Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You have to eat it, sleep it, live it...Interview with Joe Martinez

What is your favorite aircraft to fly?

Joe's answer... "Yes."

When asked to elaborate, he says "If it's airworthy....that's all I need to know."

According to Joe, owner of the Hemet Ryan Flight School, life is not worth living if flying is not a part of it. 

(Joe Martinez on right with Dennis Raymond, Pilot/CFI in training)

I sat down with Joe to learn a little bit about his history with aviation and what makes this flight school stand out from the crowd...

Joe has juggled other careers over the last 17 years since his first solo flight... all for the greater good of funding his flight time, from being a paramedic, to driving semi-trucks, to working full time as a line man to get discounts on rental aircraft.  Surviving on minimal sleep and Top Ramen, Joe says it has all been worth it because it was part of his path to creating a life and business around his passion. 

When did you decide you were going to be a pilot?
I always had the bug.  When I was 6 or 7 years old, at an air show, I hopped in the backseat of a T-6 and went for a ride with an aerobatic pilot.  We did barrel rolls, loops, a hammerhead stall.  I had a blast.  I remember I was happy when we flipped over so that I could see the ground because I couldn't see over the console.  As soon as I stepped out of that plane, I knew I was going to be a pilot.

When I turned 16, I got a full time job to pay for flight training.  My dad helped cover the difference.

My dad is a great resource.  He has about 2000 combat hours from being a United States Marine Corps. pilot for 23 years.  Started as a dive-bomber pilot and switched to "whirly birds" after the Korean war. 

What would you fly if you could fly anything you wanted for an afternoon?
An MD500.  They are fun, maneuverable, extremely quiet...the U.S. Military has used them for recon since Vietnam.  That's one hell of a bird.

What is the difference between a pilot and an aviator?
For pilots, it's a hobby; it's part time. The thing about flight is you have to give it your all to really get it and become an aviator.  When I think about what it means to be an aviator, it's about the commitment.  I'm absolutely biased because I love this more than anything else...It's a way of life. You have to eat it, sleep it, live it. 

"Flying is a tremendous commitment and a tremendous responsibility."

When did you and the Hemet Ryan Airport first cross paths?
About two and a half years ago, I moved out here from Phoenix when the economy tanked and the whole flight line vanished. I flew skydivers part time, loved it, but was barely paying the bills.

I was having a rough day, driving away from the DMV, extremely irked and frustrated, and pulled into this airport on a whim.  I asked if they needed a flight instructor and they said yes.  It was pure luck and timing. 

The next day, I met with Ed, the senior flight instructor.  I loved his mentality...straight forward, stick and rudder.  He took me up in our Cessna 172, 83E, and said "show me what you can do."

When did you decide you wanted to own the flight school?
When I got engaged, my fianc√© and I had long chat. Career commercial pilots have to go where the work is. You might be gone a couple days or you could get a job in Antarctica and be gone a year plus.  I needed to find a way to "ground" myself (in only one sense of the word) for the sake of my personal life. 

Denny, the previous owner, was wanting to enjoy his retirement; it's a tremendous amount of work to own and run a flight school.  I made him an offer, and he said yes.  It was very much a timing thing.

What are some of your philosophies here?
Our philosophies are not unique, they are old school.  The "Art" of flying is getting lost and I strongly disagree with that fact.  It's an extremely simple concept: fly the plane, stick and rudder.
Don't chase the instruments, don't mess around with the auto pilot, don't worry about all the tech.  We absolutely teach all of that. We have a glass cockpit in one of our aircraft.  We teach the technology...

"The difference is we teach technology as simply being another tool...not the tool."

We teach our students how to handle the situation:  Ok the technology has failed,...how do you still get where you are going, land and walk home?

Grab the controls; fly the plane.  That's what its about. That's the whole mentality here.
I'm extremely selective about my instructors.  No one is here to just build time and move on.  We are here to not only become better pilots ourselves, but also to pass all the knowledge and experience we have gained onto our students. We still learn from our students every day.  It's a two way street. 

We love this. We love teaching. We love flying. 
"Ain't no other place we would rather be."


  1. Great story. Compelling and rich. I can tell that this is an inspired man who is in this business for all the right reasons. Flying has been a dream of mine for far too long, but all the other #FlightSchool s have seemed only interested in my money and not my passion. Thank you #kelseyNordal for making it clear that this is the school for me! I will visit #HemetRyanFlightSchool immediately!!!!

  2. I liked the content on this site. Would like to visit again.

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