November 7, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Ever wonder how much coffee is consumed by pilots? Rob Riggen did the math, and the numbers are huge--on the order of $1 billion worth of coffee a year.
That's right—a billion, with a b.
It would be a great thing for aviation, the flight instructor from Vermont thought, if profits from those coffee sales could help support aviation charitable work.
For two years, Riggen has been putting that idea to work, funding aviation charities with 30 percent of the earnings from his “bootstrap” enterprise, Flying High Coffee. Brewing up his brainstorm has now put Flying High Coffee into the final round of voting for a $50,000 grant in the Pepsi Refresh Project, a program that Pepsi says “is funding amazing ideas that refresh the world.”
Pilots may be familiar with Riggen—who says he started drinking coffee around the same time he became interested in flying—from his appearance in this AOPA Live interview at AOPA Aviation Summit in Hartford, Conn., in September. Last summer he appeared at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wis., where he presented checks to aviation charities Able Flight and Girls With Wings.
Since he founded Flying High Coffee in 2009, Riggen has had his hunch that coffee and aviation are “married to the core” confirmed many times. He also learned that the aviation nonprofits he wants to help must spend up to 70 percent of their time seeking funding—and that's where he wants to help.
“They want to be running their programs; bringing new people into aviation. Flying High Coffee will help fund them,” he said.
Pilots can move Flying High Coffee toward the finish line in the grant program by casting a vote for the company with a text to 73774 with the message 109714, or by voting online. Votes can be cast once daily through November, Riggen said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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