Author Archives: Pilot One

New Aviation Mechanics Courses Help Careers Takeoff!

For Immediate Release

Screen capture from the new King Schools new, online A&P Mechanics Course series.

July 26, 2018 AirVenture – Oshkosh, WI. Aspiring aviation mechanics have a new way to prepare for their FAA Oral, Practical, & Written TestsKing Schools has released online versions of their popular General, Airframe, and Powerplant Knowledge & Test Prep Video Courses.  The online A&P Mechanics courses include updated video lessons and an integrated Test Prep section featuring an extensive database of FAA-style questions, online flashcards and timed practice exams.  The new courses are also compatible with the KING Companion App for iPad or iPhone.  The App allows you to download your lessons (videos and quizzes), and take them when offline. When back online, your course progress is automatically synchronized with King’s servers and available from any other device.

Barry Knuttila, CEO of King Schools explained “These courses are ideal for busy aviation mechanics who are preparing for their A&P exams.  They are accessible from any computer or device and allow the completion of a new lesson in just 15 minutes.  With lifetime access and free updates, the courses will continue to provide a great refresher for mechanics long after passing their exams. Pilots will also enjoy taking these courses to learn more about the airplanes they fly and to become more knowledgeable partners with their aircraft mechanics.”

John King, Co Chairman and Founder of King Schools said “There is great news for anyone passionate about aviation who would like to make a living doing what they love. Salaries, benefits and opportunities for mechanics, pilots, flight instructors, flight crew—jobs in just about every area of aviation—are rapidly improving. Short and long-term trends point toward aviation offering a fulfilling and financially rewarding career that will enable new hires to prosper throughout their working life.”

Martha King, Co Chairman and Founder of King Schools added, “Aspiring mechanics have an especially bright future.  King Schools recently completed an in-house study considering aviation mechanics and their future job prospects. Some highlights include a 9% supply and demand gap of new mechanics by 2027, as global airlines grow their fleets by 40%. Boeing predicts 101,000 new mechanics are needed between now and 2034. Airlines and local shops are offering better benefits, programs and salaries to attract aircraft mechanics to fill both new spots, and those vacated by retiring baby boomers. There is now, and will continue to be for many years to come, an aircraft mechanic shortage.”

The three new King Schools Online A&P Mechanics courses are:

They sell for $199 each and include lifetime updates. The Online A&P Mechanics Bundle includes all three courses for $495 and includes the new King Schools Online Aviation Library ($79 value).


NAFI Members Are Eligible for a Scholarship Valued at $18,000 from King Schools and NAFI

For Immediate Release

Pete Muntean, the 2018 NAFI/King Schools Scholarship Winner, is actively teaching with GT Aviation at Potomac Airfield in Maryland and covers transportation as television news reporter for wUSA9 in Washington, DC (Left to right – John King, Pete Muntean, Martha King, Bob Meder)

July 26, 2018 AirVenture – Oshkosh, WI – A well deserving NAFI Member CFI or aspiring CFI will be awarded a scholarship valued at $18,000. The scholarship consists of $5,000 cash for the attainment of an initial or advanced instructor rating and lifetime access to the entire King Schools library of over 90 courses, including FIRCs.

The 2019 scholarship application period is now open, and the winner will be announced at Sun ‘n Fun in April 2019. The 2018 winner, Peter Muntean of Washington DC commented, “Accepting this scholarship was an honor. But it was not about me as an individual. Strong flight instructors light the way for aviation’s future. ”

This is the 3rd consecutive year that King and NAFI have partnered to award the scholarship. King Schools Co-Founders John & Martha King, in a statement said, “NAFI and King Schools understand that flight instructors are the key to creating pilots that are truly ready to be pilot in command. Our organizations are passionate about preparing CFIs for that awesome responsibility and this scholarship will help the winner advance both their CFI ratings and knowledge.”

NAFI Chairman Robert Meder added, “Working with the King Schools team, we have found profoundly qualified and competent winners that are making strong contributions to aviation. For example, our winner in 2017, Terry Carbonell, our 2017 winner, does extraordinary work with children in Florida. We are thrilled to give our members the opportunity to receive this scholarship and are confident that the next winner will be just as extraordinary are our past winners.”

The 2019 scholarship application deadline is January 3, 2019. The scholarship will be awarded at the Sun ‘N Fun International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, FL, April, 2019.

The NAFI & King Schools Scholarship for Flight Instructors application form is available on-line at the King Schools website

About The National Association of Flight Instructors

NAFI’s purpose is to establish and promote a high level of professionalism among aviation educators and to provide recognition for their contributions to aviation safety, education and training. NAFI members teach in more than 30 countries in flight schools, universities, FBOs, corporate flight departments, the military and as independent flight instructors. Founded in 1967, NAFI works with industry and government to help shape the direction of flight training and to serve as a voice for flight instruction. For more information about NAFI or the NAFI Master Instructor program call 866-806-6156 or visit

About King Schools

For over 40 years, students and pilots at all levels have enjoyed King Schools´ clear, simple and fun video courses. King Schools estimates that over 50% of the pilots flying in the U.S. today have learned with King. The company is also a leader in on-line pilot training from Private Pilot to ATP and beyond, including certification and avionics training for pilots of high-performance and turbine aircraft.




Article appeared in Flying Magazine March, 2018 by Martha King

There was nobody to marshal us in as we wheeled into the parking spot.  After we shut the old Navajo down and started looking around to see where to go after we got out, a man ran up to the pilot side of the aircraft.  I opened the little side window and expectantly bent an ear, only to hear him say, “You can’t park here”. “Where can we park?” I asked.  “I don’t know, but you can’t park here!”

A common site at just about any FBO in the United States. In Australia, things are quite different when you arrive at an airport.

It was not unusual for this trip.  On our month-long tour of Australian airports, we were discovering that most Australian airports don’t have FBOs the way nearly every airport in the United States does.  FBOs are the wonderful legacy of the roving barnstormers who settled down for a more stable life and became “Fixed Base Operators.”

Without businesses focused on taking care of the needs of general aviation, GA pilots are on their own and airport operations are focused on what is known in Australia as “Regular Public Transport” or airline operations.  This leaves GA pilots without access to terminal buildings or restroom facilities and all the other amenities that come with an FBO.  We were forced to find our own parking, often in the grass, snag a roaming fuel truck when it wasn’t serving an airliner, figure out how to get our luggage out the gate, and procure our own ground transportation.

We were in Australia to share the details of the U.S. system with Australian pilots.  When we described arriving at airports with competing FBOs offering free steaks and wine, and an attractive young woman from each waving flags to lure us in, Australian pilots were in disbelief.  One on the front row exclaimed to another, “B.S., that just can’t be true.”

Although the days of free steaks and wine and fetching greeters waving flags seem to be over, back in the U.S. we still have it good.  Many FBOs in Middle America still represent the ideal of mom-and-pop operations providing their parking, fuel and connection to the local community with down-home warmth and hospitality.  This is certainly true of Heartland Aviation’s Jeff and Gaylene Jensen, who extended a warm welcome and put on a wonderful eclipse party for fly-in attendees at Alliance, Nebraska’s municipal airport last August (see the article here).  I routinely say to FBOs, “Thanks for being here, and taking such good care of us.”  I usually get a confused “Huh?” for an answer.  I explain to them that I have seen flying without FBOs and it is not as practical, or nearly as much fun.

Heartland Aviation’s Jeff and Gaylene Jensen mind the store at Alliance, Nebraska’s municipal airport .

Due to the increasing range of business jets, we have reason to be concerned about the preservation of the delightful Middle America FBOs and the airport and community access they provide.  As we saw in Australia, airports without an FBO become far less accommodating to GA.  It is a serious concern for general aviation.

Surprisingly, we have business jets to thank for our wonderful network of FBOs in the U.S.  Many FBOs simply could not survive on the business generated by piston airplanes alone.  Back when John and I were flying our Cessna 340 around the Midwest teaching live, 2-day weekend ground schools, I remember sitting in airport cafes (also an endangered species) and watching Learjet after Learjet pull in for a quick turn on their way from coast to coast.  The joke was that the early Lears gulped fuel at such a rate that they had a low-fuel emergency right after takeoff.  When business jets became longer-ranged, and more of them could reach their cross-country destinations without a fuel stop en route, Middle America truly became “fly-over country.”  The FBO businesses there became more precarious, and as a result the number of our mom-and-pop FBOs in Middle America is declining.

Much of the jet fuel sales that would have been made by mid-country FBOs has been shifted to prime destination airports.  These airports are having such a heyday that piston general aviation airplanes are seen as annoyances.  While fuel prices in mid-country can be less than $3.00 per gallon, some FBOs at these prime destination airports charge over $8.00 a gallon.  Often in addition they assess ramp fees and overnight parking fees in the hundreds of dollars.

The root problem is that most of these airports don’t provide any aircraft parking except at FBOs.  Consequently, all transient airplanes are required to use an FBO and buy a minimum amount of fuel or pay a minimum ramp fee.  Due to the high prices, this has made many of these airports and their runways, taxiways, and ramps, that the public invested in, virtually inaccessible to most general aviation pilots.

This loss of airport access is a serious concern for the future of general aviation.  A simple and elegant solution for airports without an affordable FBO, or without any FBO at all, may be to make available transient parking that doesn’t require the use of an FBO.  This should be required at every airport where the government has provided funding.  With mobile phones, and the ready access to off-airport transportation that ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft now provide, using transient parking without the services of an FBO has become much more practical.

There are some airports that already have such parking arrangements, including Lunken Field in Cincinnati, which John and I used recently.  But they are few and far between.  And the problem is, due to concerns for airport security, you have to call to get through the gate and back to your airplane.  This limits the hours when you can return to your plane, and the spontaneity that is such a valuable attribute of general aviation.

Advances in technology may help out here.  A pilot leaving the transient parking area for the street could now pose for a camera on the way out.  Upon re-entry a similar camera could capture the image of the pilot.  Then bio-metric facial recognition could confirm that the person returning to the airplane is the pilot who flew it in.  If a pilot can fly an airplane in to an airport without being vetted by security, the same pilot flying it out shouldn’t have to be vetted by security either.  Such a sensible, low-risk approach to airport security would be beneficial at every airport.

There will be pilots who even at prime destination airports would prefer to pay the prices the FBOs charge in order to receive their services. But they shouldn’t be forced to do so in order to gain access to the airport, any more than drivers should be required by the government to use a particular gas station as a condition of using the road.

It would be great for those of us how have been priced out of prime destination airports to regain access to these airports that government funding has helped pay for.  Plus, if pilots aren’t forced to use the FBOs at prime destination airports, they could buy their still-needed fuel at a less-fortuitously-located FBO that desperately needs their business to stay alive.  One way or another the future of general aviation as we know it depends on keeping these FBOs viable.

King Online Drone Course Customers Can Now Study When Offline Too

Screen Shots of the recently released KING Companion App for the King Schools’ Online Drone Pilot License Test Prep Course. The app enables drone pilots who are preparing for the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test to download their lessons, including all text, graphics, videos and post lesson quizzes, and take them when offline. When back online, course progress is automatically synchronized with King’s servers and available from any other device.

May 4, 2018 – AUVSI Conference, Denver CO. – Aspiring Drone Pilots now have a convenient way to continue their studies even when they are offline by using the free KING Companion App for iPad or iPhone together with King Schools’ Online Drone Pilot License Test Prep Course.

The app allows drone pilots who are preparing for the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test to download their lessons, including all text, graphics, videos and post lesson quizzes, and take them when offline. When back online, course progress is automatically synchronized with King’s servers and available from any other device.

“The many benefits of online courses include the ability to log on from any connected device or browser and continue your studies right where you left off. The only disappointment has come from folks wanting to still study when they were not online. That last problem is solved with the KING Companion.” commented Barry Knuttila, King’s CEO.

“Folks taking the Drone Test Prep Course are often juggling many responsibilities while they are preparing for their test,” added Martha King, Co-Chairman of King Schools. “Our strategy is to ensure that, given 10-15 minutes, they can make real progress by completing a full lesson. Now they can make that progress even when not connected to the Interne,.” she concluded.

“The King course and the app are designed to help people pass their drone license test. But there is more. It also gives them the tools they need to safely integrate into the National Airspace System, and stay out of trouble with the FAA as well as local authorities. Since it was released in January of 2017, over three thousand drone operators have passed the test using our course,” said John King, Co-Chairman of King Schools.

The free app is available by searching “King Companion” in the Apple App store. The Drone Pilot Test Prep course sells for $129 on

About King Schools:

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 pilots 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 a King course.


Sarina Houston Awarded the WAI Martha King Scholarship for Women Flight Instructors

(L-R Martha King, Sarina Houston) Sarina Houston was awarded the third King Schools/WAI scholarship at the annual Women in Aviation International Conference in Reno, Nevada. The scholarship has an $18,000 retail value.

April 27, 2018 San Diego, California – For Immediate Release

Sarina Houston of Pittsboro, North Carolina was awarded the 3rd Martha King Scholarship for Women Flight Instructors during the annual Women in Aviation International Conference. This scholarship consists of $5,000 toward flight training and free, lifetime access to all King Schools courses including FIRCs for life. The value is over $18,000.

Sarina’s career has been focused on aviation starting in high school. In her words from her scholarship application essay, “I fell in love with flying around the mountains as a teenager, and I was curious enough about aviation to ask for a job at the airport when I was in high school. As I progressed through my ratings and a Masters degree, I learned 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—that I could be a great teacher and a great pilot, that I could be as good of a teacher or pilot as the guy next to me.

“Through scholarships from ERAU and Women in Aviation and 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 today, when the aviation industry needs pilots more than ever before, I want nothing more than to pass along the same knowledge, enthusiasm, and scholarships that I’ve been graciously given to tomorrow’s aviators. The Martha King Scholarship for Female Aviators will allow me to continue to do that.”

While living in England in 2008, Sarina missed the comradery of her fellow pilots. So she became the Founder and President of the Box D Chapter of Women in Aviation, International, at Mildenhall, UK.

Martha King Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools, said, “Sarina is a poised and accomplished flight instructor, with a passion for aviation. More important, she not only loves to fly, she loves to teach. Sarina has a passion for the people in aviation, and loves figuring out how to give her students insight. To quote from one of her letters of recommendation, ‘Great instructors change lives.’ We believe Sarina is a great instructor who will inspire many learning pilots, and help them attain their dreams of flight.”

John and Lindsey Dreiling, the 2016 WAI scholarship winner joined Martha and Sarina at the scholarship presentation ceremony.

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 2018 scholarship will be available on the WAI website in late 2018.


King Schools

3840 Calle Fortunada • San Diego, CA 92123

Toll-Free (800) 854-1001

Worldwide (858)-541-2200



King Schools Goes Completely Online

Ensures Every Course Is Always Up-To-Date

April 12, 2018 SUN ‘n FUN – Lakeland, FL – After over 40 years spent evolving pilot courses from in-person delivery, to VHS tapes, to computer installations, King Schools has said goodbye to discs and is delivering 100% of their pilot courses online.  Co-Chairman Martha King said, “It means you can study on any device and your courses are always up-to-date.”

John King explained, “We have followed two rules that have kept us relevant.  1.  We have always solicited customer feedback and been very responsive to it.  2. We have kept up-to-date with technology.  When we started King Schools 44 years ago, our ‘content delivery system’ was Martha and me speaking to an audience in person.  We would fly to a local airport, teach a few dozen people for a couple of days, and then fly to our next destination and do it all over again.”

“Our first implementation of ‘disruptive technology’ was with VHS tapes,” commented Martha King.  “When we put our in-person classes on videotape, many thousands of pilots suddenly found aviation more accessible and started learning from our courses in the comfort of their homes.  Then when we became the first aviation training company to display full-screen video on computers, learning pilots were able get the benefit of taking quizzes paired with each video lesson, test themselves with sample FAA exams and question databases, and track their progress throughout the course.”

Barry Knuttila, King’s CEO, continued, “Now the Internet provides instant access.  The free KING Companion App lets you download and take lessons offline and when back online, your progress is automatically sync’d with King Schools’ servers and immediately visible from all other devices.  Our customers made it clear that they prefer the advantages of online courses, so it was an easy decision to discontinue the computer-installed, disc option. Online is not the end though. New formats, augmented and virtual reality and unforeseen technological changes will no doubt provide opportunities to deliver even more effective training in our next 40 years.”

King has just rolled out a new Online Aviation Library that puts more than 85 aviation books, cards, manuals, reference materials, and much more into one online package.  The library provides lifetime access with no subscription charges and is continuously updated.  King Schools will continue to expand the library’s resources and customers will automatically receive each update.  Included materials cover a spectrum of aviation knowledge from Private through Professional Pilot. Materials are downloadable and printable and are available from any device.  The KING Online Aviation Library retails for $79.

The Online Aviation Library also replaces the hard-copy books in all KING Get It All Kits (15 versions) making them 100% digital and not subject to shipping charges or sales tax.  These kits provide a deep discount when purchasing a full suite of courses aimed at getting a learning pilot quickly to their goal.

Customers can also add a set of pilot gear to their courses with new King Schools Private Pilot and Instrument Rating Equipment Kits.  These kits include items hand chosen by John & Martha King to fit the needs of learning pilots.  The kits contain products such as IFR training glasses, knee board/clipboard combos, information cards, and more.  The kits retail for $49 each.

Lastly, an updated KING Pilot Communications Course provides optional, easy-to-read subtitles in English or Chinese. This course will help Chinese pilots understand cockpit communications from Alpha to Zulu and retails for $49.


Online Cessna Flight Training System Now Available To All Flight Schools

The new Cessna Instrument Rating Kit contains a MyClip leg strap, IFR clipboard, Custom glass cleaner, Cessna pen and a 1-year Garmin Pilot subscription.

April 12, 2018, SUN ‘n FUN – Lakeland, FL  The latest online edition of the Cessna Flight Training System that has, for decades, helped thousands of pilots achieve their goals, is now available to all flight schools.  The online curriculum integrates flight and ground studies and ensures that learning pilots and their instructors know what they have completed, how they are doing and what’s next. Each course includes video previews of each flying lesson and a home-study ground school and test preparation section.

Learning pilots will especially appreciate the free iPad app that will let them study, prepare for flight lessons and view their progress, even when offline.

Instructors have their own app, allowing them to use their iPhone or iPad to view student status and record flight lessons, even when they are offline.  An audit-for-completion feature gives instructors an easy way to see remaining graduation requirements for each student.  Flight school managers receive access to a full range of business reports to track their flight school’s operational status.

The Cessna Flight Training System has evolved over decades, and was originally used exclusively by Cessna Pilot Centers.  Now, all flight schools, university aviation programs and even high school aviation courses can use the system to support their flight school operations and benefit their learning pilots.

The Cessna Flight Training System includes a suite of Part 141 approvable online courses, ranging from Sport Pilot and Private Pilot all the way through Instrument, Commercial, Multiengine and CFI courses.

“Flight Schools that use the Cessna Flight Training System can offer a consistent, high-quality training experience to any customer from zero experience all the way to being able to earn money and build time as a Flight Instructor.  The portability of the courses across multiple devices, including an offline option through the iPad app, are designed for the digital online environment that our pilots now live in,” commented Martha King, Co-chairman and co-owner of King Schools.

King Schools is also announcing the following updated contents for the latest Cessna Instrument Pilot course package:

  • Instrument Pilot online course
  • Adjustable MyClip leg strap with clips that fit any mobile phone or iPad in vertical or horizontal orientation
  • Full-color durable plastic clipboard printed with useful IFR information that is designed to fit in the MyClip
  • Unique, collectable Cessna airplane photos embossed on glass-cleaning cloths
  • Useful cockpit information cards
  • Updated materials in the Cessna Online Pilot Library
  • An IFR Planning Pad, Cessna Pen/Stylus and the Garmin Pilot Premium 1 Year License

John King, Co-chairman and co-owner, commented, “In addition to the digital products, pilots receive a package of gear suited for current pilot training.  For instance, the IFR kit now comes with an adjustable leg strap with clips that allow pilots to use the included IFR clipboard, their phone, iPad, or other devices either vertically or horizontally.  Cessna Flight Training System customers will appreciate the great utility provided by the new gear and materials.”


Pete Muntean Awarded the National Association of Flight Instructors and King Schools Scholarship

(L-R John King, Pete Muntean, Martha King, Bob Meder) John & Martha King, Co-Founders and Co-Chairman of King Schools and Robert Meder, Chairman of the National Association of Flight Instructors congratulate Pete Muntean, the 2017 winner of the NAFI/King Schools Scholarship.

April 12, 2018, SUN ‘n FUN – Lakeland, FL – Pete Muntean of Washington, D.C. is the winner of the King Schools and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) 2017 CFI scholarship.  This scholarship consists of $5,000 toward flight training and free, lifetime access to all King Schools courses, including lifetime FIRCs.  The estimated value is over $18,000.

A Certificated Flight Instructor since September 2017, Pete is actively teaching with GT Aviation at Potomac Airfield in Maryland. When he is not flying, Pete covers transportation as television news reporter for WUSA9 in Washington. He regularly uses his aviation knowledge on news stories and advocates for general aviation on social media. Previously, Pete covered state and national politics for WGAL in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pete has emulated his career after his mentor and fellow pilot Miles O’Brien and was his intern at CNN.

In his scholarship application essay, Pete wrote, “I was 18 years old on October 14, 2006 when I watched my mother, aerobatic pilot Nancy Lynn, crash and burn at an air show.  Her sudden death not only orphaned me, it attacked my once immeasurable excitement about flying.  Having soloed exactly two months prior, I considered quitting flying altogether.  I was stunned.”

“In the years since, I have found the only antidote to the trauma– the fear, guilt, and doubt– is by flying.  I became a private pilot less than a year after the crash, earned an instrument rating in 2008, and a commercial rating in 2011.  Through practice I have gained perspective.  Through continued training I have gained confidence.”

When Pete learned he had been awarded the scholarship, he commented, “I’m very grateful. Being recognized by two prestigious aviation institutions is an awesome honor, albeit bittersweet. My late mother, a NAFI member and aerobatic flight instructor, would be thrilled. But this is not about me. Demystifying aviation through every medium possible is key to its future. I promise this investment will pay dividends.”

John King, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of King Schools, said, “Pete has a demonstrated ability to overcome adversity and inspire others.  He is a fabulous communicator.  He will make profound and lasting contributions to the aviation community.”

Robert Meder, the Chairman of NAFI, said, “Pete exemplifies what it means to give back to aviation.  To be able to overcome a traumatic personal tragedy and turn it to something positive is a tribute to both his courage and his mother’s legacy.  Pete’s desire to share his joy in aviation while teaching and clarifying best practices is admirable in no small measure.  We at NAFI are proud of his achievements and are delighted that, through the King Schools NAFI scholarship, we are able to recognize his efforts.  Through his example, Pete Muntean is a mentor to us all.”

Pete is a CFI who has logged 1,000 hours.  He will use his scholarship to add an Instrument Instructor (CFII) rating to his flight instructor certificate as well as continue his education in aerobatics with the goal of teaching upset recovery and competition aerobatics.

Applications for the 2018 NAFI/King Schools scholarship will become available in August of 2018.  The deadline to submit scholarship applications will be January 2nd 2019.



Article appeared in Flying Magazine January 2018 by John King

“There can be no compromise with safety.” “Safety is our number one priority.” You hear these kinds of quotes all the time from well-meaning people—very often people like the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator of the FAA. The assertions are meant to be comforting, and they are—especially after a crash. They assure the public of the firm resolve by people in power to do better. The problem is they aren’t, and can’t be, true.

You can’t start an engine without compromising safety. If safety were our number one priority, we’d never move an airplane. Clearly going somewhere is in itself a demonstration that moving the airplane ranks ahead of safety. It would always be safer to stay put. These little intellectual dishonesties tend to end discussion and substitute for genuine analysis on the subject.

It can be discomforting to talk openly and honestly about safety. So we often make false assurances and otherwise deceive ourselves. For instance, we usually talk about safety as if it were an absolute. But absolute safety is an impossibility. In reality, safety is relative. Every activity has a greater or lesser degree of risk associated with it. Still, when someone departs on a trip, we usually say, “Have a safe trip” as a polite expression of goodwill. We say this when we know having a genuinely safe trip is literally impossible.

Not only do we find it uncomfortable to admit to ourselves that we can never achieve absolute safety, but we sometimes utterly lie to ourselves in order to not have to face reality about safety. General aviation pilots used to frequently tell themselves, and their passengers, that the drive to the airport was the most dangerous part of the trip. They wanted to believe that flying their piston-engine general aviation airplane was safer than driving. When it became known that the fatality rate per mile in a general aviation airplane was seven times that of driving, they had a very hard time accepting that reality. (On the other hand, for various reasons travel on the airlines is in fact seven times safer than travel on the roads.)

Sometimes our self-deception on the subject of safety just reflects wishful thinking. After a series of commuter airline crashes, the Administrator of the FAA attempted to mandate one level of safety for little airplanes as well as big airplanes. The problem is that it is not possible for a small airplane to be as safe as a Boeing 747. Safety equipment is adds weight. A little airplane can’t carry the weight of the safety provisions of a 747. Plus, safety is expensive. A little airplane can’t afford the cost of safety equipment the way a bigger plane can. But who wants to tell that to someone about to fly in a smaller airplane?

On the other hand, when noted Australian thought-leader and avid pilot (weight-shift trikes, single-engine airplanes, helicopters, and jets) Dick Smith was Chairman of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, he steered people away from disingenuous talk about safety. He shocked people by talking about “affordable safety.” His point was that when safety becomes too expensive there can be a net reduction in safety. When excessively expensive safety measures are mandated, the cost of flying goes up. At some point people take less-safe surface transportation instead, and fatalities go up.

Another problem with the way we talk about safety has to do with how safety advice is normally given. It often provides very inadequate guidance. Safety advice usually takes a negative approach, stating what you cannot do rather than focusing on positive things you should do. In many cases it is limited to a hodgepodge of rules and sayings. The rules and sayings may all be good, but they are not adequate, because they fail to provide the big picture and structure.

Moreover, safety advice can even generate resistance. It can be preachy—taking on an off-putting air of smugness and superiority. It is not uncommon for advisors to suggest that someone does not exercise proper “judgment” or “aeronautical decision-making.” This comes across as a vague, demeaning criticism, but once again, with very little guidance.

So what is the alternative?

We need to change our vocabulary. In nearly every case, it is more insightful and helpful to talk about risk management. The concept of risk management suggests a proactive habit of identifying risks, assessing them, and exploring mitigation strategies for them. Those words “risk management” provide much-needed guidance about what people should do to get a safer outcome, in a way that the condescending criticisms, and emphasis on “safety,” do not.

One of the problems about the way we sometimes use the word “safety” is that if someone wants something done a certain way, they can often just simply trot out the word “safety,” or for that matter, “security,” and get carte blanche with little analysis. But the words “risk management” require a more thoughtful discussion—including in most cases identification and assessment of the risks and the appropriateness of the mitigation strategies.

When an aviation tragedy occurs, rather than trying to reassure and comfort people by promising things that are not possible, aviation leaders should say, “Our job is to understand the risk management failures that allowed this to happen and see that they do not occur again.”

Much to their credit, the FAA’s Flight Standards Service has embraced “risked-based decision-making” as one of its core values. The idea is that in this business of creating rules about how aviation should be run, they will now think in terms of the risks of an activity. Every safety measure has a trade-off in loss of fun and utility. When risked-based decision-making is a core value, that trade-off will be taken into consideration during rule-making.

The good news is that much of the aviation community is now focused on “risk management” rather than “safety.” First, flight schools are moving towards scenario-based training in order to help pilots learn risk management. The idea is to give a learning pilot the tools to habitually identify, assess, and mitigate risk. Then when that pilot is evaluated during the practical test, the FAA’s new Airman Certification Standards (ACS) require their risk management to be evaluated in every area of operation.

Martha and I have been promoting straight talk about safety for years. We finally figured we must be making progress when an attendee came up to us after a talk and said, “Have a relatively safe trip home.”

John & Martha King Receive Crystal Eagle Award

Aero Club of Northern California Presents 35th Award

The award presentation starts at 3:35, the King’s acceptance and talk starts at 5:10.

John and Martha King were presented with the Crystal Eagle Award by the Aero Club of Northern California. (L – R Martha King, John King, Eric Peterson)

John and Martha King, co-chairmen and co-owners of King Schools, were selected as recipients of the 35th annual Crystal Eagle Award presented by the Aero Club of Northern California. The Kings accepted the award on November 18, 2017.They were bestowed this honor for their use of technology, and simple and fun teaching techniques to make aviation knowledge more accessible to pilots the world over. It is estimated that John and Martha have taught aviation to about 50% of the nation’s pilot population.

John and Martha spoke for approximately 30 minutes after receiving their award. The video includes the entirety of the award ceremony and their talk about aviation. Their topics included aviation communities around the world, anecdotes both humorous and serious regarding their own flying adventures and flight challenges. They covered risk management for pilots, checklists, the aviation PAVE systems and helpful information for pilots and CFIs.

The Crystal Eagle Award was first presented by the Aero Club in 1983 to legendary aviator Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Among past recipients are Gen. Chuck Yeager, Stanley Hiller Jr., Jim Nissen, George Cooper, Jeana Yeager, James S. Ricklefs, Darryl Greenamyer, Clay Lacy, Paul Poberezny, Wayne Handley, Eileen Collins, Sean D. Tucker, Steve Fossett, Brian Shul, C.E. “Bud” Anderson, Julie Clark and Rod Machado.