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Tue, Apr 18, 2023

New Book, 'Sky Kings' Provides Intriguing Aero-Stories

Readings from the Book of Kings

Flying is a story-rich microcosm. Pilots swap yarns passionately and in perpetuity, learning from their own and one another’s experiences.

Ergo, both pilots and aspiring pilots are apt to enthusiastically welcome the publication of Sky Kings, an anthology of stories born of the long flying careers of John and Martha King, founders of King Schools and pioneers of video and online flight training and aeronautical instruction. The Kings began their careers teaching weekend ground school courses for candidates seeking Private and/or Commercial Pilot certification and Instrument ratings. For a full decade, the pair traveled the U.S., teaching fifty weeks per year and sharing their knowledge and experience with both aspiring and certified pilots from sea to shining sea. Ultimately, John and Martha established a permanent base for their business in San Diego, California, and have since grown King Schools into the world’s premier provider of aeronautical courseware.

Like all pilots, the Kings made mistakes and had close calls. However, unlike many pilots, John and Martha readily admit their missteps in hopes of helping other aviators learn therefrom. For several years, the Kings wrote a column with which the new book shares its title and from which many of the tome’s accounts and anecdotes are excerpted.

The Kings got their first airplane, a Cherokee 140, in 1969. Gradually, as necessity demanded and success permitted, the couple ascended the aircraft hierarchy, progressing steadily from their wee piper to the Dassault Falcon 10 jet they operate today. By dint of the succession of aircraft they’ve owned and flown, the Kings have witnessed firsthand the dramatic and sweeping evolution of aircraft and avionics technologies—all while bearing the costs of keeping their respective aircraft maintained and up to date.

Notwithstanding their vast flight experience and renown within the aviation sector, the Kings’ ascent from roving educators to business magnates wasn’t without challenges, faux pas, and outright screw-ups.

Among the new book’s most moving and memorable chapters is Until We Had Our Accident, which begins with an account of a situation universally dreaded by pilots—a total aircraft electrical system failure suffered above clouds and icing. Low on fuel and short on options, the Kings made a forced twilight landing in a cornfield. Successful insofar as the pair survived, the incident, nonetheless, sent a battered and bloodied Martha to the E.R.

One might think such an occurrence would suffice for a single chapter, but John goes on to relate the painful feelings of guilt and accountability he and Martha would subsequently experience upon learning a newly-minted pilot—one they’d instructed—had perished in an aircraft accident. John confides the instance occasioned a dark epoch during which he and Martha chronically contemplated how they, in good conscience, could go on teaching people a skill-set statistically certain to get a number of them killed.

That chapter is followed by another titled After We Had Our Accident, in which John identifies what he and Martha call “The Big Lie”—which is to say the belief irresponsibly and apocryphally promulgated by aircraft manufacturers and aviation periodicals that flying is an inherently safe activity. The Kings—long aware of the myopic eye with which the general aviation industry looks upon risk—made it their mission to teach risk management methodologies and develop tools and procedures by which pilots could more clearly perceive and effectively preclude the circumstance and behavioral patterns likely to culminate in aircraft accidents.

The Kings’ success has been bolstered by the couple’s rich inventory of anecdotal support for the practical, cockpit-ready advice they professionally dispense. In a chapter titled Your Pilot Passenger; Friend or Foe?, Martha describes how her right-seat propensity for proactivity—e.g., switching communication and navigation radio frequencies, entering new transponder codes, setting heading-bugs and altitude-pre-selects, etc.—formerly combined poorly with John’s left-seat preoccupation with his own Pilot Flying (PF) tasks. It wasn’t until the Kings developed and implemented Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) protocols that the mistakes and misunderstandings by which their dual flights were sometimes plagued came to an end. The chapter instills in readers the counterintuitive but critically important precept that two heads—in the cockpit, anyway—aren’t necessarily better than one.

Sky Kings is at once a valuable resource for pilots, an enjoyable traveling companion, and an entertaining compilation of yarns and advice set forth by a couple whose aviation careers have been the stuff of many pilots’ dreams. The book’s paperback iteration retails for $21.97. The eBook, for Kindle at, can be had for $13.97.



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