|Doug and Denise Winston|
Airplanista Blog Editor
At a particular low point in my life years ago during the late 1990s, I was seeking the truth about the meaning of life, and why I had been placed on this rock we know as Earth. I was looking for a sign, something significant that I could hold onto for dear life, to right my ship and start riding eternity's roller coaster up the next hill to careen around the oncoming corner, screaming all the way.
In my search for something to bring me back from the depths of whatever was keeping me down, I came across Jewel Kilcher's 1998 song Hands which has what I consider to be the most poignant, most important lyrics I have every heard. As I listened to this song over and over, the realization came to me that we - as individuals - all have something unique and useful we can contribute, once we understand the power we hold in our own two hands. Jewel is one of my generation's most talented songwriters - with each word she scribes, something meaningful and very special happens:
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken"
– Hands by Jewel, from her second album Spirit (1998)
What I learned from this song and these lyrics is that each of us holds special talents, and we must use those talents for good. I launched a successful creative design career in 1998 after hearing that song, once I realized that while my own hands could not reproduce the work of Michelangelo, what they could produce was something that would be of my creation, from my mind, yes, from my hands, and nobody else's. What you are reading right now is an example of this "my own hands" philosophy, which I practice to this day. I hope one day to thank Jewel personally for teaching me the most valuable lesson I have ever learned about creativity and about using our gifts in service to others.
LetsFlyThere.TV, the couple's Youtube channel. By day, she is a financial expert, author, speaker and TV host who first picked up a video camera to help launch her financial education business. She soon found herself producing videos to promote general aviation, products and services in the aviation industry and to help create awareness for the non-profits they fly for. "It's turned into quite the hobby," said Denise, "and helped a lot of people, created awareness and allowed me to hone my skills in front of and behind the camera. Producing the videos gives me something to do while Doug talks shop, fuels the plane, flight plans, preflights and flies the plane."
How the Winstons came to be known for the fun flying adventure videos found on LetsFlyThere.TV is a supreme example of people with great skills putting them to work to do good. And none of this was planned:
"It kind of just happened," explains Denise. "I was launching my business and as part of one of my coaching calls, I learned about the importance of video in today's market and about the Kodak Zi8. I picked one up and took it on a trip to learn how to use it. It’s been with me ever since. My first real video was a Veterans Airlift Command Flight from San Diego to Mammoth Lakes for a Wounded Warrior Hero Flight. Doug was donating his time, plane and skill set, and the best way I could give back that day was filming and doing a video to help the participants remember the day and to provide a video that VAC could use to help create awareness and raise more money. It expanded from there to all kinds of things…my aviation video work has even been featured on a Travel Channel segment to air in 2013. My footage has been featured in national ad campaigns, and many non-profits have used the footage to educate passengers."Doug Winston fell in love with flying at a young age while living under the flight path of Torrance, California’s Zamparini Field, and eventually started flight training in 1984 while in graduate school at USC while earning his MS in Geology. He flew with the Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Flying Club located at El Monte Airport, where instructors were $5 per hour and Cessna 150s rented for $20 per hour. After owning a 1966 Cessna 150F and a 1974 Cherokee 140, Winston now flies a well-equipped 1978 Cessna T210 that he owns with three partners. As a camera platform, this airplane rocks:
"The T210 is a turbocharged M model with 310 horsepower for takeoff and 285 HP continuous," says Doug. "It has a 1,500 pound useful load and 89 gallons useable fuel. It is well equipped with Garmin 530, Ryan TCAD, Weather Radar, Strikefinder and the latest edition, an iPad running FlyQ and Foreflight on the yoke. The 210 has vortex generators that allow for slow flight approaches that help landing on dirt and unimproved surfaces during some expeditions to Baja. We chose the 210 for its speed, economy and load carrying capacity. I’ve had folks comment that it looked like a clown car when six adults disembark after landing on seashell runways on the beach in Baja. We cruise at 154 knots burning about 14.7 GPH lean of peak, and 170 knots with a 21 GPH fuel burn - but that higher burn makes no sense for the time saved. It’s 12 MPG versus 9 MPG. A serious no brainer when you realize the extra cost in fuel and maintenance. I’m an engineer, I spreadsheet everything so I know.”Denise was introduced to flying when she took her then eight-year-old daughter for a Discovery Flight over our hometown Bakersfield as a birthday present, and both she and her daughter loved it. "The best part is that a year later I met my Mr. Wonderful (Doug) and he was a pilot," Denise said. "I love flying with Doug and learning about the earth’s crust from such an incredible vantage point. As a Geologist, he is a really good teacher! I've learned a lot about the earth, history, different cultures, adventure and living life from him."
Producing flying adventure videos is just one element of general aviation that Denise enjoys. "Flying in our 210 and doing the videos is not just about spectacular scenery," she says, "it’s about adventure, education, inspiring and helping people. We enjoy the crazy flying weather, everyday natural hazards, seeing and learning about the earth from a new perspective, unique travel destinations that offer adventure sports and excursions not to mention the unique accommodations and fantastic food. Compassion flights are a bonus, we can give back using our plane and passion for a purpose. I love being able to see 100% of our donation in action."
Doug would agree, travel by GA airplane is a very good way to get around this planet:
"Private aviation provides the ultimate convenience, luxury and adventure. We get a unique perspective of the earth, we collapse the miles, shrink time and get to experience places in an entirely different way. Most of the trips we take would not be possible due to distance and the time it would take to drive. We travel…fast…with no traffic…to remote locations…with no chance of a speeding ticket…with the best view in the world…without standing in endless security lines. What could be better than all that?What could be better is being able to produce really cool videos along the way. And for that task, Team Winston comes prepared:
"I’m a self-taught producer," Denise explains, "and with camera operation, shot composition, audio, lighting, scripting, editing and talent…there is a lot to producing a video, especially if you want something decent. I travel with up to five cameras: wing mount, cockpit, two hand-held and a semi-pro SLR. I started using the Kodak Zi8 and the software it came with, but quickly got frustrated and purchased a Mac, which I LOVE!! I started using IMovie, then finally found Final Cut X, which is perfect. Doug saw the Drift HD 170 advertised in AOPA Pilot Magazine and we purchased one. I’ve been acquiring additional equipment ever since. I’ve kind of gotten addicted and want to improve the quality of my work, I’m a life long student I guess. We currently own two Kodak Zi8 cameras, one Canon EOS 60D, two Drift HD cameras, one Sennheiser boom mic with wind cover, one wireless Sennheiser lapel and handheld mic, an LED light, several tripods, a shoe mount, other camera mounting rigs and remotes. We typically have the Drift HD 170 mounted on a tie down loop of the wing, the smaller Drift HD mounted in the cockpit with a suction cup mount, I have the Zi8 in my hand with aircraft audio hooked into the external mic, and my Canon EOS 60D is nearby for zoom shots. When we arrive, I gear up for street mode with tripod, equipment shoe, Kodak Zi8, light and boom mic. Lots of SD cards…and an open eye and ear."When you see the production value of the videos that the Winstons create, you would be correct in assuming that there's been an enormous amount of time and money invested in this hobby:
"I’ve invested thousands of hours in learning how to produce: script, shoot, edit, light, do the audio and be the talent." said Denise. "I’ve also investing thousands of dollars in equipment, training, coaching and learning the business. The investment of my time and money has been well worth it. I am now a paid TV host on a local and national level. All of my combined experience behind the camera makes me better talent in front of the camera. One day we would love to have a flying adventure travel TV show that would inspire people to fly, be adventurous, travel via general aviation and would educate people about the earth from this incredible vantage point."That last point, my flying friends, is the BIG takeaway here. Go visit LetsFlyThere.TV and watch a few of the Winston's flying adventure videos. Here is one I liked:
I believe you'll agree this is creative, well-crafted content, with hosts who demonstrate that they love aviation, know plenty about the areas they are flying to or over, and clearly want to take their viewers along for the ride.
Now as an aviation family, our assignment is simple: Scour your Rolodex for the name of any major producer, media investor, television tycoon or just about any gazillionaire (Harrison Ford, I'm talkin' to YOU man...) who would like in on the ground floor of this sure-hit series. We should all get behind this project and make it happen, and then sit back and watch for the Season 2 premiere episode on NBC when Doug and Denise fly the Fisk Arrival into EAA Airventure Oshkosh to show the rest of the world how awesome and exciting our world can be.