Author Archives: Pilot One

1Step Prep and King Schools Releases new Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 training courses.

Airline Pilots Now Have a New Way to Prepare for their Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 Type Ratings

 1Step Prep creates courses hosted and distributed by King Schools

 March 23, 2017  San Diego CA. – Pilots who are required to go through initial or recurrent training on the Boeing 737 Classic, Boeing 737 Next-Generation or Airbus A320 now have a prep course to get ready.  1Step Prep interactive video courses feature Juan Dominguez and Joseph Munoz conducting comprehensive and detailed training lessons, followed by interactive questions and answers. 1Step Prep has created six courses that are now available on the King Schools iLearn online training system.  The individual courses are available for purchase through the King Schools website, for $139 each, or combined with King Schools Jet Transition and ATP Ground School and Test Prep courses at discounted prices.

Juan Dominguez and Joseph Munoz photo caption – Juan Dominguez (Vice President) and Joseph Munoz (CEO) of 1Step Prep are the instructors for the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 interactive video courses on the King Schools iLearn platform.

Joe Munoz, CEO and co-founder of 1Step Prep comments “As classroom and sim instructors for the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 series airplanes, Juan and I see a real need for pilots to have good material to study before showing up for training. Otherwise, an initial type-rating course can be like drinking from a firehose! Our goal is to make sure that pilots completely understand the airplane systems and pilot procedures, and be able to use that knowledge to make their training a breeze—and most importantly, pass their checkrides.  King Schools’ quality of teaching, longevity and fun approach are a great match for what we want to do with our courses.”

Juan Dominguez, Vice President adds “The relationship with King Schools expands our reach. Working with King Schools and using their iLearn technology also gives additional capabilities.  Their system gives us the ability to provide interactive questions and a great offline study capability through the King Companion App for iPhones and iPads.”

King Schools CEO Barry Knuttila explains, “The exciting partnership with 1Step Prep allows King Schools to serve career-track pilots all the way from Student Pilot into the cockpit of an airliner.  Joe and Juan have the experience and expertise to teach the complex systems and operations of these amazing airplanes in ways that make the material easy to understand and retain.  We have also bundled the 1Step Prep courses with KING Jet Transition and ATP courses in a discounted package that  ensures a new Airline pilot has everything they need when showing up for initial training.”

The online 1Step Prep courses for the Boeing 737 Classic & Next-Generation and the Airbus A320 Oral and Sim Prep Courses are available for $139 each from or by calling (800)-854-1001 or worldwide at +1 (858) 541-2200.

King Schools Releases New Drone Pilot Training Course

Drone Pilots Now Have a Quick and Convenient Way to Prepare for The FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Knowledge Test

Press Release – January 12, 2016 San Diego CA

Drone pilots who want to fly their drones for non-recreational purposes can quickly and conveniently pass their remote pilot test with the new King School’s online Drone Pilot Ground School and Test Prep Course.  “That’s all drone pilots need to do to start using their drones to serve the community in any of the so many ways they can be so useful,” says John King of King Schools.

Drone Pilot Training Course, FAA Remote Pilot Test

The new King Schools drone course prepares customers to pass the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Knowledge Test.

The King course not only gets drone pilots ready to pass the FAA test, but it also gives them the tools they need to safely integrate into the National Airspace System, and stay out of trouble with the FAA.  The course is the result of collaboration between King Schools and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Drone Pilot Course helps poeple pass the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Knowledge Test

Screen grab from the King Schools “Regulations – Overview of Part 107” lesson from the Drone Pilot Ground School and Test Prep Course.

Over the last four decades, pilots at all levels have enjoyed King Schools´ clear, simple and fun video courses.  King Schools has helped hundreds of thousands of pilot pass their FAA tests and is the world’s leader in FAA test preparation.  It is estimated as much 50% of the pilots flying in the U.S. today have learned with King courses.

John King of King Schools commented, “We are delighted to be working with AUVSI.  They are by far the most credible and experienced organization serving the drone community.  With 7,500 individual members representing more than 2,200 companies from 60 countries, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is the world’s largest membership organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.”

The course is the result of collaboration between King Schools and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)

King Schools co-founder Martha King added, “AUVSI is the perfect partner to best serve our customers.  Their expertise was extremely beneficial in our putting the course together.  Their knowledge and experience will continue to be an invaluable contribution to us and the entire drone community.

The King School’s online Drone Pilot Ground School and Test Prep Course is $99 and is available from or by calling (800)-854-1001 or worldwide at +1 (858) 541-2200.

Drone pilots seeking to be more engaged in the drone community will want to attend AUVSI’s premier event, XPONENTIAL, which take place in Dallas on May 11 – 18 in 2017.  AUVSI anticipates that XPONENTIAL will have 650 booths and over 7,000 attendees. For more information, visit or call (703) 845-9671.



The Great Debate – John King & Rod Machado on the ACS.

Aviation Expo – Palm Springs International Airport, California October 22, 2016

This past summer,  about the time the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) were implemented, AOPA Pilot Magazine and Flying Magazine collaborated on a extraordinarily unique idea.  Both magazines simultaneously published in their July, 2016 issues the same article – Dogfight – The Great ACS Debate. The story featured John King, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools and Rod Machado a renowned pilot, CFI, author and speaker.  These two respected aviation educators have very different views on the ACS and presented point-by-point facts that supported their opinions.

Here is the complete unedited version of The Great Debate.

An outgrowth of the article was an event held at the 2016 Aviation Expo in Palm Springs.  John and Rod appeared together on stage with moderator Stephen Pope the Editor-In-Chief of Flying Magazine.  In this video, they debate their sides respectfully, factually, professionally and they had some fun.

John King, left, and Rod Machado at Montgomery Field in San Diego, Calif. on Monday May 16, 2016. Photo by Tracy Bouian + David Ahntholz © Copyright 2016 Tracy Boulian and David Ahntholz,

John King, left, and Rod Machado as featured in AOPA Pilot and Flying Magazine. This was published in the July issues of both magazines. .

John King (l) Rod Machado (r) true professionals.

A fact filled, professional and courteous debate was conducted by John King and Rod Machado during their ACS debate at the Palm Springs 2016 Aviation Expo. Their performances were exemplary of what a debate should be.



Why Pilots Shouldn’t Always Try To Be Perfect

Article appeared in Flying Magazine September, 2016 by John King 

Getty Images Why were Sullenberger and Skiles able to land an A320 on the Hudson? They knew how to fly by TLAR — "that looks about right."

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, stands in front of the US Airways flight 1549 fuselage at the Carolinas Aviation Museum Saturday, June 11, 2011. Sullenberger and other crew members met with passengers to recall their memorable water landing in the Hudson River and to celebrate the plane’s arrival at the museum. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/MCT via Getty Images)

“We’re going to be in the Hudson.” It was Captain Sully Sullenberger announcing that they were going to deadstick U.S. Airways 1549 into the Hudson River. It is a story most of us are familiar with. After the loss of both engines in their A320, they first intended to return to La Guardia, and then decided they couldn’t make it. Next they were offered Teterboro Airport and they said, “We can’t do it.”

Ultimately, they pulled off the “Miracle on the Hudson”—ditching with no fatalities and no major injuries. They skillfully missed bridges and steered themselves to be near operating boats so as to maximize the chance of rescue. They didn’t have time to make precise calculations. They didn’t have the guidance of a localizer or glideslope. Their primary resource was the view out the windscreen.

Why were Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles able to do this? They knew how to fly by TLAR—“that looks about right.” They were both flight instructors and Sullenberger was a long-time glider pilot.

In contrast Asiana 214 was unable to successfully complete, with both engines running, a visual approach, when the ILS was out of service, to runway 28 left at San Francisco International. Their Boeing 777 struck the seawall short of the runway. Three passengers died and 187 were injured. The pilots weren’t accustomed to making approaches without an ILS.

TLAR (pronounced T-LAR) is a skill that every pilot should have for several reasons. One is, like the pilots of U.S. Airways 1549 and Asiana 214, sometimes you just won’t have all the resources that you are accustomed to. If you have TLAR skills, you can safely get by without them.

Of course, developing TLAR skills is part of every pilot’s primary training. That’s why we practice engine-out emergencies. But it might be a good idea to take your TLAR development a step further for operations around airports, which is where most accidents happen.

You might pay special attention to what 1,000 feet AGL looks like out the window. You can use the runway length to gauge what a mile on final looks like. The standard three-degree glidepath is 300 feet per nautical mile, so you might focus on what 300 feet AGL looks like when you are on a one-mile final.

Another thing to focus on is what the pitch attitude of the airplane looks like when you are at the proper approach speed and configuration. Likewise, you will want to pay attention to what the power setting on final approach should sound like. Plus, you’ll want to be able to keep the airplane yawed into the relative wind by being aware of side forces instead of having to rely on the slip-skid indicator.

Your TLAR in-the-pattern graduation test would be to fly the airplane completely around the pattern with the altimeter, the airspeed indicator, and maybe more instruments covered. (It would be a really good idea to have an instructor with fully-developed TLAR skills with you.)


“TLAR or That looks about right” is often used in remote non towered locations where the pilots have minimal or no ground support. This airport from this angle looks beautiful and the approach looks just about right.

Having TLAR skills saved the day for Martha one time when she was flying a Cessna 340. When her pitot tube clogged in flight due to dust-turned-to-mud in precipitation, her knowledge of appropriate pitch attitudes and power settings made approaching and landing the twin without the airspeed indicator a non-event.

Another reason for developing TLAR skills is that they allow you to take action quickly without having to first make precise calculations or change your flight plan in your GPS. In all of life, timeliness is often better than perfection. It is especially true in flying. Striving for perfection can sometimes lead to paralysis and inaction, and can distract you from situational awareness.

Sometimes all we have time or resources for is a roughly good job. If you have to make a diversion for weather the first thing to do is make a turn to an approximate heading for your new course. If you know your ground speed in miles per minute, a quick look at a chart can give you a good idea of how long it will take you to reach your new destination. Using quick estimates will keep you from continuing to head towards the bad weather while you are figuring out the details of your new route and entering it in your GPS.

Always having an alternative is one of the most fundamental risk management tools in aviation. But an alternative plan is not really an alternative if the pilot is unwilling or unable to take action to go to the alternate.

Sometimes the need to have everything planned out in detail deters a pilot from taking timely action when they need to. There was a pilot who had spent months planning a trip from the Midwest to the West Coast. He talked to other pilots about exactly what route and altitude he should be flying on each leg. He created a flight log with every leg planned out in magnificent detail.

On the leg crossing the Rockies, he ran into icing conditions, but continued with his planned route even though a simple diversion would have gotten him out of the icing. He and his wife died in the crash.

His friends told investigators they thought he had spent so much time and energy planning the legs in detail that he wasn’t able to adjust mentally and divert when circumstances required it. Although detailed planning is a wonderful thing, having TLAR skills in addition gives a pilot the confidence to quickly create and execute an alternative plan when they need to.

There is a misconception that pilots have to be perfect and precise all the time, and of course, there are times when precision is critical. For instance, when flying an approach procedure in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). But as we have seen, there are times when being willing to be approximate can be less risky than shooting for absolute precision.

Sometimes implied precision can lead a pilot to not have sufficient margins. It used to be that on the knowledge test the FAA would ask for very precise answers requiring interpolation on airplane performance charts. This falsely implied that the pilot could rely on those precise numbers in their own flying. The reality is the numbers were generated in ideal conditions and are unachievable in everyday flying. It’s far better for pilots to pick the more conservative conditions rather than interpolating.

There is a concern that modern aviation technology is luring pilots away from maintaining TLAR skills. The digital precision of GPS is indeed very fetching. But it takes time to program the avionics and a failure leaves a pilot who has no TLAR skills with no alternatives. Maintaining TLAR skills is important. A pilot with no TLAR skills is like a painter who can only paint by the numbers. They may look like a good artist, but without the numbers they are helpless.

Pilots Now Have an Easy Way to Prepare for Their EASA PPL Conversion Exam

October 17, 2016 San Diego, CA 


Kay Vereeken, CEO and Leen Vandendriessche, COO of the EuroPilot Center celebrate the publication of the new course on the KING iLearn platform

Pilots holding an FAA (or any other ICAO State) pilot certificate seeking to convert to an EASA Private Pilot License (PPL), can now study for the three required theoretical tests using web-based training developed by E-gle—a team of experts from the EuroPilot Center.  The course “EASA PPL Conversion Course” is hosted on the King Schools iLearn platform. E-gle is a division of the EuroPilot center, and an EASA Approved Training Organization (ATO). The online course retails for $89.

Pilots with more than 100 flight hours must pass EASA written tests on Human Performance & Limitations, Air Law and Radio Telephony.  The test-prep course material is fully EASA compliant; containing all required learning objectives and over 200 EASA-style test questions with explanations.

“We are excited to address the needs of pilots wanting to fly in Europe with a course from E-gle that excels at preparing pilots for the required exams. And hosting it on the KING iLearn platform makes that learning easily accessible to pilots around the world.” John King, Co-Chairman of King Schools commented. “We look forward to continue working with E-gle to add a full range of EASA pilot test prep courses to our iLearn platform,” he added.

“EuroPilot Center has years of experience training pilots to JAA and EASA standards and has ensured the courses are in accordance with European theoretical knowledge requirements. The SoCal Pilot Center is our USA location,” Kay Vereeken, CEO of the EuroPilot Center commented.  “We have the experience and technical expertise to address the needs of pilots seeking European certification,” concluded Kay.

For more information, visit

Euro Pilot Center
B / ATO 017 EPC Building Antwerp Airport Bus 210 B-2100 Deurne Belgium
TEL: +32 (0)

SoCal Pilot Center
86400 Lightning Street
CA 92274 Thermal (USA)
Phone: (760) 238-0209

About EuroPilot Center
The EuroPilot Center (EPC) is an EASA approved Pilot Center, providing Airplane and Helicopter training, sales and certification of professional Flight Simulators and development of Aviation Training Software.  The EPC has locations in Belgium and Southern California and is a Cessna Pilot Center.  They specialize in Aviation Training, Flight Simulations and Helicopter Training.

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Pilot Fatigue and the Unspoken Goal

The most important part of being pilot in command

Article appeared in Flying Magazine July, 2016 by Martha King

The view out the windscreen from 38,000 feet wasn’t really scary, but it was fatiguing. Nexrad confirmed what we were seeing. After our fuel stop in Wichita, Kansas, we would have to pick our way around air-mass thunderstorms in the dark all the way home to California.

It had been a hardworking business trip to Washington, D.C., with multiple meetings every day. After the day’s late luncheon meeting, we loaded up our rental car and made the hour-long drive out to Manassas Regional Airport. It took us another 45 minutes to get the airplane loaded up, the rental car turned in, and say goodbye to the folks at the airport.


Martha, Pilot in Command of the Dassault Falcon 10 jet .

The departure procedures out of Manassas always require careful attention. There are notes over all of them. The airport is in the special flight rules area for D.C., and this is no place to mess up. By the time we reached cruising altitude, we already knew we had been working hard. John, who was serving as the required copilot (more formally, the pilot monitoring) in our old Falcon, said, “It has been a packed week. I am really tired.” “I know,” I responded, “We’ll be home in just a few hours. It’ll be great to be home.”

Approaching Wichita, John missed our clearance for descent from center. I picked up on it, answered center and started us down. “I’m sorry,” John apologized. “For some reason, I’m just whipped.” “Yeah, I’m really looking forward to getting home tonight,” I said.

After landing, John did a last check of the airplane while I went into the FBO and ordered fuel. When we met inside, John said, “Let’s sit down for a minute. I’d like to consider spending the night here in Wichita instead of going on home. I’m really tired.”

John’s words struck me. I now realized that this was at least the third time my copilot had told me he was tired, and up to that point, I had never considered doing anything about it. I had set a goal of getting home that evening, and I hadn’t considered any alternative.

“Of course,” I said, “Let’s have a nice dinner and go to bed here.”

It may be the first time ever that we had interrupted a trip simply because we were tired, but it was the right choice. After we slowed down, I realized that I too was exhausted, but I had been driven on by adrenaline and my desire to get home. Neither one of us could have been operating at 100 percent. As it was, we finished the trip to San Diego the next morning, refreshed and alert with virtually no weather to contend with.

Lightning thunder storm

Localized lightning and thunderstorms at night require absolute attention and respect. They represent an even greater risk when pilots are fatigued.

John and I love flying our airplane for business. It gives us the ultimate in flexibility. We go when and where we want. But that flexibility can be a risk factor.

Airline operations have elaborate precautions against fatigue. All flight crew members, schedulers and individuals with operational control in airline operations are required to receive fatigue education and awareness training annually. Complex rules adjust allowable flight times based on things like how far pilots are from their home time zones and what time of day they are starting their flights.

As noncommercial operators flying our own airplane, there are no such systems in place to protect us from ourselves. There is nothing to prevent us from finishing a day of work or recreation and then departing on a long flight late in the day. It is strictly up to us to balance our fatigue against our desire to complete what we set out to do.

In my case, I had set a goal to get home that night, but it wasn’t even a conscious goal. I hadn’t announced it to either myself or John. When I filed the flight plans for the day, as a matter of course I filed them for a trip all the way home. I never considered whether one or both of us were fatigued. Going home was my default position.

Even though the goal hadn’t reached the level of consciousness, it was very real. It lurked behind every decision I made. It may be that while stated goals are dangerous, unarticulated goals are even more dangerous. When a goal is out in the open, it can be dealt with. But when nobody has stated the goal, it can influence you without you realizing it.

John and I use the PAVE memory aid to think and talk about the risk factors on a flight. In retrospect, I realized that on that flight, three out of four categories were at play.


Pilot: We were both fatigued and had reason to know we would be.

Aircraft: We had a perfectly functioning and capable aircraft that we were putting at risk.

EnVironment: The next leg would be in the dark with thunderstorms.

External/Internal Pressures: My unstated goal to get home that evening was a risk factor.

Fatigue can be a vicious circle. Everything is harder when you are fatigued. It can be easier to just keep going because it’s too much work to come up with a different plan. When John brought up the possibility of spending the night in Wichita, one of the first thoughts that went through my mind was that it would be too much trouble to get over to a hotel and check in. Continuing seemed simpler.

Since we don’t have protections against fatigue built into general aviation, we have to manage fatigue on our own. However, our innate flexibility gives us options that the airlines don’t have.

To make wise use of that flexibility, we need to manage our own internal and external pressures. Our biggest threat is our own goal orientation — we pilots just hate to give up on a goal. Understanding this gives us permission to not complete what we had set out to do. I guess the most important part of being pilot in command is being in command of our goals.

Women in Aviation Celebration, A Look Back.

We celebrate the recent Girls in Aviation Day and the incredible cover of Aviation for Women magazine in the May/June edition 

 September 27, 2016 San Diego, CA

On Saturday, September 24th, Women in Aviation celebrated the 5th annual International Girls in Aviation Day . The goal was to connect with teen girls to encourage them to pursue careers in aviation. Created by Women in Aviation International (WAI), the event is already in 10 countries and over 30 states and connects women who are already working in aviation with girls who are curious about aviation as a career.


John & Martha King with the Lindsey Dreiling, the inaugural Martha Martha King Scholarship for Female Flight Instructors

Below is a look back at the 2016 WAI Conference in Nashville TN and the incredible interactions that led to this magazine cover.

Day 1, March 10 – John & Martha King along with King Schools CEO Barry Knutilla were greeted at Smyrna Airport by 2016 Martha King Scholarship for CFIs winner Lindsey Dreiling and her crew from Kansas Polytechnic School in Salina, Kansas. There was a brief tour of the Falcon and then the rain came down and the stories continued despite the rain setback.


Pictured left to right in photo: Christopher Van Nostrand, Katarina Szentkereztiova, Cody Lampe, Hernan Ensaldo, John King, Martha King, Lindsey Dreiling, Jason Helkenberg, Kendy Edmonds, Madison Perry


The rains came and put a damper on the Falcon tour, here’s everyone running for cover.

Day 2, March 11 –  John and Martha were surrounded at the morning General Session by sea of pink shirted Boeing employees. The enthusiasm of the crowd is genuine, passionate and inspiring.


Sea of pink shirted Boeing employees.


Long time friend, student and supporter of Kings School’s Pia Bergqvist, Executive Editor of Flying Magazine addresses the general session Friday morning.



King Schools and Cessna Pilot Centers partner Liberty University was busy the entire conference with enthusiastic interest in aviation. Here in the convention show room are Keegan Starkey (left) and Deanna Ludwig (right).

Day 3, March 12 – This was an action packed day from the morning general session until the end of the evening. During the day, the K State team had a Meet and Greet in the conference headquarters with Dr. Chabrian and a nice chat with John and Martha.


Dr. Chabrian. (L – R) Hernan Ensaldo, John King, Jason Helkenberg, Martha King, Katarina Szentkereztiova, Dr. Peggy Chabrian, Christopher Van Nostrand, Lindsey Dreiling, Cody Lampe, Madison Perry, Kendy Edmonds

Saturday night, WAI held their “$10 Million Banquet and WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame” event.  The highlight was just after the Martha King WAI Scholarship for Female CFIs was announced, WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian exclaimed the scholarship was the one that put the WAI over the $10,000,000 total of scholarships awarded.


This is just part of the estimated 2,000 that were packed in to the ballroom for the banquet.


Lindsey is presented the Scholarship and then something extraordinary happens.


Dr. Chabrian invites past winners to the stage and a celebration ensues. An awesome tribute and success story.

Day 4, March 13 – Sunday, the conference is over and it’s time to head home. Scholarship winner Lindsey was invited to catch a ride on the Falcon to her home airport in Salina, Kansas. Lindsey comments that she has never flown into Salina in anything other than a small plane or as an instructor. Lindsey got the full treatment; from the walk around to greeting her family at the airport. What a great trip but it’s always nice to be back in San Diego.


Preflight check on the Falcon.


Cockpit Tour


Home sweet home, Lindsey’s family meets her at the Salina airport.


New ACS Instrument Practical Test Checkride Course Launched  

Course is the 2nd ACS offering from King Schools


Mary Schu (DPE) and Martha King (Applicant) shown during the preflight segment . The course depicts a simulated, complete instrument checkride following the ACS from the first handshake to the final signoff. SPOILER ALERT – Martha passes!


September 6, 2016 San Diego, CA – Pilots, Flight Instructors and Examiners will benefit from the new King Schools Instrument Practical Test (Oral Exam & Flight Test).  The course shows a model instrument rating checkride based on the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS).  The new HD course covers every task as outlined by the ACS and includes nearly seven hours of oral and in flight video.  The course retails for $139 with substantial discounts for CFIs.


The course features a simulated ACS checkride with Mary Schu as the examiner, and Martha King as the applicant.  Mary, the 2015 National Flight Instructor of the Year and owner of Mary Schu Aviation, is an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). Together they demonstrate a complete checkride from first introductory handshake to the final sign off, with pauses to point out valuable tips along the way.


Martha King explained, “We released the Private ACS course in July and customer reviews on our website have told us they find the course very helpful. This course follows the same principles as the Private ACS course by allowing an instrument rating applicant to view a simulated checkride and learn what to expect, how to answer questions and how to demonstrate their skill. We have found that watching our Practical Test courses makes pilots feel more confident when showing up for their practical tests. ”


Martha adds “The ACS has challenged learning pilots, CFIs and DPEs to adapt how they learn, teach and evaluate.  There has been some resistance to the changes with passions running higher than we usually see in our community.  But most pilots are seeing the value; especially in teaching risk management.  The ACS is the result of a long FAA/industry process.  It is not going away and King Schools will continue to create courses to the most current standards.”

Martha KIng, Mary Schu and John King on set during the shooting of the newly released Private Pilot Practical Test (Oral Exam & Flight Test) course.

Martha KIng, Mary Schu and John King on set during the shooting of the newly released Private Pilot Practical Test (Oral Exam & Flight Test) course.


The course is available either online or on disc for Windows.  The online version includes compatibility with the free King Companion App for iPad and iPhone.  The App allows customers to download lessons to their iPad or iPhone.  Then, they can watch the lessons later, even while offline.  When reconnected, their course progress is automatically synchronized with the KING servers.  This allows them to move seamlessly between devices, browsers and operating systems. The online course also includes free, automatic updates for life.

ACS —Warding Off Tragedy

Improving Knowledge Tests to Save Lives

Article appeared in Flying Magazine May, 2016 by John King –

“John, Dr. Williams is dead. I thought you’d want to know.” The news hit me like a thunderbolt. The caller was an FAA inspector. Just two weeks earlier, I had asked him to talk with Dr. Williams. Dr. Williams was a towering figure. He was a physician, a radiologist and an Episcopalian priest. He was a pillar in his community. But as a pilot, he had worried me.

Martha and I were teaching two-day ground schools, and Dr. Williams had been in my class. He just didn’t follow the normal conventions of classroom behavior. He was impatient and in a hurry. He returned late from breaks and blurted out comments in class. I was worried he might behave impatiently in his flying. In fact, I was so concerned that when the FAA inspector came to administer the knowledge test, I asked him to speak to Dr. Williams.

“John,” my FAA friend said, “I can’t just pick someone out of your classroom and lecture him because you told me I should. He’ll call his congressman. You talk to him.”

“He won’t listen to me,” I said. “I’m just a traveling ground instructor.” So neither one of us talked with him.

He died on a solo cross-country. On the first leg, he got lost and wound up in the mountains. Asking for help on the radio, he said, “There are clouds around me with trees in them.” He landed safely at his destination.

Greatly relieved to see him, the folks at the Flight Service Station literally begged him to come in to talk. He didn’t have time, he said. He was scheduled to make a speech after he returned to his home airport. Without shutting off his engine, he took off on the return leg. He died in the same mountains on his way back.

I was devastated. I felt terribly guilty. I had foreseen that this might happen, yet I hadn’t spoken to him. I considered quitting teaching flying. I felt that I didn’t want to continue teaching people to do something that could kill them. Martha and I were traveling on a circuit of cities, teaching more than 2,000 pilots a year. All too often we returned to a city to learn that a pilot we knew had died. It was getting to me, and Dr. Williams was the tipping point.

Moreover, I was deeply discouraged that many of the questions we needed to prepare pilots for on the knowledge test were obscure, trivial and even tricky.  As a result, we were being forced to teach obscurity while pilots were coming to grief because they did not know how to identify and mitigate the risks of flying. Being part of that failed and dysfunctional system was depressing.

I loved flying and loved teaching it. It would be, I decided, my job to teach pilots how to identify and mitigate the risks of flight. I made one more resolution: I would never again fail to speak out when doing so offered any chance of saving someone’s life.

The unanswered question is: What would I have said to Dr. Williams that would have gotten a positive result? I still don’t know. That’s probably the real reason neither my FAA friend nor I spoke with him. An even more pertinent question is: What, if anything, could have been done to head off that catastrophe? I believe the answer would have been to teach him aviation risk management, but it would have needed to start with his first flight lesson.

Physicians are not unaccustomed to the idea of managing risk. Dr. Williams had been a radiologist. There are all sorts of risks associated with radiology. Dr. Williams and other goal-oriented people can develop the habit of identifying and mitigating risks in aviation as they do in the rest of their lives if that habit is cultivated from the very first flight lesson.

Flying Magazine "Battling the 'Big Lie'" article that led to many discussions and eventually a change in tone and focus in the aviation industry.

The Flying Magazine interview that Lane Wallace conducted with John King that preceded a change in tone and focus in the aviation industry.

As time progressed, it became apparent that Martha and I were far from the only people who had these concerns. In the March 2001 issue, Flying published an interview of me by Lane Wallace titled “Battling the ‘Big Lie.’” This gave me the venue to speak out to the aviation community. I wanted pilots to know that we should recognize that the activity of flying is risky, and we should manage the risks. It was a provocative interview, and it took courage for Flying editor Mac McClellan to run it.

In response to the story, Jim Lauerman, head of Avemco Insurance, wrote a letter proposing that we work together to help pilots manage risks. The folks at Avemco had been mourning the all-too-often loss of pilots and customers as Martha and I had. In response, we developed a series of practical risk-management courses, and Avemco grants a premium credit to pilots who take them.

At about the same time, Bob Wright, who was head of the FAA’s General Aviation and Commercial Division, spearheaded the implementation of the FAA-Industry Training Standards (FITS), with a goal of incorporating scenario-based training and risk management into flight training programs.

Still, the accident rate remained high, and the FAA knowledge tests continued to be profoundly irrelevant. In May 2011, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) organized a landmark conference in Atlanta, which brought together hundreds of concerned pilots and instructors. Among them was Van Kerns, head of the FAA’s Regulatory Support Division, which is responsible for airman testing standards. Van listened while person after person railed about the poor quality and irrelevance of the knowledge tests.

That evening Van bumped into Susan Parson, who is special assistant to the Director of the FAA’s Flight Standards Service. Susan, always deeply disturbed by the irrelevance of the exams, was by then steaming as result of the ATP written exam she had recently taken. Van and Susan agreed that this needed to change.

Not one to ignore opportunity, Susan seized on the momentum provided by this perfect storm of events. She organized the Airman Testing Standards and Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to reform the way airmen are tested and evaluated.

Susan recruited folks from nearly every segment of the aviation training community, including even me, and the right people from the FAA, and set us all to work. The result of the five-year effort from the ARC and the two ACS Working Groups that followed was the development and implementation of the Airman Certification Standards (ACS). The ACS incorporates everything a pilot is required to know or be able to do for a specific certificate or rating into a single document.

I am delighted to report that beginning in June, the ACS will replace the Practical Test Standards for the Private Pilot-Airplane and Instrument Rating-Airplane practical tests.

The first thing folks will notice when they prepare for a check ride is that now, for the first time, there are standards for the knowledge a pilot is expected to demonstrate on both the knowledge test and practical test. The knowledge required of pilots will be relevant to a pilot’s ability to get utility from the aircraft, and to identify and mitigate the risks of flight. No longer will the pilot be tested on the trivial and obscure.

Plus, a pilot will be evaluated on the ability to actually apply the knowledge they have learned to identify and mitigate the risks of flight. Pilots with this habit will be situationally aware and far less likely to be caught by surprise by events that, with risk-management skills, they would have seen coming.

I now have hope that extremely goal-oriented pilots like Dr. Williams will get the help they need to ward off tragedy. If the ACS had been in place when Dr. Williams was learning to fly, perhaps he would have learned to identify and mitigate the risks associated with scheduling a speech right after a solo cross-country.

Loss of Control

When You Ask for Too Much

Article appeared in Flying Magazine April, 2016 by Martha King –

It was the slightest of rumbles.  Both John and I felt it.  John, who was at the controls, eased the control yoke forward slightly and the rumble stopped.  We landed safely and taxied into the ramp.  We had a plane full of pilots, but an after-the-fact survey revealed no one else on the airplane had felt the rumble.  It was the aerodynamic warning of a stall in our old Falcon 10.  With hydraulically-assisted, irreversible controls in this airplane, the pilots don’t get feedback in the controls.  The rumble was the only aerodynamic warning we would get.

Martha King PIlot and John King Pilot land the King Schools Falcon.

The King Schools Falcon 10F on a short-final on Runway 36 at Tullahoma Airport.

Had John reacted differently the aircraft could well have stalled and the aviation community would have racked up one more “loss of control” tragedy.

We had been on our way to Oshkosh for AirVenture.  Ironically, we were diverted to Appleton due to the loss-of-control crash of another jet.  The pilot was on approach to runway 18 at Oshkosh and had been given instructions to slow for traffic on the runway, and keep his approach south of runway 27.  These are the exact circumstances that John and I had escaped some years ago with a go-around.

Our diversion to Appleton left us scrambling.  We quickly briefed our approach, but then at the last minute the tower directed us to another runway.  The rumble occurred during John’s last-minute maneuvering with a steep turn from base to final to get lined up with the new runway.

What these situations have in common is that they were set-ups for loss of control.  The National Transportation Safety Board has loss of control on their most wanted list, and for good reason.  Loss of control is a big deal.  Almost half of all general aviation fatalities are caused by loss of control, and they are almost always fatal.

I confess I have had a hard time getting my brain wrapped around the subject of loss of control.  It has become the safety issue du jour, but it is a huge category.  I mean, you could say there are only two conditions in which an aircraft can crash—either in control or out of control.  I am not sure that learning that a crash happened as a result of loss of control gives us much actionable information.  Plus, I have a tendency to see loss of control as a result rather than a cause.  Having said that, if we as a community could crack the code to eliminating loss-of-control accidents we could save thousands of lives.

Loss of control has occurred anytime the aircraft does something you don’t want it to do.  That can happen whenever you expect too much of either the aircraft or yourself as the pilot–asking one or the other to do something they just can’t do.  For instance, asking an airplane to fly with too much load factor will result in loss of control.  Yet pilots do it on the turn from base to final with regularity.  Pilots frequently ask too much of themselves when landing in crosswinds, or flying in instrument weather conditions without proper preparation.

There are many ways to lose control—pilots can be very creative about it.  What they all seem to have in common is that almost all loss of control accidents occur in repeating scenarios—with perfect hindsight you realize the pilot should have seen them coming.  The idea behind learning the habit of risk management is to turn that perfect hindsight into foresight for pilots when it counts.  It means knowing what’s happening now and what bad thing might happen next if you don’t do something about it.

Looking at it that way, all loss of control accidents are the result of a failure in risk management.  But not everyone looks at it that way.  A flight instructor-friend of ours firmly believes that anything that might distract from stick-and-rudder skills during flight training is doing the learning pilot a disservice.  In fact, he calls these “distractions” “fantasy flight training.”

Truly, there is much to be said for helping learning pilots have the highest level of skills they can attain.  However, all pilots inevitably have some limitation on their skills.  Without risk management, it is possible for any pilot to get themselves into situations that no amount of skill could get them out of.  To paraphrase an old saying, it is wise to use your superior risk management to avoid situations that just might require even more than your superior skills.  A training program that focuses solely on skill, and ignores risk management, will leave pilots unnecessarily vulnerable.

When a pilot does manage to avoid an accident, it is hard to know whether it might have been superior risk management or superior skill that saved the day.  On our approach to runway 18 at Oshkosh, it could be said that I executed a go-around so that I didn’t have to use superior skill, although cleaning up and doing a go-around in a highly wing-loaded, swept-wing jet from low altitude is not without its challenges.

On John’s approach to Appleton it could be said that John’s slight forward pressure on the control yoke in response to the rumble was a demonstration of superior skill.  But with all due respect to John, it didn’t take all that much skill to apply that slight forward pressure.

The important point in each case is that a successful outcome required the knowledge and risk management habits to recognize a scenario that was a set-up for stall/spin, and also recognize the mitigation needed. Although in times past we sometimes did not demonstrate these qualities, our performance in these instances seems to indicate that over the years we might have developed them.

Then, in addition to knowledge and risk management, skill was required to execute the response.  That’s why the Airman Certification Standards (ACS), which in June will replace the Practical Test Standards (PTS) for the Private Pilot and Instrument Rating tests, will require pilots to demonstrate all three.

Pilots have been taught knowledge specific to aviation since the beginning of flight.  We need knowledge to get full utility out of our flying.  But the real reason we need it is to be able to identify and mitigate risks.

The knowledge needed for the Oshkosh and Appleton events was the standard knowledge that everyone learns about stall/spins—the need to manage angle of attack and load factor, and the importance of keeping the nose yawed into the relative wind.  Additionally needed was knowledge of the aerodynamic warnings that our airplane provides for a stall.

Learning risk management, in this case for stall/spin, requires practice at recognizing scenarios that can lead to stall/spins, and coming up with mitigation strategies.  The specific scenario in the traffic pattern that most often leads to loss of control is the very one we had at Appleton—turning from base to final with lots of distractions.  In this case there was also a last-minute runway change requiring maneuvering to get lined up.  Add in a tailwind from base to final, and an overshoot, and it becomes an almost irresistible temptation to steepen the bank and maybe even add some bottom rudder.

Consideration of the skills required for preventing loss of control prompts a call for a return to the basics.  All the skills we learned when we learned to fly are about keeping control of the airplane.  In addition to all the other skills every pilot learns, in stall/spin scenarios it becomes particularly useful to have a well-honed sensitivity to load factor, and to the side loads that tell you when the nose is not yawed into the relative wind.

While learning knowledge and skills has always been fundamental to learning to fly, the recent emphasis on preventing loss of control brings a new understanding that loss of control is at its core a failure in risk management.  Among the many outcomes of poor risk management, loss of control is the most frequent and the most deadly.

The ideal is for pilots to become so practiced at identifying risky scenarios that they develop the ability to “smell” trouble, and not allow themselves to get into situations that might lead them to ask themselves or the airplane to do something they just can’t do.

The problem with any kind of loss of control is that while it may take considerable time for the situation to develop, when it comes to the actual moment of loss of control, it can happen very quickly.  When things have progressed to that point it is very difficult to recover.  The best recovery is not to need one.