How I Became a Flight Instructor – Part I

This rather long, two-part journey begins with how I first met Martha and John King. I was at a restaurant, Thee Bungalow, for a party of some sort back in 1995. I ran into Ron James at the party. Ron had been a customer of mine at Qwiig’s Bar and Grill, had met and married Mary, and now had a new gig as the chief of San Diego Magazine’s website.

“What do you like to do?” Ron asked me.

“Fly,” I said – even though I hadn’t piloted a plane in a decade.

“Great,” said Ron, “You’re my Aviation Editor.”

“What does that mean,” I queried, “And what does it pay?” (Freelance writers always wonder about such things. Getting paid to write is a rarity and, in order to eat, I needed to get paid.)

“Nothing,” he said. “But you’ll make some amazing contacts.”

What the hell, I thought. Maybe the amazing contacts will pay me.

A month or two later, at a gathering of Ron’s website editors, Jim Fitzpatrick, then the owner and publisher of San Diego Magazine, came up to me.

“Do you know the Kings,” Jim asked.

“No,” I replied. “Who are the Kings?”

“Oh, my God,” said Jim, “They’re the most famous couple in aviation. They live right here in San Diego. They make flight training videos and FAA written test prep courses. It’d be great if you’d call them for an interview, then ask them if they’d like to advertise online and in the magazine.”

“Sure, Jim, I’ll give them a call,” I said, thinking, Maybe these guys will be the amazing contacts who will pay me.”
So the next day I pick up the phone and call King Schools. “I’d like to speak with John King,” I said to the person who answered the phone.

“I’ll put you right through, Sir,” he replied.

The phone rang three times, then went to voice mail. I left a message telling John who I was, what I was doing, and that Jim Fitzpatrick, the publisher, wanted me to interview John and his wife.

Twenty minutes later the phone rang.

“Glenn … this is John King. What do you do for San Diego Magazine?”

I explained what it was that I did.

“Could you come over and talk to us about it?” said John. “How’s 2 o’clock for you?” He was just back from lunch, it was just past 1.

“Fine,” I said, “But I hoped for an interview.”

“Sure, sure,” he said, “We can give you an interview, but we really want to know what you guys are doing on the internet.”

Back in 1995 the “Internet”, as some of you may recall, was a brave new world that very few knew anything about and from which no one, absolutely no one, had ever made a dime. John and Martha, direct marketing whizzes that they had become, could see the potential and wanted to see if they could tap into it.

We had a delightful couple of hours together, they were amazingly gracious with their time and, along with accomplishing my interview, showed me everything that they did in that small building on Calle Fortunada in Kearny Mesa.

I wrote up the interview and published it on the website and, a day or so later, I got the nicest “thank you” from John and Martha telling me that it was the best write up of an interview they’ve ever read.

Six months go by. I’m walking towards the terminal building (if you can call a trailer a terminal building) at Borrego Valley Airport. Out the door come John and Martha. When I had interviewed them, I had a full beard. John took one look at my now clean-shaven face and said, “Glenn Daly. How the heck are you?” I was impressed since they probably meet scores of people every week. How do you remember someone from a 2-hour interview?

Anyway, perhaps another 6 months go by. My wife (at the time) decided that she wanted to buy a house. When you make a mortgage application and put down on the document that your job is “potter” (hers) and “free lance writer” (mine), the banker probably doesn’t laugh in your face, but I guarantee that he has a big guffaw with all his bankerly buddies after you’ve gone.

Deciding that I needed a paycheck source (re: amazing contacts who will pay me), I wrote John and Martha a letter. It said, in essence, that freelance writers are always looking for new ideas about how to make money; that my wife had a new idea that she wanted to buy a house; hence the letter requesting that the Kings hire me as a writer.

John called me the day he got the letter. He told me that there may well be a writing job available in the not-too-distant future, but, for now, he was taking my letter and the resume that I had included down the hall to the head of the telemarketing department, Bob Gabhart, and that I should call Bob right away to set up an interview.

I did as John requested. Bob is a very nice man and was caught in a tough bind. The guy whose name is on the side of the building Bob works in hands him a resume and asks if Bob had a job available for the resume sender. What’s Bob going to do? Say, “No way, John?” He had to hire me.

Bob trained me and the three or four other guys whom he’d hired, and, perhaps, gave me a bit more attention and help. Now I had been a salesman and knew the game, so it wasn’t a total reach hiring me. And, when I didn’t get too involved in my conversations with all the pilots I called, I wasn’t a bad telemarketer. It’s just that I enjoyed talking to pilots so much that I didn’t always get around to asking the sales question – or I realized that the guy I was conversing with had a fascinating life story and had flow B-17’s in WWII, had a long career with an airline, was just retired and had all the certificates an ratings that you could get and couldn’t use our products. But who wouldn’t want to talk with such a pilot?

I think I worked in telemarketing for six months. The wife actually found a condo we could afford and, with a little help from my parents, we were able to buy it. I commuted daily from Pacific Beach, on Balboa frkng Avenue, which probably did more to wreck our marriage than anything else … well … perhaps not.

Towards the end of that six months, John King asked me if I could take a couple of scripts and turn them into a chapter of a book. The day after I turned in my book chapter, John called me into his office and told me that I was the man for the job. I could almost hear Bob Gabhart clicking his heels with glee when he heard the word.

The Kings had won the contract from Cessna Aircraft to develop their brand new computer based private pilot training course. There were a number of pilots who had been hired as subject matter experts (schmeees, we called them) to churn out scripts to be read by the on-screen talent who would teach the Cessna course. The Kings believed that they could do it all on the computer, without an accompanying course book. It seems that there were a goodly number of FSDO’s that wouldn’t accept a private pilot course without a course book – them damned new-fangled computer thingys had yet to prove themselves in the minds of FAA and they couldn’t trust the info being disbursed without a damned book they could lay their hands on … even if they were incapable of reading as so many FAA wanks are.

Their intransigence gave me a job because the Kings hired me to compile that course book they insisted on. I shall forever be grateful to the wanks in the FAA who insisted on that course book. I shall forever be grateful to John and Martha King to trust me with that task.

But … before we continue, we need to go back to July 1997 when I started my instrument rating … and that’s the segue to Part Two of the saga, “How I Became a Flight Instructor”. Stay tuned next month to find out how it all turns out.

Posted in Personalities