How badly did Ben Huh want to learn to fly? Enough to do something he really hates: waking up early, which is no mean feat for a founder who doesn't get to work until 10 a.m. When he decided to fulfill his ambition to become a pilot, Huh started rising at 7 to zoom on his motorcycle to Seattle's Boeing Field, where he took flying lessons for an hour or so before heading to the office.
He also practiced at home, which meant building his own flight simulator. "It's not that impressive," he says, demurely. "A big-screen TV with a secondary monitor and a joystick and throttle, stuff like that." On it, he spent hours running through both common scenarios and calamitous ones, such as landing in a hailstorm. "Whatever takes you 10 minutes to do in an aircraft, you can do in two minutes on a simulator," Huh says. "Press the reset button and land; press the reset button and land."
Huh, who's CEO of viral-meme site Cheezburger and co-founder of the mobile news startup Circa, secured his license last fall. He flies almost weekly, mostly over his native Pacific Northwest, preferring the two- and four-seater planes that leave some pilots white-knuckled, but give him a feverish sense of freedom. Another appeal: how flight makes careful decision making so crucial.
"There's a really interesting adage in flying: 'There are bold pilots, there are old pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots,' " Huh says. "Risk taking is very much frowned on, which is the total opposite of what I do for a living."