooney 42V, stop and say hi! Aviation has been a wonderful experience.

    • Pilot One

      Your sharing of your experiences is greatly appreciated. Congratulations on a long, fruitful aviation life. We hope you have many more years of fulfillment in the air.

  9. Juan G

    I’m a huge kings fan. Private pilot course and many others have help me learn and become a well rounded safe pilot. Article was enjoyable. Thank you for all at Kings School since I have great tech support and guidance along my journey

  10. Milo Ketchum

    Your VHS tapes were my first introduction on the road to earning my “ticket.” Dad was a CAP pilot after WW2 & Korea, came home with a Culver Cadet and took me flying for many years. An occasional drip from the primer on that Culver hooked me on the smell of a AV GAS. Logged my first hours in a J3 on a crop dusters dirt strip in Mead Kansas. Started my Son out at 15 and he had all his hours in before he was old enough to get a drivers license. I am now 70 and our entire family understands that Grandpa will talk about flying with great enthusiasm. If anyone takes the bait the next step is KING MEDIA! Several have taken the line and run with it! You and John are like family and loved by many!

    • Pilot One

      You have had a long and accomplished aviation life. Thank you for being a long time customer. Your trust means a lot to us.

  11. Jim Sparling

    Great article and so true. Thanks to both of you for your training videos and making them fun. I almost gave up getting my license until I found your videos, now I’m flying my new Meridian with a commercial rating. Your new Garmin 650 video is awesome.

  12. Kenneth E Hall

    A worthwhile post. I certainly enjoyed reading. I’ve benefited from every single video or article that I’ve had the opportunity to read or watch from John and Martha.
    Thank you for your life long commitment to the industry.

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