We admit it…we are aviation addicts!
You may find it hard to believe that we’ve been flying together for nearly 44 years. So do we, but I guess time flies when you fly through it. We’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a very broad swath of aviation. We’ve flown gliders to blimps to jets—even weight-shift trikes and powered parachutes. We’ve also met many special people along the way. And through our company, http://www.kingschools.com, we’ve had the honor of helping hundreds of thousands of these folks become pilots and reach their aviation dreams. What an undeniable privilege!
So how did King Schools come about?
Well, we went broke in a business that we didn’t enjoy, of lubricating trucks. We said to ourselves, “That hurt. Let’s not do that again.” So we decided to relax and indulge our love of flying for a while, by teaching pilots, until a serious business came along. We spent years travelling to teach ground school courses that we set up in meeting rooms of hotels. At first we used a blackboard. Then we got “high tech” and moved to overhead projectors.
After about 10 years, we bought a video camera, so we could critique our own teaching performance. What we discovered suprised us. We were actually pretty good! So we set up a studio in the third bedroom of our house and gradually started putting our courses on video and playing them on a giant projector for our classes.
Then we decided we might try selling these classroom videos to flight instructors around the country, so they could teach ground schools using our videos.
We got the idea of selling these videos to individual pilots when we went to the EAA airshow, at Oshkosh (this was before it was called AirVenture) and pilots, rather than instructors, kept buying them.
When we started putting ads in magazines the business grew quickly, and in the nearly 38 years since, we have delivered millions of courses to pilots in training. Needless to say, we outgrew our spare bedroom. Today, King Schools operates from a dedicated complex in San Diego, California, which includes a full video and software production facility. By now, nearly every pilot has taken a KING course at some time.
When we were teaching the classroom courses, we were no big deal to students who would meet us somewhere after having taken our course. But when our mugs showed up on video, all of a sudden folks started thinking we were big time—even though we are the same short, unfashionable people we have always been. We’ve made a number of appearances on national TV due to our perceived aviation expertise. Plus, we and King Schools were featured on CNN’s “Business Unusual.” At one point Microsoft came to us and said, “Do you think you could do a video that would help keep people from crashing when they first use the Flight Simulator program?” We said, “Yes, we think so.” So we eventually had 17 videos on Microsoft Flight Simulator. Now folks all around the world began to get excited when they saw us. We can report that what they saw was still the short, unfashionable couple we have always been.
Although we each were high school valedictorians and graduated with distinction from Indiana University, we believe our real education has come from our life-long study of entrepreneurship—and from the “school of hard knocks.” It is pretty clear to us that we’ve learned as much from our failures as from our successes.
But we gave up our search for a “serious business” a long time ago.
Our Cause Celeb…
In our view, one of the greatest tragedies in flying today is the fact that the majority of General Aviation accidents that happen could have been avoided; usually the culprit is pilot error. We’ve been champions for improving the risk management practices of General Aviation pilots, with the hope of reducing the accident rate. In support of this, we travel quite a bit to speak to thousands of pilots each year on aviation safety. We also work closely with the FAA’s National Aviation Safety Program in producing safety videos.
But life is not all about work…
Through the years, our enthusiasm for flying has never waned. We fly our own Dassault Falcon 10 jet wherever we go, swapping captain and copilot duties on each leg. We have flown as pilots in every continent of the world except Antarctica. We flew one trip completely around the world, via the length of Russia.
We set our own goals in aviation fairly high and have never regretted the personal investment we’ve made to achieve them. Two of these achievements we are most proud of:
- In September of 1994, we became the first and only couple to both hold every category and class of FAA rating on our pilot and instructor certificates.
- Martha is the first and only woman to achieve this complete ratings sweep.
We remain active in many flight categories, regularly piloting jet and single-engine piston airplanes and helicopters. We have enjoyed periodically serving as back-up pilots for the Fujifilm blimp, and our airship adventures have been part of national television coverage on the Fox, ESPN, CBS, and USA networks.
Our great fortune is that life has allowed us to do what we love to do. We make a great effort to give back to the community and have involved ourselves in many community endeavors. For many years we both served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. John was Chairman of the Board of the Lindbergh Foundation and we are now both on the Honorary Board. Martha is currently the Chair of the Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board of of the University of California, San Diego. Additionally, we volunteer time to speak to college classes on starting a small business.
Awards and Honors
- 1996: Named “Aviation Educators of the Year” by Professional Pilot Magazine.
- 2001: Martha appointed by President Clinton to the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board, promoting celebrations of the 100th anniversary of flight.
- 2002: Inducted into the International Forest of Friendship, for contributions to aviation. The International Forest of Friendship is located in Atchison, Kansas, hometown of Amelia Earhart.
- 2003: Martha honored by a resolution of the California Assembly and a proclamation from the Governor of California in honor of having been chosen by EAA to fly the state flag to Kitty Hawk for the First Flight Centennial.
- 2003: On Dec 16 at Kitty Hawk, Martha honored by the First Flight Centennial Commission as one of 100 Distinguished Aviation Heroes in the first century of flight. Among those honored with Martha were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, and Patty Wagstaff.
- 2003: Martha named one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Aviation” by Women in Aviation International.
- 2004: John received “Excellence in Pilot Training” award from the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).
- 2004: John and Martha were each presented with “Master Air Pilot” awards in recognition of long service and consistently high standards by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in a ceremony presided over by His Royal Highness The Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in the ancient Guildhall of London.
- 2005: Martha awarded the prestigious Cliff Henderson Award for Achievement from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The award is presented annually to “a living individual or group whose vision, leadership, or skill has made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation or space activity.” Previous Cliff Henderson Award recipients include Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, General Curtis LeMay, Frank Borman, Scott Crossfield, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Ernest K. Gann.
- 2007: Awared Paul Tissandier Diplomas by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, for serving the cause of general aviation through “their work, initiative, and devotion.”
- 2008: Jointly awarded the Forrest M. and Pamela Bird award by the Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA) for “…exceptional contributions to the safety of civil aviation as pilots and educators through exercising excellent judgment, logic and common sense in evaluation and training of civil pilots through the years.”
- 2008: Jointly received the Vision Award from Business & Commercial Aviation. The other Vision Award winners in 2008 were Michimasa Fujino, CEO of Honda Aircraft Co. and the driving force behind the HondaJet, and Paul Bowen, the inspirationally artistic aviation air-to-air photographer.
- 2008: Each elected as Fellows of the Explorers Club in New York City, for their contributinos to the cause of exploring by making aviation accessible as a tool for exploration throughout the world.
- 2008: Both awarded the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award by the Explorers Club, for work in making aviation accessible as a tool for exploration. The award is named for Explorers Club member Lowell Thomas, the journalist whose news reports introduced “Lawrence of Arabia”—T.E. Lawrence—to the Western public. It is given to honor men and women who have distinguished themselves in the field of exploration.
- 2008: Inducted as a couple into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
- 2009: John and Martha were jointly awarded the American Spirit Award by the National Business Aviation Association. This award is presented in recognition of individuals within business aviation who exemplify the courage and pursuit of excellence and service to others that characterizes the men and women who created and nurtured the American aviation community.
- 2010: Martha inducted into the Fairborn (Ohio) Schools Hall of Honor, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of graduates of Fairborn Schools.
- 2012: John and Martha both named Living Legends of Aviation in an exciting evening in Beverly Hills sponsored by the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, joining a short list of aviation luminaries including Bob Hoover, Clay Lacy, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Kurt Russell, Tom Cruise and “Sully” Sullenberger.
- 2012: John and Martha jointly awarded the IAOPA Service Award for Excellence in Aviation Safety and Pilot Training Education by the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations at the 26th World Assembly, Cape Town, South Africa.
- 2012: John and Martha jointly awarded the prestigious Frank G. Brewer Trophy for Aviation Education by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) for their significant contributions of enduring value to aerospace education by making aviation knowledge more accessible to pilots worldwide.
Certificates and Ratings Held by both John and Martha King
- Airline Transport Pilot
- Commercial Privileges
- Rotorcraft Gyroplane
- Lighter Than Air
- Free Balloon
- Certificated Flight Instructor
- Airplane Single & Multi-engine
- Rotorcraft Helicopter and Gyroplane
- Instrument Airplane and Helicopter
- Ground Instructor