3/8/17 UPDATE: We’re delighted to share the news that King Schools’ co-founder John King has received his FAA medical certificate from the FAA. In an email to Plane & Pilot, King wrote that getting his ticket after a years-long battle was a surprise—of the most pleasant variety, we’re certain. The legendary aviation educator got his approved medical in the mail from the FAA earlier this week after having made one last appeal, though he was’t sure if that that was the key to the FAA’s changing course on its decision. We’re guessing he’ll celebrate with his business partner, wife and crewmate Martha King by going flying. Congrats to the Kings on this great news.
To read the background on the story, see our original piece below, which we hope might have gotten the attention of the FAA… Stranger things have happened.
The guy lost his medical. It’s no big deal, right? Nope. Here’s why it matters to you.
Last week, when John King came out publicly with his fight to win back his lost medical certificate, I knew all of us were in for a long battle. That’s right, all of us.
For those of you pilots who never owned a VCR or used King Schools courses on your computer to study for an FAA exam, John King is the other half of John and Martha King, who founded King Schools in 1975 and who made a name for themselves in aviation education by putting out a series of test prep courses on every imaginable aviation subject that the FAA cares about. Their shtick is hilarious, and while goofy and silly, it does the job. I’ve gotten a couple of perfect scores on my FAA tests thank to the Kings. John and Martha are incredibly experienced pilots, jet-rated, owner-flown types with just about every possible FAA certificate in their wallets
And as a disclaimer, I’ve known John King for a long time. He and Martha are good friends. I’ve known about John’s medical troubles for some time, but have never said anything about them to anyone. But now that they’re public, let me tell you why his fight matters.
There are opinions galore on this subject, one of the most common being that John King is an old guy (for the record, he’s not really that old), so losing his medical might suck, but these things happen. Move on with your life, Mr. King. Right?
Wrong. First of all, John has a good medical argument. He had a single seizure years ago and has not had a recurrence. The chances of him having another one are quite low. The chances of any of us over-55 people having a heart attack are a little better, but in the same ballpark. This kind of medical risk assessment is not much of a science. While you can look at the data and make a call based on what it tells you, that is not what the FAA is doing. Instead, it’s found itself in a very familiar position: backed into a corner and not budging. As Geico says in its advertising spots, if you’re in the FAA, you deny the medical as many times as your decision gets appealed. It’s what you do.
I hope for John King’s sake he wins, but I’m not optimistic. I am incredibly grateful to him, however, for stepping into the ring, though. It’s costing him a bundle and there’s no guarantee of victory. And for every pilot who says that John has lost and should accept it, I say… really? I’ve flown with John on many occasions, in everything from a two-place helicopter to a Mach .80 jet, and let me tell you, flying matters to him just about as much as breathing does. Fight on, John.
The real solution, which I’ll be discussing at length in an upcoming editorial in Plane & Pilot, is to start from scratch with the FAA’s aeromedical division. The system is broken beyond all repair and its conclusions aren’t based on the latest medical data or, in many cases, on any data at all. I wish that John were dealing with the FAA of the 21st Century, but he isn’t. I’d place it smack dab in the middle of the 20th. But maybe his fight will help those with the power to change things to see just how little good our current medical certification system does and how great are its costs, both in terms of dollars that pilots spend fighting unfair decision and in lost happiness, on the part of the pilots it unfairly grounds.