Thursday, December 03, 2009

Part 3 of Changing Gender Stereotypes

Seriously, I receive some of the most wonderful emails. I just have to share this one with you because I think it is a great example to balance out the previous posts about perceived gender differences and attitudes in the cockpit. As I have said before, I have some personal experiences with some of the best male co-pilots ever and then some not so nice. Even the younger guys who you would expect to be more "enlightened" can be a woman's worst critic (just ask the guy trying to get into an airline's new hire class and hear his complaint about how "that one woman" took his spot - ignoring the other larger number of male pilots who beat him out). To have an older guy 1. show this kind of insight and fairness and 2. take the time to write me about it, is pretty darn cool in my book, er, ...uh, blog.

(I only did a slight bit of editing punctuation-wise.)


I have followed you and GWW for over a year and really enjoyed your efforts and the blog stories.

I read with interest your latest comments on the Gender thing and females in the cockpit or for that matter, even on the airport, as anything but the "Gal behind the desk."

Having been around the patch a few times in aviation and, yes, from the old school of many moons ago, the changes for women have been a hard fought road in aviation. I am from the days of being in the cockpit and hearing a female voice on center freq and all the comments from the guys about, "another empty kitchen." I have flown with female FO's and have found over all that they are on the same line, ability wise, as the males that hold down the seat cushion in the right seat. Pilots are people and it does not make any difference to the airplane if it is being flown by a guy or a gal. I have had one female F/O that was not worth a hoot but I have had several males that were even worse. Yet I have flown with female pilots that were way above average. So what does it come down tooooo....ATTITUDE!!!

I know what it is like to get a phone call at night and listen to a friend that is an A&P and working as a line mechanic at a very well known LARGE flight school in Florida and listen, console, give advice, and yes, even say "Hang in there," after she went through a day of "girls should not bend wrenches." But on the same side I have had the call from her the first time she was getting ready to fly her first IFR night flight by herself and she just wanted to hear someone say...."the airplane does not know if it is day, night, VFR, or IFR so just get in and fly it." That same person also called on the day she was to take her ATP and Dash 8-400 sim check and we spent 30 minutes on the phone as she paced the parking lot before the check ride. But 3 hours later I got the call that made my day. "Well, they took away my instrument rating". And you know what that means on the ATP checkride.

[An ATP, or Airline Transport Pilot rating, is more advanced than an instrument rating. It's like saying you have your doctorate; you don't need to also say you have your master's degree. It's understood.]

I am 110% for anyone that wants to make aviation their choice, male or female. You're right that attitudes do change and as you know it takes time for some changes. I worked for a cargo airline that had the first all female flight crew on a L-382, (civil version of the C-130), and we also had two female 707 captains.

Just want to add that I think what you are doing is a labor of both love for aviation and also for the younger girls that want to experience what we have both seen and done in airplanes.

Keep up the good work and maybe sometime we will be on the same ramp somewhere and get to meet.


...Could not have said it better myself! Thanks, Walt, and everyone else for keeping the discussion balanced and on-going.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Part 2 of Changing gender stereotypes

Recently I posted a blog entry on Changing gender stereotype, like, 50, 100 years at a time... about a couple of news articles about women in aviation and aerospace that had negative comments published by readers. I then followed with a recap of a conversation I had with an old salt flight instructor that prompted a reader to send me the following message:

I sure hope things are not as bad as you say. My 10 year old daughter is really eager to fly. I'm just an amateur at this flying thing (instrument rated, with maybe 600 hours over too many years).

It would be cruel to see her interest squashed by this sort of stupidity. I often point out all the female voices on the air when we fly.

She's practically counting the days before she can start glider training at age 14.

Let me emphasize, Dad, that "things" are not that bad (and I didn't SAY those things, just quoted them). Some people's perceptions of a woman on the flight deck may be horribly misguided, but this "flying thing" is awesome, incredible, fascinating and something I wouldn't give up in a million years no matter how many stories I could tell you about some Neanderthal who tried to ruin it for me. As a fellow Army helicopter pilot and I discussed not too long ago (ok, maybe in the last decade), I can't believe we women pilots are still considered "pioneers" in aviation. [And my friend is female AND African American.] Instead of being "squashed" by people's ignorance, the journey has made me stronger, more outgoing, more fulfilled and definitely into the person I am today (and I kinda like the way she turned out after all). Girls With Wings would have certainly never come about if I had thought it was going to be easy, just like I would have never become a pilot unless the career track hadn't been presented as a challenge.

As I have said countless times before, nothing of any value in life comes easily. Our male counterparts will tell your daughter, as I'm sure you have, that this flying thing itself is tough regardless of your gender! Yes, you throw in a few knuckleheads who think every woman should have a safety pilot at the controls at all times, but I dare anyone to say that to Nicole Malachowski, the first female Thunderbird pilot, or Jill "Raggz" Long, a military airshow pilot, both one of many women in aviation role models on the Girls With Wings website. Especially if he's the one sitting in the other seat. Without the benefit of holding a sick sack. None of the women on the GWW website have had their interest squashed by someone else's stupidity. I hope those women who have been turned away from aviation have found their passion elsewhere or have been able to resume their dreams of flight.

I believe the attitude of male pilots toward women performing duties in the cockpit could be drawn in a bell curve. There are always those few on one end that can barely contain their contempt for a woman with a pilot's license (or driver's license for that matter) or those on the opposite end to whom it truly doesn't matter what gender their co-pilot is (heck, they may even prefer a female in the other seat). The vast majority of men are somewhere in the middle. Some give a woman the benefit of the doubt, let her "prove her skills" as it were, before she is accepted as a full fledged crewmember, or they might be super critical of every mistake she makes (while ignoring his own) which just encourages her to make more in her self consciousness and prove their unspoken opinion that women make "lesser" pilots. [Trust me when I say I am not the only pilot that sometimes feels judged under this modified standard.] That gender would take precedence over skills, and even factor into the dynamics of perhaps sticking two people who may have never met into a technologically advanced airframe to climb thousands of feet into the air and hurtle at great speeds to a long stretch of concrete hours later on the other side of the country is a issue I hope will evolve in the next few, uh, decades, to where the female isn't subconsciously considered the inferior pilot. But there it is.

So I am still doing this pilot thing after 16 years. Why? Because I love it. Because there is no other way for me to get the same joy I get from accelerating down a runway for takeoff and piercing the big blue sky. I especially love making a turn-out over the airport that I just took off from, but I am now looking down at it over one MILE in the sky. Suh-wheet!

Being a pilot has allowed me to meet some of the most incredible people because of my involvement in aviation. Yes, my fellow women aviation enthusiasts, who always comment how they love to get together with other female pilots to bond by sharing their stories of trials and successes that their other girl friends just don't get. But I have also met some amazing men in aviation who have shown such support to me on a personal level, as their first officer or captain, or for Girls With Wings as a volunteer organization that they can get behind. There are too many to name, but it includes Don, who did so much getting together our GWW training day at Rhinebeck Aerodrome, Keith from Jones Dykestra and Associates, guys I have met on, Dave and all the folks from Twitter, my 400+ friends on Facebook, companies like ForeFlight, oh, and last but definitely not least, my father, who has been cheering me on from day 1 and who, well, happens to be a man. Any of these people may be assisting behind the scenes or making contributions to our scholarship and other GWW projects. But most of all, a HUGE portion of the emails I get, the folks that come to talk to me in the booth, stay after the presentations to talk, call me to ask how they can get their daughters (or sisters or mothers!) more interested in aviation, are MEN.

So, hopefully I will be dispelling any residual perception of my own stereotyping of men. I try to reserve judgment until I find out the other person's point of view. And that pathetic guy who said he wouldn't "give this silver-spooned neophyte the least consideration for single pilot IFR ops?" I would not waste my time trying to open his closed little mind. "If ignorance is indeed bliss, it is a very low grade of the article." -Tehyi Hsieh Chinese Epigrams Inside Out and Proverbs. I've got more important things to do. Like some simulator flying to study for. So I can go fly again.

So please don't let my discussion of the unfortunate and minor negative realities of this occupation deter your daughter or your support of her reaching her dream. I look forward to talking to your daughter (and you) on the radio soon!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Changing gender stereotype, like, 50, 100 years at a time...

Sometimes things just BEG for a blog entry...

A Girls With Wings Role Model, Kristine, tweeted this question: "how do guys really feel about female pilots? are we inferior? apparently my entire human factors class thinks so."

Of course my initial reaction was "lemme at 'em!" I've been around too long and talked to too many people, from students, full-fledged pilots to instructors to know that is not the case. Men and women have their different strengths, but it would be awfully hard to prove that one gender is better than the other at flying. Men certainly have been logging a lot more time overall.

It's sparked quite a bit of discussion on twitter and on facebook, where people have been sending and posting links to me about a story about "Pilot wants to inspire other young women."

Malvika Matharoo, 24, is Earhart's heir. A native of Punjab, India, she grew up in the Middle Eastern nation Oman. Matharoo studied aviation at the University of North Dakota and moved to California in December 2007. She lives in Petaluma and works for North Coast Air in Santa Rosa. Read more:

She says, "I just started a program called "Take to the Sky," with North Coast Air and Valley of the Moon Teen Center in Sonoma. It's a flight program where I'm trying to encourage young women to pursue their dreams, hopefully in aviation. To say, "You can do it. I've done it.""

Unfortunately, the first comment on the news story was the following:

"Just inspiring.

We're still rolling on the floor laughing at this one! It is really nice that Daddy BigBucks could finance her flight training to get into an industry where there are NO JOBS available - but as long as she's "pursuing her dreams of being a role model" I suppose it's fine.

I like the opart about your "flight" starting 24 hours ahead of time. So much for on-demand charter operations I guess. Hopefully (if she's lucky enough to land a real flying job the annoying naivete will give way to reality - but i hire anywhere from 10 to 20 pilots a year - and i can assure you I wouldn't give this silver-spooned neophyte the least consideration for single pilot IFR ops.

I'm sure she'll do well in the right seat of a regional airline as long as some guy is sitting beside her telling her what to do. But let's keep the accolades to a rational level please!" (my italics)
I didn't see the part in the story that talked about her silver spoon. I did see where she "even [flew] in temperatures of minus 45 degrees with wind chill." Blech. And did she earn a pilot's license or a co-pilot's license, mister? Who are you to judge?

Of course we women pilots know this attitude is out there. The husband of my best friend, a pilot on furlough from a major airline, currently flies for a major cargo carrier. He has told us both that no matter how bad the things that have been said to our face are, they are nothing compared to what is said behind our backs. *Sigh* [This of course, does not take away ANYTHING from all of those great, supportive, talented male aviation contemporaries (a necessary disclaimer). You know who you are.]

The article, which starts, "Women had the "right stuff," too, back in the '60s. But the data on their performance tests were buried in the Mad Men era, and it was two decades before there was an American female astronaut," talks of "the "Mercury 13" members of the private Woman in Space Program of the early 1960s did about as well as, or better than, male candidates identically tested." Read it here:

But also read THOSE comments if you can. There's 156 of them! For example:

citizen99 (0 friends, send message) wrote: 5m ago
The best way to explore space is with Women and Men as co-astronaut crews. That way the women can bake the pies and the men can eat them. The same way it has worked on earth for centuries. Women can do the dishes and the men can put them away, if they are not too busy with their experiments and flying the space ship.

Or: AngryRepublican2 (10 friends, send message) wrote: 1h 37m ago
More radical, socialist / feminist propaganda to make us feel "guilty." Frankly, I doubt the accuracy of these studies. Unless there was some double blind testing, I suspect bias. Second, the studies do not seem to measure temperament. And let's be realistic here: men and women are different. Men are much better at making command decisions -- yes / no in two seconds in an emergency. Women are more deliberative. They like to mull over an issue, consider all the angles. That may be good in household management (should little Jimmy wear his rain slicker today?) or social work, but not when you are hurtling through space at 36,000 MPH and something goes wrong as in Apollo 13. This is why you see so few women CEOs. So few race car drivers. So few pilots. They are not wired for quick reactions.

Of course one guy had to write: The only female astronaut that I can think of just now, is that crazy one that drove cross-country wearing a diaper so she could assault a romantic rival.

...and then I just couldn't read any more. Well, one more, to be fair. Andrewnbham wrote:
"Sure, its possible the neanderthal bigots on this blog are right, without 'double blind' studies as some mention we can't be certain about the qualifications of women compared to men for anything (including being a housewife).

Its also possible that those bigots are just demonstrating the effects of centuries (millenia really) of socialization that taught them to feel the way they do, with no basis in fact for their opinions. There is NO objective, scientific evidence that women are any less able to do virtually anythnig men can do, and frequently do it as well or better. There IS centuries of ingrained prejudice and stereotypes passed down through generations very much alive today (as evidenced by this blog)."

Which brings me full circle back to the reason for this post. Last week was the AOPA Summit. Girls With Wings had a booth, and was assisted by Sara, shown at left, and Mikel, to whom I owe many thanks for their help! It is always so great meeting people face to face, as I talk about often at Oshkosh, to get their feedback on the GWW organization and whether they "agree" with our mission of encouraging more girls to have an interest in aviation.

For example, I had an insightful conversation with a visitor to the GWW booth at AOPA. The older gentleman reluctantly accepted a brochure that we present with the explanation that Girls With Wings is a volunteer organization that uses women in aviation as role models to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. And that we sell items at the booth to raise funds for our outreach efforts, such as the website, our presentations to girls groups, and the annual scholarship. He read the brochure and the part about "6% of pilots are women."

He says to me, "that number seems to be increasing." To which I say, "Yes, 12% of student pilots are women." And just in case he thought I was making those numbers up, "those statistics come from the FAA."

"Well," he says, "I've been seeing more women in the cockpits of regional airlines." (Clearly, since they're just finally starting to filter in enmasse to such professional careers.) But I say, "I've been a military, commercial, and private airline pilot for 16 years and only flown with another woman pilot 4 times."

He tells me he has trained 11-12 women pilots so I ask him how long he's been a flight instructor. He says proudly, "For about 40 years." I ask, "How many male pilots have you trained in that time?" and he says, rather boastfully, "Oh, thousands." I return, "Then, percentage-wise, that's still not very women pilots overall, is it?"

Although a dim light dawns, he just has to get the last word in. "It's not going to happen overnight, you know."

To which I reply, "No it's taken over a 100 years, and we're still working on it."

See a video about Girls With Wings at the AOPA Summit:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wind Gusts

I haven't posted a long while just about flying stuff. So I've got some things I'd like to tell you about that happened yesterday. Last night we landed the Citation X in South Dakota after taking off from Sun Valley, Idaho, which is a trip of nearly 500 miles straight east. We were doing a "repo" or a reposition leg (this is opposed to a "repossession" - economy isn't that bad yet!) for today's trips with passengers. We flew directly over the Black Hills National Forest. The scenery I enjoy outside of my "office" windows is some of the most amazing ever and it's one of the biggest reasons I enjoy my job as a pilot. The name "Black Hills" comes from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which mean "hills that are black." Seen from a distance, these pine-covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear black.

Unfortunately, one of the realities of flying at altitude over famous landmarks is that they just don't quite have the same impact as from the ground. The air traffic controller that was vectoring us around to the airport (I think) was kind enough to bring us close to a very famous location. Unfortunately, he brought us right over the top of this site, Mt Rushmore, so we were unable to see any of it. The picture on the left is obviously not what I fly, and it appears to have been photoshopped. The perspective just doesn't make sense! Check out the official website at

Anyway, after we finished our scenic tour it was time to make our long anticipated approach into Rapid City. The reason there was some anticipation was because of this METAR: KRAP 021952Z 32035G42KT 10SM CLR 12/M06 A2988 RMK AO2 PK WND 33048/1926 Translated, this means on October 2nd at 1952Z(Zulu) the winds were out of the northwest (320 degrees) at 35knots, gusting to 42kts. Later in the weather report it says, PK WND (peak wind) 48kts at 1926Z. As a comparison here is a conversion for the equivalent miles per hour:

What does that really mean? Well, according to the Beaufort Scale:
32 - 38 Moderate gale whole trees in motion; inconvenience in walking against wind
39 - 46 Fresh gale breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes progress
47 - 54 Strong gale slight structural damage occurs; chimney pots and slates removed

So the captain and I discussed the weather before we left Idaho. Although I've been flying the X for a year and a half, the CPT has been flying it for seven. He gave me the option of flying the leg, but we figured that the gusty winds could cause some difficulties as far as the landing would go. It's not that we didn't think I could handle it, but IF something were to happen, it'd be pretty awkward trying to explain why we didn't have the more experienced crewmember on the controls. Especially with all of the bad press the aviation industry is getting lately.

Luckily the winds were right down the runway and turned out to not be an issue. It was kind of funny seeing less than 100kts of groundspeed in a X, and seeing traffic on the highway below almost matching our speed! Once we landed, we had more of a battle packing up the airplane and getting into the van without being blown over! In the van a fellow passenger (not a pilot) asked us if we had to learn to land faster in such high winds. Actually, we explained, that airplanes land INTO the wind, so actually we were landing more slowly. Our low ground speed was our airspeed (about 130kts) - the wind speed (30kts) = 100kts. The airplane doesn't fly in relation to the speed over the ground, however, but the relative speed with which is moving through the air.

From the van I took this picture of a helicopter whose blades were just going crazy with the wind blowing. This is a Sikorsky 58T, a military helicopter originally designed for service in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role. It is now often used in construction, like Desiree does and blogs about in The Adventures of Chopper Chick! Not also does Desiree support Girls With Wings but she has also received great publicity for all of the amazing things she's done flying helicopters in many different capacities. p.s. I also love that "Chopper" also refers to her having a motorcycle, which I do as well!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting the word out!

We at Girls With Wings have had so many great opportunities lately to reach out to more people with our mission using aviation to entertain and educate girls about their limitless opportunities for personal growth. For example, we attended the Cleveland Women's Show so that we could talk to folks with little or no experience in the aviation world. It was certainly an educational experience. Usually we are talking to aviation enthusiasts when we attend Oshkosh or Women in Aviation conferences or the like. If you're in aviation, you know we need to attract more people into aviation, and girls in particular. But put a sign up at a Women's Show and you get a lot of "Girls With Wings? (some people even read Girls With WIGS!) What is that??"

So we at the booth had to be a bit aggressive about reaching out to women passing by. In fact, I have gotten a little spoiled by the enthusiasm with which people come to US at Oshkosh. I learned very quickly that the purpose of our booth was going to require a bit of explanation. After the first day, I decided that we would wear our pilots' uniforms (those of us who had them) in the booth so we'd grab attention. And I put up some self made signs that explained that "We inspire girls to achieve their full potential." We had hoped to do some fund-raising here, but it seemed we needed the real estate for better causes than the t-shirt display behind us. A white tri-fold board was placed up on top of the table behind Abby, Courtney, me and Nancy so that people could see the pictures of Girls With Wings representatives doing presentations. And so people started asking us questions and we were able to do what we needed: reach out to the community so we could find more opportunities for outreach with our presentations and website. It offered great insight on how to modify the message of GWW to appeal to the general public. Thank you to all that volunteered that stuck it out and kept those brochures flying out of the booth!

The other opportunity Girls With Wings has had to let others know of our public awareness project was a two day blog entry from Av8rdan's World of Flying. Dan Pimentel is in advertising and specializes in Ad Campaign development, graphics and photography. We've been following each other for ages on Twitter, me as @girlswithwings and he as @av8rdan. We even were able to meet each other in person at Oshkosh - if only briefly (remember, the GWW booth there is crazy busy!). Part one was entitled:

Girls With Wings:
General Aviation's Secret to Growth

and part two is Venus and Mars: GWW's Meeks on Gender Differences on the Flight Deck

Dan had sent me a long list of questions to answer about my background and experience and the history behind and mission of GWW. He also let me know that the GWW material gave his blog the LARGEST BOOST OF TRAFFIC in months...almost twice the number of unique visitors the day it was published as most days. As he says, "I think this validates (in a very small way) what you are doing with GWW since it appears so many people want to read what you have to say."

I also received quite a few emails from people that have read his blog. My favorite was this one:
Dearest Lynda,
Last night, as I was finishing up my homework for Aerodynamics, I really started doubting myself and what I want to be come in the world of Aviation. After spending more time thinking than doing hw, the more sad I grew. Airfoil, boundary layer, viscosity.. I would even comprehend the littlest of words anymore. I dozed of thinking that maybe this Airplane thing isn't meant for you; It's a Dream that I've always had, but not all dreams are meant to come true.

I woke up feeling very discouraged. Thought, "Why am I even going to Aerodynamics class if I'm doubting myself? This is more of a Man's dream anyways.." I then signed on to Facebook. Your status came across my news feed and I quickly and eagerly made my way to your page.

That eArticle I read was literally my INSPIRATION & MOTIVATION to get my engine going again. And for that Ms. Meeks, I commend you. Thank you so very much for your inspiration not only for Aviation, but for GIRLS in Aviation.

I don't know what I would have done with my life after today if I had not read that interview article. Thank you for pulling me back in! I am now off to Aerodynamics class with a positive head and new sense of inspiration and motivation!
You are truly appreciated!
I tell you, emails like this just make my day. Again, I thank everyone for their continued support and enthusiastic participation in the Girls With Wings organization.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The NY (NE US) GWW Club!

The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome hosted our August Girls With Wings Representative Training session and NY Club Formation (currently covers the NE US). I would like to thank Aerodrome Vice President Don Fleming who went above and beyond all of my expectations to make this possible. Doing a google search on Girls With Wings and the Aerodrome will show you just how much work he did on publicizing the event (while I printed out documents and laminated "game" pieces). This event is going to be difficult to beat!

Pictured are the 11 women who participated in the event Left to Right: Susan (Pilot/Instructor), Rebecca (737 Pilot, Alaska Airlines), Heather (Pilot/Instructor Independent Helicopter, Dutchess County Airport), Birdie (Aerobatic Pilot: Pitts Special), Amy (Student Pilot/ Attorney), Paula (Student Pilot/Film maker), Sheila (Pilot,/ C-130 Navigator USAF), Kathleen (General Aviation Pilot), Lynda (NetJets Pilot, President of Girls With Wings), Amy (Student Pilot, Dowling Aviation College student, 2008 GWW Scholarship Winner), Nancy (Manager Aero Safety Training), and Christina (Student Pilot, FAA Safety Team/ Speaker & Trainer).

Despite the high heat and ENORMOUS humidity (I didn't realize NY shared weather patterns and mosquito swarms with the jungles of Central America), the event was a great success. We were able to meet inside on Saturday night inside the Cole Palen house on the grounds of the aerodrome to run through how the Girls With Wings presentation is structured, as well as our goals into spreading the positive message of GWW through other outreach activities. A lot of what we focus on is sharing our personal stories of our challenges and successes so that we are able to relay them to the girls we meet. Birdie, the GWW Club Leader shown at right helping the girls with their cockpit posters, will be coordinating the meetings and future events of the club.

Sunday morning we set up in one of the antique airplane hangars to present first to girls younger than 12, and another one later for the older girls. The weather was iffy the whole morning (which had caused the Saturday airshow to be canceled), so fewer people than expected showed up at the aerodrome that morning. However, we did have a great time with the girls, teaching them "everything" they need to know to conduct a flight to Orlando, FL, so they could attend Disneyworld. They even put "fuel" in their "engines" so they could see their "airplanes" take flight. [Also, as you can see, the older "girls" - also known as moms - participate in the presentation and learn some new things as well.] The presentation depends largely on the girls' participation, which is facilitated by only having girls in the group (boys at the same age are usually much more assertive and cause the girls to be too shy to offer input). We don't give away any answers here, the girls are given just enough information to figure it out by themselves!

As you can see, the hangar was a bit crowded, but who could complain working so closely with fabric covered aircraft? [Although I have to admit, I was somewhat distracted during the presentation ensuring no one tested the durability of these antiques.] Fortunately, no damage was done to the airplanes (though I did end up with a lot of grease on my uniform pants...) Unfortunately, not one of the girls' airplanes made it to Florida non-stop. [Could it have been the adverse weather conditions creating an unusually high density altitude??] However, the illustration was successful, that these girls, who initially thought they'd NEVER be able to figure out how all of that "stuff" up in the cockpit worked, were able to read their flight instruments and make radio calls, just like the women pilots that were there to help them learn new things (and that includes sharing a little insight into what their opportunities for their future).

During the second presentation for the older girls, we could get a little more in-depth into some of the concepts of conducting our flight. The ease with which the girls pick up the radio transmissions and instruments allow us time to talk more about our background for our careers/hobbies and additional scientific principles in flight. We do the presentations in approximately an hour, which doesn't leave a lot of time to get into aerodynamics or the like. But we feel that it's better to just give the girls a glimpse into the different subjects and allow them to pursue them more later. And yes, the older girls do the balloon "flight" as well. It's a little corny, but it's a great finishing touch ...and all of the older girls had their balloon make it to "Florida," which dispelled my density altitude theory since it was even warmer now than it was for the earlier presentation (I wouldn't have thought this possible). By my expression, you could see I was a little worried how this would come out. At the end of the presentations we also tell the girls about the Young Eagles so they have the opportunity to pursue a real flight. The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 - 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.

Lesson learned: August was probably not the best month to hold this event since it was hard to get a hold of Scouting and school groups so I am really grateful for the families that made the effort to come out despite the heat. Having worn a flight suit for the Army for many years, I sympathize with MAJ Sheila wearing her USAF uniform. Her young daughter, Daniella, was also supporting a military uniform (albeit with flowery flip flops, which are prohibited in the regulations). It is Sheila's and other people's enthusiasm for and active participation in supporting Girls With Wings that has made everything we have accomplished possible. Our intent for this and other future Girls With Wings clubs is that members seek out more opportunities to increase awareness of our organization by presenting to girls' groups, as well as to gather new and existing aviation enthusiasts to encourage networking and support for each others' goals and dreams.

The best part of having the event where we did was that after the presentations the Rhinebeck Aerodrome show started. The weekend air shows are scheduled from mid-June through mid-October. On these weekends (weather permitting), the Aerodrome turns back the hands of time and relives the years of early aviation. The colorful era of early aviation is brought back to life amidst the roar of rotary engines and is great entertainment for all ages.

The Saturday Show, which was unfortunately canceled due to rain and a very muddy landing strip, would have chronicled the History of Flight with Pioneer, World War I and Lindbergh era aircraft taking to the skies. If the winds were calm we'd have even seen a1909 Bleriot (the oldest flying aircraft in the United States) take to the air. The Sunday Show featured a World War I dogfight plus Barnstorming Aircraft. Not only is this an incredible visual experience, but the sounds and smells of these antiques are unlike any you'll see at other airshows.

We have been invited back in future years to conduct more Girls With Wings presentations and due to the incredible support from the Aerodrome we certainly intend to! It is a wonderfully central location for the northeastern US and the contributions we received from the entire staff of the Aerodrome was amazing. Keep an eye on the NY Club page to see all of the great things this group of volunteers can accomplish. And please help spread the news about Girls With Wings to your local aviation and educational groups. We have undertaken a task that requires participation on all levels: women to do the presentations, groups to schedule them, donors to provide funding, and volunteers to help with the many administrative requirements. Send an email to if you would like to help.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

It's The Climb

Today I am going to draw some connections between running and being a pilot. Stick with me, there is a method to my madness!

First, you should know that I've had a long spell of not working out. I haven't adjusted my eating habits, however, and I have instructed my drycleaners to use low heat on my uniform pants so they'll stop shrinking. Of course I know the tight pants are not my drycleaner's fault. It's my fault. Instead of perhaps just cutting down on working out while I've been so busy with the Girls With Wings training event to form the NY GWW Club, I went cold turkey. And now I am paying the price of trying to get back into shape and drop a couple of pounds.

And so this is like the recurring battle we pilots wage with our proficiency evaluations (yes, we are OFTEN tested on whether we are safe. Plus the FAA is always watching, as is the media, should we do something wrong). Now, we could incrementally study throughout the year, so that our semi annual evaluations were a lot easier. But no... the vast majority of us wait until the last minute to cram study time in before we go to the simulator. And so it is with my company's new SOP (Standard Operating Procedures). I have looked over it a couple of times, but have clearly not committed it to memory yet. I am flying this week with a check airman (an individual designated by an airline to ensure standardization between all of the pilots). The check airman has been using the new calls, like "Flaps Zero" instead of the old "Flaps Up" call. The idea with these SOPs is that every pilot in the company can be counted on to use the same call outs and procedures in every case, so there are no surprises or confusion when flying with a new pilot within the same company. That's the idea, anyway, but the adage about old dogs and new tricks lives on. Well, I've been getting *most* of the calls right, but I certainly could be doing better, and must do better by the time my recurrent training comes around in November. There's enough to stress about during a checkride to not also have to worry about "zero" v. "up." I should spend a couple of hours a week reviewing the "everything we need to know to be a pilot" and warming up instead of trying to run the marathon cold during training. (I take some comfort in the fact the check airman has slipped a couple of times, too. Old habits are hard to break.)

So the next analogy to be drawn is the route I decided to take today for a run. I looked really quickly at and, eureka, there was a 5mi route leading right from the Hampton hotel where I'm staying! I glanced at the road names and went by the front desk to get pointed in the right direction. Unfortunately, this was a bit frustrating as the clerk had no idea. No clue even where this "Lake Washington" was that I intended to run around. So, what the heck, I had three hours before I needed to the leave for the airport. I'll "wing" it.

[Analogy: I could have gone back up to my room to study the online map a little bit better and I chose not to, so I had to live with the consequences of my being unprepared. I get a lot of emails via Girls With Wings asking for advice on civilian v. military training options, or working your way through training v. taking out a huge loan for lessons, etc. If you do only so much research and then take a huge plunge, you might miss out on a lot of collected knowledge from those who have gone before and waste time and money. My running route was winding, not too scenic, and I spent a lot of time worrying about whether I was going to find my way to my intended destination. However, I'm not too afraid to ask for help, and people out walking the same streets are able to assure me I am heading in the right direction. Likewise, there is a message board forum on GWW and we just had a future helicopter pilot ask for some tips. She has done some research, which is a good start. Obviously eventually you must commit to a decision. Just don't do it with too few facts. Or, like me, end up nearly breaking an ankle avoiding discarded sofa cushions while choking on car exhaust (clearly this region didn't get the word on the whole "cash for clunkers" thing.) Do I regret my run, which I give a C-? Nah, but I would have rather had a grade A run!]

So I came out of the hotel and looked for the "least bad" option of where to run. Busy four lane roads in every direction, with scant shoulder room for pedestrians. I picked the direction I thought was best and ended up picking my way through weeds and trash on the side of the road before long anyway. But I saw a sign designating the town of Newburgh ahead, and sure enough, I soon got sidewalks. Well, at least they HAD been sidewalks, years ago. Anyway, the town of Newburgh is on the banks of the Hudson River, and I was running downhill, toward the river valley. It felt pretty good having gravity working in my favor. But it of course occurred to me that what came down must come up, and I was already dreading the return leg.

So I was trying to psyche myself up for it. I mean, really, given the shape I'm in, I already hurt, right? So what's a little more "hurt?" I'll just chug along back up the hill, maybe a little slower, but I can do it! [I think I can, I think I can...] So of all the coincidences, the Miley Cyrus song, "The Climb" came on my portable MP3 player (it has a radio too). There are some great lyrics in here. For example, "Ain't about how fast I get there, Ain't about what's waiting on the other side, It's the climb."

[Analogy #2: Being a pilot is a constant challenge. From flight to flight, there are serious implications found in failure, right? There are degrees of failure, of course. Catastrophic, obviously, but we pilots are constantly grading our landings. There are "greasers" but most landings are, shall we say, "controlled crashes." A big theme in a lot of emails, posts, tweets, etc., from newer pilots is that they are having trouble getting their landings down. Well, an honest old salt pilot will tell you that he or she never gets those landings "down." They should always be a thought process involved throughout this phase of flight (Don't believe me? Watch this video of TWO pilots ignoring the "Gear Up" warning horn and landing on the airplane's belly). That time that you take your mind off your landing, it WILL bite you. In a demonstration of exactly how good those landing gear struts are. And then you get to limp to the gate or parking spot feeling like your passengers are glaring at the back of your head for fooling that examiner into thinking you deserved a pilot's license. And in the middle of that range, there are those challenging weather days, busy airports, checkrides (whether for your semi annual proficiency, a new airplane, a faster airplane, more complex airplane, a new job, etc.) and other tests of your skills, that keeps you moving along on your path of being a pilot. What makes being a pilot most rewarding is how difficult it is. Miley: "Always going to be an uphill battle, Sometimes I'm going to have to lose" There will be checkride failures and frustrations. Bad landings and maintenance failures. If everyone could do it, or do it with little practice, training, knowledge or skill, what would be the point in it? It would never justify the price, that's for sure! ]

So I'm running around heaven only knows where, but I have a good enough sense of direction to know generally which way to go. Sometimes it's nice not to know EXACTLY where I'm going. Because I would never set out intentionally to run a long hilly twisting route (I could have easily talked myself out of this one), but sometimes I get lost and push myself than intended (hopefully not the days where I have to be to the airport at a certain time for a flight). And then surprise myself by what distances I am capable of (mostly because I am so stubborn I just REFUSE to quit). So I was thinking of a Facebook friend, Sarah, who posted that "so they say I'm ready to solo the Warrior here. I say they're out of their minds." I was thinking she needed some advice dispensed by Hannah Montana (if you tell anyone I suggested this, I'll totally deny it). The intro of the song says, "I can almost see it, That dream I'm dreaming, But there's a voice inside my head saying, You'll never reach it." If people told you how stressful it was to be a pilot, how checkride-itis could turn your stomach into knots, how a personality conflict with a flight instructor could set you back hundreds of dollars worth of flight lessons, that a grouchy controller can give you such a hard time after missing a readback, and other setbacks or stumbles, would you still do it? No, but these are such minor bumps in the big scheme of things.

Sarah, like of all us, needs to take that first step on the climb. Like the soccer players on the airplane that crashed in the Andes, if you would have told them they were going to traverse a mountain range, they probably would have given up before they ever even tried. Did you see this movie? There's a scene where they struggle up the side of the mountain, and their expectation, and the viewers', is that the view they'll see from the top is salvation on the other side. But it's not. It's more mountains, as far as the eye can see. But it's a pretty great view and a great accomplishment to get to the top of even one mountain. Now Sarah doesn't have the pressure of her compatriots living off of the remains of those who didn't survive the crash to keep her climbing. If she wants to stop at her solo, that would be a great success in and of itself. Enjoy the view! But know that to continue with new and wondrous views (as I have sitting inside the cockpit - as I always say, "small office, great view), use the first achievement to bolster the next. It doesn't make that next checkride any easier, but knowing you have flown an airplane. All. By. Yourself. should help propel you on to the next step, no?

Full lyrics to the song at

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Post Oshkosh Recap

Not surprisingly, I've taken a while to post some Post-Oshkosh information. This week-long show, always at the end of July, is a crazy undertaking for Girls With Wings and the post-show recovery always takes a while. On top of that, I have also been preparing for our Girls With Wings training session at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome this weekend.

Our booth at Oshkosh has two purposes (at least). It's an opportunity for us to spread the word about the mission of Girls With Wings to the crowds attending the airshow. As you can see in this photo to the right, Girls With Wings is connecting the generations; the past and the future of aviation. I am not applying first aid to the arm of Bee Haydu, an amazing woman and former WASP pilot I met on the AirRace Classic, but applying a Girls With Wings tattoo. Observing intently is one of the many young, female attendees of the airshow that are so happy to see a space just for them (For my critics out there, the whole REST of the show is "Boys With Wings!").

Our undersized little booth (we really need a double booth but can't yet justify the additional expense), is a gathering place for our many supporters and friends. It also attracts new recruits all the time who say GWW is JUST what they've been looking for! It's a wonderful way for us to make new contacts and get more volunteers. At the end of every show I am completely exhausted, yet can't wait til next year.

From the EAA website:

Comment from EAA president Tom Poberezny: “I had high expectations for AirVenture 2009, but even those expectations were exceeded. After each event, you like to say it was the best ever, but you can’t do that every year. But I’m going to say it this year – AirVenture 2009 was the best ever. It’s difficult to imagine a week that matched the highlights, enthusiasm, and passion for aviation that we saw this year at Oshkosh.”

Attendance: 578,000 – An increase of 12 percent over 2008.
Great numbers, huh? But we are located inside Hangar A in booth 1006 and I daresay quite a few people didn't ever make it into the hangars, except of course, when it rained (which it often did this year). In fact, I estimate that I only gave away a couple thousand brochures. So there's a big portion of this audience we still didn't reach. Helping us to reach more of an audience is plugs like this on Aero News Network, which was recorded at our booth at the February's Women in Aviation Conference. Click to watch this great interview.

However, it is so great to see people making a special trip to the booth every year.
A special treat is seeing those people who bring their kids back in their "Yes, Girls Can Fly!" t-shirt that they bought last year but is getting a bit too small. I also get to see in person the people who I have met on Twitter and Facebook or those folks that have been involved with Girls With Wings website from the start, but only in cyberspace. Or those folks I have known for a while and are looking for a chance to catch up. Unfortunately, the booth is too often mobbed by visitors and those buying Girls With Wings merchandise to take home with them for me to be able to chat. I am so bummed when I can't chat more - my sincere apologies to those who came by and felt neglected.

The Girls With Wings items that we sell in the booth and online help us to raise funds for the educational outreach program. The vast majority of funds are raised in a week at Oshkosh and must cover a year's worth of activities! So every year I spend a couple of months looking at what I sold last year (almost everything is also on the Girls With Wings online store) and reorder in the quantities that I think I'll be able to sell. However, it seems like every year something is more popular than last year. For example, the "Yes, Girls Can Fly!" tee in Lime was the big seller. Last year, it was turquoise. The "It's not how tall you are, it's how high you fly" tee sold out in the smaller sizes, so I ordered twice what I had last year, and they still all sold out! One might look at how busy the booth is and think we are really raking in the funds, but running an organization (especially a volunteer one) doesn't come cheap, and I can guarantee you that we need everyone's year round support.

I also get requests for different colors, specific airplanes, long sleeves, tall size
s, sleeveless, different materials, etc. So even though I try to make everyone happy, stocking a lot of variety and loading up a trailer with a ton of merchandise, I just haven't been able to please everyone. *Sigh* Every year there are a couple of folks who balk at the prices of the merchandise. I can assure you that I have a very small "profit" margin (or rather return on my investment) on selling these inspirational and motivational items. Far more people exclaim how reasonable the prices are, and are so pleased that their purchase is helping a good cause.

So, the booth helps us to get the word out and raise money for our mission. It also helps us to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. But none of this would be possible without the support of many people.

So in chronological order, the following people deserve a huge thank you for their help in the booth over the course of the week:

Erika, an honorary Girl With Wings, who, at only 15 years of age, probably could have run the booth by herself after being there only 15 minutes.

Jodi, a Flight Instructor and Flight School Manager that was one of the original GWW supporters,

Chris, of the blog Lessons from the Cockpit,

Terry, who I met at the AirRace Classic (and who organizes the transcontinental women's air race) and who's been doing me favors ever since (like flying me home from the AirRace Classic!),

Amy, who brought along her boyfriend Rich, who has been so kind to give advice on GWW issues,

Joyce and her daughter Alisa, who also agreed to be the depot station for extra brochures I had sent after the show started.

Laurence, a Girls With Wings Role Model, originally from France,

a Girls With Wings Role Model, and leader of the MN GWW Club, who brought along friend Ryan,

p.s. in case you haven't noticed, quite a few guys support the GWW mission. They also have a great time applying those GWW tattoos!

Jo, aviation photographer extraordinaire, Brit, and fellow twitterer I first met at Sun n Fun,

p.p.s. our GWW support is international!

Juliana, a fellow AirRace classic participant and student at Purdue University,

Mary, who I met at my first 99s international conference and keep running into every so often, like at the AirRace (well, not literally "running into") and a former Air Traffic Controller,

Eric, Citation Shares pilot and EAA Radio Host, kind enough to record an interview of me talking about Girls With Wings (link to be posted later),

Robin, coincidentally a fellow Lakewoodite, though I only seem to meet up with her 500 miles away in Wisconsin,

Cheryl, and her friend, Lisa, two very helpful women pilots up from Des Moines, IA,

and Gretchen, my Mama Bird during the AirRace classic and quite an impressive executive within the aviation industry.

Last but not least, I must again thank my dad, without whom Girls With Wings would have never gotten "off the ground." He has been a tremendous sounding board, advice giver and hard worker. He was there from the beginning, literally and figuratively, as it was his reflection that he regretted not pursuing many endeavors over the years that launched my jump into pursuing my dream of the Girls With Wings organization. Literally, because he shows up at Oshkosh every year to help me set up and is with me until tear down. In fact, he and I were very nearly the last souls on Camp Scholler as we pulled out of there with my trailer full of displays and unsold merchandise (all those turquoise t-shirts, darnit!) and he with a camper he borrowed from his friend Doug (so another thank you to Doug!) to keep us dry during those inevitable rainshowers.

Thank you everyone for your support! I'll see some of you this weekend in Rhinebeck, NY, perhaps some more of you at the AOPA Summit in November. In the interim, I'll be plugging away at all of the behind the scenes work of Girls With Wings, reviewing our Scholarship applications, and scheduling more presentations teaching girls "everything" we pilots need to know to take to the skies!

Hangar Talk

Several of my twitter friends have made mention of the fading tradition of "hangar talk." Hangar talk is, as best as I can describe, an activity enjoyed by pilots just hanging out at the airport wherever they can plop a chair, drink coffee and share "there I was" stories to meet folks, build camaraderie, learn from each others' experiences, pick up "right seat" time, etc. Unfortunately, it seems to be a dying art. In a podcast that @DaveFlys and @PilotWill and I did last April at Sun n Fun, we discuss how hangar talk seem to be fading (as in aging?). Do people not have time to hang out in person any more? Do awesome online social networking sites, like www.MyTransponder, replace that need? Are we so strapped for time these days that "hanging out" is a luxury we can't afford?

Many in the aviation community would argue that it is a necessary "expense" for a couple of reasons. One, like a twitter friend has mentioned a couple of times, he is interested in taking up flying lessons at a nearby airport and so goes to visit for more information. Walking into the facilities there, he was met with apathy, if not annoyance. Not very encouraging to our future pilots. Are we pilots so competitive that welcoming another into our fold jeopardizes what we have worked so hard for? Or, again, are we just to busy to take the time to talk with someone who interrupts the flow of what we're trying to get done? The goofy picture to the right portrays the tradition of having the back of your shirt cut off and displayed in the flight school with the date you solo. It celebrates how sweaty you can get flying an airplane alone for the first time!

Second, hangar talk is educational. When you share a "there I was" story with other pilots, you are relaying a possibly hairy story that you learned a lesson from. Or bragging, like this scene from the movie Top Gun:
Maverick: Well, we...
Goose: Thank you.
Maverick: Started up on a 6, when he pulled from the clouds, and then I moved in above him.
Charlie: Well, if you were directly above him, how could you see him?
Maverick: Because I was inverted.
Iceman: [coughs whilst saying] [Baloney].
Goose: No, he was man. It was a really great move. He was inverted.
Charlie: You were in a 4g inverted dive with a MiG28?
Maverick: Yes, ma'am.
Charlie: At what range?
Maverick: Um, about two meters.
Goose: It was actually about one and a half I think. It was one and a half. I've got a great Polaroid of it, and he's right there, must be one and a half.
Maverick: Was a nice picture.
Goose: Thanks.
Charlie: Eh, lieutenant, what were you doing there?
Goose: Communicating.
Maverick: Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. You know, giving him the bird!
Goose: [Charlie looks puzzled, so Goose clarifies] You know, the finger
Charlie: Yes, I know the finger, Goose.
Goose: I-I'm sorry, I hate it when it does that, I'm sorry. Excuse me.

Ok, I'm not suggested you go formation flying with a MiG, but you get the point. Pilots may share stories of how a maintenance problem led to a larger, more expensive repair, or a trick to deal with a confusing nearby section of airspace, thereby helping fellow pilots who may have experienced the same troubles.

In the type of flying I do my "hanging out" time is usually done in a fancy FBO with a widescreen TV and recliners. Most conversation is made impossible by the loudness of the football game on the tube. I don't usually spend much time in the General Aviation hangars. General aviation covers a huge range of activities, both commercial and non-commercial, including private flying, flight training, air ambulance, police aircraft, aerial firefighting, air charter, bush flying, gliding, and many others. Experimental aircraft, light-sport aircraft and very light jet have emerged in recent years as new trends in general aviation. I don't do any of these very often, if at all.

I did have one very memorable opportunity to participate in hangar flying, though, and I was reminded of it when I saw this piece in an email newsletter from AOPA:

The personal library of renowned flight instructor and author William K. Kershner will be donated to the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame Kershner, who died in January 2007, wrote and illustrated a series of five highly regarded flight manuals. The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual, first published in 1959, sold more than 1 million copies. He was a frequent contributor to AOPA Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines. He was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002 and has been nominated for induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

I had actually met Bill Kershner back in 1998, at the Winchester Airport in Tennessee. The story was that I was relocating back to the US after being stationed in Germany with the Army for 3 1/2 years. I took a very long convoluted route to my next duty station at Fort Huachuca, AZ, and included in there a stop to visit my grandparents in Decherd, TN. I was able to get some Army National Guard buddies that had been activated for operations in Kosovo and attached to my unit, to plan a training flight via this airport on their way up farther north to where my parents lived.

So I ended up spending some time just hanging out at this little airport and talking with the locals waiting for them to arrive. Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of them, this unassuming man pictured above, was Bill Kershner. Of course I had heard of him, and he was truly flattered when I said so. He even autographed one of his books to give to me. But the best part of this recollection, I must say, is what happened when the C-12 finally landed to take me on to the next stop.

At the airport that day it was just me and my grandpa, accompanied by my aunt, watching the C-12 land on the runway and observed by the local hangar talkers gathering around to watch the Army King Air come in. My grandpa had never made it past the 8th grade and he was so proud of my graduating from college and then getting my wings pinned on as an officer in the military. Every time I visited the tiny town of Decherd, population 2,246, I was able to meet people that knew exactly who I was, from my Grandpa talking about me and my current adventures. I had even been featured in the local paper there. Luckily he didn't have time to call the local media to see me off in a military aircraft.

A little background on military protocol: As a Captain, I outranked the two other pilots who were Warrant Officers. Junior members of the military are required to render a salute when within 6 paces upon recognition of a senior officer. That's the book answer. Reality was that I was a. not in uniform though they were. Technically, since they still recognized me and knew my rank, that shouldn't matter. b. Warrant Officers, who I truly have great respect for, are known for their technical expertise but not so much for their adherence to military pomp and circumstance. c. We were out in the middle of nowhere. d. The two pilots, though not quite old enough to be my father's age, might be understandably embarrassed by admitting their relative rank to a young woman in front of a crowd of gritty old timers.

So imagine my surprise when the two pilots shut down the airplane and started walking toward the hangar and when within the proper distance of me, presented me with two perfect salutes to return. Seems like such a minor deal, but I can assure you, at my grandpa's funeral only a few months later, there were many, many people that approached me to tell me that all my grandfather had talked about since was how proud being able to see that interaction had made him feel. I hope the two pilots, who I unfortunately did not stay in touch with, realized how much of an impact their actions had on my grandpa, me, and to a lesser extent, everyone else there at the airport that day.

I have quoted a friend many times his observation that being in aviation is like having an instant circle of friends. I relay many occasions of fellow pilots I barely know going way out of their way to help me with just about anything I need. This has not changed in my 16 years of being a pilot, and I hope it continues, even if the hangar talk aspect of our aviation community seems to be becoming a thing of the past. To other pilots reading this, I hope you have similar stories. To prospective pilots, I hope this encourages you to delve a little deeper into the activities of your local airport until they warm up to you. To you ground pounders, you should be a little jealous. Come join the circle of friends!

Friday, July 24, 2009


If you are not a pilot, but get my tweets and my facebook posts, you've seen me referring often to Oshkosh. Non-pilots usually follow this with, "B'gosh." Oshkosh B'gosh is a children's clothing company. Oshkosh, as it is generally known, is officially EAA AirVenture, which takes place in Oshkosh, WI, every year. Oshkosh is the location of the EAA (or Experimental Aircraft Association) Museum.

From the Oshkosh Convention and Visitor's Bureau: Set your sights on the Air Adventure Museum and travel in to the fascinating world of flight! There's something for every age and interest. Barnstormers. Fighter pilots. "Aces." World record setters. And airplanes that capture aviation's exciting and colorful history. Plus five theaters, photo and art galleries, unique gift shops, audiovisual presentations and more! Nearly 100 rare, unusual and significant airplanes. Named by the state of Wisconsin as a "Wisconsin Treasure."

But this once a year, "World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," which happens the last week of July, is a sight that has to be seen to be believed. "The first gathering was in September 1953 as a small part of the Milwaukee (Wis.) Air Pageant. That original EAA fly-in at Wright-Curtiss (now Timmerman) Field was attended by a handful of airplanes, mostly homebuilt and modified aircraft. Fewer than 150 people registered as visitors. The larger Milwaukee Air Pageant has faded away but the EAA gathering has become the world's premier aviation event." Read how it moved to Oshkosh here. (The text is from these pages.)

"Through the 1970s and '80s, the Convention exploded into national prominence. Attendance jumped into six figures each year and the event became one of sport aviation's top gatherings. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (as of 1998, the new name for the Fly-In Convention) now serves as one of the world's premier aviation events, attracting top government officials, corporate leaders and hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts. It spans the entire spectrum of aviation and attracts 10,000 airplanes each year. The more than 500,000 aviation enthusiasts who attend the event annually supply the local and state economies with more than a $110-million boost during the week-long event."

"Today, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an international gathering place for aviation enthusiasts. An AirVenture participant can study the latest aircraft and innovations; discover new ideas and techniques from the nearly 1,000 forums and workshops; see aviation's top personalities; or just talk airplanes with people from around the world. EAA AIRVENTURE OSHKOSH has become important and influential but retains its friendly and personal feel - part of the reason the world comes to Oshkosh every year."

This will be my fourth year at Oshkosh having a Girls With Wings booth to do fundraising for our educational programs and scholarship. It is a busy week, and I would like to say I have all the bugs worked out, but... not hardly. To the left is the 2nd year, where I had all kinds of racks - I know now just to have bins of tees clearly separated by size so that people can find what they need. If not, a lot of the time we could be spending talking to people (everyone has a great story to share) is spent digging around knee deep in "Yes, Girls Can Fly!" Tees. It's still crowded in the booth, but real estate at Osh doesn't come cheap and the price of a double booth is cost prohibitive.

This was also the year that I tried something novel, and had the volunteer workers wearing pilot shirts with epaulets like our mascot, Penelope. It was bad enough that people visiting the booth acted so surprised when women at the GWW booth were actually pilots (many of my friends fly commercially even, so it was fun watching jaws drop when I pointed out that "she flies the Airbus, she flies the 717," etc.), but with the "costume" people treated us like Bud Light Beer Girls! So we're back to just regular shorts and tee shirts. Because, of course, it is hot in Wisconsin in July. In the hangar we at least get some release from the sun, but it can get rather stuffy.

The booth is open from 9-5 monday thru sunday, and I rely on the generosity of volunteers to help me, and my dad - the greatest GWW supporter I know, handle the traffic. I am always exhausted after the week; camping at Camp Scholler in Oshkosh is fun, but not the most restorative sleep. I am really looking forward to a new feature this year, too. All of the aviation nuts, and now friends, that I have made via twitter (I met some of them at Sun n Fun). I would try to list them all, but I might miss one and inadvertently hurt feelings. You KNOW who you are! And if you haven't been to Oshkosh, you really must go, at least once in your lifetime (if "once" is possible). I look forward to it every year. It. Is. Amazing.

And, now, I must shut down the computer and take a shower, finish loading up the car (the trailer's been loaded for days) and hit the road. I have a long drive ahead of me and it is supposed to rain the whole way from Cleveland to Oshkosh. If YOU are going to be at Oshkosh, please stop by Hangar A, Booth 1006 and buy a tee to help support Girls With Wings. Or stick around for a while and hand out brochures and put temporary tattoos on the girls (of all ages, BTW, I got them for the little girls, but the "big" girls like 'em too!). We can use your help!

Ta Ta for now,