No. 2 Interview HOGS Member talking about overcoming personal struggles

Oct 10, 2018

I want to share a segment from our live event last week! Our HOGS Member Gabriel Hernandez shared his personal struggles he had to overcome to become a Helicopter Pilot. 



We went out to shoot some autos right after his interview. Footage at the end of this video :)


Kenny:                 So, Gabriel's been a member for a couple years, right?

Gabriel :               Probably three and a half.

Kenny:                  Three and a half years. So you started way back ...

Gabriel :               On the old website.

Kenny:                  On the old website. I don't know how much you want to share, but your struggle, you know. Are you comfortable sharing a little bit about what you went through? What your main hold up was getting through your rating and I only ask because we all have struggles, whether it's money, time, medical - it's so common that people run into some kind of a dumb problem that drags out getting their rating and yours was a medical problem?

Gabriel :               Yep. First off, it's a little surreal to meet you. I've probably listened to you more than I have my wife the past three and a half years.

Kenny:                  Well that's alright. That's cool. I'm used to getting that reaction and it's flattering and I like it. Lance, yesterday, his wife was telling us about selling with power and telling us about dynamic rollover and I'm going, "Holy cow! You've been at home listening to him going through the videos!" And she's going yep and we're sitting here laughing about how his wife is talking about helicopter aerodynamics.

Gabriel :               So yeah basically in 2006 I got a DUI and I used to be more concerned about partying then. I always used to watch NASA TV and I was obsessed with aviation but I didn't take the time to fly. When I started down that path, I realized that it would be an uphill climb to get my medical and so, two psych evals, neuro psych eval, drug and alcohol rehab and two and a half years of drug tests and getting breathalyzed every month, I finally got my medial on the second week of March of this year.

Kenny:                  Nice.

Gabriel :               And in the meantime, I was waiting for that. I started my fix wing add-on and I soloed both on the same day ...

Kenny:                  Very nice.

Gabriel :               ... on the second week of March. I finished my helicopter. I got my rating on April 15th and then I just finished my fix wing add-on rating this past week.

Kenny:                  Nice. I commend you for having the guts to get on camera and talk about that because I have another friend and member that went through the same thing and when I first started flying was in 1997 and honestly, I'll be transparent. I had to steer away from my friends, most of them, the ones that I hung out with, because I couldn't live that life anymore. I mean, literally, the people I spend the most time with, what did we do? We all drank. So I'm just being transparent. And pretty quickly, you start learning to fly and you start realizing 'Wow, I can't go take a helicopter lesson and be even remotely hungover. I have to be rested. I have to feel good.'

           I had to separate myself from people that I hung out with all the time because I thought, you know, I want to do this, and I got to knock off the drinking and I got to focus on what I need to do and I need to get to bed at night and get up and feel good. I even had a routine. If I didn't leave on time, stop and get my orange juice and my milk and my doughnut, if I didn't have everything right on the way to the lesson, the lesson would be crappy. But on a day I showed up feeling good and stopped and had time, everything would go good.

                              So that's awesome for you to share your story and have the guts to be on camera telling people that, but that shows when you put your mind to it and when you decide you've got something you want to do, you can overcome the things that have held you back in the past.

                              That's an awesome story and I commend you for having the guts to get up here and say that. That's amazing.

Gabriel :               It's been a long road.

Kenny:                  It's absolutely amazing. I don't know what to say. I've had plenty of struggles in my life. That's probably what a lot of this is about and the ground school is about and why I guess I'm fairly successful with it because I try to be pretty transparent and I share all the different things that I've struggled with. We're human beings. We all have problems, we get down, we have family death, or we have depression over this or, you know, a long list of reasons why we can sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and find reasons to not go do what we want to do. And then there's those of us who overcome those things and just say 'You know what? I'm just going to charge forward and do what I want to do and make things happen'. So thank you again. That's awesome.

Gabriel :               Yeah. I found your site the same way a lot of people do. The first school I attended didn't even talk about ground school. They didn't even mention ground school. It wasn't even an option. That owner just wanted to fly, fly, fly. I used yours as definitely an immersion tool. It was every day. Most of the day for a long time. Especially the word for word emergency procedures. I watched that section in great repetition.

Kenny:                  Nice.

Gabriel :               And I can still hear the words, you know what I mean. If you're just reading through the POH, you know. As simple as it was.

Kenny:                  Nice. I hear that a lot, too. Even Brian Rutledge, whose our operations manager, flies out in California, works for Sheriff's Department, I look up to Brian because he flies for Sheriff's Department, he's Chief Pilot, he's lead instructor now and I helped him with this CFI and I can remember him going, you know, "Kenny, your words were in my head while I'm answering the examiner, I'm hearing your voice and your words come out of my mouth", so that's cool when I hear that. I'm just amazed at what I've been able to do and amazed of people like you that took a chance on me to spend the money to buy this training from this hillbilly in Indiana, crazy talking weirdo and then take it and use it and to have the success that we've had is just amazing.

Gabriel :               I'm also looking forward to an instrument course as well.

Kenny:                  We're committed now that we're sitting here talking about it. Now I don't have any excuses with Steve and Gary coming on full time and Dan willing to help. I have no excuse not to get this up and built soon because it's just the natural - and we got private commercial CFI - people need that instrument rating because if you can put it in between the private and commercial, it makes so much sense. I did my instrument after I'm out working as a CFI and then I wanted to get an EMS job, okay, so I got to get an instrument rating. Well I kind of wasted my money. If I would have been smart, I'd have done the private, worked on the instrument, so you're logging PIC time, getting your dual, get your instrument rating and then finish up your commercial and you're good to go.  It is very smart to do it in between so I've always felt a little guilt that I haven't been able to help people get that in between private to commercial so that's good. You'll have it and we'll have it up hopefully, as soon as we can.


Gabriel :               Are you still working with the guys in California that have been helping out on videos?

Kenny:                  They've moved on. Dave is now flying, I think he's flying in Alaska, and he wants to do some more videos and Brian recently told me that Dave was back on a break and he's like "Hey, we're going to get some new videos up for ya" and it didn't transpire. We're hoping and waiting because people really like Dave Redman. I've seen the comments and it's nice bringing other instructors in because, you know, every instructor explains things differently and people like the stuff the Holly's done, people like the stuff Dave Redman did and the other two guys were great, too.

                              The other Dave and then Austin, I think, was it Austin Boa? 18 year old kid, double eye. I was amazing at his stuff, too. When Brian sent me those R-22 videos, he sent me the raw file that they shot out there. I sent him basically an iPhone mount and this is good for the online business thing. People don't even know this. We have a section at our ground school that they shot for us in California. I said "Brian, all you need is a good iPhone. What do you got?". I think that that time he had an iPhone 6. I said "I'm going to send you a microphone." I sent him a 20-foot long cord and I sent him a mount for an iPhone and he had a tripod. He took his iPhone, put it on a tripod, they took that 20-foot cord, ran it across the floor, up their leg and up their shirt, had the screen on the wall and those videos were all shot with an iPhone.

                              Brian did all that filming then he sent me the videos in Google drive. I would download them here and I sat back and I did all the editing. I did all those R-22 videos. It took me a little bit but I'm going through them and I'm watching them and editing them. Once I had them done, I sat back and watched all of them. I was going "Holy! These kids are good!" All three of them, just super detailed and Brian text me because we rarely talk on the phone because we're always busy, but we text a lot. And he's like "Hey Kenny, what do you think of those videos?" And I said, "Brian, if I was going for an R-22 check ride tomorrow, I would watch every single one of those R-22 videos and I would go to the check ride knowing that that examiner is not going to stump me. And he was like "Are you kidding?" And I was like "No I'm not kidding!"

                              "They're that good?" And I go, "Brian, these are amazing!" And these kids are just, you know, I wish I could be that super detailed but I'm not. I'm more of a bottom line kind of guy which why some of the things I do I'm good at but when it comes to being super detailed, I'm just not that good. Those guys were just amazing. So would love to have them back, especially Dave. I mean, all three of them. I'm not sure what the other two are doing. Unfortunately, here's the transparency with this and this is kind of sad but flights is going out of business.

                              All three of those guys were working for the same flight school. I was plugging their company to help them out for them helping me out and then the R-22 they had I think, had some issue, timed out or something so she owner didn't have an aircraft for them and I think they all just went and got other jobs and I think that this company went out of business which was unfortunate. So they were all together at the same flight school so hopefully we'll see some more videos from those guys but we're happy for what they did do and of course hey, are you going to go for CFI?

Gabriel :               Yes.

Kenny:                  Well there you go. Maybe you should come back and do some videos with us.

Gabriel :               That'd be great.

Kenny:                  And you could do that. You could come back. Now that we're doing all this flight training, I mean, it's getting crazy around here. Without even trying, it's just people are emailing and I'm just shooting them off to Gary and next thing he knows he's going "There's a guy from Lafayette going to be here tomorrow". And I'm like "Really?"

                              "Yeah. I'm going to help you finish up his private in Hiller". Gary can fly a Hiller, a RotarWay, Ensrtom, Robinson R-44 now and maybe some other aircraft. He just keeps telling me "Oh yeah. I'm flying with so-and-so. I got a guy coming from Texas to finish up his commercial." I'm like, "Where are you getting these people, Gary?" And he goes, "You sent me the email and I just called them up." It was something that before I really couldn't take the time to have - and I mean I've done it, I've had people that I've worked with in the past six months and year, but that's a whole two weeks out of my time and then I can't do a lot with ground school because I'm busy flying every day. I'm not complaining. I love to fly but there's got to be a balance for me on how much I can fly. 

Gabriel :               What about ground school t-shirts or hoodies? Are you going to out with that?

Kenny:                  We are. They've been asking. What are you doing over there? Why are you going ...

Female:                Because I've been telling you should.

Kenny:                  We're going to get something ordered.

Female:                I thought there were tank tops and stuff.

Kenny:                  We don't have any tank tops yet.

Female:                My mom has ...

Kenny:                  Oh those were from my old business.

                              Oh we can talk about it, okay? It's in the marketing. It's in the videos I've been rolling. I owned a helicopter for four years and it ruined me. It ruined my credit. It took everything I had and ground school has helped me pull myself out of that debt of owning an aircraft.

                              I got goosebumps telling the story because Courtney and I were talking this morning. You know, we're getting set up to go live today and she's asking me questions about, "Oh. You own that helicopter? This pretty red one?" And I'm like, "Yeah". And she's like "Oh my gosh. That's so cool." And I go, "Yeah, well. Okay. Not so cool." And so I'm whining, "Well it took this and it took that and it destroyed me, but "Yeah. But if that wouldn't have happened to you, would you have what you have now today?" And I go, "No. You're right Courtney. I'm sitting here whining and complaining about this helicopter that ruined me but in turn, I took the debt, you know, helicopter goes away and I got a quarter of a million dollars in debt and I've got nothing." It's like what sense does that make?

                              So I was do or die. Make Helicopter Ground School go or go work at the McDonald's drive-thru, you know, do something else. I had no choice. This was sad to say, I was never going to repay that debt from going and getting a helicopter job because they don't pay helicopter pilots. Unfortunately, that's the industry. I mean, I worked all those years to get an EMS job and then you started me at $46,000 a year? Okay, I had to have two thousand hours. I had to bust my butt. I had to spend all that money and you're going to pay me $46,000 a year to be an EMS pilot while the company just keeps getting richer and richer and richer?

Steve:                   That's why you don't work for the man.

Kenny:                  That's why I don't work for the man. Can't do it. Too outspoken, too crazy. I have to make it on my own. That's why I work hard because I have to. I have no choice.

                              You were asking me good questions, bringing up good stuff to talk about. What else you got?

Gabriel :               I'm envisioning you doing autos into this runway. I haven't been in this area at all, but you know those older videos you're doing autos in? I wish we could go fly today. I didn't bring anything with me. I didn't plan on being able to stop by but ...

Kenny:                  You know what? If I can figure out a way - When do you have to leave?

Gabriel :               I'm driving back to New York.

Kenny:                  Maybe if I promise you a helicopter flight you'll hang around a little bit? We could go do - I just shot two new videos. I did two autos the other day. I did a straight in and a 180 because I was out filming some stuff for this launch and I'm like "You know what I want now the cameras are rolling? Let's do a straight in. And then let's do a 180." And I filmed those but if I could con Steve into getting online for about a half an hour and talking and keeping things going. His eyeballs are rolling.

Steve:                   Half an hour? You just said 23 minutes. Oh my God. I feel like I've been here all day.

Kenny:                  Maybe if we can have the helicopter ready to go with fuel in it and we can just run out and jump in, we could go do at least 15 minutes.

Female:                And I can take over.

Kenny:                  There you go. You guys could get out here and talk about online businesses and publishing books.

Steve:                   I'm not saying no. I'm just saying half an hour could be extreme.

Kenny:                  You know what? We're going to do an autorotation. We have the one video that we want to roll so everybody can have a break, have a breather. That's 30 minutes. You and I will go do a couple autos. What do you say?

Gabriel :               That'd be awesome.

Kenny:                  For you coming here, being out here, and getting in front of this camera and telling your story. I got to get Dan a flight too somehow. How much longer are you going to be around?

Dan:                      Till Friday.

Kenny:                  I promised to get you a flight in too. And in walks Lance. In walks the Texan.

Gabriel :               Thank you Kenny.

Kenny:                  Thank you. And I really honestly appreciate you, about had me in tears, to get up here and share your story like that and be honest with people. That's amazing.

Gabriel :               How sweet. Very proud to be here.

Kenny:                  And you should be very proud of what you've bene able to do. That gives me goosebumps. I mean, nice job man.

Gabriel :               Thank you.

Kenny:                  Nice job going after it and sticking with it and getting there and getting through the issues you had to get through to get it done.

Gabriel :               Thank you.

Kenny:                  That's awesome. I appreciate you very much.

Helicopter Online Ground School was founded by Kenny Keller in 2012. He is the author of "Helicopter Check-Ride", which made Amazon #1 best seller upon release. His online video courses include Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, and Instrument Pilot. Kenny recognized a lack of quality ground training within the industry and has created a video learning platform to compliment any part 61 or 141 flight school program.

All four of these courses are FAA approved for WINGS and appear on the FAA safety website as approved online courses.

The Certified Flight Instructor membership includes access to all of the Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot videos as well, giving the Certified Flight Instructor membership over 40 hours of video to watch. The courses include information on all subject areas, to include the fundamentals of instructing.

Each course includes both practice written test questions and oral check ride questions.

Members have access to a closed Facebook group to network.

Kenny Keller shares his experience and knowledge with aspiring Student Pilots all over the World

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