The Kings Fly High

Beach and Bay Press, 2003
by Jim Kelly

John and Martha KingOn Friday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m., aviation expert and La Jolla resident, Martha King, was the guest speaker for the San Diego Aerospace Museumís centennial of flight celebration.

As the first, and only, woman who has ever held licenses for every FAA flight instructor rating (there are seven), King gave an informative and humorous lecture on the history of flight to a crowd of approximately 50 aviation enthusiasts.

She was accompanied by her husband, John, who also holds every FAA license (one of only eight men in the world) and who, with his wife, is co-owner of King Schools.

Prior to the lecture, Martha King gave an exclusive interview to the La Jolla Village News and talked about her early days in business.

"We got into the aviation business because we wanted to have fun for awhile," she said. "We wanted to just enjoy ourselves until a serious business came along. Itís been 28 years now and weíve finally given up our search for a serious business."

Kingís modesty masks the remarkable success she and her husband have had.

It is estimated that one out of every two new pilots in the US takes instructions in one way or another from King Schools.

Explaining the genesis of her success, King said they started out by holding two-day, weekend ground schools. "We taught the theory part of learning to fly," she said. Over the years they moved into video tape, CD rom and DVD programs.

"What it all comes down to is having a passion," she said. "Once you have a passion, youíre willing to really dig deeply into all kinds of different areas and become knowledgeable in whatever it is you like. Once you become knowledgeable in it you have something valuable to others and you want to go to work every day. When you work at it, it begins to grow and you can become very successful at whatever you are doing."

King explained the secret to her success by using the metaphor of Scrabble letters.

"If youíre playing the game of Scrabble and only have one letter, thereís not much you can do with it. Every additional letter you acquire plays off of every other letter and, pretty soon, you get an almost infinite number of combinations. We started off with a love of aviation. Then we learned to teach and started our ground school. Eventually we became students of direct marketing and began to send mailers out to other areas and, instead of teaching a few people a week in San Diego, we could teach a hundred or more on the weekends, in different parts of the country."

By the late Seventies, the Kings were sending instructors out, around the US, with flight instruction videos.

The timing was good because video players were just becoming popular and, eventually, the business moved away from selling to flight instructors to selling a home-study course to individuals who wanted to learn to fly.

"After that the business grew very rapidly and we soon moved the instruction videos into computer-based programs," King said. "This was an additional Scrabble letter we added."

Once they were computer-based, their school was awarded the contract from Cessna Aircraft Company to train all their Cessna pilots.

The Kings have held this contract since 1987.

To date, the Kings have put enough Scrabble letters together to own a business profitable enough to buy a Falcon 10, one of the fastest private jets made.

In it, they travel around the world trading off pilot and co-pilot roles with each stop they make.

Anyone thinking of becoming a pilot can get more information on King Schools by visiting their web site at www.kingschools.com.