Sunday, February 28, 2010

Road Trip to WAI Conference

A picture of the Girls With Wings traveling road show....

Pretty impressive, isn't it? An 11 year old car which was badly vandalized (can you see the gouges I can't afford to fix on the hood and down the side where someone took a screwdriver or other tool to the paint? Grr.) towing a simple little trailer filled with marketing materials and items sold to raise funds for the Girls With Wings organization. And no, I have not learned to skillfully back up with a trailer. I usually unhook it and push it to where I need it to be. I am a whiz at many things, but I have my limitations.

I had to bring this up because I want people to know that GWW really is really a philanthropic organization with a limited budget and huge goals! So when I can't negotiate on t-shirt prices or donate money in response to a request that is why. My top priorities are our outreach programs and scholarship funds, so a fancy rig is going to have to wait.

So despite the cross country drive (North to South, that is), I just have to attend the Women in Aviation conference every year, and this was in Orlando, FL. To save on my expenses (I made the mistake ONCE of using the logistics company to ship my supplies - which were lost, damaged and cost me a small fortune), I decided to road trip it down from Cleveland. This 21st Annual WAI conference is my 5th having a booth for Girls With Wings. I LOVE going to aviation conferences and attending WAI is a no brainer for a trip. This is where I find the women in aviation who act as role models to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. If that sounds like it'd be a good mission statement for GWW, it's because it is!

It is always such a charge to talk to people about GWW; either people have heard about us and are so excited to meet us in person, or they’ve purchased something from the store and just love telling a story about a reaction they got from someone, or they HAVEN’T heard of us and are so enthusiastic about their support for our mission. Whatever the interaction, it’s usually overwhelming positive. [I had only had one negative experience and that is when a woman came to the booth and demanded to be able to buy a pink lanyard. When I couldn’t produce one, she was mad. No kidding.]

I have a wonderful group of people helping me out again this year. Lindsey, the head of the Minnesota Club of Girls With Wings is here all weekend and helped to present our seminar “Attracting Kids to Aviation” in conjunction with Youth Aviation Adventure. We had a GREAT showing for this presentation, which just goes to show there is so much interest in people spreading a passion for aviation. Thanks to Steve and Dan for suggesting and coordinating the presentation. Their "seminar in a box" allows folks to put on an airport day for kids with tips and techniques for the smallest effort and the greatest success. It was insightful to compare and contrast our programs to give people ideas on how to start their own outreach program.

Also helping with the booth was Mikel, a tweeple I found via Twitter and also assisted me with the AOPA conference last year because she lives in Tampa. Sometimes I bring the whole kit and caboodle to a show; sometimes, I mail about five boxes to someone in the area and I set up a pretty sparse display. It works, but it’s not as fancy. If I do bring the trailer (like to Oshkosh) I unload the trailer with a handy dolly that turns into a cart. There’s no avoiding this step. I so envy organizations that show up the morning of an event because they have slick collapsible stands or their company can afford to have the logistics people for these events set it up for them. Some day.

Last year I mailed stuff to and from WAI with the help of a friend Sara. She helped with AOPA as well and now I just can’t keep her away from the booths! I used to fly with her husband at Flight Options and both are so supportive of GWW. As a pilot herself she really gets behind the mission. From left to right, Lindsey, Penelope, me, and Sara.

Amy, the 2008 Scholarship winner, was there with her Dowling College buddies and spent
some time in the booth, as did Brenda, the 2007 scholarship winner. What a great opportunity to meet up with these great girls again. It’s sad when people who applied and didn’t win stop by, but they assure me there’s no hard feelings. I would LOVE to give everyone who applied a scholarship, but we need to sell a heck of a lot more t-shirts for that. And get donations and sponsorships, which is all why we attend these shows to make contacts and get everyone’s support.

It was an invigorating show and I'd like to thank all that stopped by. Please visit the website and/or make comments to the blog with your thoughts. Remember, the GWW merchandise line offers clothing and other items for girls of all ages; the rarely found aircraft themed items designed to let everyone know “Yes, Girls Can Fly!” While some may view one of our products as just a t-shirt, we believe that it is in fact a statement about the potential of girls to be intimately connected with Aviation (and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics based fields) from the time they are born. We call this STEAM instead of STEM. In order for us to go Full STEAM Ahead, all profits from the aforementioned merchandise are invested in developments to our educational program and scholarships.

Monday, February 22, 2010

FAA Writtens

Hello, all, and sorry for the delay in the post... I've had quite a few people ask me how I did on my FOI written and I said I would post about it. Unfortunately, I took the test on a Wednesday morning (also pitching my resume to the flight school owner, btw) and had to prepare for for the Great Lakes Aviation Conference in Novi, MI. [Special thanks to Pam and Carol for helping with the booth!]. So I didn't post on Thursday before I left.

Unfortunately, on my way out of my house at 6am (I was awaiting sunrise), I went flying -pun intended- down four concrete stairs because of melted snow that had frozen overnight, landing on my left shin with a second point of contact: my face. I seriously considered getting my leg x-rayed to see if I had broken it. Such pain. I am happy to report no broken teeth or split lips.

Luckily it stopped hurting enough for me to be able to stand in the booth for the next couple of days. It didn't help the healing though, and so I am trying to keep it elevated while trying to get caught up with packing for the Women in Aviation Conference today (you can guess how well that's going). I would take a picture of the fireworks display that has erupted on my lower leg, but I will spare those of you with weak stomachs. Tomorrow I begin the 16 some hour drive to FL. Just so I can enjoy the warmer weather longer....

So, about my test. Let me just say that in the interest of time, I prepared for the FOI written by using and continuously taking the practice exam over and over again. I had hoped to get all of the writtens done by the end of February but that's clearly not going to happen. I scheduled the FOI written before I could think of an excuse to work on other things and put that off, too.

The actual test is done on a computer in a 'certified location' and is a pretty basic 1983 era looking fifty question test (unlike the 100 question test online). The problem with my doing the online test over and over again is that I had stopped actually reading the answers and had more memorized where the answer was (like the third position). In the actual test, there are the same answers but in different order, so I missed FOUR because I couldn't remember which was the true answer. *blush* Unfortunately, looking at the answers and using the intellect-based method of choosing the answer that makes most SENSE to you doesn't work in the FAA exam.

At least 92 well exceeds the passing minimum grade of 70. Before you even think it, I know: I'm going to have to go back and read the answers that I had just memorized so I will learn from the information in that test.

So in order to set up the test, I received a phone call from my instructor, Tony, telling me I needed to call someone else (not just the flight school) to schedule the exam. Apparently, this test is moderated by a company called Computer Assisted Training Service. The good news is that you can get $10 off for being an EAA member, but instead of being $75 for the test, it's $100! This is the kind of business I need to be in - since this averages $10/min for how long it took me to take the actual test.

I'll be honest, I am learning a lot of new things becoming involved in General Aviation. As we throw around all of the reasons that we think GA is a fading trend and why fewer people get into flying, perhaps we could ask ourselves why on top of all of the other expenses in learning to fly, why a simple computer based test should cost so much. I have three writtens I need to take before I begin my flight training at a total cost of $300! How long does it to take the average person to raise this kind of money? Could this not be a function of the FAA? Certainly they have IT folks over there, and they are responsible for maintaining the test results anyway. It's just one more outrageous cost involved in getting a pilot's license.

So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Or am I missing something?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hangar Flying Revisted

This weekend I got about as close to hangar flying as I've ever gotten in my sixteen years as a pilot. If you don't know what hangar flying is, I briefly talk about it here.

Basically, it provides pilots the opportunity to tell "there I was" stories. In the military flight school I think we were too traumatized to relive our experiences. As a military officer and pilot I had too many other duties to be able to sit around and gab. Then I guess we regional airline pilots sat around and told stories, but they were usually tales of woe relating how our bosses were abusing us. As I climbed the ladder of a professional pilot career, I became associated with pilots that didn't want to spend too much time admitting mistakes or ignorance.

So as I face my new life as a furloughed pilot I slide down the chute to the General Aviation ramp (this is not an insult to GA by any means but a clever analogy with which I can use the picture at right) and so I am learning so much from dealing with a new genre of pilots.

Saturday I went to a Civil Air Patrol meeting. CAP is is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported, nonprofit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force providing such services as Aerospace Education, Cadet Programs and Emergency Services, as well as my intended mission, Pilot Training and Services. The CAP unit I am joining has a Cessna 182 available for flying missions, such as search and rescue and cadet orientation flights.

After the standard meeting tasks, we spent quite a bit of time talking about a thorough pre-takeoff brief in order to be prepared for any contingency (or emergency). The message being if you brief specifics on the ground you will not have to make too many decisions in the air when you're short on runway, altitude and time. You may have to slightly modify your plan if conditions change, but that will be a minor consideration instead of holding a soup sandwich when you should be holding it together.

What was interesting to me was that the flight instructors in the room started offering their tips. Tips that if given during a busy lesson in the airplane might have been forgotten once on solid ground, but were well received and responded to by the other pilots. Folks in the group spoke up with thoughts such as "I've always wondered what would happen if I was trimmed for Vy but... (lost an engine, went full throttle, etc.)?"

The more experienced pilots in the room told them to take the opportunity to go practice these scenarios on their next training flight (albeit at a safe altitude!), so they would be prepared to react when something untoward did happen. For Real.

The reason we brief another pilot (if applicable) before takeoff is to ensure that in an emergency the other pilot isn't doing his own thing - like changing the configuration of the airplane at low altitude and airspeed. This could be fatal. Of course, we can all armchair quarterback such events and say, "we'd never do something so stupid," but such accidents happen repeatedly. According to this AOPA Air Safety Foundations report, takeoff accidents account for 20 percent of the total.
It’s logical that this would be a problem area because there is frequently little altitude or time to solve a problem or to maneuver. Regardless of whether it is a mechanical failure or pilot-induced, time, airspeed and altitude are all in short supply. In any event, it’s essential to have a contingency plan in the event of a power loss at a critical time.
So much as possible, we want our reaction to an emergency to be instinctive. If a pilot has seen the situation before, even just a simulation of the event, the correct response may come a split second earlier, preventing a fatal, uh, conclusion to the flight.

The discussion, btw, was supplemented with videos from The Finer Points of Flying website. One that I found particularly interesting was the "Impossible Turn." [#35] I think it finally hit me that I've been flying airplanes with two engines for so long I've grown to think as the second one being the "spare." An airplane will fly fine on one engine (won't climb as well, though, which is why we must consider our "one engine inoperative climb rates" especially at airports within mountainous terrain), so it's less of an "emergency" than in an airplane with one engine and no spare.

So, this impossible turn involves taking off from an airport, losing an engine, and executing a landing to the runway in the opposite direction (given due consideration to the winds). I've only heard of this happening once, and until it was mentioned here had completely forgotten about it. A Beech 1900 that took off from PIT, where I was based, had a cargo door come open in flight. Those pilots had the presence of mind to execute the turn and land immediately. Ok, totally different scenario, of course, but I'm pretty darn sure that contingency wasn't briefed before takeoff. Kudos to them for their cool heads!

Anyway, if a pilot truly believes it impossible to return to the runway in this manner after an engine failure, you could, as one pilot suggested, go to Google maps before a flight to an unfamiliar airport you can check the satellite view for suitable terrain for an off airport landing. See... I hadn't thought of that!

p.s. For those of you tracking my progression towards CFI, I am taking my FOI written tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Guest blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to get your message out to a lot of folks in an easier (and less "spammy" way) than sending out emails. I started this blog about "Life on the Road as a Pilot," but I'm less on the road as a pilot now than I am promoting Girls With Wings. Therefore, I am posting about whatever comes my way and I try to get a sense of what people are interested in by the comments they post.

Ok, I used the word "easier" when I talked about blogging, but truth is, it's not all that easy to keep up a blog. For me, anyway. As a reader of my blog you know that I start talking about one thing and digress into a little of my history with it, lessons learned, more resources, whatever, until it's a mile and a half long. With all I have to do with Girls With Wings, it's often a little hard to devote several hours to blogging. I do try though! The other alternative, which is what many bloggers do, is they post very brief entries more often. I just can't do that. Some say I talk too much....

So I've been asking around for contributions to the blog. If you think you have an idea for a blog entry, please let me know and we can bounce ideas off each other. The same way I did with Av8rdan, when he invited me to post an entry on his blog. It took me a while to get around to it (many apologies, Dan), but here it is:

This Girl With Wings Really Knows How to Ramp up the Excitement About Flying!

Enjoy. And I'll be back (eventually).

Wow, look! A brief post. I CAN do it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Playing "girl"

This weekend I traveled to Indianapolis to participate in "Just Girls... From Fashion to Rocket Science" for girls in grades 6 to 12. The weather put a real damper on the event (though it wasn't nearly as bad as what fell on the east coast). I know personally drove 7 hours because the snowstorm impeded my progress. And on Saturday morning, few people ventured out until the roads were completely clear which meant that many of the exhibitors and most families didn't show up. The girls who did attend spent the time just milling around the tables at the periphery of the room.

I did a couple of short 15 minute presentations to the crowd, but at my table I had a G1000 (Glass cockpit) poster to demonstrate to the girls a quick primer on what that "stuff" in the cockpit is for (usually I take an hour to present the whole Girls With Wings seminar).

I started out by just letting them look at the poster, at which most of them just shrugged. I asked them if this was too intimidating for them to figure it out. A few girls said that if given time they could probably come up with what everything was for (yea!), but most girls said they thought it would be too hard.

So I issued them a challenge. I said I was going to ask them ONE question, and if they got it right I would know that they had the aptitude to be a pilot.

I pointed out where the pilot would sit (on the left) and the screen she would be looking at. So, I asked, "Why would this screen be colored blue up here?" Most of the girls immediately said the sky, although a couple said the ocean - at that point I further pointed out the brown and led them along a little longer. But I was able to say to them, "See, you have the potential to get this stuff!"

Once they understood that represented the sky and ground, I pointed out the airplane indicator and said, "If each of those yellow lines represents a wing, what do you think your airplane would be doing if the left line was below the horizon (that was another learning point) and the other was above?" The majority of the girls got that the airplane would be turning with no other hints. Some of the girls needed a little more pushing. We then went on to briefly talk about the other instruments, I'm not kidding you, some of these girls must have been in an airplane before - they had NO problem figuring it all out with little assistance from me.

However, there were a couple of girls (more than I would have liked) that preferred to answer every question with a shrug or a giggle or just plain wouldn't even look at the poster to hazard a guess. These are the girls who I think could most benefit from the Girls With Wings presentation. We cannot teach our girls to be afraid to try or pretend that they can't figure things out! I had to coax them into feeling comfortable doing so in front of just lil ole me. No way they could have done this under any pressure or public observation.

The next morning I had cause to reflect on this further as I listened to NPR Sunday Puzzle show. Each week Liane Hansen moderates this short episode of word play games. A challenge is given out at the end of the last show and people mail in their answer. The winner then comes on the next week's show to participate in the on air quiz given by "Puzzle Master Will Shortz." Some of the quizzes get pretty difficult but Leann is usually able to contribute a hint to clue in each guest if not outright answer. This week:

Every answer today is a word used in football. Given three words, you give a word that can follow each to give a familiar two word phrase. The answer will always be a football term. For example, if the clue is "year, tag and dead," the answer would be "end."

Now, I don't know if I was paying more attention because I had just had the experience at the Girls Show or whether Leann was playing "dumb" because this was a sports oriented quiz, but one of the first questions was, "prison, national, rear." The contestant couldn't answer, so asked Leann for help. She says, "Alright, for someone who doesn't know much about football..." You could hear her begin with "is it G_," and then hesitate. Then she says, "...uh, Guard. No..." It was so obvious that she KNEW! Was she just trying to save the contestant's feelings? It was a guy, by the way. And at the end of the puzzle, she says sheepishly, "I know nothing about football." Isn't that perfectly ok that she doesn't (even though it was obvious she did)? She's clearly a genius and successful in so many other ways...

So what do you think? Why do we women and girls have to do this to ourselves?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Secret Agent Code

I'm so embarrassed. They say the way to make sure you get things done is to let the world know what you're trying to accomplish. The social pressure will force you to keep on it.

Well, I guess that's true, since I did revisit the CFI written this morning after a long stretch away from studying. I have gotten preoccupied with other things on my to do list and usually by the time I thought about studying I was too tired. I do not want to make a habit of this and draw out my training for my flight instructor ratings.

The good news is that the learning I had accomplished previously did not entirely leave me and I scored a 97. One of the questions I got wrong was:

To communicate effectively, an instructor must:

maintain a positive attitude while delivering their message.
recognize the level of comprehension

provide an atmosphere which encourages questioning

I thought it would be to recognize the level of comprehension. Which is wrong; hence the big red X. It was "to maintain a positive attitude." Huh? Yeah, that's important but I would think it would be to pay attention to whether the recipient was getting the message the instructor was sending. You've got to know your audience, like Jean, a Girls With Wings role model and Master CFI advised, "When I work with former airline types, they always try to flare 10 stories up. Pretty hard on the gear :-) "

I've heard that before, so I'm not actually starting completely from scratch. Though if I were, these photos I've attached would certainly make me more familiar with the parts of the airplane. This is a South African airline with a great sense of humor. Thanks, GWW Role Model Erin, for sending them to me.

Usually people become a flight instructor in the progression from student to private pilot after they get their instrument and commercial ratings. The traditional route is to "build time" here on the way to get an airline job. Some people remain flight instructors their whole lives, either because this is their dream job or it is something they do in addition to a career like a cargo, corporate or airline pilot. As I have mentioned before, I skipped this step going from the military to the airlines. I've been researching how I should best go about this new phase in my flying career. I actually asked Jean to give me some more advice as I transition to a professional airline pilot to a CFI, or certified flight instructor.

"As a long time CFI/II I have been asked to do many things but this current request from Lynda is quite unique. As many of us know she has been furloughed and finds herself in the same position as too many folks these days. The positive of being unemployed is that one has lots of time to train for a new position. Lynda has chosen to become a flight instructor way down here at the lowly level of the General Aviation Pilot. I think that this challenge for her would be like asking me to train someone as a Long Haul driver in a Mack truck. I know nothing about “over-the-road” driving and less about how to shift into 20 different gears in a 60’ semi.

Lynda finds herself going all the way back to the kindergarten of flight school. She will essentially be a “student pilot” in a training airplane. I remember my early days in a Cessna 150 in the right seat for the first time in the traffic pattern facing Santa Ana winds that required landings in the opposite direction from the normal traffic pattern. This was bad enough but combined with the turbulence and my less than patient older male instructor the lesson was abysmal. As I walked away from the debrief, I overheard Mr. Impatient tell the flight school owner, “she will never make it”. Well, this just fired me up and to make a long story short, I not only made it, I did it on my first try – which is rare – for the CFI rating. Well, I digress. This is not about me, but about how Lynda is going to accomplish her goal of becoming a CFI/II.

She has an excellent start by studying the Fundamentals Of Instruction, which can be challenging, but will make since once she starts “teaching” and applying the principles of the Fundamentals. My advice at this point, books, lots of books. A typical CFI library consists of but is not limited to: A Pilot Training Standard (PTS) for each rating, a current Airport Facility Directory (A/FD), current charts – both VFR and IFR. (I find the Government issue to be the most popular with students), current issue of an FAR/AIM, Flight Training Handbook, Instrument Training Handbook, and various Advisory Circulars as a start. Additionally, a syllabus for each rating is a must.

There are a few ways Lynda can enhance and shorten her training time. One example is to buddy-up with another CFI candidate and take the opportunity to join training flights. Once proficient with the Private and Commercial maneuvers Lynda can “borrow” a student or even a non-student-pilot friend who is willing to be a “guinea pig” and let her practice “teaching”.

Good luck Lynda, you are facing a very rewarding challenge."

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and your support. I WILL get this done. You watch me. (And keep reminding me.)