Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Arty arrives at Sun n Fun!

I just have to post about Arty's Ultimate Adventure, even though it is before 5am and I am supposed to be getting ready for my flight to Sun n Fun, an enormous annual airshow in Lakeland, FL. I am so psyched to go, since it is my first time at this fly-in. I've gone to Oshkosh many years in a row, but I always have a booth for Girls With Wings and rarely get out to meet people and enjoy the airshow! So,I have my tent and sleeping bag already in my pack, just wrapping up a few loose ends around the house. I will be camping under the wing of Arty's Ultralight, and I can't wait to finally meet her! "Wait," you're thinking, "Camping under the wing of a what?" Let me explain...

Arty is a Girl With Wings who got in touch with me a few months ago to show her support for our mission, to inspire girls with aviation. She also mentioned casually that she would be taking a cross country flight from her home in Oregon to Florida for the Sun n Fun Fly-in starting at the end of March and taking approximately SEVEN weeks. If you draw a line between these two states by the way, you're going over the highest elevations of the Rockies, which is not recommended if you're flying a modified ultralight like Arty. This is an open aircraft - no pressurization and no protection from the elements. So she has to go straight south and then veer east, making the round trip about 7500 mi. From Arty's website:

For those of you who aren't familiar with ultralights, my 1984 Maxair Drifter* is sometimes referred to as an irrigation pipe with a plastic seat, wings and an engine. And that pretty much describes it. It weighs 320 lbs. empty, and is powered by a Rotax 503 snowmobile-type engine. I can be in the air for about 2.5 hrs. before I need to land and refuel. How many miles I can cover in that amount of time is completely dependent on the weather. I cruise at about 55-60 miles per hour – if there's no wind. With a strong headwind my speed can drop as low as 25-30 mph!
*(Technically, her Drifter is an ultralight-type registered Experimental Light Sport Aircraft.)

She said she had hoped to publicize the GWW mission by getting women and girls out to meet her along her route which would help with the Penelope Pilot Project, getting more girls to take an active interest in aviation. This is truly an endeavor with which to inspire anyone and everyone! I have been reading her daily blog with amazement, jealousy and pride. I freely admit to being a chicken, like during those loops and rolls discussed in the last blog entry. Could you imagine sitting in a "chair," being able to look right past your feet, straight down a mile or more? Ok, so you could be looking at the mesas in the southwest US, or the lush landscape in the southeast, but still...

I won't give away all of the trials and tribulations of her flight thus far, you'll have to read her blog for yourself. But I'm happy to report that Arty has arrived at Sun n Fun and has received so much moral and logistic support thus far, mostly from the LSA (Light Sport Aircraft)/Ultralight community. She has received positive press along the way, and has been sponsored by AOPA's Let's Go Flying project. I especially love that there are classrooms across the country following her flight and turning it into an educational experience. Doesn't this picture of kids wearing their aviation gear and displaying a "Hi Arty" banner just warm your heart? This is what being an aviation enthusiast is all about! As Arty proclaims:

I KNOW that we all can achieve our dreams, even if others tell us it's impossible. As a 65 year old woman, I've been told throughout my life that certain goals weren't possible for me, due to my gender—and later, due to my age. I've listened, and continued on with my plans. With determination, perseverance, and preparation, I know we can spread our wings and fly higher and further than we ever thought possible.

I'd say she is achieving her dream! If you're going to Sun n Fun, please come by the Ultralight campground and say hi. Please follow her blog and her up to the minute route map back home after the Sun n Fun event (Apr 21-26). And although Arty would have done this trip anyway, she would LOVE, more than anything (you would know this if you talked with her), to meet people at every stop on her trip back to Oregon and to spread her message to schools and youth groups, to women of every age, and to the general public via tv, newspapers and other media.

Although Arty is blogging every day, email is a bit more difficult. You can post feedback to her blog with any suggestions, requests and offers of help. And, sorry to tell you: this is a one seat aircraft, so no hitching rides!

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