Author Archives: Pilot One

Using GA Airplanes For the Common Good – The Suprising Missions of the Civil Air Patrol

Article appeared in Flying Magazine April 2019
by Martha King

Cadet Rachel Petro enjoys the tow and waits for release above Frederick Municipal Airport

The threat from Axis submarines prowling the East Coast of the United States was very scary and very real.  On-shore shelling terrorized civilians, but the real low-hanging fruit for the submarines was on the seas.  By as early as August of 1942 Axis submarines had caused the loss of thousands of lives, mainly merchant mariners, and sunk over 600 ships totaling more than 3 million tons.  Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”

Flying enthusiast Gill Robb Wilson, who later became editor and publisher of Flying Magazine, saw how general aviation could help turn the tide.  The plan was to have private airplanes patrol the coast to spot submarines, which at that time had to spend most of their time on the surface.  Wilson took a leadership role in making it happen.  When asked why the German Navy withdrew operations off America’s coast, a German high seas admiral was quoted as saying, “It was because of those damned little…airplanes!”

Some 77 years later, Gill Robb Wilson’s “damn little airplanes” have become the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  They are still being used to provide a myriad of services that can only be done with general aviation airplanes to the Air Force, and to communities throughout the United States.

As a current pilot you can use your hard-earned knowledge and skills to fly CAP airplanes for something far more rewarding than going for a hundred-dollar hamburger.  You won’t be paid for your flying, but on the other hand on missions you won’t have to pay for the cost of the airplane.

Since all CAP pilots, including instructors, are volunteers, any flight instruction you receive to get qualified for missions will be at no charge.  Your cost will be the fuel, and a flat maintenance fee which is much less than the normal rental rate.  The good news is you can fly the aircraft to keep current or get a new license or rating on the same terms.

The downside to all of this is that if your sole motivation is to get cheap flying, it won’t really work out for either you or the CAP.  There is a non-flying time commitment required.  Most CAP squadrons meet an average of two hours each week, with a specialty/training activity one to two weekends a month.  You will also have to pay dues.  And while you are flying, you will be expected to wear a CAP uniform—which, for the uniform-phobic, could consist of just a CAP polo shirt along with gray slacks and black shoes.

When the CAP recently asked me to serve on the Board of Governors, I was very honored, but at the same time embarrassed.  I realized that while I had seen CAP airplanes around airports for years, I really didn’t know much about the organization.  It was time for me to go to school on the subject, and study hard.  They gave me a head start by having John and me attend the National Conference in Anaheim.  It was like drinking from a fire hose.

I slowly began to get an idea of the magnitude of the Civil Air Patrol.  With 560 airplanes it is the largest general aviation fleet in the world.

A handful of those 560 airplanes

After my first board meeting, the CAP continued in their efforts to educate me.  They sent me to school at Maxwell Air Force Base, the home of the CAP, where I spent two days learning from managers about what their various departments were doing.  It was especially fun for me to be there since it is the same place my father went to school when he was in the Air Force.

First, CAP airplanes are used to support the U.S. Air Force by flying missions at a fraction of the cost that the Air Force would otherwise incur.  They are often used as interception targets for training fighter jet and helicopter pilots.  Plus, they are used to support Predator and Reaper drone operations.  For instance, they escort Predators in controlled airspace in order to provide the required see-and-avoid function until the Predators’ own see-and avoid capability is tested and proven.  Another drone-related mission involves equipping Cessna 182s with the sensors Predators and Reapers use.  That allows the Cessnas to function as surrogates for the drones in training the ground crews that operate them.

Interception training, or perhaps a race?

In addition to supporting the Air Force, the CAP responds to local community needs by conducting disaster relief and search and rescue operations.  With over 1,400 locations the CAP responds more quickly and nimbly after hurricanes, fires. and other disasters than would otherwise be possible, providing time-sensitive airborne imagery to FEMA for their relief efforts.  Plus, along with what the CAP calls “cell-phone forensics,” the fleet makes over 100 search-and-rescue saves per year.

It was at the National Conference that I first began to realize the extent to which CAP also works with cadets.  They use the fleet to inspire young lives by following up classroom and textbook learning with over 30,000 orientation flights to both CAP and ROTC cadets.

Cadets learn about robotics

In addition to weekly learning sessions, cadets also benefit from numerous field trips and annual week-long encampments.  Plus, the cadets receive training in many subjects such as computer technology and cyber defense that gives them a great head-start in their future learning.  As a result, CAP cadets make up about 10% of the Air Force Academy’s classes.

CAP also uses aviation expertise to reach out to local communities with aerospace education curricula for K-12 classrooms to generate interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers.  This program benefits about 300,000 students a year nationwide.

Cadets in the lab

All of this takes people.  The Civil Air Patrol has very few paid employees.  But as I have learned more about CAP, what has impressed me the most is the number and quality of volunteers.  There are some 60,000 volunteers who are deeply committed to making these programs work.  Many have enthusiastically donated their time and effort to the CAP for decades.

I am not sure why I was asked to be on the Board of Governors.  I like to think that maybe they were hoping my passion for flying and background in general aviation education and small business might provide some kind of special perspective.  In the meanwhile, I am learning a lot, and very much looking forward to being involved with a community that uses aviation in so many ways for the common good.

Tempering Passion With Reality
Article appeared in Flying Magazine Aircraft Buyers Guide, March 2019
John and Martha King

Falcon 10F on short final

There are a plenty of reasons to want to own and fly a jet.  Jets are made for capable, reliable transportation.  They come equipped ready to do the job—with pressurization, anti-icing and deicing, and substantial turbine-style cockpit displays and avionics.  Most important, they come with jet engines.
There is nothing better than jet engines.  They never miss. They never run rough.  They just deliver smooth power.  And oh, the power.  To a pilot with a piston-powered background, there is no greater thrill than transitioning to jets.

“There is nothing better than jet engines. They never miss. They never run rough.  They just deliver smooth power.  And oh, the power.  To a pilot with a piston-powered background, there is no greater thrill than transitioning to jets.”


You are flooded with excitement and sensations.  The thrill of hearing a jet engine wind up on start, so full of promise, the semi-sweet smell of jet fuel, the exhilaration of hearing jet engines following you wherever you go.  And, ah yes, the power, oh so much power, all at the command of your hand.

With old, out-of-production jets selling at a mere fraction of the price of new jets with similar performance, the purchase of an old jet seems like an irresistible bargain.  It is exactly that line of reasoning that has resulted in our owning and operating old, out-of-production jets for the last 34 years.  Sometimes we are slow learners.
It will be no surprise to you that we soon found that, while the capital cost of old jets is far less, the operating costs can be far higher.  After all, there must be a reason why these old jets are out of production.

Plus, while the value of a newer jet might increase after purchase, the higher costs of operating an old jet mean that as the aircraft ages, you would be wise to count on the value of your jet going down—eventually to virtually zero.  At some point every out-of-production jet will become economically obsolete—it will become just too expensive to maintain.
But the higher cost of operating these old jets and their declining value is not close to the entire story.  The complexity of managing the maintenance of them may be the most important consideration.

When we bought our first jet—a Citation so old that we called it a Citation Zero because it was made before they started numbering them—we had no idea how much personal management was going to be involved in maintaining the airplane.

Our Citation “Zero”

In fact, at first, we flat out weren’t qualified to maintain a jet.  If it hadn’t been for our jet mentor and good friend, Harry Metz, we would have been just overwhelmed.  Although we realized that an annual inspection each year wouldn’t be enough to make us legal, we didn’t begin to understand the complexities of progressive maintenance programs required for jets.
New jet owners learn that with a jet you are required to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance program or get your own program approved by the FAA.  For our old Citation, Cessna’s maintenance program requires as many as 13 different inspections.  These inspections all come due at different times, and with differing requirements, based on the service bulletins that have been applied to that specific aircraft.

We soon began to realize that it is virtually impossible to keep a jet—particularly an old one—safe and legal unless you subscribe to a computerized service that keeps track of the inspections required for your aircraft based on the equipment installed and the service bulletins applied to it.


“We soon began to realize that it is virtually impossible to keep a jet—particularly an old one—safe and legal unless you subscribe to a computerized service that keeps track of the inspections required for your aircraft based on the equipment installed and the service bulletins applied to it.”


For the Citation we used Cesscom, and for the old Falcon 10 that we now have we use Avtrak.
These services both seem to be always a little behind in their reports because there is a lag between the time an event is reported to the service and when it shows up on the printouts.  So to schedule our inspections around our need for the aircraft, and to keep from having a required inspection catch us by surprise, we also maintain our own spreadsheet that keeps track of major events coming due by date and aircraft time.

In Borrego Springs (L08) with the Citation

Because the manufacturers of both of the old jets that we have operated are still in business, parts have always been available for us—at a price.  OEMs who are still building airplanes, like Textron and Dassault, do a pretty good job of supporting even out-of-production airplanes.  After all, they don’t want to be seen as abandoning their products, even if they are out of production.

We have been lucky compared to some operators who own aircraft from manufacturers who are no longer making airplanes.  In this case parts may not be available at all.  This leaves cannibalization of older airplanes and overhaul/exchanges as their only sources of parts.
Even if the manufacturer is still supporting your old airplane, all the factors seem to conspire against you to make your airplane more difficult and expensive to maintain.  In addition to all the required inspections, you have to periodically meet government mandates such as for ADS-B.  In fact, the ADS-B mandate is only the latest.
As jet owners, over the years we’ve had to meet hundreds of thousands of dollars of mandates, requiring such things as a cockpit voice recorder (CVR), a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), and reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) capability.  And with the technological evolution involved with the NextGen air traffic control system, there will probably be more, as yet unknown, mandates coming.
Meeting these mandates has not only made us safer and legal, but as jet owners we’ve often felt we’ve been the special beneficiaries beyond that.  Transponders with mode C have not only enabled our air traffic control system to provide far better service to all comers, but they’ve helped enable RVSM which has virtually doubled the airspace available to jets at 29,000 feet and above.

Falcon Avionics Bay

For piston airplanes, the current ADS-B mandate is not particularly onerous and is getting less so.  Solutions have been rapidly getting cheaper and simpler, including one solution that involves replacing a position light with a new LED position light and an entire ADS-B solution for under $2,000.
But for jet operators these low-cost solutions simply aren’t available.  To fly above 18,000 feet our transponders have to be 1090ES transponders rather than the UAT transponders used by the cheaper solutions.

When we started researching solutions for our old Falcon 10, our first quote was for more than $150,000.  It was a really beautiful dual Garmin GTN 750 installation.  But in addition to the cost, and a big delay before we could get started, what really killed the deal was the airplane would be down for at least a couple of months—and probably much longer.  That would definitely send us into withdrawal.
It was clear to us that we wanted to meet the requirement before the deadline —without ADS-B our old jet would become useless.  Besides, we wanted the things that would come with a WAAS GPS, like LPV approach capability, sooner rather than later.

We had a Garmin GTN 725 installed by Neal Aviation, a shop on Gillespie Airport in San Diego where we have the airplane maintained.  It was a lot quicker and less expensive than the luxurious dual 750 installation.  The whole thing cost us a little over $65,000, including some required modifications for compatibility, and took a little less than a month.
In spite of the good deal we got on the Garmin installation, owners of an old jet can, in general, expect parts to cost at least as much as they would for a newer jet.  If the airplane today would sell for six million dollars, the prices of the parts will be no less than they would be for a new six-million-dollar airplane.
This makes sense.  Why would the manufacturer discount the parts just because you have an old airplane?  Parts will probably be even more expensive for out-of-production jets because as the fleet size decreases, the smaller and smaller market makes it less and less profitable for manufacturers to produce and maintain the parts inventory.

Also, manufacturers have little incentive to take risks on a maintenance program for an aging airplane.  So as problems begin to reveal themselves, inspection intervals get shorter, and the number of mandatory inspections increases.  Life limits on parts are reduced, and there are more requirements for non-destructive testing such as X-ray and eddy-current testing.
Plus, there is a limit to the number of times you can overhaul a part.  Eventually cores reach that limit, and you have to buy a new part or search aviation salvage yards for an acceptable core.  In other cases, parts may be superseded by a new design, rendering the old core useless and forcing the purchase of a new part.
You can replace the avionics in an old airplane, but you will still be largely left with old wiring, switches, relays, and gauges.  As the airplane ages, these begin to cause intermittent problems—making trouble-shooting an ongoing nightmare.
In spite of all these problems, we are still happy with our purchases of our old jets.  We recognize that the old airplanes do dramatically increase management complexity, but if you are willing to put in the work, the lower capital costs can make up for all the extra work and operational expense.

Falcon 10F receiving the Royal Treatment

We are extremely lucky that we have the availability of Circle Air Group, our maintenance and avionics shop.  They are based at Gillespie, just a few miles from our home airport in San Diego, and are more than willing to work with us in meeting the challenges of maintaining an old airplane.  Our maintenance technicians even went to FlightSafety in Dallas to take training in the maintenance of our airplane.
Rather than automatically putting new parts on our airplane, they always conduct a thorough search for the possibility of an overhaul or an exchange and present us with alternatives.  When a core is no longer suitable for an overhaul or exchange, they will purchase a core from a salvage yard if possible.  Without the willingness of Circle Air Group to work with us we, don’t believe it would be possible for us to operate our old jet.

It is also critically important to shop around for your major inspections.  Our Falcon 10 has a C-check required every 6 years.  This inspection can cost from $60,000 to $600,000 depending on the problems uncovered, who conducts the inspection, and what they charge for remedying the problems.  We have used shops that specialize in these kinds of big inspections, the latest being Aviation Maintenance Group in Chino, CA.  Their primary business is the performance of major inspections.  We are convinced they have saved us tens of thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, there is always the risk that at a major inspection they will discover some major defect like corrosion that simply would not be economical to repair and would permanently ground the airplane.

If you are considering the purchase of an old jet, our advice would be to find your equivalent of shops like Circle Air Group and Aviation Maintenance Group before you buy the airplane.  It is critical that you and these folks have a clear understanding of the ground rules you will be operating under.  Plus, we suggest that you talk to other owners about where they do their maintenance and major checks, and what their ground rules are.

“If you are considering the purchase of an old jet, our advice would be to find your equivalent of shops like Circle Air Group and Aviation Maintenance Group before you buy the airplane.  It is critical that you and these folks have a clear understanding of the ground rules you will be operating under.  Plus, we suggest that you talk to other owners about where they do their maintenance and major checks, and what their ground rules are.”


The bottom line is that, when you consider the capital costs you are saving, you can operate an out-of-production jet, but it means much more management, more down-time for maintenance, and a higher hourly cost of operation.
In our case, we have been willing to put forth the considerable personal effort required to operate these old airplanes—but then, flying is our business and our passion.  Besides, as I said, sometimes we are slow learners.  If flying is just transportation to you, and you don’t want to put that much effort into managing your airplane, maybe a “bargain” jet is not for you.  But if you desperately want to smell jet fuel and hear turbine engines following you around, go for it and follow your passion.  We’ve never regretted it.

Now Hiring a C# .NET Software Developer Aviation Fan

Do you have a passion for aviation?  This might be the ideal job for you.  King Schools has a position available for a C# .NET Software Developer in San Diego, California.  The ideal candidate would be a certificated pilot, have experience in the aviation industry and a passion for flying.  King Schools provides significant support, perfect flying weather and benefits to employees who want to become pilots or want to continue to fly.

King Schools, the industry leader in the development of Internet-based training for pilots, is seeking a .Net Software Guru with strong SQL skills. The job requires a history of successfully working in a team doing .Net/HTML application/Web and mobile development.

REQUIRED (You must have all of these attributes)

  • 5+ years C# development
  • 2+ years of mobile development
  • 5+ years ASP.NET development experience
  • 5+ years MS SQL Server, T-SQL
  • 2+ years HTML5, SVG Canvas, jQuery, JavaScript
  • Ability to envision and create robust software architectures emphasizing flexibility and reusability
  • Excellent user-interface design skills


  • MVC, Entity Framework, IIS 7, 8, 8.5
  • iOS/Android Development


  • Hands-on software design and development in the creation of our next generation software development products and maintenance of existing products.
  • Adhere and contribute to the further development of the King Schools software development members, process and culture.


  • A comprehensive set of full-time employee benefits including: paid health insurance, 401(k) plan, paid vacation and holidays
  • Flying support including hourly cost reimbursement & FREE King Schools courses.


  • Commensurate with experience.  Relocation assistance is available for this position.

Position reports the VP of Technology.

Must reside or be willing to relocate to the San Diego, CA area.

Please send your resume and cover letter to

No Recruiters.

Melissa Martin Awarded the WAI Martha King Scholarship for a Female Flight Instructor

Melissa Martin Awarded the WAI Martha King Scholarship for a Female Flight Instructor

Melissa, Martha, and John at the 2019 WAI Conference

May 8, 2019 San Diego, California

Melissa (Missy) Martin of Polaris, Montana was awarded the 4th annual Martha King Scholarship for Female Flight Instructors during the annual Women in Aviation International Conference in Long Beach, California. This scholarship consists of $5,000 toward an initial CFI certificate or an add-on rating and free, lifetime access to all King Schools courses including FIRCs for life. The total value is over $18,000.

Missy graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has been focused on aviation since high school.  She stated “I fell in love with flying from flying around the mountains as a teenager, and I was curious enough about aviation to ask for a job at the airport. As I progressed through my ratings and a master’s degree, I discovered that I was also passionate about education and teaching. Along the way, I was afforded opportunities that I never imagined, and discovered things about myself that I never thought possible. I realized that I could be as good of a pilot and teacher as the person next to me.”

“Through scholarships from ERAU and Women in Aviation, along with encouragement and mentorship from people I’ve always looked up to, like John & Martha King, I’ve been able to make my dream a reality. Fellow educators and aviators supported me along the way. They truly believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. As a flight instructor, I want nothing more than to pass along to tomorrow’s aviators the same knowledge and enthusiasm that I’ve been graciously given. The Martha King Scholarship for Female Flight Instructors will allow me to do just that,” Missy continued.

Missy was an Air Force Missileer, Air Force Reserve Navigator and is a currently a C-130 pilot for the Montana Air National Guard. She loves flying the back country of Montana in her Husky. Very recently she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been undergoing treatments while flying under BasicMed.

Martha King, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools, said “Missy is tough and inspirational, fighting a battle with cancer while continuing the process of working on her CFI. Her plans include supporting aviation in her home state of Montana. We are deeply proud of her and look forward to following her aviation journeys for many years to come.”

“I love making the phone calls to our scholarship winners. Letting them know that we are going to help make their dreams come true is just plain awesome!” Martha concluded.

The Martha R. King Scholarship was donated by Martha King who, along with her husband John King, created King Schools in 1974. Applications for the 2020 scholarship will be available on the WAI website in mid-2019.

Missy on her first T-6 solo

T-6 formation

Missy on her last flight in the C130 ‘Herc’

Backcountry in the Aviat Husky


AOPA Drone Program Adds King Schools’ Recurrent Drone Course

The King Schools Recurrent Drone Test Prep course has been added to the AOPA Drone Member program at an exclusive price of $37

Members receive a discount on KING drone test prep courses

April 4, 2019 SUN ‘n FUN Lakeland, FL. – AOPA drone pilot members now get a discount on King Schools Drone Pilot License Recurrent Test Prep Course.  This recurrent course and the KING Drone Pilot License Test Prep Course are now available to members at exclusive pricing.

King Schools Co-Founder John King commented, “AOPA’s Drone Pilot Membership supports people who fly, or desire to fly, drones. We are happy to offer our courses at a discount to these members.” Co-Founder Martha King continued, “We are excited to help drone pilots pass their initial and recurrent FAA Part 107 tests using courses that are designed to help them become smart and safe operators, and of course, have fun along the way!”

AOPA Senior Director of UAS Programs Kathleen ‘Kat’ Swain said, “We are constantly working on ways to add value to our Drone Member program.  I’ve taken quite a few King Schools courses and have always found them to be informative, fun and easy to understand. We now have both of their Part 107 drone pilot test prep courses discounted for our members.”

AOPA members can purchase the King Schools Drone Pilot License Recurrent Test Prep Course for $47 (retail $59) through the Drone Member section of the AOPA website.  AOPA members can also purchase the King Schools Drone Pilot License Test Prep Course for $108 (retail $129).


All-New Instrument Rating Course Now Available from King Schools

Martha King demonstrates the Garmin GTN in a segment of the new King Schools Instrument Ground School and Test Prep Course

Online course includes lifetime updates

April 4 SUN ‘n FUN, Lakeland FL – Aspiring instrument rating pilots now have a completely updated King course to use in preparing for their FAA knowledge test. This all-HD version of the King Schools online Instrument Rating Ground School & Test Prep Course was completed in March of 2019, and includes extensive new content with every lesson reshot in HD video. This is the latest edition of the Instrument Rating course that pilots have been using for decades to prepare for their FAA written exam.

Martha King commented, “As always, our goal is to keep it all fun and interesting, and the King Schools course developers and video production folks really stepped up their game on this new course.  We have added a significant amount of material regarding GPS procedures and use, including “Climb Via” and “Descend Via” clearances, along with great explanatory graphics.  We also wanted the newest generation of YouTube learners to be especially pleased, so we made sure the graphics really pop and we kept to our goal of providing bite-sized learning lessons of 5 to 10 minutes in length.  Of course, John and I also kept our focus on creating fun ways to help people remember important information.”

John King added, “The new Instrument course not only covers all the information pilots need to pass their Instrument Rating Knowledge Test, but it also includes extensive discussions of risk management interwoven throughout the course in accordance with the new Instrument Rating Airmen Certification Standards (ACS).  The ACS, for the first time, provides standards for the knowledge test and this supports us greatly in having much more significant and meaningful material in our course.”

“The new video lessons benefit from King Schools’ 45 years of developing techniques to help pilots deeply understand aviation concepts, along with ways to absorb and recall facts when rote memorization is required,” noted Barry Knuttila, King Schools CEO.  “As we do with all our test prep courses, we guarantee that our customers will pass their exams and that their online courses will always be up to date.”

This online interactive video course includes compatibility with the free King Companion App for iPad and iPhone.  The App allows users to download lessons to their device when they have an internet connection, allowing them to watch the lessons any time—even while offline.  When reconnected, their course progress is automatically synchronized with King’s servers, allowing them to move seamlessly between devices, browsers and operating systems. Like all King test prep courses, the online course also includes free, automatic updates for life.

The King Schools Instrument Rating Ground School & Test Prep Course sells for $279 and is available at

For information regarding King Schools:

King Schools
3840 Calle Fortunada • San Diego, CA 92123
Toll-Free (800) 854-1001
Worldwide (858)-541-2200

# # #

Andrea Prisca Garcia Awarded the National Association of Flight Instructors and King Schools Scholarship

Andrea Prisca Garcia is the 2019 King Schools/NAFI Scholarship Winner. The scholarship includes $5,000 for training and lifetime access to all KING courses including FIRCS. Photo ID – L>R John King, Martha King, Andrea Prisca Garcia, Bob Meder, Barry Knuttila.

April 4, 2019, SUN ‘n FUN – Lakeland, FL – Andrea Garcia of Buena Park, California is the winner of the King Schools and National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) 2019 CFI scholarship. The scholarship consists of $5,000 toward a new CFI rating or certificate, and free lifetime access to all King Schools courses, including lifetime Flight Instructor Refresher Courses (FIRCs). The estimated value is over $18,000.

Andrea was an award winning music teacher in Long Beach, CA during her “first career.” Since 2014, when she committed herself to aviation, Andrea has progressed from being a student pilot to a commercial pilot, logging over 900 hours and passing her ATP written while also obtaining her Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor certificates. All this progress has been made outside of a traditional aviation school or fast track program.

Andrea says, “Over the next year in my pursuit of achieving my Airline Transport Pilot Certificate and becoming a Captain, I see myself obtaining my CFI-A Certificate, my Instrument Helicopter Certificate and MEI certificate. I am a single parent, which is financially challenging in Southern California. To obtain my initial ratings I sold my home, worked, took out loans, and maxed out my credit cards. Beyond money, another challenge I have had in aviation has been being able to move forward with my aviation goals while still spending time with my son before he graduates in 2020.”

Andrea has been doing much more than flying and parenting. Since 2014 she has organized, judged or helped others with over 65 aviation events. She has been the President of Women in Corporate Aviation and serves on the Board of the Orange County, CA chapters of Women in Aviation International (WAI) and the 99s. In addition, she is an active member of the International Aerobatic Club, Whirly Girls and the EAA Explorers 445.

John King, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools, commented “Andrea has an enthusiastic, infectious personality that no doubt makes flying with her fun. Her passion for connecting young people to aviation is what we need to ensure future generations have the opportunity to fly with competent and passionate instructors.”

Martha King, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools, added, “Through the scholarship evaluation process, we get to meet extraordinary people with lots of passion who have strong beliefs about paying it forward. We are delighted to get to know Andrea. One of our scholarship criteria is ‘Will this person contribute to the aviation community?’, and we have no doubt that Andrea will continue to give back and help many more people as a CFI and mentor.”

Robert Meder, the Chairman of NAFI, said, “Andrea exemplifies what it means to give back to aviation. We have selected someone who was a passionate, award-winning music teacher. She now wants to use her learned and earned teaching skills to mentor future pilots–she’s a great representative for NAFI and our mission.”

The scholarship was presented at the King Schools press conference at SUN ‘n FUN 2019 in Lakeland, Florida. Applications for the 2020 NAFI/King Schools scholarship will become available in August of 2019, and the deadline to submit scholarship applications will be January 2nd 2020.

For information regarding King Schools:

King Schools
3840 Calle Fortunada • San Diego, CA 92123
Toll-Free (800) 854-1001
Worldwide (858)-541-2200


King Schools Debuts a New Aviation Instructor

Barry Knuttila is the new, on camera course instructor at King Schools. Barry is an accomplished and experienced pilot as well as the CEO of King Schools.

CEO and Flight Instructor Barry Knuttila Now Appearing in Courses

April 4, 2019, SUN ‘n FUN – Lakeland, FL – King Schools customers will be seeing a new flight instructor in King Schools’ online video courses. CEO Barry Knuttila has taken on an additional role as one of the on-camera instructors for King Schools.

Barry holds an ATP certificate with a Falcon 10 type rating and flight and ground instructor certificates with all available airplane ratings. He also owns a Beechcraft Debonair, and regularly flies the King Schools Falcon 10 with John and Martha.

Barry commented, “The goal of this change is to provide our customers with more great King video content, at a faster rate. John and Martha are amazing mentors that make it all look so easy, but their skill in front of the camera is hard to achieve. With their help, I’m working hard to simplify and clarify aviation topics, and make it easy for our customers to gain the knowledge they need to pass their tests and become confident and competent pilots-in-command.”

Added Martha King, “Barry certainly knows the material. He is an accomplished and experienced pilot. He has been piloting the Falcon 10 with us for 9 years and has flown a multitude of different aircraft. We are asking a lot of him – but Barry’s been working with us since 2002, first running our technology and marketing departments and recently as our CEO. John and I have the utmost confidence in his adding this completely new role.”

“Our customers will see a new, highly competent instructor in King Schools courses,” John King noted. “Barry has a laid-back style that we know will connect with pilots. This is a big deal for King Schools that will be very helpful in continuing to increase our rate of high-quality video content production.”

You can see Barry instructing in the new King Schools Online Instrument Rating Ground School & Test Prep Course, and in upcoming courses at

For information regarding King Schools:

King Schools
3840 Calle Fortunada • San Diego, CA 92123
Toll-Free (800) 854-1001
Worldwide (858)-541-2200



NOTAMS Are Garbage

Nobody Pays Any Attention To Them

Article appeared in Flying Magazine February, 2019 by John King

NOTAMS have their place in aviation. Where that place is is up for debate.

“That’s what NOTAMS are.  They are just a bunch of garbage that nobody pays any attention to.”  It would be a dramatic statement regardless of who said it.  But this was Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), at a hearing.

Sumwalt had reason to be upset.  An Air Canada plane had come within 13 feet of another airliner on a go-around after having made an approach to taxiway Charlie at San Francisco International Airport instead of runway 28R.  The left runway was not illuminated, because it was closed.  The pilots lined up with the right of the two remaining sets of lights.

The frustrating part is the Notice-To-Airman (NOTAM) System is in place to help prevent exactly this kind of mistake.  And the pilots did have a warning of the closure—on page 8 of their 27-page NOTAM report.

People who design cockpits have picked up on the need to guard against information overload.  If there is a light or horn to warn about everything, then nothing stands out.  It is the same as if there were no warnings at all.  A first step in NOTAM reform would be to review whether having fewer, more impactful NOTAMS might actually be an improvement in risk management.

Chairman Sumwalt isn’t the first person to complain about NOTAMs.  After Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe landed on a closed runway, he said that while “technically” pilots should “probably” check NOTAMs, it would be impractical for him to do so on the many flights he makes to small airports in Oklahoma each year. “People who fly a lot just don’t do it,” Inhofe told the Tulsa World.

His complaint was that NOTAMs should be more accessible and easier to find.  So, after his experience, Senator Inhofe championed the 2012 Pilot’s Bill of Rights.  Included in its many provisions was a requirement for the “NOTAM improvement panel” which, among other things, created an online search tool to help pilots find NOTAMs.  But the tool is clunky to use, and the FAA won’t allow you to use it until you have agreed not to make it your only briefing.

They consider the tool not to be a “complete and accurate source.”  The FAA wants you to contact Flight Service instead.  So, Inhofe included a provision in last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act that all NOTAMs be posted in a publicly-available, central online forum.

But there is another problem with NOTAMs.  They appear to be written to serve the government rather than the reader.  They often lead off with legalese stating their authority to place restrictions on airspace and the penalties for violation.  We recently had an airshow at a nearby military field that closed our local airport intermittently.  The FAA issued two separate NOTAMs that had to be looked at together to understand the closure times.  That, plus the usual coded format, made them a real struggle to understand.

Of course, each NOTAM started out by stating their legal authority for the airspace closure in all caps.  Then, like all NOTAMs, they continued in the standard NOTAM language only a computer programmer could love.  First, they gave the closed area as a radius around a latitude and longitude (backed-up by the seven-digit coded reference to a direction and distance from a VORTAC).

Next, they stated the date and Greenwich Mean Times (GMT) of the beginning and end of the time periods, each coded with six-digits.  Each NOTAM continued in all caps with three ungrammatical non-sentences to describe the purpose of the closure, and to state the rules.

They finished with the telephone number of the “CDN facility” and the available hours, again using those six-digit date and time codes.  I had no idea what a “CDN” facility is, so I called the number to ask them what it meant.  The person answering the phone didn’t know either. After about a 20-minute web search, he reported that “CDN” stood for “Coordination Facility.”

The fact that NOTAMs are extremely difficult to read once they do get in the hands of pilots is perhaps the biggest problem of all.  The style stems from the 1850s, when communications were slow and expensive.  It violates virtually every principle of good readability.

To reduce the number of keys needed on the teletype machines of the time, they used all caps, which due to their uniform, block-like shape are difficult to tell apart from each other.  Plus, to save space they used codes and abbreviations.  All of this might have made sense in the in the 1800s, but today, in the age of huge bandwidths and of practically free communications technology, there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Being stuck in the 1800s also means that NOTAMs don’t make use of the many very basic tools that the rest of the world uses routinely to make our written communications user friendly.  Even something so simple as varying type fonts and headlines to show the organization of a communication helps make understanding much easier.  Plus, of course, with the availability of images that can easily be captured and displayed on our handheld devices, there is no reason not to back up a description with a graphic every now and then.

With the availability of computers, we should go even further and have “smart” NOTAMs.  If a runway is closed, the system should, at a minimum, tell me about the runway closure before it tells me about the rest of the implications such as the localizer, glideslope, and lights all being out of service—if it tells me about them at all.

Another feature of “smart” NOTAMs might be to give me information grouped in the context of how I will use it.  There are some NOTAMs that would only be important in instrument or night conditions.  If I am going to fly on a day, VFR trip, an unlighted tower 3 miles away wouldn’t be a high probability of being a problem.

Considering the importance of their messages, NOTAMs should be the ultimate in accessibility, readability, and ease of use.  In the rest of our lives, the tools we all use on a daily basis—the Internet, cell phones, tablets, digital maps—are improving continuously.  The fact that NOTAMs have remained so substandard in this era reflects profound indifference and is a breach of faith and trust.

The great strides being made by commercial flight planning programs are largely compensating for this abject failure, but it is the government’s responsibility to get this right in the first place.  It is time for the the folks who run the program to demonstrate that they have the interest of airmen at heart.  No longer should NOTAMs be, as Chairman Sumwalt says, “…just a bunch of garbage that nobody pays any attention to.”