Pilots: Mike Summey

August 3, 2009

Which story should be told first about Mike Summey? We could describe Summey as an accomplished pilot (he flies his own King Air), or his amazing rise to success in real estate investment (his King Air E90 is all paid for—no loan), or his success as an author (the four Weekend Millionaire books he coauthored with Roger Dawson are selling worldwide), or his successful outdoor advertising company (he invented the now-popular single-pole billboard), or his success as a professional public speaker. The list goes on.

Maybe the most important story is that he says it couldn’t have happened without general aviation.

Summey took his first flying lesson from legendary Asheville, North Carolina, CFI Lacy Griffin in the early 1970s. Griffin must have done a good job. Before his next lesson Summey bought a Piper Arrow in which to complete his private pilot training. Building PIC time of several thousand hours, he never quit training. He moved up to earn instrument and multiengine ratings and today gets yearly recurrency training at SimCom.

Summey came from a modest childhood in a West Virginia coal-mining town. He left home at age of 15, striking out on his own to seek his fortune. After several menial jobs, he was laid off from a factory job in 1967, when he was 21. While unemployed, Summey wrote down a single sentence that he carried in his wallet for the next 30 years. It said, simply, “I will become a millionaire by age 30 and retire by age 50.” He did, too.

He bought an old van and opened a sign shop that he built into a billboard company with offices in two states. But it was what he did in his time off that really made the difference. He bought rental houses and he never sold them. That’s the source of the Weekend Millionaire books.

Summey did retire by age 50, sold the billboard company, and settled back to just relax. But he was a failure at “just relaxing.” He continues to invest in real estate and he now has a second income from the four Weekend Millionaire books.

Summey says that all of his airplanes, starting with the Piper Arrow, helped him reach his dream. He had businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina when he bought the Arrow, and it got him back and forth between the business and the clients. He moved up through Beech Baron and Duke airplanes, then realized another dream when he bought his King Air. Each airplane, he says, was first part of the dream and then, once attained, a business tool to help him reach the next level.