Author Archives: Pilot One

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

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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.”



The new Falcon 10 panel. You will see in the other photos the work that it took to get to the final configuration.


Article appeared in Flying Magazine November, 2018 by Martha King

For tens of thousands of aircraft owners the deadline has been looming.  ADS-B will be required on January 1, 2020 in airspace that now requires a transponder,

It was clear for John and me, in particular, that we wanted to meet the requirement before the

Our Falcon 10 was worked on by Neil Aviation just up the road from our San Diego office.

deadline —without ADS-B our old jet would become useless.  And the FAA insists the deadline will not change.  The future of the ATC system will be based on transponders that broadcast the aircraft’s identification, position, altitude, velocity and more every second or so.  It’s called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast) because it’s based on automatic transponders that are dependent on a WAAS GPS for their data, enabling surveillance by broadcasting their information without being interrogated.


Those of us who have been maintaining aircraft for a while know that keeping any airplane legal—particularly a jet—is often neither easy nor cheap.  In addition to all the required inspections you have to periodically meet government mandates such as for ADS-B.

Under the “hood” and the start of our installation.

The ADS-B mandate is only the latest.  In our airplane-ownership lives we’ve had to meet mandates requiring a transponder, and then altitude reporting.  Plus, because we have been so financially foolish as to fly jets, 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.

These mandates have often been a step in the march of technology, bringing benefits beyond just being legal.  Transponders with mode C have enabled our air traffic control system to provide far better service to all comers, and in particular RVSM has virtually doubled the airspace available at 29,000 feet and above.

This photos shows the scope of what was taken out.

In the case of ADS-B, the FAA has gone out of their way to build benefits into the program to sweeten the deal.  If you pay extra to equip for ADS-B “In” (or have a portable ADS-B receiver) you can receive subscription-free weather and traffic displays.  Plus, depending on the system you get, you can also have the information streamed to an iPad or other tablet.

What prompted us to start working on getting the installation done now was not just a scramble to meet the impending deadline.  It was mostly that we wanted the things that would come with the WAAS GPS sooner rather than later.  Highest on the list was the ability to conduct an LPV approach.  We had begun to believe that when an airport has both an LPV approach and an ILS, airport operators aren’t as quick about repairing an out-of-service ILS.  We were beginning to see the handwriting on the wall.  If all we had for precision approach capability was an ILS, there would be times when we wouldn’t be able to land at our destination.

You see here our old equipment that has been put on the shelf…permanently.

Still, for a while we weren’t really in a hurry.  We hate taking our airplane down even for required maintenance, much less for an optional installation.  Plus, we weren’t looking forward to having to learn a new avionics system.  Also, ADS-B 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.

Because we fly an aircraft that is certificated under Part 25 as a transport category aircraft, and we fly above 18,000 feet, the lower-cost solutions were not available to us.  When we started researching solutions for our airplane, 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 getting started, what really killed the deal is that that the airplane would be down for at least a month and a half—and probably much longer.  That would definitely send us into withdrawal.

We decided to simplify our lives.  As we got closer to doing the deal, we realized that it would be a lot more convenient if we worked with somebody local.  We chose Neal Aviation on Gillespie Field, the airport where we have our routine maintenance done.  Plus, instead of a dual Garmin 750 installation, we decided that since we already had a back-up GPS, we could certainly get by with only one Garmin.

Also, we decided not to disturb our current audio panel and VHF avionics, and go with a Garmin GTN 725 which just has a GPS receiver.  The installation would involve replacing our current non-WAAS GPS and our multifunction display (MFD) plus our old transponders with the Garmin 725 and two new Garmin transponders.

The GTN 725 comes with the new bells and whistles we had begun to covet, such as the ability to load routes using airway numbers instead of entering every waypoint by hand, and with more hardware, the ability to load flight plans directly from our iPads.  And with yet another receiver we could still get the XM weather information we were used to with our previous system.

This was going to be a lot cheaper than the luxurious dual 750 installation.  The whole thing would be about $56,000.  And the icing on the cake was that Neal Aviation said they could complete the installation in two weeks.  Even though we considered the two weeks to be a very challenging goal, we had finally found a solution we were ready to move on.

The FAA’s motivation for the mandate is that when a ground-based system gets changed to a space-based system it usually gets cheaper to operate and more capable.  In this case, while radar installations can cost as much as $30 million, an ADS-B ground station can cost as little as $4 million.

Plus, while a ground-based radar’s sweep rate is 3-15 seconds, ADS-B transponders transmit their data about once every second.  The result is more efficient IFR spacing and routing.  And there will now be coverage in previously non-radar airspace such as at ski-area airports and other mountainous areas.

In spite of our original feeling that we weren’t in a rush to make the decision, it was time.  Lurking in the background were all the warnings about the up-coming full shops and scheduling delays as the deadline approaches.  More than anything else, we did not want to risk having to ground our airplane if we didn’t make the deadline.

Now that John and I have decided to bite the bullet and get the installation done, we are especially eager to get the airplane back and start flying it again.  We’ve downloaded the entire 400+ page manual for the GTN 725 and have begun our study.  We are excitedly looking forward to learning how to use all the new things the 725 will do for us.


John and Martha King Called “Distinguished” by NAA

John & Martha King, Co-Owners and Founders of King Schools with the National Aeronautic Association Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award.

December 19, 2018 San Diego CA – At the National Aeronautic Association Fall Awards Dinner on November 27, 2018, the NAA added 4 more individuals to the list of Distinguished Statesmen of Aviation.  The list includes Mark Burns, the President of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, William Garvey, the Editor-in-Chief of Business and Commercial Aviation magazine, and most unusually, the husband-and-wife team of John and Martha King, Co-Chairmen of King Schools.

According to the NAA, the purpose of the Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award is to honor outstanding living Americans who, by their efforts over an extended period of years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics, and have reflected credit upon America and themselves.  The Kings count themselves greatly honored to be included in this group for their decades of providing playful and fun video ground school instruction to generations of pilots.

“For those who know us well, the ‘Distinguished’ title is very questionable,” said John.

“The National Aeronautic Association is to be celebrated for having the courage to do the unconventional thing and select both members of our mom-and-pop team for this award.  We are just thrilled,” commented Martha

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 as much as 50% of the pilots flying in the U.S. today have taken one course or another from King. The company is also a leader in on-line pilot certification and avionics training for pilots of high-performance and turbine aircraft.

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


John and Martha Receive the Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation

Co-Owners and Founders of King Schools Honored at the National Aeronautic Association Fall Awards Dinner

These beautiful plaques were presented to John & Martha King at the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) FALL AWARDS DINNER – “Honoring our leaders in Aerospace”.

November 27, 2018 Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington Virginia

John & Martha were presented The Wesley L. McDonald Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award at the National Aeronautic Association Fall Award dinner.  The award was established on October 16, 1954, by the Board of Directors of the National Aeronautic Association.  The purpose of the award is to honor outstanding living Americans who, by their efforts over an extended period of years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics, and have reflected credit upon America and themselves.

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is the oldest national aviation organization in the United States. A non-profit association, NAA is “dedicated to the advancement of the art, sport and science of aviation in the United States,” according to its Mission Statement. The core of the organization is its members; thousands of individuals, organizations, and corporations representing all segments of American aviation. NAA encompasses all areas of flight from skydiving and models to commercial airlines, military aircraft, and spaceflight.

This plaque will have a place of honor in John & Martha’s office and hearts.

Part of the program of a very special night.




Seeing Flying with Fresh Eyes

John & Martha’s first airplane was a Cherokee 140.

The Experience Is Everything

Article appeared in Flying Magazine September, 2018 by John King

There was a lot of blood in the water as we flew over the bowhead whale being harvested for the sustenance of the native Iñupiat community of Barrow, Alaska. It was a thought-provoking and broadening experience of the type we found we were having regularly after we began flying our own airplane for transportation.

Personal flying means different things to different people. But for nearly everyone, flying represents a profound expression of freedom. It gives us the ability to leave the earth, take command of the third dimension, and explore our world from above for experiences like we had in Barrow.

John & Martha’s Cessna 340 expanded the range, speed and scope of their experiences.

For Martha and me, using our airplanes as our vehicles for personal transportation has allowed us to extend that freedom even further. With our own airplane we have the ability to travel to the places, and at the times, of our own choosing. Within days after earning our private pilot certificates in our first airplane, a Cherokee 140, we headed from our Indiana home down to Florida and the Bahamas.

On our way back north, the first appearance of snow on the ground in Tennessee prompted us to exercise our new-found freedom by immediately turning left to go explore the California coast. The aerial tour resulted in our discovering a little Southern California seaside town that resonated with us. We have lived in La Jolla, California ever since.

It wasn’t long before we hungered for more speed and more range, and we gained wider horizons with the purchase of our Piper Comanche. In our first year of flying the Comanche we experienced the breath-taking vista north of Acapulco as we crested the mountain range and viewed the sparkling bay and the dramatically beautiful expanse of the sea. Within that same year we also made the mind-opening trip to Barrow, Alaska.

Through the years, except for some international trips, we have always flown our own airplane for transportation, and, whenever money allowed, stepped up to faster and longer-legged aerial steeds.

So when we had to put our current airplane, an old Falcon 10, into scheduled maintenance for 6 weeks for what is known as a C-check, for the very first time in many years we found ourselves using the airlines for our personal transportation. We were totally unprepared for the experience.

First was the issue of time. We discovered that managing our time before and after we got to the airplane would require completely different considerations. We were used to driving up to our airplane, loading luggage, and being airborne and on our way in less than a half an hour. We had to make some real adjustments.

Ready to board at San Diego’s Montgomery Field – MYF.

Ready to board at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field SAN. (Photo credit to KPBS and ALIST, FLICKR)

We felt compelled to leave more time for the ground transportation to the airport. When we are flying our own airplane, if we get caught in traffic and arrive late the airplane never leaves without us. We were pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case on the airlines.

Then, we realized we had to leave lots of extra time once we got to the airport to check in, drop off our luggage, go through TSA, and be ready at the gate at the recommended 30 minutes before takeoff. As we added all this up, we decided we needed to arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time. Plus, after arrival at our destination, we needed to allow more time to retrieve our luggage and get to ground transportation.

The most surprising part of the experience was how stressful all of this was to us. The worries about getting caught in traffic jams on the way to the airport and getting through the terminal in time added stress that we don’t have when we are flying our own airplane.

Plus, when we got to the terminal, we didn’t know how to navigate our way around. We discovered we would frequently have to take an automated train to get to luggage drop-off, then another train to the gate area. This was not intuitive to us. Our confusion was so obvious that it was not uncommon, when we were staring at airport signs, for someone to approach us asking if they could help.

Then, of course, there is TSA. It is just not normally a part of our lives. What an enormous source of stress. Martha had gone to the trouble to get pre-check for us. But it was yet another case where we simply didn’t know the rules. We kept having to re-submit our computer bag for further inspection. Plus, I was frequently pulled aside for a “random” inspection. If it is random, how come it happened to me nearly every time?

Finally, there are the crowds. When we fly in our own airplane it is just us and our invited passengers. We had forgotten about all the crowds involved in airline flying. Airline flying would be great if it weren’t for all the people.  On the other hand there are many things to be said in favor of travel on the airlines.

First, it should be no surprise that you can travel around the country much cheaper on the airlines than in a general aviation airplane. That hasn’t always been the case. Back when we were traveling in our single-engine Comanche, if we had two people in the airplane we could fly coast to coast for the same price as on the airlines. But today, if the only consideration were money, going economy class on the airlines would win hands down.

Next, when it comes to time, in most cases the airlines win. But not always—it depends on how fast your airplane is and whether the airliner is going where you want to go. But when you figure in the extra time you have to allow to compensate for possible traffic delays and then the extra time for getting in and out of the airline terminal, the calculation changes. Plus, there is the benefit in personal flying of traveling according to your own schedule, not that of the airlines.

But what has motivated Martha and me to use general aviation airplanes for our personal transportation is neither money nor time. It has been the experience. Flying once again on the airlines made us see private flying with fresh eyes and reminded us of what we love about it.

While we tolerated the hassle of the terminal and the packed seating on the airlines in order to get to our destinations, we actively enjoy every minute of the experience of flying our own airplane. It makes us eager to make business trips when otherwise we’d look for excuses not to go. When we fly our own airplane, it is not unusual for us to get back from an important business trip, and on the drive home the conversation is all about how fun the flight was rather than about the business.

Even though flying is challenging, every aspect of it from the pre-flight planning to the management of the airplane in flight is deeply rewarding.