Milford Shirley of Jacksonville, Florida, knows there are a lot of passionate pilots out there working hard to try to increase the pilot population.
While they have generated many good ideas to get people interested in flying, Shirley wanted to try something different. A local political talk-show host approached Shirley at a heated City Council meeting to repeal the “Everett Law”—which bans anyone from tinkering on airplanes or airboats at their homes and requires the craft to be stored in enclosed garages—and insisted that he start a radio show. As vice president of the local EAA Chapter 193, Shirley made a real presence with other supporters over a six-month period to get the law overturned.
Shirley realized after this success that having a radio show just might be one of the best ways to reach a large audience to talk about aviation.
So he started Flighttime Radio in January 2008 along with Brian Kraut. Since then, retired air traffic controller Charlie Willwerth has stepped in to replace Kraut on Jacksonville’s ABC News Talk Radio Station WBOB, AM 1320.
Shirley, who came to aviation later in life at age 44, has owned and operated a vending route company since 1992. He met Willwerth at an EAA meeting. “He actually sat in the studio with us on the first show and periodically afterward. He has a great sense of humor and is also the brains behind anything we do on the technical side,” Shirley said.
“The biggest discovery we made is that radio is not that hard at this particular level. And we’re gonna talk about flying anyway, so we decided to just do it in front of a microphone,” he said.
But why do a radio show when podcasting has become popular and is so much cheaper?
“The biggest reason is that podcasting will only reach pilots,” he said. “After all, who else would search for a downloadable pilot program except a pilot? When we bought our air time, we knew there would be a built-in audience of dedicated talk format listeners, but we also knew they would not be pilots.”
The radio station is in Jacksonville, where the population is more than 1 million. In the year and a half the team has been on the air, the two largest flight schools in town, Sterling Flight Training and North Florida Flight Training, have worked with them to generate interest in giving flight a try.
“These schools donate flights that we give away every week,” Shirley said. “We also try to bring a guest into the studio regularly and invite listeners to call up and discuss a particular subject. And we are currently registering three people a week for a free flight to the Bahamas that we give away once a month.”
The show, which airs on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m. EST, can also be heard on the Web ( www.flighttimeradio.com), or downloaded on iTunes.
“We have had some excited winners in the past year and with any luck some will decide to pursue their pilot’s certificate,” Shirley said.
He stressed how important it is for people to hear about how much fun and satisfaction pilots get out of aviation, but to successfully continue the radio show, he is hoping for more advertising dollars in the form of sponsorship.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work to intrigue people and get them tuning in,” Shirley said. “What we’re doing has been great so far and it’s so simple to do.”