TracPlus caught up with Chris to learn more about how he found his way as a flight school instructor, businessman and influencer.
1. Tell us how you got into the world of aviation? where did this passion begin?
I'm a first generation pilot and wasn't really brought up in any particular way that attracted me to aviation. Rather, it was the activities I was involved in as a child; making model airplanes, a few airshows, and flights simulators, that pushed me toward flight. When searching for a career while in grade school, I found I could become a pilot through civilian training. That was it. I decided right then and there I'd be a pilot, at about the age of 16.
2. When did you learn how to fly?
I started ground school in high school and started flight training during my first year at University at the age of 18. From there, I've added ratings over the years, trying to work with the best instructors and even being willing to go elsewhere. I got my Instrument in Utah (was living there at the time), Commercial in California, Tailwheel in Texas, CFI in Oshkosh, and my CFII in North Carolina. I'm honored to have worked with some of the best educators in the industry to round out my experience.
3. How did your social media platforms build?
I started long ago, maybe because I'm a millennial. Through my talent with photography, video, and writing, it's always been a natural fit. Instagram has been a real fun one. I feel like it's the first platform to really reward me for my efforts.
4. When and how did your online ground school form?
I started doing aviation training products 13 years ago when I started my business. Over time I've gone through different iterations and focus areas, to where I am now focusing on individual pilots. I have a deep sense of purpose in finding ways to better educate and inspire aviators from the first moment they step into the aviation industry. Along the way I want that process to be both entertaining and educational, while being modern and fun. That's pretty natural for me to do through video.
5. You have a large online presence - how have you built this?
Honestly, just sharing the everyday experiences that I come across. It does take a lot of work to generate content, like photos and videos. Along with that comes a thought or a perspective that maybe someone hasn't heard of before. Sometimes it's just a shot of the mountains around Homer, Alaska, but could also be a video of myself instructing a student. I get quite a few comments from followers that really appreciate the authenticity of my brand and message. Perhaps that's refreshing in a training industry that can often be disingenuous.
I've also been thinking more recently how every post and every piece of content needs to have some sort of educational value. People should come away feeling like that they got something out of the piece of work. Otherwise, my content is just another entertaining photo or video.
6. What does a day in the life of Chris look like?
My entrepreneurial "wheels" are always spinning. I typically try and work 9-5. Family is very important to me, and I want to spend time with them in the mornings and evenings. Sometimes that means projects don't get done, or work is put off. My boys are really young, and each moment is precious.
In the depths of work, you can almost always find me working on content, whether that's free social media or Youtube content, or content that I offer for sale like online courses.
I also actively teach new flight students, which can't be said for many instructors (surprisingly). I really enjoy working with people and seeing them achieve their dreams. It's the absolute best and most meaningful part of my job, and also offers benefits to my online courses since I'm teaching real people and not robotically talking into a camera all the time.
7. What do you love the most about your job?
Building off the previous question, it's certainly helping people. Approaching the aviation industry can be fairly confusing and intimidating. In almost everything I do, I work to break down those barriers.
If I'm working directly with a student, it's the mental, emotional and physiological barriers that I help the most with. I find almost anyone can gain the skills to fly, but it's harder for them to overcome their own limiting factors. Helping people transcend that gap is very rewarding to witness.
8. What are your goals for the future? Any exciting developments underway?
My goals for the future aren't much different than what I'm doing now. Someday I'd like to have a SuperCub and offer off-airport training. I'd love for the online courses to grow to where it can sustain that. I'd love to continue traveling the nation and even the world, spreading the message of aviation.
Most of all, I'm just really happy with where I live, the family I have, the kind of work I get to do, and the people I meet. If I did nothing more than stay status quo, I'd die a happy man.
9. Tell us a little more about yourself today!
I live in Homer, Alaska. It's a fishing town on the south-central coast. It's a small town of about 8,000 people in the Winter, 15K in the Summer (fishing season). It's a marine wildlife mecca nestled amongst snowcapped mountains. The people are great here, and I see the same people a lot (down to the local grocery store employees). I have a wonderful supporting cast with my wife and two young boys.