Ready for Takeoff

The popularity of flight continues to reach new heights across the shore with a host of benefits on the horizon

Written by Alex Csedrik  |  Photography by Svetlana Leahy

Across the Eastern Shore, it’s pretty common to hear people blow off steam by fishing, surfing, kayaking or other water-related activities. There’s one hobby though, that may not necessarily be thought of as a beach activity, but it’s fun in the sun nonetheless—flying. Throughout the region, a number of private pilots see the hobby as their oasis—a way to get a clear mind among the clear skies.


Doug Motley enjoys the freedoms that flying provides him and uses his time in the sky to decompress from the pressures of his corporate role in asset management.

Doug Motley is one. As one of the managing principals of JLAM—a real estate investment and development firm that targets the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions—he helps people build wealth through private real estate investments. Making sure your business is growing while protecting people’s money can be very rewarding, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. While getting your private pilot’s license isn’t exactly easy either, the effort for both is worth it, according to Motley. “It’s challenging to balance leading a business and finding the necessary time to practice flying, but it has been so rewarding!”

At times, Motley’s aviation journey hasn’t been smooth sailing—or rather, flying. Besides needing good time management skills to accumulate the requisite number of hours you need to get your license–at least 40–the best laid plans can quickly go awry if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate by providing nice weather. Routine maintenance on a plane can also keep you grounded. 

Mike Freed and Larson Taylor

“Flying requires a lot of preparation and planning, but also recognizing new information. It’s all about risk management, which is very similar to my role with JLAM… I’ll weigh the risk/reward profile of an investment and make choices that help us prevent losses for our investors. Neither investments or flying will ever be risk-free, but I can process information and use my skills to minimize turbulence.”

                 — Doug Motley

Motley isn’t alone as someone who finds solace in the skies. John Chirtea, perhaps one of the most famous private pilots in the country right now, also finds flying as the ultimate stress-reliever. Coincidentally, Chirtea also had a career in real estate development—he bought land and built commercial, multi-family and residential projects, before retiring. “No better way to relieve stress than to hop into one of my planes and just go punch holes in the sky for an hour or so,” he claims.

It may have been this innocent intention that led to Chirtea’s new-found notoriety when he flew over President Biden’s airspace in November 2023. “President Biden has his Rehoboth Beach home, and he often visits there to unwind from his job. Whenever he visits, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) will be placed in a 10-30 mile circle surrounding his home. I inadvertently missed the notice, and chose to fly on that day.”

Chirtea, who took his first flying lesson in 1955, had no clue he was in store for the most eventful trip of his life. He simply was heading north with a guest to show the basics of flying. One turn diverted him south, which meant he was accidentally on a direct course over the President’s beach house.

“I looked out to my left, and close to my wing was a large orange Coast Guard helicopter,” Chirtea describes. “He was flashing a sign ‘Tune to 121.5’, which is the emergency radio frequency. The transmission was garbled, so I told him to meet me down at the nearby runway. He followed me down, and after we got out of our planes, we introduced ourselves.”

If this sounds like this would create aggravation rather than cure it, things only got more intense from there. Chirtea happened to have left his pilot license in his wallet at his house, which was five minutes away from the runway. He told the Coast Guard pilot who was surveying the situation that he’d run home quickly to get his wallet. By the time he returned with his license, the Coast Guard was gone. Instead, it escalated—and quite seriously.

John Chirtea

“Two Secret Service agents and a Delaware State Police officer arrived for 45 minutes of questions,” Chirtea admitted. Ultimately, the massive misunderstanding was cleared up. The FAA issued Chirtea a case-closed report, and he sent a letter of apology to President Biden, which actually led to a response.

Regardless, none of the infamy has discouraged Chirtea from flying or turned his passion into a source of stress. “I will be more careful that I am aware of TFRs,” he assures.

If aviation sounds like your kind of hobby, where to get started may seem daunting. Fortunately, Michael Freed, owner of Ocean Aviation Flight Academy, can help. His flight school has two locations—Ocean City Municipal Airport and the Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown.

Freed, who’s celebrating 50 years since taking his first flight training in 1974, quickly fell in love with flying and the art of instructing aspiring aviators. He became an active flight instructor shortly after receiving his license. “I never wanted to be anything other than a pilot,” says Freed.

When it came to opening his aviation school, he knew Coastal Delmarva was a great choice because of some unique flying advantages. “We are geographically removed from the major metropolitan areas of the Mid-Atlantic, so air traffic around here is light. The terrain is mostly farmland, distinctly flat … if we tried, we could not possibly have designed a finer region to provide primary and advanced flight traffic.” It’s why people like Chirtea, Motley, and many more in the area are not uncommon.

This area’s perfect conditions may not be a secret, though. “Ocean Aviation is an international school, so students from all over the world can train here for an aviation career,” Freed explains. Graduates go on to work for commercial airlines like Delta and United, cargo ones like FedEx and UPS, or become private pilots like Chirtea and Motley. 

“Flying is a life dream and once you try it, you realize that nothing quite compares,” Freed says. “The time has never been better than today to learn to fly.” Once you do, you’ll experience your moment of Zen—as long as you don’t ignore TFRs. CS     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *