For Immediate Release: March 30, 2023, SUN ‘N FUN, Lakeland FL. –
If you’re a pilot, you love to swap stories with other pilots. You learn from their experiences, they learn from yours. Experiences — even other people’s — are the best teachers.
Both pilots and aspiring pilots will welcome the publication of Sky Kings, a generous anthology of stories from the long flying careers of John and Martha King, founders of King Schools and pioneers of video and online instruction for pilots. The Kings, who began their shared career teaching weekend ground school courses for the Private, Commercial and Instrument 50 weeks a year, traveled all over the country for ten years before establishing their business in a permanent base in San Diego, California. Like all pilots, they made mistakes and had close calls; unlike some pilots, they are ready to admit them and help others to learn from them. For a long time, they wrote a column for Flying Magazine with the same title as the book; many of the chapters in the book come from that series.
The Kings got their first airplane, a Cherokee 140, in 1969. Working their way up the equipment staircase from that Cherokee to their current Falcon 10 jet, they have seen many changes in airplane and avionics technology, as well as in the cost of operating airplanes and keeping their equipment up to date. They’ve also tripped on a few steps of that staircase while learning the ropes of new capabilities and wider realms of flight.
One of the most moving and memorable chapters is entitled “Until We Had Our Accident”. It begins with an account of a situation every pilot dreads: a total electrical failure above clouds, icing, and finally a forced landing in a cornfield in gathering dusk that sent a bloodied Martha to the ER. You might think that would be enough for one chapter, but John King goes on to relate the painful feelings he and Martha would experience when they would learn that some newly-minted pilot whom they had instructed had died in a crash, and how it sometimes made them ask themselves: How could they in good conscience teach people a skill that was sure to get some of them killed?
That chapter is soon followed by another with a slightly different title: “After We Had Our Accident”. In it John King identifies what they call “The Big Lie” — the belief, encouraged by the promotional enthusiasm of airplane manufacturers and aviation periodicals, that flying is an inherently safe activity. For too long, the Kings saw, general aviation had turned a blind eye to risk. They made it their mission to develop and teach risk management tools and procedures that would help pilots recognize beforehand the circumstances and the patterns of behavior that often ended in accidents.
One of the qualities that have made the Kings’ instructional materials so successful is their rich supply of anecdotal support for practical, cockpit-ready advice. In one chapter, entitled “Your Pilot Passenger — Friend or Foe?”, Martha describes how her tendency, when in the right seat, to be proactive about switching frequencies and making other helpful adjustments, combined with John’s left-seat preoccupation with his own tasks, led to mistakes and misunderstandings. You see, reading it, why two pilots are not always safer than one, especially if they haven’t learned good crew resource management skills.
Sky Kings is an invaluable resource for pilots, a great traveling companion, and an entertaining compilation of yarns and advice from a couple whose life in aviation has been what most pilots only dream of. The book retails for $21.97 for paperback and $13.97 for Kindle at Amazon.com and more information can be found at https://KingSchools.com/Sky-Kings