LPF 1 | Aviation And Architecture

The Flying Architect: Combining Passions For Aviation And Architecture With J. Bruce Camino

 

Many of us are passionate about many things. While combining work with a passion of yours is already an amazing feat, how much more if you can combine a number of them together? J. Bruce Camino, the Principal Architect over at Development One Incorporated in Santa Ana, is someone who is able to do that. Known as “The Flying Architect,” J. Bruce has managed to combine his love for aviation and architecture with his award-winning Piper Comanche 260B. He tells us all about his journey while giving great insights and tips on taking up aviation, starting an architecture firm, and overall pursuing your passions.

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The Flying Architect: Combining Passions For Aviation And Architecture With J. Bruce Camino

I’ve interviewed J. Bruce Camino. He’s the owner of an architecture and project manager firm here in Southern California. Join me as he talks about how he is able to combine his love for aviation and architecture with this award-winning Piper Comanche 260B. We also explore his philanthropic side and how he’s able to use his planes to help others in need. To find out more about my aviation-related podcasts and blog, please check out www.TheLevelPlaneField.com. If you have any financial questions, consult your attorney, accountant or financial advisor. If you’re interested in how I help airline pilots as a certified financial planner practitioner, please visit www.PacUnited.com.

J. Bruce Camino, “The Flying Architect,” welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

J. Bruce is also known as “The Flying Architect.” He’s the Principal Architect over at Development One Incorporated in Santa Ana. They do architecture and project management firm that works on projects in both the public and private sectors. Your clients include NASA, JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, US Department of Defense, the Air Force, which was part of the department, Qantas and John Wayne Airport. It’s quite an impressive resume over there. Also, one thing I thought was cool about you and what’s unique is that you’re a pilot as well. You’re a pilot that flies the Piper Comanche 260B and you use it for work as well as for pleasure and philanthropic purposes as well. To get started, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who’s J. Bruce Camino?

I’ve been in business now for many years. I attended the University of Washington up in Seattle. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s from there. It’s an institution that certainly to this day continues to serve me well. I’m proud of my colors as you can see. We lived in Seattle for a few years and moved down south. I was born here in the Bay Area. Naturally, it made sense for me to move back home. I established here in Orange County, California. In 1989 is when I started Development One here in California.

Eventually, one of the things that happened that I was trying to find what I was passionate about and I kept on gravitating to my passion, which is aviation. Somehow, I wanted to find a way that I could be able to blend my passion as a pilot with my profession as an architect. To make a long story short, because the majority of my projects are in the aviation aerospace area, I’ve naturally been able to blend both in a smooth way. One of my clients is NASA and it was there for NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. From there, I’m flying in and I even landed one of these space shuttles in. It’s a match made in heaven. I’ve been their architect for many years. I continue to do so and I continue to be as passionate as I was from the first day that I started doing work there.

When did you figure out that you were passionate about aviation?

It takes me back to when I was six years old. I never forget that day that my sister and I got up in the middle of the night to watch the first spacewalk from the Gemini capsule that was being commanded by Edward White and James McDivitt. I remember being enthralled watching them doing the spacewalk and I promised myself that one day I’d worked for NASA. My fascination with aviation was something that stayed with me for many years. One day, I got tired of wanting it. I’m down to the airport and I asked them, “What does it take to become a pilot?”

Was that before, after or during college?

I had already graduated from the University of Washington. I was already a licensed architect. The thought of me waiting so long was something that always bothered me. That day was something clicked in my mind and I decided. I’m tired of wanting it. Sometimes you explore it and got to investigate what it is. A lot of people fail in their goals due to pure ignorance. They don’t know. I did not have the knowledge necessary. I came to find out that it was possible, even though I didn’t get much money at that time, I was able to pull it off. Here I am many years later, with a long history and career in aviation as I’ve been able to combine it with my profession as an architect. It’s not exact paths, but I started. I’ve always been interested in aviation. Ever since I was little, always looking up in the sky, always going up in the planes.

Finally, I’ve already happened to establish a career and everything. In the back of my mind, I wish I did it earlier, but it’s better late than never. I started flight school. I started the courses on my PPL. I got about 6 hours in now on the Piper Cherokee. Doing it three days a week and it’s been a great learning process. It’s been so much fun. It’s one of those things where I wish I did it earlier and I can’t believe I waited so long to do those. You are right though. You do tend to appreciate it a lot more. You will see the quality of your life goes up even more as you do it and the closer you get to becoming licensed, you will see a big jump. The quality of my years wouldn’t be the same without my pilot’s license.

Tell us about that journey briefly go through. How long did it take you to get your private pilot’s license? Do you have your instrument rating? What was that process like? Let’s dive into the financials a little bit. The cost might be a little bit different from inflation, depending on how long ago that was, not that you’re old.

There are different ways to look at it. At the time, I was getting started in my life, out of college, a licensed architect and I didn’t have money at all. When I decided to go to the airport, I did not know. In fact, I walked into three schools there at Fullerton Airport. I walked in the first school and I was a little nervous, a little red in my face and I was thinking they’re going to laugh at me. I walked in and I said, “I’m still finding out what does it take to become a pilot?” People looked at me. One of them said, “Let me show you around.” He took me under his wing. He showed me around. He told me what was involved and what to expect.

He showed me one of the airplanes. I went to three different schools. They all gave me their spiel and I picked the most comfortable with. They gave me a demo flight that day. I went on that flight. They said, “I thought that maybe you had to pay $5,000, $10,000 right there on the spot.” It doesn’t look that way. You pay as you go. In my case, I would put $500 in the account and that was used up, then I would replenish it again. Overall at the time, it worked out to be about $3,000. It’s closer to about $6,000 to $9,000 depending on the school you go to. There are independent flight instructors that will do it for a lot less. The type of aircraft that you use will make a difference if you do fly a two-seater compared to four-seater and then depending on what equipment? My recommendation is to go with a smaller aircraft too when you get started. It’s a private pilot’s license. You want to get that first rating out of the way on your first license because that license is a permit to learn how to become an instrument-rated pilot.

I tell people if you’re not committed to becoming an instrument-rated, don’t do it because it’ll be a waste of money. If anybody is reading this, I can leave them with something important. This is something that the flight instructors, unfortunately, do not talk about much. It is that it’s important to ask the student what your mission is? You’ve got to figure out what your mission is in aviation. For me, my mission was that I wanted to use it for work and I want to use it for philanthropic purposes. To this day, I still do use it that way. I use it more for business. I’m able to fly to remote sites where my projects are located like at NASA, for example. I lay on the same runway space I used to land on. I’m there often. You need a special permit to land in there, but I often do that. The instrument rating allows you to spread your wings, pun intended, to be able to go further. You will not only have more fun but be able to make more impact with that skill set as a pilot.

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When you were starting your career, you were going through the cost of paying for the rentals and for the instructors, things like that. Was it hard to make those payments? Was it manageable? How were you able to make it manageable and get through all of that?

I wish I could tell you. I’ll give you a formula that it worked out like this or where I got the money. Frankly, as I went along, all I did was put $500 in the account and when that was used, I would drop a little bit more. I would save my money. I didn’t have much money, but certainly I was passionate about aviation. That’s what carried me. I figured it out. There were times where I did not have enough money. I had to wait until I had a little bit more saved up to put more money on it. It took me almost a year to get my private pilot’s license. If you have the money, you can have it as soon as three months. You can have it quick. I was going along and it took me much longer to get my private pilot’s license. When you’re passionate about something, it’ll work itself out. That is what I firmly believe. There are other ways to do it. You can finance it. You can ask for a loan. You could join the Air Force. That is another way to do it. If you’re passionate about it, you will find a way.

What made you decide to become an architect? Do you regret or have you ever wanted to go to the airlines instead of being an architect? That’s the goal of many people that are in aviation.

One of the things that I did is that my father was a Korean War combat veteran. He earned two Purple Hearts in the Korean War and a Bronze Star. He was a decorated military man. Naturally, it made sense for me to follow in his footsteps. We were out of the Vietnam conflict. The Vietnam conflict was different than World War II and Korea. My dad discouraged me from going that route maybe and landing aircraft carriers and all. A fraternity brother of mine did go that route. While into the Navy, after an undergraduate degree, I went into grad school. At the end of my grad school, that was a few years after we graduated with our undergrad, I sent him a letter and I asked him that I have this bug about going that route. I was wondering what he thought about it.

I remember him writing me a very sincere special letter and he said, “J. Bruce, I’ve seen you as an architect. I’ve seen what you can do. I’ve seen how good you are. My recommendation is that you finish up as an architect, follow that path and get your private pilot’s license. Somehow, something will work out where you’ll be able to combine it.” I’ll never forget that advice he gave me. To this day, I thank him for that advice because it was the best advice that anybody could’ve given me. He was honest with me. Yes, landing aircraft carriers would have been fun and all of that. He did it. It worked out. To this day, he doesn’t fly anymore. He’s done that. He went into real estate. He does not fly. He lost that passion for it. In my case, it’s the opposite. I am more passionate than I would have been if I would’ve landed aircraft carriers and be able to use it in many different ways. I’m an architect. I am doing what I love as a profession. I’m a good architect. I’m doing some work that is very impactful. The design work that I do makes a huge impact on this world. For example, some of the work that we do for NASA.

LPF 1 | Aviation And Architecture

 

Granted, we’re a small spec of what NASA does, it’s impactful. People that use the facilities that we work on are having to communicate with the space station. When the space shuttle was active, some of the facilities that we’ve designed involved with those missions go down the list of all these projects we’d done that are part of the missions that NASA works on. We’ve made an impact. A lot of the product of the results of the testing, all of the experiments and studies that have happened and all of these facilities I’ve been a part of. All of that will make an impact in this world. We’re proud of what we do here in my company because our work does make an impact on the built environment.

Certainly, having been NASA’s architect for many years, it’s something to feel proud of. We feel proud of here at Development One. Not only me, but one of our core values is purpose-driven. Here at Development One, we want our employees to be purpose-driven. They want them to find purpose here at Development One. That is one of the ways to do that. Their design work is contributing to the impact they make in this world. I take the credit for all of it. To be honest with you, we all do it. Everybody here in the firm deserves credit because without them I couldn’t do my job and vice versa. We all complement each other in a beautiful way. It is cool from that.

As a firm, you guys do work in the private sector as well as the public sector. Is it mostly the public sector that you guys are focusing on or is it?

We’re heavily leveraged into the public sector. However, the private sector that we’re involved in, for example, involves Qantas. We made the latest hangar for Qantas, the biggest hangar at LAX for the A380 that houses the A380.

That’s impressive. I saw pictures of that on your website.

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You can set off the left-hand side as you’re taken off into the ocean, you can see there’s a huge hangar there off of the left-hand side. Clients like that Lockheed Martin, Boeing, some of these aerospace companies that we work with certainly are part of our brand of what we do here at Development One in the aerospace aviation arenas. The public sector is still everything from NASA, JPL, federal government agencies down to city agencies. For example, we completed the design of the terminal building at Fullerton Airport. It is one that’s going to construction should be completed by the end of 2020. We’re excited about that. It’s a gem of a building. It’s going to be a high-profile project here in the County of Orange.

I don’t know a whole lot about architecture, buildings and stuff like that. Let’s say building the terminal building at Fullerton Airport. Without going into too many specifics, how long does it take? What goes into that from beginning to end?

It’s truly an exciting type project because if you think about it, a terminal building is the gateway of travel into another city, another region, another area of the country, another state. We are excited about this project at Fullerton Airport because truly it is the gateway of not only the city of Fullerton but the gateway to the community of Orange. Remember Disneyland is here in Anaheim, which is only 10, 15 minutes from Fullerton Airport. A lot of people choose to fly into Fullerton airport in their private aircraft and then there, be able to go to the entertainment areas in Orange County. If you are flying a commercial aircraft, you’ll be flying to John Wayne Airport.

A lot of people like to avoid that especially if you’re flying in a private plane. This serves not only as a gateway to the different areas you fly into, but also the trend is that these facilities should be designed as a destination. People are spending a lot of time in these terminal buildings because they got to be there early because it’ll take a while to get their luggage, because they’re waiting for their connection to the next flight. There are many reasons that people are spending a lot of time in terminal buildings. Terminal buildings are being designed as a destination. A perfect example, if you haven’t heard about this, the TWA Terminal in New York. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings designed in an airport-type environment, yet it outgrew its capacity. It’s a historic building.

They were not going to demolish it. They turned it into a hotel. In the last few months, it opened up to the public and people can go there and stay at this hotel. I can’t wait to do that. It’s something we studied at school this beautiful building that looks like a spaceship. It’s a gorgeous thing. It looks like a stealth bomber. Inside, it’s decorated in the ways of the ‘60s. It takes them back in time as if you were living in the ‘60s. A lot of people now are traveling to JFK Airport in New York City to stay there at this terminal building. That is a perfect example of how these airports, internal buildings are turning into a destination. It’s not only hotels. They’re adding museums. They’re adding spas. They’re adding movie theaters, entertainment centers. There are many aspects to the terminal building that are there making it a way for people to travel there making it a destination.

LPF 1 | Aviation And Architecture

 

I saw pictures of that and it reminds me of the Jetsons like how the building is laid out and it’s all bubbly. As far as finances are concerned, what can someone expect to make as an architect? Let’s dive into this a little bit. We don’t have to talk specifics, but let’s say, get into an architect. What’s the range that someone can make and what types of benefits can someone expect working in this field?

I’ve gone through the different phases in the profession that we are able to determine a level of financial success.

Before we start going down this road, Development One is your own company. That’s your own firm. Where were you working or how many years of experience that you had before you started out and started up your own architecture firm?

It’s important to make sure that the audience understands that things are relative. No matter what you go into, you’re going to have to prepare. You’re going to commit. You’re going to have to envelop yourself with that profession that is going to give you the training so that you can become good at what you want to do. I personally don’t believe there are any shortcuts. If your mission is to be a doctor, if you want to be a CPA, an attorney, an architect, an engineer, anybody in a professional type of field, you’re going to have to prepare. The commitment of the time involved is very high. If you’re passionate about it, time will not matter. That said, in my case, I got my Bachelor’s and my Master’s out of the University of Washington. That was seven years.

At the time, it seemed like a lifetime. When I look at where I have been since then, it was time very well spent. Not only developing as a professional, as an architect, but also the maturity that came with it, the leadership skills, the lessons as a human being that came from being at an institution like the University of Washington was a tremendous investment. It would be for any human being. After that, you’re required to do a three-year internship supervised under a licensed architect before I could take my licensing exam. Now, you can start taking your license exam as soon as you get out of college, but you will not be given a certificate if you pass everything up until you complete the three years of internship.

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Back then, we couldn’t start taking the exams until after the internship was completed. That was ten years right there, I started taking the exam. On average, back then it took about three years. It’s much faster now because everything is computerized. You can have it in 6 to 9 months. You can expedite the year you become licensed. That was a process I followed. I worked under another architect as an apprentice. You cannot use the term or phrase the name architect, architecture, architectural unless you are licensed. Their address and then a job captain, a designer, apprentice all fall under that.

I look back now, titles don’t mean much to me anymore. It does not matter. In any case, that was ten years. I’m finally got a license and I worked for a couple of firms through my internship period. A couple of years after passing my license, I worked for a company here called GPRA Architects and Engineers where I was able to get some valuable experience to get my feet wet. I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I worked for another firm and I tried to work for this firm that was designing homes. Every architect wants to have a shot at designing homes. I came back to California and I worked for an architect, George Knowles. His firm was Knowles & Associates.

This was a gentleman that I admired because he worked and stayed under Frank Lloyd Wright. I felt that I could learn from him. I worked for him for a little bit over a year. I got courted by a developer. I went to work for a developer. I was able to learn that aspect of the development process of real estate, which was a very good knowledge. In the end, that’s what all of this comes down to is the amount of knowledge, the type of knowledge that you have to be able to pick up and that you can use that in practice in your profession. After that, we fell into recession. Jobs were hard to come by. Through that apprentice period, what I was being compensated was not very much money. It was very difficult at that time. I think anybody knows in the apprentice type of a situation can understand that everything from attorneys, CPAs, even MDs don’t make much money.

What would the range be for an apprentice in this day’s dollars?

At this time, if you’re well-prepared, for an apprentice you could make anywhere between $50,000 to $70,000, which you can defend yourself pretty well and be able to live a decent life.

Does that include benefits?

Yes, it does include benefits. It depends on the company too. Now, compared to when I started to work, there wasn’t the knowledge of where to work for, who to work for, you could not review them. You could not see what these companies did. The profession was very different. There was a lot of abuse back then. They shortchange you quite a bit. Management styles were different. It was management by intimidation, not motivation. Here at Development One, quality of life is important. I’ve been able to apply a lot of the things that I didn’t like from the other places that I worked at. That was the value of working for somebody else.

Eventually what I ended up doing is that I ended up quitting my job and I got tired of somebody else being in charge of my professional destiny. Now there’s a lot of good employers, a much better than back then. It might be a different story. Back then, I felt that there was a lot of abuse. They limited you on your potential of what you could, not only earning potential but your professional development. For us, it’s important that our employees develop and grow. They are passionate about the profession. They feel that they are part of the team here that they fill an important role here. It’s important for us that they know it.

They’re compensated fairly. I’m always checking to see what the profession is making and I made sure that they are paid fairly. I give them a bonus. I give them opportunities to earn bonuses here too to think that the company is able to benefit out of, they should be compensated for that effort that they put out. I never had a 401(k), different benefit plan or anything like a profit share. I never had any of that. We have that for the employees because it’s important that they feel that they are contributors to this operation. Even though they don’t have ownership, we want them to feel that they have ownership here in the firm.

Consequently, turnover is low. Back then, it wasn’t like that I remember. Finally, I got laid off from that developer and they gave my job to one of their friends. I was offended by that. I tell that story because they’re humbling and they add your grit. They develop your grit. They develop your character. They can help you as a good human being to see what is important. When I started this firm, I had different values that shaped not only me as a human being, but the firm and my employees.

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From an apprentice, what are the stages like? Let’s take Development One, for instance. I don’t know if you have an apprenticeship over there or you start out at a certain stage and move up along the way. What are those different stages in someone’s career?

We love having people straight out of school come straight over here that they’ve got a path and we will develop them and we’ll help them grow. We want the commitment that they will stay here. We want to make sure that the investment we’re making on them will pay dividends down the road. We’re hoping that we do a good job so that they will develop into managers. They will grow in their different parts, different areas. You’ve got the junior architects, apprenticeships and job captains. We encourage them to get licensed. They got the option of either becoming a project manager or a design architect, a senior architect.

As a senior architect, they will dictate and be direct contributors to the design work. The concept always comes from me. That I am the one that develops a concept and they helped me develop it. I choose to make the team approach where we are all having critiques and we are able to develop this design. In the end, it’s my say because my stamp and my signature go in all the drawings. I got to sit behind that design. I got to make sure that I’m able to sell that design to the clients. That’s why ultimately, in the end, I have veto power.

We talked about an apprentice. Now as a project manager and as a design architect, what’s the typical income range for those people?

Depending on what they bring to the firm, it could be anywhere between the top range of a job cap to $70,000 up to $150,000, what they can contribute to the firm. There are different areas, different sizes of firms, different benefits packages. These benefit packages could range everything from full healthcare, 401(k) defined benefit plan, which is their profit centers. There are also bonus programs depending on their contribution to the productivity in the firm, what they’re able to contribute and help the firm grow. They could make different levels of bonuses. Let’s say that it’s a design that was impactful and gave us a lot of credibility.

LPF 1 | Aviation And Architecture

 

A lot in their effort was met all the deadlines and was within budget, that needs to be compensated, that dedication and commitment. There are little things to the ABCs of going to work. Make sure you’re here on time. Make sure you’re not cutting out early. I would never say anything but I know, everybody knows, a boss knows. They’re not paying attention. My wall is made out of glass. There’s a reason. There’s no hiding. I see everything. I don’t say anything. I don’t reprimand them for leaving earlier. If indeed they are not fully committed, there’s something going on wrong or they’re distracted. What is that? We got to sit down and move to figure that out and how it is that we can help them grow and fully committed to their job.

You’d say you went out on your own. You’d started up this architecture firm. You have a love for aviation. How did you get into aviation with the architecture firm? Your aviation clients like Qantas, NASA, what did you do? That’s pretty impressive.

Ironically, I go back to when I did my Master’s thesis. My Master’s thesis was the design of a terminal building. I thought it would be totally cool to design a terminal building. Little did I know that is where my future was in aviation, aerospace-type facilities. I designed that and that was a stepping stone to the future. I started off out of my garage doing little small remodels. I knew that my first employer had been successful doing public sector work, so I started pursuing that. I went to see one gentleman at the Marine base at 29 Palms out in the middle of nowhere.

I met with him and he gave me my first shot at a small project. I remember my first project being a dog kennel. I designed this dog kennel and I did a nice job. He gave me five little projects. The dog kennel was one. The other one was a retrofit of a fire station. The other one was a retrofit of a fitness center. I did these little projects and he was happy with me. He went on to give me the contract for the next eight years. He became a good friend. Eventually, he retired and I stayed friends with him. It’s one of the big lessons you never ever forget those people that help you. I never did.

That man will always stay close to my heart. He passed away. I had lunch with him one last time. I’ll never forget that man. These are moments that as a professional, you see those people that helped you along the way. He was one of those. I call them angels. I have maybe a handful of them. I can count on five fingers those that helped me along the way. From there, that was a stepping stone to do other work. That RFP came out to do work at Edwards Air Force Base. This project had been set aside for small businesses. I was a small business and I qualified for it.

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I remember I came in third place, but then when they’re doing their audit, they find out the other two firms were large firms. They weren’t small firms. That put me in. I had that contract for another six years with Edwards Air Force Base. I kept on plugging away. I’ve done some exciting things, but back to when I got started before that contract at 29 Palms, I got an opportunity to work in Japan. This is one of the great recessions. I’ve learned from all our national economic recessions. One of those back in the early ‘90s, I had a friend that worked in Japan. His boss was looking for an American architect. To make a long story short, I was given the opportunity to design four clubhouses in Osaka, Japan. I was able to do that work and that was another stepping stone in the private sector that in international arenas that helped me.

The reason this is relevant to my brand is that the LA Times and the Orange County Register both did articles on me because I was one of the few architects, small firms that were making a little bit of money. They were interested in me sharing my story. At the end of the interview they said, “We want some pictures. What can we do that will be fun and exciting because frankly they have a roll of prints here?” I was starting to take flight lessons at that time and I said, “We can go to the airport and have a picture taken in front of my airplane.” Architects around the state to check on this. They said, “We love that.” We went to Fullerton Airport at the school where I was taking lessons. I dressed the part, suspenders. They took my picture in front of the airplane with a roll of prints. It was printed centerspread in the business section and that was the beginning of the flying architect.

How did this all start? How did you decide that you’re able to combine your GA flying with your business?

That was the beginning of it. That article, when my CPA saw that, at the time he said, “I can write off all your flying from here on out.” I’m not sure how legit it was back then, but let’s say for discussion purposes I wasn’t making much money anyway. It was legit. It was giving off a career, a passion and a future of combining my passion with my profession. Now, “The Flying Architect,” it’s all documented well. All my brand, my line of work, where all my clients are located in the way I’m able to use the aircraft to fly to remote sites is certainly something I never imagined where I’d be able to do.

Do you fly long-distance through multiple states or as mostly contained locally in these states over here on the West Coast?

LPF 1 | Aviation And Architecture

 

The short answer is yes. I’ve flown north in the Arctic Circle, passed Juno, passed Fairbanks, Anchorage, way past that. I’ve flown to the Bahamas. I’ve flown to Havana, Cuba, to Central America in my Piper Comanche. I’ve crossed the country multiple times. My aircraft is an award-winning aircraft. My plane got a plaque, Outstanding Piper in his class at Oshkosh beating against all the other beautiful Comanches that show up for that aircraft. I’m proud of this of my PA 24 260B. I was able to do well. I’m really proud of that plane. It’s been a project that’s truly has paid dividends. They flew into Havana, Cuba. Who can say they flown to a communist territory? I flew to China, not on my Comanche. You can see my videos on my website and also on our social media.

What’s your website address?

It’s TheFlyingArchitect.net. They can go straight into my The Flying Architect page right there. The name of the company is Development One and the website for the entire company is DevelopmentOne.net.

Having your own plane, being able to fly to all these different destinations, what advantage does it give you over other firms?

There’s quite a few frankly. The biggest one is that when a client tells you, “What’s that going to cost me?” They say, “We’re not going to be paying for private jets and this and then whatever.” Frankly, it’s much cheaper to fly in a small aircraft than it is to be driving to a place like say Edwards Air Force Base. Simple math, driving from Orange County to Edwards Air Force Base takes 3 hours. Three hours each way is six. Let’s say four architects and engineers in a vehicle, that’d be 24 hours. Professional fees of 24 hours each trip for commute compared to in my aircraft 30 minutes each way. What a deal is that? That’s fantastic to be able to save that amount of time.

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I’ll never forget when NASA came in to interview us for the contract a long time ago. They came in and they weren’t saying much. I said, “I’m sure he didn’t come this far enough to ask me questions.” They said, “We want to know about that airplane of yours.” Don’t get me started, somebody who’s passionate about aviation, but I had a good story that was worth listening to. I shared with my story as to how I use the aircraft this and that. They said, “J. Bruce, if you can promise us that you will use your aircraft to come up to Edwards Air Force Base, we will give you the contract and we’ll also give you a special landing permit to come to land the same runway space that you use to land on.” To this day, I’m still doing that.

They were impressed that you had your own plane and you’re able to travel via plane over there. It’s a flight research center. Aviation was a brand that was the first attractive thing that speaks our language. It’s a cool thing let’s see why it works. The litmus test was that there was this one day that we were the first ones to arrive. We got there early for early meetings and we were there all day long talking master planning. This master planning, people came from Washington, DC and from all over the place, we had a lot to discuss. At the end of the day, everybody left and we’re packing up our stuff and walking down the hallway of the flight research center.

We’re walking down the hallway on our airplane, it’s nighttime. My boss, great man there, the head of facilities, he’s walking down the hall the other way. He’s the only one left and us. He says, “This is awesome.” I said, “What’s awesome?” He says, “You guys are still here.” I got something to admit to you. I got to share something. This is a great story. He says, “Your predecessors right here. We had a hard time with them because they would come over. They would arrive here around 10:00. They would mingle for about an hour, from 10:00 to 11:00. They’d go to lunch. They want to schmooze. At 12:00, they get to work. At 1:00 to 2:00, they do a little bit of work. It’s like, “I’ve got to go. I’ve got to beat the traffic.” They’re only here for two hours and never saw them again. You guys are always here.” We’re always there. For us, it’s a half-hour commute.” For a lot of people, it takes much longer to get to work from home than it takes to get to Edwards Air Force Base.

You fly out of Fullerton. That’s impressive. I can imagine that’s a huge leg up as far as productivity, being able to be productive with your clients, be able to be productive with the work that you do. I’m sure a lot of readers are probably wondering and have probably thought about this in the past for their own sake is aircraft ownership. You own the Piper over there. If you don’t mind sharing and you don’t have to be specific, but how much does it cost? It ranges. How much did it cost for that aircraft? What’s maintenance like? Do things break down often? What is it like to hangar it? How much does that cost? What is it like to own a plane?

That’s another one of the other misconceptions that people have. They think that ownership of an aircraft has got to cost a fortune. Frankly, a lot of airplanes are much cheaper than some of the cars that we see out on the road. The aircraft market is abundant with great aircraft. As long as the aircraft is maintained well frankly, an aircraft can fly forever. A lot of people don’t know, it is a vintage, award-winning vintage aircraft, 1966. A plane that was ahead of its time. It’s a plane that’s well-equipped. It has equipment as nice as a jetliner. There are some things that it doesn’t have like DIC and so forth, but I don’t need that.

It is an aircraft that’s well-equipped. You can get a used aircraft anywhere from $25,000 to the sky is the limit if you want something modern and well-equipped, a jet-type aircraft. We’re talking a general aviation-type aircraft. We’re talking Cessnas, Pipers, Bonanzas, Cirruses, Trinidads, there are many different types of aircraft available there that are fantastic aircraft, that are in the used market and that can be purchased at a bargain. There are different ways to do it because mechanics are more expensive than others that are less.

Some people like to tinker when they’re playing so they can do their own maintenance with the supervision of another mechanic. There are different ways to maintain the aircraft, but I’d say anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000, depending on who does the maintenance. Hangar could be as low as $150 to $500, depending on the size of the location. What airport? We got John Wayne, which the hangars are expensive. We have Chino Airport and Corona Airport that the hangars are cheap. Fullerton Airport is the best deal around not only because the hangars are well-priced, but because that airport has instrument landing systems. They got a tower. It’s got all the facilities like fuel and mechanics, oxygen.

It’s the only general aviation airport in Orange County. The only other airport in Orange County is John Wayne Airport, but that’s considered a commercial airport. That should give you an idea as to what people are looking at. It’s more reasonable than what people think. When I got an aircraft, it was like I had to pinch myself. That was like getting my pilot license. I didn’t think I could afford it. It’s the mental thing that people don’t know. It is one of the most fantastic things. You go back to one thing. What’s your mission? My mission is to use my aircraft for my profession and philanthropic purposes. Those are the two reasons I have it. People need to have that mission. If they buy an airplane, it’s going to sit and they don’t have a mission. It’s going to sit there forever to go for a $100 hamburger. It’s a waste of money. They’ve got to have a mission.

Let’s talk about that plane a little bit more. What are your favorite things about the plane specifically? What are your favorite things?

When I looked at aircraft, I’m talking about the mission. I wanted to figure out what my mission was going to be. I was thinking ahead of time and I thought I was a few years away. I wanted to make sure that I was able to go faraway places that this aircraft would be fuel-efficient, that I could afford it. They wouldn’t break the bank. I could be proud of this airplane. The Piper Comanche met all of these criteria. It was fast. It was fuel-efficient.

What is the cruise up of the Comanche?

My Comanche cruise is 170 knots. It’s almost 200 miles per hour. It’s a fast airplane. This plane had great legs, great range, great payload capacity, great fuel efficiency and great look. It’s a good-looking airplane. I fly into airports and people walk over. They want to see it, “It’s the most beautiful Comanche I’ve ever seen. “I feel proud of this airplane.” There were all of those things. With time, I equipped it with the things that I wanted. I got a composite propeller on it, which to me is a work of art. Everybody teases me because I always see it as a work of art.

You’re an architect. It’s in your nature.

I painted the way I wanted it in color purple. These three friends, we’re on our way back from Havana, Cuba. This is in Texas to refill. You can see it’s purple on white. At the time, that was part of the mission. My mission continues to evolve. It will come a time where I may need something different. Some things that my plane doesn’t have. It doesn’t have DIC. It’s not a pressurized plane. It doesn’t have air conditioning. It’s not a turbo. Those things would be nice to have, but that’s the next step. I don’t need that, but that would be the next step. You always want to keep on evolving. You don’t get an aircraft that has those features.

What exactly are the next steps for you? What are the next steps for the aircraft in your firm?

Everything is connected. The next step is that we’re opening up an office in the Northwest, in the Seattle area and we’re going to be pursuing a workup of the Northwest. The connection makes sense. I go a lot still so connected with my alma mater. I still go to the Northwest quite a bit. The economy continues to boom up there and it’s going to continue for the immediate and in the long-range. It makes sense for us to open up an office over there. I’m licensed in the state of Washington. That’s the next step professionally here. They’re also looking at an acquisition, acquiring another firm in another area to be able to spread our knowledge, bring in talent and another region in the area. With that little bit that we have shared with you right there, we are in need of another aircraft with different equipment that can meet that other mission would make sense.

You have two aircrafts. Are you looking to sell one and purchase another one? Will you be flying to and getting some architects licensed?

I’m not quite there yet, but for the immediate future, to find the right platform, the right aircraft and see how that works out. If indeed the Comanche has completed its mission, then we can pass it on or sell it to somebody else who this aircraft meets its mission. I think that would be a great platform to have certainly. It’s been baby quite nicely. Anybody that owns this airplane is going to end up with a nice plane.

Do you want to share what plane you’re looking at next perhaps or possibly?

There are different aircrafts that could meet the next step or the next mission. A Cirrus SR22 Turbo possibly could meet the mission that has DIC. That could be a natural next step so that the next step after that could be the Vision Jet. Cirrus Vision Jet could be the next step after the Cirrus. It could be in the area of a Bonanza perhaps, that could be another area. The Cirrus allows you the growth of jumping into the Vision Jet. Anything above that, we’re talking being able to measure the finances and the cost is unfortunate. We also got to make sure that we’re passing on the savings to our clients. We want to make sure that cylinders stand there. We’re being prudent that we’re using this vehicle as something that’s going to benefit them as well. That is important to be able to pass that message on. Those are some ideas as to what that could be. A turboprop possibly a Pilatus could be a next step over. Those consume a lot of fuel. Our missions are two, three-men mission. A Pilatus would be overkill.

You use your plane for philanthropic purposes. Do you want to share with us a little bit about that?

Frankly, I belong to an organization called The Flying Doctors of Mercy. I also belong to an organization called The Flying Samaritans. I’ve flown with them for many years. I flew with The Flying Doctors of Mercy for the stretch of eight years and I became the president for a couple of terms, pilot coordinator as well for The Flying Samaritans. These organizations are organizations that fly deep into remote areas in Mexico once a month. We fly on a Friday. We do medical treatments for those that don’t have any medical care on Fridays and on Saturday. We fly back on Sunday. Because I’m bilingual, I do not only serve as a pilot, but I also serve as an interpreter in these missions. We’d take anywhere between 15 to 25 airplanes loaded with doctors and medical supplies.

We do everything from laser eye cataract surgeries to cleft palates. I mentioned those heart surgeries, primary care. We do a spectrum of healthcare that certainly has been very beneficial to them. The strangers that don’t have any means. The Flying Samaritans, we do that as well with them. We get up early on a Saturday morning. We arrived in a town in Baja. We are there no later than 10:00. We start to work at 10:00. We go until 5:00. We stay there afterward in one of the beach resorts. We come back on Sunday. These are trips that have been rewarding for me for many years to give stranger healthcare is some reward that truly is eternal.

Without any consideration of heritage, religious preference, any conditions in there. It’s for the sole purpose of making a difference in another human being. The other philanthropic things that I do is occasionally I will donate flights. I’m an honorary member of the Ninety-Nines Women’s Air Corps because I’ve helped them in their fundraisers as well. Once a year during Fullerton Airport Day, we provide airplane rides and the money that comes from those airplane rides goes directly to the scholarship program for the Ninety-Nines. The firm does this as a team-building service program to be of service to an organization. The Ninety-Nines is our choice of organization to be able to provide what those awesome women do. We’re big fans, truly admirable women pilots that are tremendous, smart, intelligent, beautiful women that are making a huge difference in our aviation community. That is another thing we do. Another one is Pilots N Paws. Every now and then I will transport pets to different regions so that the pets can be adopted. There are many opportunities for philanthropic opportunities.

For our audience, if they want to get involved with some of these organizations, what is the best way?

The Flying Doctors of Mercy, LigaInternational.org. The Flying Samaritans are FlyingSamaritans.net. These are fantastic organizations. Everybody pays their way to go down there. It’s addicting to be able to make a difference in somebody else’s life. If you’re going to have an addiction, that’s the best one to have. Everybody should come to visit us at Airport Day and get a free ride from The Flying Architect.

When is that usually?

I believe it’s in May annually. You look at the Fullerton Airport website for that.

Thanks for spending time with me. I’ve got a few fun questions for you. What is your favorite aircraft? It could be military. It could be non-military, jets, airliners, whatever it is. What is your one favorite aircraft besides the Piper Comanche because we already know that? That’s a great aircraft.

There are so many aircraft. One of the aircraft that I always dreamed about that was an inspiration for me was the X15. The X15 was the first jet aircraft. That was a spaceship or first-day spaceship that went into experience weightlessness for the first time. You could get astronaut wings to fly that aircraft. Neil Armstrong, all the top pilots flew it back in the day. It doesn’t fly anymore, but that was an airplane that has been an inspiration to many people.

Do you have an interesting or funny aviation story that you’d like to share with us?

There are many stories and for those that know me, I am a man of multiple stories. In all seriousness, I can joke around a lot, but the story that I like to share primarily has to do with my father. My father was a war hero. He did not get to fly with me up until right before he died. He would make silly jokes. I’d already been a pilot for many years. I finally realized that probably he was afraid of flying. This was about a year before he died. He was out to visit and he says, “J. Bruce, I’m ready to come to fly with you.” I said, “Dad, don’t worry about it. I know it’s not your thing. It’s okay.” He says, “No, I want to do it. I want to fly with you.” He knew that the end was coming. He did not want to die, not knowing that he didn’t fly with his son. I took him to the airport and we flew around. I showed him around the basin of the Los Angeles Orange County area. It was a spectacular day. We came in, we landed and he said, “Is that it?” I said, “What are you expecting, dad?”

I’ve got a story to tell you. It’s a sad story. He said, “Many years ago, I flew with somebody. I was going to go see a site. He was in retail so they were going to see this one store in a remote area. They said that this guy scared the daylights out of them. He did these maneuvers that my dad decided he was never ever going to fly. He said, “Ever since I’ve been scared. I didn’t want another day to go by without me flying with my own son.” Dad missed out on this awesome part of flying. I shared with them and his professionals, they teach us to take people and ride so that they can love aviation, not scare them. You want them to fly again because truly to see this world from that perspective above ground, there’s nothing like it. People have described aviation as if it was love at first sight. Some people said I did not know what love was until I learned how to fly. To me, that is the most descriptive way to explain. To take that away by scaring somebody in flight is a disservice to everyone. I explained that to dad. The last few years of my dad were the best years of our relationship together. It was because aviation was part of it.

Were you guys able to fly a lot more after that?

He flew, not much more. He died of cancer shortly after that. We were able to do some other events, some other things like I took him to the Howard Hughes Memorial Trophy Award Banquet. He got a chance to meet Bob Hoover, who is the greatest pilot that ever lived. Bob Hoover was also a Korean War combat veteran. It was almost like they were best friends. What a way to explain and introduce my dad to aviation but introduce him to such a great man. Bob Hoover was everybody’s great friend. I considered him my best friend. He’s every pilot’s best friend. It was sad to see him pass, but it was great for my dad to get to meet him. Dad was able to see some of these other things. He got to fly in my own plane. He flew in the Comanche. All in all, dad left knowing how wonderful aviation was and be able to change that paradigm in him of that fear yet instilled in him by another unfortunate, negligent one.

You want people to be able to enjoy it and to see what we see while we’re out there and be able to experience all that stuff. I’m glad he was able to do that. Let’s close it up and let’s say someone comes up to you and says, “J. Bruce, through all your experience, work and you’re creating your own company flying, aviation, all that stuff. What is your best financial advice that you could give me?

The best financial advice is to follow your passion. There’s nothing else that can substitute or can make you more successful than following your passion. If you follow your passion, you’ll never go to work ever again. You’ll never work a day in your life. That is true. That advice was given to me. I pass that on to everybody. Make sure that no matter what, wherever you work, if it’s your own business or working or somebody else, that you’re passionate about it, you will be rewarded abundantly believe me.

J. Bruce, thank you for joining me here at the show. You are truly an inspirational person. You have great stories, great experiences to share. I’m glad we got to talk to you.

Thanks for the opportunity.

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About J. Bruce Camino

LPF 1 | Aviation And ArchitectureJ. Bruce Camino, aka “The Flying Architect”, is the Owner and Principal Architect at Development One, Inc. in Santa Ana, CA. Development One is an architecture and project management firm that works on projects in both the public and private sectors.

Their clients include NASA, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), US Dept. of Defense, Qantas Airlines, and John Wayne Airport. J. Bruce is also a pilot and he owns an award-winning Piper Comanche 260B, which he uses for work and philanthropic purposes.

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