If you attend the military funeral of a fighter pilot, you’ll see attendees throwing nickels …
It was, I think, sometime around July 2015. Phil Pagoria, one of the Omni Air pilots I was instructing in the simulator at Denver, invited me to lunch. Being a pilot, I was not one to turn down a free meal!
“You know, George,” he said, “you have a lot of great experience. You should start a podcast.”
“A what?” I asked, since I had no idea what a podcast was.
“Here,” he said, as he opened his iPad, “I’ll show you. See – these are podcasts. They’re like recorded radio shows, and you can download them and listen to them for free.”
It sounded intriguing, but I still had no idea what was involved in producing a show, and not really covinced it wasn’t just some flash-in-the-pan, like 8-track music. I said I’d think about it.
A few months later, my son Steve was visiting from Los Angeles. Steve is very tech-savvy, and our discussion turned to podcasting. He showed me some podcast websites, and told me about John Lee Dumas, who makes millions – millions! – podcasting.
That got my attention. Steve helped me plan, organize and develop the Ready For Takeoff Podcast, and we planned a launch at the end of the year.
There was a lot of work to do. First, I had to decide what the focus of the podcast would be. I knew it would be something aviation related, and finally came up with the focus: turn your aviation passion into a career. The podcast would be educational “talking head” programs and interviews with pilots who have expanded their horizons beyond simply flying for ABC Airlines.
“Now, Dad,” Steve said, “this isn’t some get-rich-quick scheme. It will take time to develop a following and get sponsors. We need to plan on not getting any sponsors for at least a year.”
Not a problem. It sounded like it could be fun. I like playing with equipment, and there was a lot to play with. I had just upgraded to a MacBook Pro, and I added an Audio Technica professional microphone with a pop filter, shock mount and scissor arm stand. Then, of course, I needed an accoustic microphone isolation shield. And a Tascam digital recorder. And a Skype recorder add-on, as a back-up in case the Tascam had a problem.
Then I got the Adobe Audition audio editing program. And, of course, I had to learn how to use the program. This was beginning to look like buying a goldfish and ending up with a complete acquarium setup.
Steve set up my website, produced my logo, and built my production and post-production checklists. And, of course, I had to learn how to upload the recordings to iTunes and Stitcher Radio. After a lot of preparation, I was ready to go.
When Steve visited again for Christmas, we produced the first eight programs and launched them all on December 28, 2015. They were a mix of me talking about some subjects, and me interviewing pilots who had interesting and eclectic jobs. We decided to have one episode per week, launching every Monday.
At first, there wasn’t a lot of structure to the show. I knew I was shooting for about a 35-minute length, since that’s the duration of a typical commute, and I envisioned my subscribers listening on their way to work. Later, I added some standard questions at the end of each interview: 1) what advice do you have for someone just starting out? and 2) what’s on your aviation bucket list?
At the one-year point I had just gone over 60 episodes in the year we’ve been up, and it’s been a really, really fun ride. I’ve gotten to talk about some subjects I really find interesting, like Aviation Physiology, Winter Operations, Layover Security, and How To Get An Airline Job. The best part, though, has been the opportunity to talk to some really amazing, inspiring people who were generous with their time and attention. Airshow pilots Patty Wagstaff and Julie Clark, former Air Force Thunderbird pilots Merrill McPeak and Blaine Jones, Vietnam War ace Steve Ritchie, Blue Angel Donnie Cochran, TOPGUN instructor Steve Harden, F-117 pilot Sam Martin, Zach Taylor, who flew helicopters in Afghanistan as a civilian. And, of course, Phil Pagoria, talking about how he paid his dues flying airplanes for less money than they paid the guys who wash the planes, and how he went from that to flying for a regional, then Omni, then Virgin America, and finally to the legacy airline where he now works.
Perhaps the neatest group of interviewees is that rare breed of pilots who can write as well as fly. A lot of my guests are authors. Take Karlene Petitt, for example. She flies full-time with her airline, operates a blog, has an awesome novel series, and is finishing up her PhD!
It’s been a really fun journey. And, if you’re a pilot, I know what you’re going to ask: how much money have I made with this project? Before I answer, let me tell you about a First Officer I once flew with. He had a side business as a tree farmer. I think it was walnuts. I asked him how much money the business was producing. “Oh, nothing yet,” he said. “It’s slow-motion farming. I plant the trees, maintain them, and in a few years some of them will be ready to harvest.”
So, I’m doing slow-motion farming with the podcast. So far it’s been costing money to run the show. When I have a large enough subscriber base, I’ll consider getting sponsors. But right now, I have a project that really gets my juices flowing and has me learning more every day. And every week I just can’t wait to hit Record!