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