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John and Martha King outlast Nixon, Rubik, Skylab and sideburns: King Schools celebrates its 50th birthday

John & Martha King with their Cessna 340 circa 1978, and their Falcon 10 in 2024.

For Immediate Release – March 14, 2024 – San Diego


In 1974, Richard Nixon was President, Erno Rubik invented his eponymous puzzle cube, US astronauts were orbiting earth on the nation’s first space station Skylab, and John and Martha King started building their aviation training empire.

“2024 marks 50 years since John and Martha began what has turned into a lifelong passion and an exceedingly successful business,” Barry Knuttila, King Schools CEO, said. “Not only have they helped millions of pilots achieve their training goals, but they also guided the company and the curriculum through countless regulatory changes and technology transformations.”

Through that half-century and all its turbulence, John and Martha have acquired a few wrinkles, some grey hair (or in John’s case, lost some hair…and the sideburns), a hangar full of awards and recognitions, and a lot of fans. Theirs is a story of hard work, shrewd decisions, a few mistakes, and a skillful ability to explain complex concepts in a clear, simple, and fun way that resonates with aviation pros and learners alike.

“It’s humbling to see that our little idea has turned into something so successful and enduring,” Martha King said. “We love to hear from pilots across the country and around the world who have used our courses to learn something new and pursue fulfilling aviation careers. That’s what keeps us going.”

John and Martha got their start traveling to far-flung cities and towns to conduct in-person ground school courses for aspiring private pilots. Today, King Schools is the world’s premiere supplier of print, video and computer-based instructional materials covering every aspect of flight training and safety both for written test preparation and guidance in practical flight operations. More than half of all pilots in the United States have used one or more King Schools courses as part of their aviation training.

The secret to King Schools’ longevity?

“When we paired up, we decided to be equal partners in everything we would do,” John says. “In 1974, that was probably a little unconventional or even revolutionary. But ever since then I have been struggling to be an equal partner to Martha. When it was apparent that Martha and I were serious about each other, Martha’s father told me that Martha was the most stubborn person he had ever known. I said, “I already know that.” I didn’t take it as stubbornness, but determination. I wanted to take full advantage of that, and as a result, the business has thrived. Fifty years later our partnership is still pretty unique, and that has been the key to our success.”

The overhead projectors and chalkboards in hotel conference rooms in the early days of traveling ground school soon gave way to video instruction – VHS cassettes and DVDs sent by snail mail, which brought John and Martha directly into learners’ homes, allowing learning pilots to study from the comfort of their living rooms. Early this century, the King Schools’ library moved online to streaming, making it even easier, more convenient, and more cost-effective for the Kings to deliver instruction to anyone, anywhere, in any time zone.

John and Martha King have also written two books – LIFT, in which they share their thoughts on entrepreneurship, and Sky Kings, which details their aviation adventures and wisdom gained by trial and error over the past 55+ years. They still fly their Falcon 10 jet themselves and maintain a busy schedule of conference appearances and talks, in addition to developing new courses.

And they continue to rake in the awards. Already inducted into the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and the International Aviation Hall of Fame, last year they were welcomed into the Women in Aviation International’s Pioneer Hall of Fame, with John being the first and only man to gain this distinction. Later this month they will be honored with the 2024 Richard G. McSpadden General Aviation Safety Award at AOPA’s Hoover awards reception. “This recognition means so much to us, and we are deeply honored to be the first recipients,” Martha said. “Richard McSpadden was a great friend and teacher, and we all benefitted from his incredible knowledge, openness and experience.”

King Schools has launched a year of celebration to mark the half-century milestone, which will include events, appearances, and speeches as well as special offers on King Schools courses and curricula. The website and King Schools’ social media sites will be regularly updated with details.

“In 2024, Nixon, Rubik, Skylab and John’s sideburns are long gone, but John and Martha King are still educating pilots with insights gained during a lifetime of learning and experience, delivered in their signature style with candor and humor,” CEO Knuttila said. “We’re not letting them retire quite yet – so watch this space to see what they’ll be up to during King Schools’ next 50 years.”


About King Schools

Founded by John & Martha King in 1974, King Schools is celebrating 50 years of working with pilots to help them pass their FAA exams and improve their safety and proficiency.


King Schools

3840 Calle Fortunada • San Diego, CA 92123

Toll-Free (800) 854-1001

Worldwide (858)-541-2200




  1. Frank Merrill

    I’ve enjoyed many of your courses over the years and really enjoy being able to go back over the material again after the rating has been earned. yes, I have had several “Oh yeah!” experiences going over your courses months and even years later, realizing that I had forgotten some detail or “trick” to make my flying easier.

    I suppose I speak for many thousands if not millions when I say “Thank you.”

  2. Doreen Zuccaro

    Congratulations to you both on your
    achievements as pilots & marital partners!
    It has been my pleasure to know you both
    thru your involvement in the Helicopter world. Many ‘Happy Trails’ to you both!
    All the best!

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