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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Charlie Hewitt: Friday Fabulous Flyer!

And Fly Right Films...

Charlie Hewitt

A few months ago I had the great opportunity to meet Charlie Hewitt at the Museum of Flight in Seattle Washington. Charlie and his crew were visiting Seattle to film some footage of work they were doing for Bob Yerex and Max Viz

Chris, Kirby, Charlie, and Steve
Fly Right Crew in Seattle

Charlie Hewitt, Fly Right Films Producer, is not only a film producer, but he’s a pilot, entrepreneur, father, and talented musician. He’s now flying around Alaska creating movies to improve aviation safety. His story is amazing, and Charlie an inspiration... proving that creativity and flying can meld into the perfect combination of learning.
Everyone needs a great copilot and Charlie found his in California in 1983 when he met Chris Jules, who is now Charlie's Co-producer. But long before they had a film production company, they had a band together which took them on many adventures.

Charlie... Rock 'n Roll Christmas party for Mirror Studios 2010

Both sang, and with Charlie on the guitar and Chris on the piano, they performed live as well as running their recording studio—Mirror Studios. While they were performing at "The Whales Tail," at the Hotel Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage Alaska, Charlie met his future bride Mary, and moving North became the obvious next destination on his journey.

Charlie playing for Mary's birthday.

After moving to Alaska, in 1990, Charlie became Production Manager, and then Director of Booking at the Anchorage Performing Arts Center (PAC). He rented a small retail space below the Center where he and Chris transformed the space into a great-sounding studio where they continued to write songs and work on their music. When a drummer working in the PAC ticket office came knocking on their door with the desire to record his band—Mirror Studios' Alaska location was on its way.

What does he do in his spare time? Works on projects. Here he's laying a hardwood floor in his cabin in Big Lake. I'm wondering... what spare time?

In search of more space, in 1998 Charlie moved the studio to Mid-town Anchorage. With Chris based in California, Charlie took advantage of the most advanced technology enabling both studios to share files and projects while working apart. Mirror Studios expanded, working on projects ranging from music, to corporate/commercial audio as well as sound for film. Most recently, the many film projects coming to Alaska to take advantage of their film tax incentive have meant additional opportunities for this growing studio.

Charlie performing with his son, Nico, at the Mirror Studios Christmas Party. Apparently this company holiday party is like none you've ever been to.
But Charlie is a pilot! How did this recording music genius get into flying?

Charlie had flown when he was a kid, and airplanes had always been a passion for him. But he realized that aviation is more than a need in Alaska, it’s a necessity—Charlie's adventures as a pilot began with a cold call to Roger Motzko, the Runway Safety Manager for the FAA. He also knows the power of storytelling. As Charlie would say, “It is the act of storytelling, that underpins everything I do. Whether as a songwriter/performer or a filmmaker, that need to communicate, to tell a story, goes back to the core of each one of us.”

It became clear to Roger that Charlie's skills in film and storytelling could communicate things the FAA wanted to say, but couldn't address them directly via "the letter of the law." Thus, Fly Right Films’, The Runway Safety Series was born:

Face to Face Eye to Eye Heads Up, Hold Short, Fly Right Are available by clicking: Safety/Videos
All three films, including Listen up, Read Back, Fly Right, have also been made available to watch for free on the Fly Right Films website by clicking HERE.

Congratulations! Charlie is a licensed pilot.
Working on the Runway Safety Series inspired Charlie to train for his private pilots license, which he earned on September 9th, 2004.
Charlie had been bitten by the flying bug and there was no turning back. He bought a Cirrus SR20 in October of 2005 and flew from Duluth, Minnesota to Alaska with an instructor.

When I asked Charlie, “Why the Cirrus?” He responded, “I got my private license in a Cessna, and the 172 looked like the airplane I flew 35 years ago. Nothing had changed.” He saw an article on the Cirrus and the glass cockpit and he knew that was the way he wanted to go. With a company and electronics that have evolved with the times, so should the airplane.

Charlie taking his son Nico flying after receiving his license. September 12th logbook entry: Family jaunt with Mary and Nico, Cessna 172.

In July of 2006, with 110 hours under his belt, Charlie and Chris flew to Oshkosh, Wisconsin over the Alcan Highway, Yukon Territory and British Columbia. In 2007 they made the trip again, but the projected week of thunderstorms in Calgary made discretion the better part of valor, and they flew home commercial.

Coming back in August to pick up his Cirrus, Charlie seized the opportunity to advance his pilot skills and flew with an instructor on instruments the entire way back to Alaska. He now has over 1000 hours.

In addition to cross-country flying opportunities, Oshkosh provided him the chance to get to know Dick Rutan. The idea for The Aviator Series grew from Charlie's conversations and friendship with Dick.

The idea that pilot training resources could be compelling and excellently produced, with concrete information, presented through real-life stories that literally get your heart-rate up, excited them both. Dick's experiences in combat and as an experimental test pilot definitely fit the bill to Charlie's desire and understanding of the power of story telling.

Charlie created Fly Right Films—the film division of Mirror Studios—to bring quality pilot training resources to life.

A bit about these films—they’re excellent. Not only will the viewer be riveted to their chair listening to Dick’s stories, but the choreography is breathtaking. I kept interrupting my non-pilot husband to tell him he had to “come see this.” There are so many unique aspects about these training films, and one is that Charlie is the student and Dick the instructor. All the mistakes Charlie makes, and his first time experiences are real.

I'm grateful to have met Kirby, the production coordinator, and her team. Kirby sent me Dick Rutan’s films, otherwise I may not have realized the opportunity I’d be missing. The point is, I thought these were for general aviation. And while they are, I got a great deal of information out of them for my flying as an airline pilot. So much so, I intend on watching them again. Improved safety is for everyone.

Fly Right Films' production team includes award-winning talent: Writer John Wedin, cinematographer Steve Rychetnik—he's filming the new Nicholas Cage/John Cusak flick Frozen Ground as we speak, Co-producer Chris Jules and Charlie, Producer.

Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Captain Peter (with beard), Charlie, Gary Lamar. Cinematographer/Editor, Colin Lamar (Gary's son) Jake Wedin in front (John's eldest son) John Wedin, Writer of Aviation Series films, and many others is behind the camera.

Attitude Flying Volume I was released in 2008 and Decision Making Volume II in 2009, and they are currently in early pre-production of Volume 3 of the Aviator Series. Aerobatic champion Michael Goulian will be the Master Instructor for this volume.

Charlie interviewing Dr. Najmedin Meshkati (Nejm) Meshkati is a Human Factors Expert. Charlie interviewed him for Decision Making and they became fast friends in the first 15 minutes. He's a weather of information and experience with a huge depth of insight into the ways Human factors... stress, task saturation, hunger and dehydration, tiredness, spacial disorientation, etc., influence our judgment and decision making processes.

Advice from Charlie on flying:

General Aviation pilots: keep a logbook! It's part of the discipline of flying. You may be estimating a couple hundred hours a year by doing lots of short trips, when perhaps you may only be flying 50 or so. It's like your ATM card - write down your balance or you'll hit zero before you know it.”
“Practice with different instructors. You won't get into a routine of going over the same things all the time, but rather will be tested on less familiar skills and have information presented to you in a new way.”

“And just like in music: Practice, practice practice... fly a heads down ILS or GPS approach on a clear day with your right-seat watching out for you. It doesn't take long to get rusty; flying regularly and challenging yourself in controlled situations go a long way towards safer flying and the ability to handle the unexpected when it comes up.”

Dick Rutan and Charlie in the hangar of the Mojave spaceport with Dick's experimental Berkut plane, while he was building it.

What do you have to look forward to?
  • Three up and coming interviews on Flight Podcast: Charlie Hewitt, Dick Rutan, and Jill Hoffman, Dick’s daughter.
  • The opportunity to win “one of two” of the Fly Right Films with Dick Rutan and Charlie.
  • One lucky winner will receive Attitude Flying Volume I
  • Another lucky winner will receive Decision Making Volume II

Check back on Holiday Gifts tab on December 22nd to see if you are one of our lucky winners!
Charlie, and the entire Fly Right Team, Thank you all so much for the opportunity to get to know you, and for all that you do for aviation safety. You’re the best! I’m looking forward our trip to Australia.

Kirby... the woman who manages it all!

A special thanks to Kirby—Behind every successful man, they say there is a woman. I’m beginning to believe that with companies too. Thank you for reaching out. Your energy and enthusiasm for life and all that you do is contagious.

Thank you Charlie!

Please take the time to follow FlyRightFilms on twitter, and leave a message for an outstanding group of people. Find them on Facebook too!


Don’t forget to become part of the Flight To Success team, and leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for one of these great films.

Enjoy the Journey and have a great weekend!

XOX Karlene


  1. This is amazing. I would love to get a hold of one of those films. I have always been interested with film production and flying. I have this plan to make a comedic short film in one of our simulators where I act as both the captain and first officer, maybe even ground crew and ATC! Still in the works. But this right here inspires me, who said you can only do one thing or two things or three things in life!?

  2. Great story. It reminds me that there are untapped opportunities even though it always seems like "someone has done that already".

    Just the inspiration I need.

  3. What a fantastic way to combine the things you love. Flying, movies, music, I never would have thought the three could work together. But why not! Charlie proved they can.

  4. An incredible story. What an amazing group of people and what great energy and drive. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Ramiel, you have so many things in your life going... I have not doubt you won't accomplish them all. And... I want the first review of your video. Looking forward to it!!

  6. Dan, I am so glad this inspired you. There are untapped just have to go for them! Thanks for the comment. And keep me posted on that opportunity you're about to tap.

  7. Heather, I think people assume that piloting is a total left brain activity... and personality. But there are many pilots who are creative... and no better place than in the sky to become inspired. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Thanks Linda! I think next time they are in Seattle, you'll have to meet them. Creativity, energy, and inspiration drip from this group.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing passionate story which I haven't often heard in my life!! Since the show is based on his experience during learning,the series of movie seem pretty amazing to me.And Thank you for giving the advice!!Yes!I will practice&practice&Practice in my flight training!And try not to get rusty!!
    Have a great weekend,

  10. Thank you Jun! Yes, watching someone learn is a great teaching tool. And I like your attitude. Practice. Practice. Practice.

    Thanks for the comment!

  11. I'm with Charlie...the Cirrus is just plane sexy!! Love the lines!

    1. Kathy, we need to get us a Cirrus! It fits you well!

  12. Wow, what an amazing life story! He sounds so cool.

    1. How did I miss this comment? Yes... Charlie Hewitt is amazing. Just as you are. So many amazing people in this world, and it's so fun to meet them all!

  13. It was amazing to read your fantabulous success story. Love your attitude toward your life. You are pretty serious to your career plus u enjoy your life too.

    1. Captain Cook Hotel, Enjoying life comes across in enthusiasm toward life. It's contagious and one of the secrets to success.

      Thank you so much for the comment! And your hotel is pretty awesome too!


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