Fueled By death cast



Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 140 - SOARING ACADEMY

CHRIS BENNETT - SOARING ACADEMY

"I know I could figure anything out, and I don't settle. You can figure it out. It just takes effort. Everything is solvable. Everything." Chris Bennett, Southern California Soaring Academy and Glider School

 

 

PREVIEW:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW

ABOUT CHRIS BENNETT AND THE SOARING ACADEMY:

Meet Chris Bennett, who along with his wife Julie, runs the Southern California Soaring Academy and Glider School. This incredible facility is located near wide-open expanses and at the foot of mountains, making it highly sought after for flying enthusiasts and glider specialists.
The Soaring Academy is a non-profit organization that offers glider rides and lessons for certification, as well as a full airstrip for those who own and operate their own gliders.
On top of all that, they have found amazing ways to give back, working closely with students, especially 8th graders at the iLead Schools in California, adding to their studies about aerodynamics and flying mechanics.
Also, The Soaring Academy works with various wounded veterans organizations to give men and women who have served and suffered the opportunity to soar among the clouds and aide in the journey to recovery.
Hear Chris's inspiring story and stick around to the end for a first-person look at flying in a glider taking off from The Soaring Academy.

To visit the facility and also to donate to their organization, go to soaringacademy.org

TRANSCRIPT:

Jeff: I want to start just by saying how amazing your facility is here, and thank you so much for welcoming us here today. And as you can hear in the background, it's been a wonderful day of... It is one of the most beautiful days in the desert I've seen in a long time.

Chris: They're all beautiful.

Jeff: That's a great answer. That's a great answer.

Chris: Some are windy are beautiful. Some are hot are beautiful.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: But they're all good.

Jeff: So here at the Soaring Academy, you guys do so much stuff, and I want to get into all of it, but I want to talk a little bit about your journey to starting this. This Soaring Academy now has been 10 years. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Chris: Yeah. This company has been operating out of this location for over 10 years.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: We started January of '09.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: It's been a glider port, I believe, since the late '60s.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: And it's had several operators over the years, and I believe we're the longest operating so far.

Jeff: You were... Correct me if I'm wrong. You were an engineer.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, high school to college, got a degree in engineering material science, went to work as a young engineer in my early 20s. Day one of my first job as an engineer, I walked into the company and realized right then and there I made a huge mistake.

Chris: So that day, my first job as an engineer, I went to the local municipal airport for a flying lesson. I knew I had a check coming in a couple of weeks and didn't have any obligations. So I went down there, and that's the day I started learning how to fly. That was January of '84.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: So, I did that for probably about 10 years, several companies between South Carolina. And finally a buddy of mine hired me to develop a product line out here in California. I came out to California, and that was it.

Jeff: That was it.

Chris: That was it.

Jeff: I'm here in California. And then cut to almost two decades in the restaurant business.

Chris: Yeah, I'll give you the Cliff Notes. Met my wife Julie through a family friend. She was working in the food business, and I'd moonlight on weekends, you know, bartending, odd jobs. And long story short, we got married. Her brother, sister, myself, and her, we opened up a restaurant almost 21 years. Loved it. But that's, as you know, that's a young man's profession.

Jeff: Totally. And you were a chef?

Chris: Yeah, I was in the kitchen. I was that guy-

Jeff: Yeah, that's totally a young man's profession.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. You know, seven o'clock, the phone rings, and the fish is bad. What do you do? Anyway.

Jeff: Ugh, I'm already having PTSD.

Chris: Right, right. Yeah, I'm starting to get the heebies. So my go-to fun time when we moved the restaurant from Palm Springs to Los Angeles was to go fly gliders, and this was kind of my safe place. And I'd come up here, and in the height of me flying as a John Q. Citizen, I'd fly maybe three or four times a week up here. And it was kind of funny, I'd go up, take a glider up, glide up really high, get a little hypoxic, come down and have to work the night shift.

Jeff: Oh, my gosh.

Chris: Yeah. You're coffee guys. I'd go back to the restaurant, pound a couple of double espressos, and I found out real quick that did not fix hypoxia.

Jeff: No. Oh, God.

Chris: So anyway, well, I was slightly hypoxic. Anyway, the place here where I was flying, that company, the owner passed away, and a group of us got together and formed the current company, and I was invited to join the board of directors. And on or about that time, I said, "Look, we're kind of looking to sell our restaurant and kind of make a move." And they approached me, and here I am. I'm managing the place.

Jeff: What was it like... because I'm always inspired by people who don't settle.

Chris: Oh, I don't settle.

Jeff: You could have just been like, "Well, I'm in the restaurant business. I know what I'm doing."

Chris: Yeah, it was very comfortable.

Jeff: "I'm comfortable, and I can just keep going." But you took that leap. What was it like taking the leap from doing that to doing this?

Chris: Well, ignorance is bliss, right?

Jeff: Yes.

Chris: So basically, when we were winding up the restaurant, Julie and I talked, and this would've been a dream gig, right? I get to work around airplanes, great people, an amazing locale, outdoors. Twenty years in a kitchen. Now I'm outdoors. Not knowing what was ahead of me kind of made me really eager to do it, and I took the plunge. I had some good people around me kind of tutoring or mentoring, and the engineer in me just has the genetics. I know I could figure anything out, and I don't settle. I tell my nephews and people that are younger than me, "You can figure it out. It just takes effort." Everything is solvable. Everything. If I can go from a runt becoming a research engineer in the microelectronics field to a chef to running a nonprofit, which happens to be a glider flight school, anything's possible.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: So it just takes a whole lot of effort.

Jeff: Right.

Chris: And tenacity. It's the pit bull mentality. You don't let go.

Jeff: And that's awesome. And that brings us to now with the Soaring Academy, which you, like you said, is a nonprofit organization, and you guys are a flight school predominantly. So walk me through that. How many instructors do you have?

Chris: I don't know.

Jeff: That's a good answer.

Chris: No, we've got a half a dozen.

Jeff: Half a dozen. And then, on average, how busy does this get? How many students do you get in here?

Chris: A lot.

Jeff: A lot?

Chris: Yeah, we're flush with students. There seems to be an endless supply, which is great. It's a great problem to manage. Sometimes we're limited by instructor availability. This is an elective thing that guys do. They instruct part time or for the fun of it, and when they have to go on vacation or trips or the family calls, they're not so available.

Chris: Also maintenance on the airplanes. They get inspected every hundred hours, every year. We have preventative maintenance. We'll take them out of service to make sure they're safe and airworthy, and so it's a constant battle. We probably have upwards north of about 20, 25 students, maybe even 30 students. We have about six full time... no, full to part-time instructors. Of the students we have, about 12 of them are teenagers. Of the teenagers, 50% of them are young girls. And of the 12 teenagers we're training right now, about six of them have been soloed. You saw one this morning.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: Young Ava, she's 14, and she just took a flight to the mountains.

Jeff: Incredible.

Chris: And she's better than us adults.

Jeff: Ha, that's incredible. And throughout the years, throughout the decade of this school existing, would you say it's more people wanting to learn that have never flown, or is it more pilots who know how to fly engine-based planes and want to now get their license in a glider?

Chris: It's different. It's different. It's multifaceted. There's a fascination with soaring, and both you guys can see why after going up there. It's really cool. The pilot community, the airplane community looks at gliders as a bunch of old guys that wind up there when they lose their medical, and boy, are they missing out, right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: It's some of the most dynamic, enjoyable, self-rewarding flying you can do. Having said that, it's a great way for a young person to get into aviation. The US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has a glider program for their freshmen. So they train their students in gliders. There's a benefit to it. It's a lot of stuff you can learn from these things. There's also a big percentage of the pilot population that has always wanted to do this, and they show up on our doorstep doing it. Of course, the movie... What's the movie where they beat each other up? Fifty Shades.

Jeff: Oh, Fight Club? Fifty Shades?

Chris: Fifty Shades of Grey.

Jeff: Yeah. Okay.

Chris: I'm being a little tongue in cheek. There was a glider scene in that, right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: And when that movie came out a few years ago, we got a ton of rides. Couples wanted to take rides.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: Yeah, they wanted their seat belts a little tighter, but we have to keep it safe.

Jeff: But, okay, so I just took my first flight ever.

Chris: Yep.

Jeff: And I will never be the same. It is a magical, incredible experience. And it all stems from this piece of science and technology, at the end of the day. You took us over to one of the hangers and showed us one that you guys are working on that's in pieces, and it's mind blowing to think that it's just a few pieces that you just kind of put together.

Chris: Yeah. Well, the glider... Airplanes, the maintenance working on airplanes is very regulated by the FAA.

Jeff: Right.

Chris: And if you want to take an airplane apart, you have to have a licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic who does that and signs log books. A glider is the only aircraft that the pilot or the owner can disassemble and put together on his own and legally fly it. So it's kind of its own unique thing. Having said that, yeah, it's a very real example of applied science. You get in this thing, and when you're a pilot in command, you have to apply lots of scientific principles, math. You're doing your calculation. If you've got your glide ratio and your X amount of miles from your field, you start to do the calculations of how much altitude do I need to make it to my home field, or do I have to land at an alternate?

Chris: The ability, which both you guys... I'm looking at the camera man and Jeff over here. The ability to climb and be successful in a flight, as you saw, you're using Mother Nature, the forces of lift, convective currents, shear lines, temperature lapse rates. If it's really warm on the surface and it's cool up top, that discrepancy in the temperatures really drives the strength of the thermals, and you're constantly thinking about this and using that and applying it when you're flying gliders.

Jeff: It's incredible. One of the things I took away from it with the instructor that I went up with is that it becomes an extension of you, whereas with an engine, you have a lot more dials and readouts telling you what to do. This is all about feel. You really are just up there and feeling it out.

Chris: Well, when you fly airplanes and you're an instrument-rated pilot, one of the things you are taught, to be successful flying by just the instruments alone in the clouds with no visibility, is to disregard your bodily sensations, right? You rely solely on what the gauges and the instruments are telling you. If you think you're in a turn, but the instruments say you're flying straight and level, you disregard what your body's telling you and you fly straight and level. In a glider, it's just the opposite. You have to literally feel it in the seat of your pants. Literally. If you're heavy, if your butts, if you feel heavy in your butt, you're climbing. If you're light, you're sinking.

Chris: And it's not uncommon. We get the airline dudes up here, right, who fly the jets, and they think they're God... They're good guys, but they think they're God's gift to flying. We put them in this thing, and they're flying it by the instruments or what little instruments we have in the glider, and then inevitably we have to go get the sticky notes and cover all the instruments and break that habit that they've spent their life's career honing.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: So it's the opposite, and it's not uncommon for us to have to cover the panel so we can retrain somebody how to fly by the seat of their pants.

Jeff: It's incredible. And just to be up there and to experience it, I now understand why anyone would not only want to come to this school and learn how to do it, but then on top of that, you guys have a lot of people who own their own and keep them here, and they come and fly them.

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Jeff: I mean, if I was in this area, I'd be doing it in a heartbeat. I totally understand it.

Chris: We just had a radio call from a glider from another airfield. He was about 12,000 feet right overhead, and he's going to be flying our tow plane tomorrow. He took off out of an airport about 55 miles from here. He's flying overhead. He's going to San Bernardino, and then he's going to try to make it back.

Jeff: Oh, my God.

Chris: So that's kind of privately-owned gliders. That's what they do. We had a guy take off this morning at nine o'clock, a very experienced pilot. He's a cross-country pilot, and his objective is to make it to Hurricane or St. George, Utah, which is between... which Vegas is halfway between us and that. So it's a trek.

Jeff: That's incredible. And this is the same guy that you were saying to me earlier that this actually isn't just for recreation or the experience of it. He actually competes. It is a sport.

Chris: Yeah. It's a sport. There's 12 regions in the US, and each region has a contest, and it's just like anything else. It's like a horse race. But what's happened lately in the last probably five to 10 years with the onset of GPS tracking devices and the internet, now you, as a glider pilot here in Southern California, can compete against somebody in Europe. You take up a GPS data recorder; you declare your flight. You go on a website called OLC. It stands for online contests, and you post your flight, and they rank you based on... They'll rank you within North America, within Europe, South America. And if you're in the top itsy-bitsy few, they'll rank you worldwide.

Chris: And we've got a couple of guys that have flown out of here over the last decade. They're ranked one and two in the world. They'll fly 3,000 kilometers in a day in a glider, up and down the Sierras, down to El Centro, and then a downwind run to God knows where.

Jeff: That's incredible.

Chris: Yeah.

Jeff: Another thing that I learned being up in the air is that you are constantly looking for that lift, looking for the thermals, and if you're experienced enough, you can stay up for virtually forever.

Chris: All day. All day.

Jeff: It's incredible to me.

Chris: Yeah, if somebody is an airplane pilot... God bless them. I am one. But a lot of them look at this as it's just, "I do airplanes. I don't do gliders." They really owe it to themselves to go to a reputable glider facility on a day when there's really good lift and go treat yourself to a glider flight. It'll change your bones.

Jeff: I'm a changed man, 100%. I also wanted to talk about, because you showed us another glider that you have here that I thought was so interesting that actually has an engine on it. Is that a rarity?

Chris: There's three ways to get a glider into the air legally. One is aerotow, which you guys did today.

Jeff: Yep, yep.

Chris: The other one is ground launch, where we hook it up to a car with a long rope or a winch, and we actually just shoot it up like a... And those are fun. And then the third method is what's called self-launch. And the glider I showed you today has an engine that can retract up or come up or retract, and we can actually use that to launch and go fly your glider flight. What we prefer to do is to aerotow that glider up in the air and go fly somewhere crazy, foolishly far away. And if we can't get back, we pop the motor, start it up, and we fly home.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: Life's good. In the old days, if you didn't have that option, you'd wind up in Farmer Joe's field with the cows looking at you or the football field in the high school, and then you've got to call your buddies up to come get you and it's... which is good too.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: But...

Jeff: I thought it was interesting too with going back to the guy that we saw take off this morning on his way to Utah. A lot of glider fliers, especially the professionals, have crews with them.

Chris: Yeah.

Jeff: His wife was here getting ready to basically meet him in Utah with their glider trailer.

Chris: Yeah, that's so common. We'll see that starting now through October, is Saturday is usually the day they go because they'll fly four or five or 600 miles out. They'll have a crew following them with the trailer. And when they land, it's usually because they run out of usable daylight. It's not because they run out of conditions usually. And then they break it apart, put it in the trailer, and then they come back the next day. And that's why they generally go on Saturdays because they usually work on Monday. They need a day to get back, and it's crazy. Or there'll be two pilots, and they'll switch. One will ground crew; the other one will fly. Then they'll alternate. But it's a lifestyle.

Jeff: Yeah. It really is.

Chris: And I've done cross-country flying, but not to that degree. But observing these guys, I think they've had a hit of the crack pipe. You know, it's an addictive thing. These guys are just... They love it.

Jeff: Yeah. That's incredible. And going back to the school side of it, if you are starting out and want to get your license and learn to be a glider pilot, how many hours in the air do you need to be certified?

Chris: With a glider, it's only 10.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: Okay. But keep in mind, when you look at airplanes, you have to have a minimum of 40, and that 40 breaks down to several different types of flying: with an instructor, solo, in Class D airports. And it's the same in gliders. There's certain requirements within that 10 hours, but those are the FAA minimums.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: Right? It's the minimum required hours to qualify to take the written, or I'm sorry, the practical test. Hardly anybody doesn't hit the minimums. You want to be trained to fly or glide or fly an airplane without an engine to the minimums and go up there by yourself?

Jeff: I don't.

Chris: Yeah, and you guys have seen what it's like, right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: And especially in this condition. If you're somewhere back East, where it's very benign and there's lots of places to land out, more power to you. But out here, we get really, really terrific conditions, which we like to call sporty, which can mean the air's going up, but it's also coming down. So usually, training somebody to the minimums is not really a good idea.

Jeff: No, no. I would want a lot of training before that.

Chris: Yeah, it makes sense.

Jeff: And on that respect, this school works a lot with the younger generation. You guys do a lot with the STEM program, iLEAD schools, which we're connected with as well. Can you talk a little bit about that, like working with kids?

Chris: Yeah. When we set this up in 2009, we decided every... A big part of the glider community are clubs. Clubs are okay, but it's a bunch of guys getting together to drink beer and slap each other on the back, and then they go fly gliders. And the business model that we came up with is we wanted to give something back. We didn't want to just have a bunch of self-centered guys flying.

Chris: Soaring could be a very solitary experience. You're in there by yourself. It's you against Mother Nature. So we wanted to do something to reach out and kind of grow the sport. So we came up with two charitable activities. One is working with STEM kids and getting kids really, really excited about math and science, and using the backdrop of aviation to make math and science real to them. And the second charitable activity is giving recuperative glider rides to our veterans, some of the guys and girls that have really, really put it all on the line for us. They have scars and issues the rest of their lives. And when they come out here, we really kind of did what we did with you guys, is take them flying. And even if it's for a small moment, we reset their ballast box for a little bit. But the STEM stuff is really rewarding. We...

Jeff: How young are kids...

Chris: Eighth grade.

Jeff: Eighth grade?

Chris: Eighth grade, yeah.

Jeff: That's incred... I wish when I was in eighth grade I had that opportunity.

Chris: Right, right.

Jeff: That's amazing, because when we got to tour the iLEAD schools, they were talking about how like some of these kids are learning about aerodynamics and...

Chris: Everything.

Jeff: ... and flight mechanics and stuff like that. And then they literally get to come out here and put it to practical use.

Chris: The FAA allows a 14-year-old teenager to solo a glider. When they turn 16, they're allowed to take the practical test and become a certified private pilot in gliders. That's a year younger, two years younger for solo than an airplane and a year younger for... So when we work with STEM kids, eighth grade's what, 13?

Jeff: 13-ish. Yeah, yeah.

Chris: It's been a while for me.

Jeff: Yeah, I think it's like 13, 14. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris: So we get these kids out here. They're 13. It's the perfect age to introduce them to something like this. And funny, we're finding out that some of these kids, it kind of sets a career path for them, whether they want to be a pilot, whether they want to do something in aviation. We've had several kids come through our program that go to like Embry-Riddle or North Dakota, these aviation-based schools. We've had two girls who trained here; both went on to the US Air Force Academy.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: And one of them, last time I checked, is flying F-16s.

Jeff: Wow! That's a little different than a glider.

Chris: She owes me a ride.

Jeff: Yeah, I was going to say, she definitely owes you a ride.

Chris: Yeah, I know.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: So it really does set these kids out on a career path, and at the very least our... And that's good. Great. But our objective is to make the kids excited about math and science technology. If you're in the classroom and the teacher says, "Today we're going to learn about slope: rise over run." Okay, great. You do it; you learn it.

Jeff: You test it; you forget it.

Chris: Right. Now you come out, and you say, "Okay." Like at iLEAD or some of the schools that we work with, they'll build a glider and they say, "We're going to measure the L over D, the lift over drag, the glide ratio of this glider." The ones you were in today is 45 to one, so it's going to go 45 miles for every mile it descends. And the teachers can work in the theory of slope in a practical way.

Jeff: Wow!

Chris: Same thing with Bernoulli and Newton and all the different theories these dead guys came up with.

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris: So it excites the kids. And if the kids decide to train, then they've got to get real about this subject matter and really got to drill down and learn it.

Jeff: That is so, so incredible. I mean, like you said, it's the perfect age, and it's so inspiring that that was your mission from the very beginning...

Chris: The very beginning.

Jeff: ... of the school. And on the other side of that, I definitely want to talk about what you guys do with the veterans, because I think that, on its own, is absolutely amazing as well.

Chris: Yeah. It's something else. We pair with different veterans groups, from San Diego to locally to Los Angeles to Loma Linda. When we first started this in 2011, we still had hostilities going overseas. So we had active-duty service members come up that actually had blast wounds, amputations, traumatic brain injury, you name it. I mean, these guys were mutilated, and their spirit was unbelievable.

Chris: Now that the hostilities have kind of ceased, we're seeing an awful lot of PTS, psychological anxiety, you name it. We still get some of the other stuff. We get guys out here in chairs and who have physical disabilities. But what this does is it gives them a day away from what their life is. And when you get up in a glider, at least for me, and I know I've discussed this with a lot of other people, you don't have the extra bandwidth to process how crappy your day's going.

Jeff: Right.

Chris: You're in the glider, you're doing it, and that's your whole life for that moment or that hour or 30 minutes, whatever you're doing. And when you get back on the ground and your life invades your brain again, you had an hour to reset. And what we're finding is it's a wonderful way for some of these folks to kind of reset their PTSD. We get comments like, "Who thought I could be around civilians again?" And what we do is provide these guys and girls an adrenaline rush in a safe environment.

Chris: And when we first started, we were dealing with the Naval Medical Center down in San Diego. These were active-duty folks, and we had to take several precautions to work with them. We weren't allowed to take pictures exposing their face. We weren't allowed to use them to advertise. We had training here with our volunteer staff. So we give them the absolute respect and dignity, you know, no selfies with the guy with the shoulder wound. So it was a lot, and we earned the trust of that facility, and then it grew from there. To date, we've done over 2,000, probably more like 2,300 veteran rides.

Jeff: Wow! And is that predominantly all ages of veterans?

Chris: Yeah. At first, it was just active duty, and then we opened it up to all ages. And when it was just active duty, it was kind of crazy. You get guys in their early 20s here that are... you know, had their bells rung. And now we're getting Vietnam, the first Gulf conflict, and we've even had some guys from World War II come up here.

Jeff: Oh, my God.

Chris: Yeah. And those are the ones that are like priceless, you know.

Jeff: Really?

Chris: But anybody who's a veteran, we take them flying.

Jeff: Wow! That is an incredible way to give back with a school like this too, because, again, I just landed, and I feel like I'll never be the same, like experiencing that. And it has a lot to do with the area that you're in, too. This area is amazing.

Chris: Well, this area is ground zero for aviation. Right out here is Edwards, where a lot of the early flight test was done back in the day, and it still does. Over here we have Gray Butte and El Mirage, where a lot of the prototyping and research flights for the modern UAVs, the drones, the Reapers, the Predators. Just about 70 miles that way is Mojave Space Port, where they're doing SpaceShipOne and all the latest civilian space stuff. You've got Scaled Composites, which makes all the really cool, funky stuff. And then out here is Palmdale. We have Plant 42 and all the spooky black projects for the military. I mean, this is it. You'd be surprised who is on our field flying on any given day, from NASA U-2 pilots to test pilots out at Edwards to Delta pilots.

Chris: We have one guy, years ago he dropped his 16-year-old son off, and he said, "Let my son work for you over the summer and let him train." And then he would take a 747 from LAX to Belgium, and he'd take off and he would call from 21,000 feet over San Bernardino. He calls crystal ground. "This is Delta 352. Is my son working, or is he screwing off?" I'd say, "Ken, what are you doing?" He goes, "Oh, I'm going to Belgium.".

Jeff: But I'm making sure my son's working.

Chris: Yeah. "I want to make sure he's not screwing up.".

Jeff: Oh, my God.

Chris: So that's the culture out here. We get guys who have careers, girls who have careers. They come out here to fly, to train. One of our girls, ladies, who just got certificated about a month ago, works down in LA. And she would edit all the TV shows in the middle of the night and then come up here and fly during the day.

Jeff: Wow.

Chris: So.

Jeff: It's...

Chris: It's everybody.

Jeff: It's just everybody, and it's just incredible.

Chris: But when you're up here, everybody's just a pilot.

Jeff: Just a pilot?

Chris: Yep.

Jeff: Wow! So what would you say to someone who wants to get into aviation today? Just go do it? Is that really just the ethos of it?

Chris: I would do your due diligence. You want to fly gliders. I started out as an airplane guy and then segued to this many years ago, and I love both.

Jeff: You still have... You still fly a plane, right?

Chris: Yeah, yeah. We keep a plane in Los Angeles, and that's kind of our weekend thing. And we work weekends up here, and this is our day job. But I'm an advocate for both. But if you want to do it, don't wait. But I would really check out where you're going to go do it.

Chris: Just do your due diligence. Get some recommendations. There's a lot of terrific places to learn how to fly. But the only recommendation I can give you is nothing in aviation happens fast or cheap. So if you go for the bottom priced school, you may get what you pay for.

Jeff: Right. That's definitely true. Well, through it all, and again your story is so inspiring because you switched gears and started this incredible school now 10 years strong that does so many amazing things, and you're still passionate about it.

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Jeff: You can tell, from the way you talk about it, that it's not, "Oh, I fly." It's still magic to you.

Chris: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Jeff: What fuels that passion for you?

Chris: Up there.

Jeff: Just being there?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I still look at airplanes and get excited. I mean, it's a way of life. It gets in your blood. When I used to fly a lot before I started managing the place, I'd come in after a five-hour, four-hour flight, land, and the ground crew would come up, and I'd say, "Usually, stuff this addictive is illegal." This is really, really fun stuff. It's just fun. It gets in your blood. When you're not here flying, you're thinking about it, or you're looking at YouTube videos, or you're planning a flight, or you're trying to study something. It's wonderful. And if you're a math, science guy, it's like it's a no-brainer.

Jeff: Yeah. It is a no-brainer. I can't thank you enough for welcoming us here and talking with me today because my life has changed. And I 100% encourage all of my listeners and viewers to, if they are in this area in California, to come visit you.

Chris: Yeah, look us up. Our website is soaringacademy.org O-R-G.

Jeff: It'll be right in this show.

Chris: And also being a 501c3, these programs, the veterans and the kid programs, we need support. Our revenue as a flight school that we collect for training, rides, you name it, tie-downs, anything above and beyond our expenses we funnel into these programs, but it's not enough. We actively seek donations. We have some corporate donations. We have some private donations. And anybody that can help out, it'd be very, very much appreciated. It goes to a very, very good cause. You're affecting lives of veterans for the better, and you're helping kids in this day and age, where everything's modern technology and they don't even ride skateboards that much anymore...

Jeff: I know. It's a shame.

Chris: And God forbid they play a ball or with a ball or something. So you're affecting these kids, and you're getting them outside, and you're hopefully setting a spark in them to do something other than just being really good at Instagram or PlayStation or... I don't even know what the latest thing is, where they kill the crack corps. What's that one?

Jeff: Whatever it is. It's not-

Chris: You know the one I'm talking about, right?

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, but it's not-

Speaker 3: Grand Theft Auto.

Jeff: Yeah, Grand Theft Auto.

Chris: Grand Theft Auto.

Jeff: That's it.

Chris: Killing crack corps.

Jeff: Yeah, but that's what it basically boils down to. But it's not this. It's not like-

Chris: No, no. This is the real thing.

Jeff: This is the real thing. And again, you know, even going back to what we first started talking about. Seeing that 14-year-old girl this morning fly on her own, it's like-

Chris: It's something else. It'll move you. But when you see a kid who's 14 fly solo for the first time and you're standing there with the parents and they're about ready to unwind, yeah, it's great. I need a little bit of... I need some of your coffee to put them out of their misery.

Jeff: Excellent. Well, we'll definitely-

Chris: Not that that death-wish coffee would. I mean, it would-

Jeff: No, no, it'll mellow them out. That's the good thing about caffeine. We'll keep you guys caffeinated.

Chris: Yeah. Perfect. Either that or we're going to give them some Irish caffeine.

Jeff: There we go. That's the one. Well, thank you so much.

Chris: You got it. Hey, pleasure having you guys.

Jeff: Excellent.