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New Horizons

Aviation Ground School in a Digital World

John and Martha King have maximized the use of technology to educate aviators.

John and Martha King remember when their aviation training VHS cassettes used to fill a huge warehouse at their King Schools headquarters in San Diego, with semi-tractor-trailers arriving regularly to pick up the tapes, which were then shipped around the world. In fact, over the course of their careers, the dynamic couple – whose names are practically synonymous with aviation training ground school – have gone from using chalkboards, to cassette audiotapes, to VHS to CDs/DVDs, and now the internet for their courses.

“Online training has made the experience so much easier and more efficient for our customers,” said John. “It’s even democratized the process, because everyone, everywhere, can have instant access to our courses.”

Martha added, “We have companion apps so that students can work off line on their tablets, and then pick up exactly where they left off when they get back online.”

After more than 45 years of providing ground school courses to nearly a million students – ranging from private pilots to ATPs to aviation maintenance technicians and now even drone pilots – the Kings have a keen understanding of the educational needs of aviators, and how technology can meet those needs. In fact, the Kings warn of an increasing dearth of flight instructors and training aircraft, making the use of companion online training ever more important.

“We perceive a big shift in the industry, where more and more people are becoming pilots for the job opportunities, not just for the fun of it,” notes Martha. “As a result, these students are more motivated, on tighter deadlines, and they want training to be as efficient as possible. Self-paced online classes and apps meet those requirements. In addition, we see the internet being increasingly used for interactive training.”

While the Kings aren’t ruling out the future use of virtual reality for ground training, they believe that in the short term, simulators may become more prevalent and sophisticated, even at the initial aviation training levels.

“Simulators work beautifully as procedures trainers,” declared John. “The problem is going to be finding the instructors to run the simulators. Technology plays a tremendous role in pilot training, and that’s a good thing, because these newly learning pilots are in a hurry.”

JOHN AND MARTHA KING are the co-chairs and co-owners of King Schools, Inc. They fly their Dassault Falcon 10 jet wherever they go, swapping captain and copilot duties on each leg. They are the only couple to hold every category and class of FAA rating on their pilot and instructor certificates. They have received numerous awards, including being enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2019.

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