Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your attitude determines your altitude

My last blog entry talked about Lessons from Amelia, a reflection on how people's attitudes can make a big difference in how they go about their occupation, and, as a result, on how they portray their job to others and, as a result of that, how people perceive the industry. I used the example of Amelia, a waitress I met, who certainly could have projected in what low esteem she thought her job. This would have made dealing with her uncomfortable, but instead she focused on doing things well, maintaining friendly interaction with others and keeping a positive attitude, as opposed to several others I saw in her same position that day.

Likewise, I threw some quotes and facts in there about Amelia Earhart, who is still remembered today for her poise and class as well as her achievements in the early years of aviation. Things have changed greatly for women pilots since Amelia's time due to the trailblazing of Amelia and her contemporaries in the sense that we are not specifically barred from any roles in aviation, though invisible impediments may still exist.

It didn't take long to see results: Amelia's "accomplishments in aviation inspired a generation of female aviators, including the more than 1,000 women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II" (but really extends even to later generations).

You can see from this WASP Timeline on the WASP Museum website that it took decades after Glenn Curtiss was issued the first pilot license in 1908 (this was also the first guy to shoot a gun from an airplane, launching the age of aerial warfare) for peoplee to conceive of and implement the idea of Women Air Force Service Pilots. But the effect Amelia and her fellow 99s had on the women that would become WASP was nearly immediate.

1937 July - Pioneer aviatrix Amelia Earhart disappears over the Pacific.

1939 June – The U.S. government establishes the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The program provides pilot training across the country and allows for one woman to be trained for every ten men.

1940 September 28 – Jackie Cochran writes to Eleanor Roosevelt suggesting the establishment of a women’s flying division of the Army Air Forces.

1941 June – Jackie Cochran becomes the first woman to ferry a bomber across the Atlantic and women are banned from participating in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

1942 March – Jackie Cochran takes 25 American women pilots to Britain to fly with the British Air Transport Auxiliary.

September – Following a proposal submitted by pilot Nancy Harkness Love to the Ferry Command of the Army Air Forces, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS, is established. Twenty-five of America’s top women pilots will begin ferrying aircraft throughout the U.S.

September 15 – Jackie Cochran establishes the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) under chief of the Army Air Forces, General Hap Arnold.

November 17 – The first class of 28 recruits from the Women’s Flying Training Detachment reports to the Houston, Texas, municipal airport.

November – The WAFS fly their first mission taking Piper Cubs from LoHaven, Pennsylvania, to Mitchell Field, New

1943 August 5 – The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) merge with Jackie Cochran’s training program to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

September 30 – Representative John Costello of California introduces the WASP militarization bill.

Amelia recognized the trail she was blazing, ""[Women] must pay for everything.... They do get more glory than men for comparable feats. But, also, women get more notoriety when they crash." The WASP, too, that I have read about and had the pleasure to meet have always downplayed their groundbreaking roles. You can read some of their amazing stories on the NPR interactive site, like that of Marcia Courtney Bellassai who modestly states, "We were only doing our duty."

In fact, it may have been easy to forget the legacy of all of these women because of their public decorum (aviatrices such as Pancho Barnes excepted - with no disrespect intended). Have you ever heard the saying, "well-behaved women seldom make history?" [This was in reference to Puritan funeral services, btw.] The word is seldom, not never.

These WASP who may have made a cross country flight without a change of clothes but never without a tube a lipstick represented themselves well despite the cold shoulders or outright hostility from their male pilot contemporaries and even from the general public. And let me just say, I fully suspect that many of these women had a grand old time on their adventures, and I hope they had a lot of fun occasionally stepping out of the strict gender roles that society dictated in their time.

It took until 1977 for the WASP's military service to be recognized and until 2009 for those women to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. However, the very fact that STILL only 6% of licensed pilots are women should remind us that all of us women today with a pilot's license that we are a small minority and, whether or not we like it, we have the responsibility to recognize what we do influences how others will perceive aviation.

I am not saying that we should portray this flying thing as all rainbows and butterflies. Far from it. The truth is that flying is a an achievement in knowledge gained and skills perfected as a result of a lot of hard work. And what job doesn't have a few down-sides? We tend not to value as much those things that come easily. A little struggling makes one a better person.

Amelia herself said "My ambition is to have this wonderful gift produce practical results for the future of commercial flying and for the women who may want to fly tomorrow's planes" and so unbelievably many years later we are still working on these goals. Only THREE percent of ATP rated pilots (those that can fly commercial airliners) are women.

And, so, if we current women pilots want to encourage girls to follow in our flight paths, we must be able to discuss publicly how rewarding we feel what we do is. What a gift it is to be able to FLY. If we don't like what we're doing, we should get out. There. I said it. Just like if Amelia the waitress came to our table with a surly attitude, offering poor customer service and even worse food, we'd wish she had chosen a different career path (or at least another temporary occupation). When as an airline captain people would say it was "cute" that I was a pilot, or ask me why I was sitting so far forward in the airplane, I had to remind myself of a piece of advice that had been offered to me by another female captain, "they just don't know that they would offend us with their comments." I learned to just smile and keep on.

I would have to search high and low to find a woman pilot who couldn't convey some negative stories about being patronized by a male co-pilot or other aviation "professional." Rare is the woman who breezed through her training to become a pilot, to pass checkrides, to perhaps have gotten a career flying gig. At times, these women may even get together and commiserate about their experiences, wishing a pox on the guy in question for saying disparaging remarks about "another empty kitchen" or for treating her as bad or worse as the last (potentially male) pilot who felt the brunt of his egotistical behavior in the cockpit.

But again, this talk is pretty rare, in my experience. Any tales of woe are usually shared over a beer, or during an emotional phone call with a friend. I can tell you quite a few stories in my past, but in the sharing with the public as a representative woman in aviation I would also hope to convey to people a lesson learned from the process. For example, a captain I had flown with recommended me for a contract flying job, forgetting to delete an earlier statement in an email saying "[I] wasn't much to look at, but [I] tried real hard." I must admit I was taken aback by his comment, but on the other hand, for him to specifically think of me to recommend instead of taking the job himself or giving it to a buddy...? Ok, so its not a perfect world, but we've come along way... "baby."

Do you think he would have recommended me if I was unprofessional as he? In other words, do we have to act like these men in question to be accepted by them? Would we even want to? When I was in the military as a cadet too many years ago, I was packing a rucksack with my field gear as a high ranking officer stood nearby. He went over to my commander to let him know that I should have joined the Navy instead for my ability to swear a blue streak fit for a sailor. Like most women new to the military, I adopted the practice of populating my speech with profanity, which didn't serve to make me any better of a soldier in the eyes of my male contemporaries. In fact, I saw many instances where guys would look disapprovingly on a female spewing the same expletives they had. Took me a few years to realize I could still do a "man's" job and still be true to myself as a woman.

And so I recently had the occasion to listen to a woman in a position of some responsibility in the aviation industry tell numerous stories of captains she had flown with in the not so long ago days before crew resource management. Mostly likely these things happened also to men undergoing the same initiation in the airline cockpits of decades passed. Story after story, said with a measure of humor, but all negative and one dubious, were not followed with an, "oh, those were the days, but..." and her point. No, the stories led right into talk of how unprofessional male pilots still were and how crews were so dependent on automation and unable to communicate.

These generalizations greatly disturbed me, because when I try to convey stories of being a woman in a male dominated industry I try to balance the negative with the positive. I can honestly say the positive (both situations and male contemporaries) FAR outweigh the negative. Most people recognize a sense of balance is so important that even guys tell us stories of "the best pilot I ever flew with was a woman." And, ladies, I think many of you know what I'm talking about when I say that I then prepare myself for a story he'll tell about a HORRIBLE woman that he had to fly with. He might even mention a horrible guy, but that depends on how long the flight is.

But we not only have to work with other men, we must also work with women. And so it bothers me more than anything when people sit in public swapping stories with second hand information about a fellow pilot, and ten times as much when I hear a woman say, "Well, I heard that she..." We have no idea how that information was obtained and how biased the retelling was. And so it bothered me that. much. more. when this woman continued with several disparaging stories of women that had gone through their training program. Again, I don't know why this woman chose to swing to an extreme of thinking the more she acted hard, critical and negative, the more her male coworkers would respect her. We women pilots should be mentoring and encouraging our sisters, not publicly criticizing them, to raise the 6% to something closer to 50%. It kind of felt like I was eavesdropping on a locker-room conversation. And I didn't like what I was hearing.

All I knew was that I was embarrassed that she had been given a microphone and was unable to reflect more positively on an aviation career that taken objectively could have been quite impressive. Luckily there were no potential pilots in the room (all were at least private pilots, though they may never go on to commercial aviation careers given those retellings), but there were several men present squirming in their seats. I hope that no one invites someone with such a view of the aviation industry to speak at a career day. She is certainly not the role model to encourage future Girls With Wings to reach their full potential in whatever they may dream!

A lot of the reason I'm writing this is because in my role as a woman in aviation I want to be able to lay things out there on the table and be able to convey MY conclusion that there's nothing else I rather do than be a pilot. The next blog entry is going to discuss some of the points I do try to get across regarding gender differences, but I, too, need to remind myself not to come across as biased against men. And of course, that I am NOT perfect, but I "try real hard."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lessons from Amelia

I recently got a lesson in life from a woman named Amelia. No, not THAT Amelia, though I do find it a remarkable coincidence that this muse had the same name as the first president of the International Organization of Women Pilots. I was attending a section meeting of the Ninety Nines at the time. This Amelia served me breakfast.

The Amelia you most likely are familiar with is undoubtedly the most famous aviatrix in our collective consciousness. Though her pilot skills have been accused of being overstated - especially in light of her failed round the world flight - her numerous accomplishments have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the efforts and subsequent achievements of women in aviation. My biggest criticism, btw, of the movie "Amelia" is that they glossed over so many of them to focus on her love life (!) instead of a few more of these:
  • Woman's world altitude record: 14,000 ft (1922)
  • First woman to fly the Atlantic (1928)
  • Speed records for 100 km (and with 500 lb (230 kg) cargo) (1931)
  • First woman to fly an autogyro (1931)
  • Altitude record for autogyros: 15,000 ft (1931)
  • First person to cross the U.S. in an autogyro (1932)
  • First woman to fly the Atlantic solo (1932)
  • First person to fly the Atlantic twice (1932)
  • First woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (1932)
  • First woman to fly non-stop, coast-to-coast across the U.S. (1933)
  • Woman's speed transcontinental record (1933)
  • First person to fly solo between Honolulu, Hawaii and Oakland, California (1935)
  • First person to fly solo from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico (1935)
  • First person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City, Mexico to Newark, New Jersey (1935)
  • Speed record for east-to-west flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii (1937)
Wikipedia has a very thorough biographical entry on Amelia Earhart, and in the Legacy section calls Amelia a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime.

"Her shyly charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a young age have driven her lasting fame in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and scores of books have been written about her life which is often cited as a motivational tale, especially for girls. Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon."

More important to me in the context of this blog entry is the impression she left on others. For example, C.B. Allen, the aviation editor of the New York Herald Tribune once said of Amelia, "Being men and being engaged in a highly essential phase of the serious business of air transportation, they [airline mechanics] all naturally had preconceived notions about a woman pilot bent on a 'stunt' flight - not very favorable notions either. It was, undoubtedly, something of a shock to discover that the 'gal' with whom they had to deal not only was an exceptionally pleasant human being who 'knew her stuff,' but that she knew exactly what she wanted done, and had sense enough to let them alone while they did it. There was an almost audible clatter of chips falling off skeptical masculine shoulders." From the official website of Amelia Earhart.

Trust me, I'm getting back to the breakfast. Stay with me.

So, I went down on Friday to attend the section meeting, spending that night at a hotel near the airport. As a fellow pilot friend and I were checking into our room, a man in line was complaining about the hour and half wait for their food at the restaurant as well as the inedible food, the inability to get their drinks refilled, and, once they decided to leave, the disappearance of the waitress making it impossible to get the check. My friend commented on his mention they had spent 10 hours on a bus and said she believed anything could seem bad after that.

But then WE went down next morning to get breakfast before we went back to the meeting. We sat down at one of the tables and waited more than twenty minutes without even a menu. Despite at least two waitresses on site, one of the other maybe six tables took that long to get coffee... and then juice... At that rate, we'd wait all day to wait for breakfast, so we got up and grabbed some granola bars from the sundry shop in the lobby. When we brought them to the front desk to pay for them we told the clerk it was because the wait was going to be too long in the restaurant. He sighed, as if this was not the first, and unlikely to be the last, time he had heard a complaint about the dining option within the hotel.

We still had enough time to go to the Waffle House right next to the hotel where the section meeting was being held, so we drove over there. As soon as we walked in the door one of the waitresses welcomed us and told us we could either have a seat or waited til she could bus one of the tables. We certainly hadn't been been spoken to at the last place, much less acknowledged with a smile. So my friend and I chose to sit down at one of the booths to wait since it was obvious they had just had a rush of people leave.

We had hardly settled in before the same waitress was there cleaning up the remnants of the last customers' meal. She came back with a wet rag and I had visions of other experiences where this procedure had resulted in a lap full of crumbs and a wet sloppy table. Nope, the waitress even took the time to go get a dry rag and go over it again.

When she came back with two glasses of ice water, our first request was for coffee, for which we were a bit desperate. We didn't get to drink any in our hotel room because the housekeeper had left TWO decaf coffee packets and of course we didn't wait long enough in their restaurant. Our waitress here, who had since identified herself as Amelia, let us know there might be a delay because they had just brewed some fresh coffee. We had to wait like, I dunno, two minutes? During which time she apologized again.

On a return trip she took our order and within ten minutes of hitting the Waffle House door we were digging into some pretty good eats. The whole time Amelia kept an eye on us. We didn't have time to think of something we needed before she was there. She offered us to-go cups of coffee, cleared our dishes, brought our check while engaging us in friendly conversation as well as her other tables. Always moving at mach speed.

Are you getting my point?

I should add at this point that in addition to Amelia there were five other people working at the WH. Two were working the grill and three other waitresses were behind the counter. Not once did I see any of the others speak to or help the few other tables. Amelia was working it all. She even was answering the phone. We were out of there in the twenty minutes we had left.

I made the comment to my friend that it would be so easy to imagine this woman being a single mom with kids at home trying to make ends meet - a la the "She Works Hard for the Money" woman from Donna Summer. Instead, this woman was taking a menial position some would consider beneath them doing a phenomenal job. She could have been bitter and sullen and probably no one would be too surprised, since many people convey an attitude of "my job sucks, my customers suck, ergo, my life sucks." I looked at her and thought she easily did the work of four (and I plan on sending this blog to Waffle House so they know what a valuable employee they have), all with a pleasant attitude and real attention to detail.

So to wrap up, I saw six waitresses that day doing basically the same job. Only one of them had decided she was going to CHOOSE to have a good day doing it - and be good at it. The others, well, I think about the many times I've been treated rudely by someone and had the thought, "Why don't you just quit and find something else to do? Life is too short to be this miserable."

So this was my life lesson from Amelia. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Take pride in your work and find the enjoyment in it, whatever it may be. Maintain your professionalism and your positive attitude and that will be what you attract in your life. As Amelia (Earhart, this time) said, "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward. "

This is to be continued. See the next post, "your attitude determines your altitude."

Monday, April 19, 2010

CFI Supplies (confession included)

I have no news to report. No good news, that is. I had hoped to write this week's blog entry proclaiming my perfect score on the CFI written, but as I studied the CFI test prep last week it became ever more clear that I was not prepared to take a $150 test that I might fail. Heck, even if I didn't fail (you only need 80% - less than that necessitates another $150 payout), that I would be in the high 90s - where I understand you need to be to give the examiner a good first impression when you go in for the practical test for the CFI rating (which includes an oral portion - friends have said their orals were 8 - 10 hours long!).

So I need to study again this week and get the test done by Thursday since I am going to Columbus to attend the North Central Section Meeting for the local 99s. I again need to get some of this training done before I go off to camp. AcroCamp. As if I needed a reminder of this impending aerobatic training, Steve Tupper, director and organizer extraordinaire, posted this video of some of the maneuvers we'll be doing (they were working on how to best capture the video).

Airspeed Video Episode: Don Weaver's Acro Sequence from Steve Tupper on Vimeo.

So with that incentive in mind, it's back to studying this week (tomorrow at least). Late last week I discovered that an electronic E6b makes some of those test questions much easier - the device made by Sporty's and ASA, which is just a step above a regular calculator, will ask relevant questions to find crosswind components, endurance range, and ground speed calculations, among others. It is really handy, but at $70ish when new, not a purchase to be taken lightly. I found a couple of used ones on eBay for a little less money, so I'm keeping an eye on them. My friend of the previous Mooney posts has let me borrow hers in the interim.

So this little unforeseen expense (I've never used one of these in my 17 years of flying) made me wonder what other items I should be trolling around for on eBay in preparation for becoming an instructor. My unofficial survey, conducted via Facebook, resulted in these suggestions:

Lynda Meeks

Lynda Meeks Remember when I asked everyone to suggest books for my CFI training? I am now looking for more suggestions, but this time for equipment; electronic E6b computer, whiz wheel, plotter, etc? What else do you (or do you not) recommend?

Ana Mendivil
I have the metal E6B that's got some red and green markings, I highly recommend it. I was told the metal ones are more accurate and this one has some color so its easier for me. Also when you get frustrated with training you can sharpen the edges and use it as a ninja star :)

Debi Rodriguez
I know you are asking for other things but I don't remember you asking about books so I'll just give you my suggestion now if that's okay. Jonathon Livingston Seagull. It's not technical or anything like that, and it's not just a kid's book, it's a fantastic book about soaring thru life (for you and all pilots) and never giving up. Enjoy!

Jaclyn Vanderhoef Baker
Oh Debi, that's an excellent book. Also by Richard Bach is a REALLY fun book for pilots, Air Ferrets Aloft. I have read it a few times for light entertainment. It's a great story and fun to share it with older kids. Actually, it could be really great addition to Girls with Wings, as the heroine is a talented female pilot.

Here it is at Amazon... See More:

And, I shouldn't assume, so I'll say that if you haven't already read Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann, you're missing possibly the SINGLE BEST aviation novel ever written.

Sylvia Fletcher
I started out with a metal E6-B, and understand it's functional abilities, yet I have since been learning how to get the same results with the CX-2 (electronic) and find it simpler and more accurate. Also, I would not have purchased the CX-2 if Transport Canada did not allow it on the exams.

Sarah Tobin
buy a Jiffy IFR hood, better than foggles, esp for students with glasses. (For you nonpilots, this "hood" is a device that you put over your eyes to simulate flying through clouds, i.e., no reference to the horizon. Even if you didn't want to cheat, your peripheral vision gives you many clues.)

Kent Shook
Second the metal E6B. One of those "buy it now or buy it later" things. If you want electronic as well, just get an iPhone app - The purpose-built ones are too expensive for as little as you'll use them. IMHO, mechanical is better anyway for visualization. If u want accuracy, a regular scientific calc or spreadsheet will do the trick.

Kent Shook
As far as hoods - most of them suck. Francis Hood is the only one that'll keep students honest, but they'll have to move their head to scan engine gauges. Viban is very good, especially with a post-it or other shield attached to the left side, and has allowances for glasses as well.

Charlie Morgenstein
Get some of the covers for failed instruments. Once the student has identified the failure, have him or her cover the instrument. Also good for preliminary partial panel work to prepare the student for handling the failure.

Heather Ford
A note book that you can keep in your top shirt pocket with all the key points for each lesson so if you need a reminder you have it. Also with the key speeds on the aircraft you fly. Just make sure you take it out of the shirt before you wash it!!

Christi Yong
A well organized flight bag, know where everything is so you don't have to dig around for it and put everything back in the same spot where you got it. Think like a Private Pilot taking a check-ride again and keep every tool you'll need for your exam.

Kent Shook
Great suggestion, Charlie - Law of Exercise! I'm gonna have to remember that one for myself!

Aren't I fortunate to have such a great pool of pilots to gather information from when I need it? Any other suggestions?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CFI References (or, Can I just put them under my pillow?)

As many of you know, I am not only prepping for AcroCamp, I am also working on my CFI. Like most big projects we have to work on as well as all of the other stuff we have to do, it is going much more slowly than I wanted. However, I do want to get some serious studying done, and some flights in, before I head off for Camp. AcroCamp.

One of my biggest challenges, believe it or not, is figuring what to study. I started putting out requests for the books I would need and someone said I should already have most of them from my initial training. Well, my initial training was in the Army in a helicopter. Doesn't really apply since all my stacks of stuff from the Army still in my basement have to do with transverse flow and effective transitional lift. [Don't ask.]

But here's a really helpful email I got right off the bat:
Get through the written tests first just to get them out of the way. Do your FOI, and AGI but also do your Flight instructor written (I did not realize at first this was a different test than the AGI so I had to go back another day to get the FI test - it's all the same test just with different names.) Once that is out of the way, get the FAA books - Fundamentals of Flight, Fundamentals of Teaching and Airplane Flying Handbook. Also get the private, commercial and CFI PTS books - you will need them all along with a 2010 FAR/AIM. Tab the FAR/AIM so when you hunt for questions, you can find them easily. It was handy for me.
BTW I did take my FOI, Fundamentals of Instruction, but not the other written for Advanced Ground Instructor. And by now, as you may know, they are up from $100 to $150. Procrastination costs, people!!

In addition to the books mentioned above, friends in the twitterverse recommended the following:
@mike_miley Gleim for the written. Kershner for the practical.

@FlyWithMikel FAA-H-8083-3a and private pilot PTS.

Then I posted on Facebook: OK, CFIs, I'm compiling a list of books to order in preparation for my instructor training. I'll start 2010 FAR/AIM, what else?
Cheryl replied: Coffee! [Good idea.]

Gabriel said: Jepp CFI Manual. Flight Instructor PTS. CFI Oral Exam Guide. Gleim CFI / FOI Test Prep Books... I think that's it.

Ana suggested the ASA Instructors handbook.

Amanda added the
-CFI Oral Exam Guide
-CFI PTS (Reference page has list of books/AC's that will be tested on.
-Aviation Instructor's Handbook

And Sylvia said:I've taken a look at the referenced Aviation Instructor's Handbook. I was specifically looking for Human Factors and Behaviors, Psychological Issues, Motivation, Communication techniques etc., and was happy to see these subjects are addressed in the first three sections. You're going to do very well, Lynda.

Robert: The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook and Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.

Rodger joked:If I ever wrote a book about my CFI days, I'd call it "Right Rudder, Right Rudder....." :)

Jenny offered to hire me: Yeah! When you are a CFI you can give me a lesson.

and Heather added these tips: I use the ASA instructors hand book down here in oz, very worth while having!!! Also keep a small note pad in your shirt pocket for writing down handy things!!

Are you confused by all of the above acronyms? Frankly, I was too. I have a very good friend that is a CFI that I took shopping with me (On amazon). I ended up ordering the Oral exam guide and Practical Test Standards (PTS) for the Private, Commercial, and Flight Instructor. Also: The Airplane Flying Handbook. A new FAR/AIM. Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge: FAA-H-8083-25A (FAA Handbooks). Aviation Instructor's Handbook and The Savvy Flight Instructor: Secrets of the Successful CFI.

So I am of the opinion that getting the books was half the battle. I had another friend lend me the CFI study guide, so that is what I am trying to work through now so I can take the tests on Friday (I've sent a message to my CFI to let him know I want to schedule it - this procrastination thing needs a kick in the pants). Another battle is fighting the fact that my neighbor ground down a tree stump and was giving away all the mulch. Instead of studying yesterday, I worked on my lawn (c'mon, I couldn't beat the price and it was a limited time offer!).

Again, a lot of this stuff in these books I knew YEARS ago, and have forgotten. Some of it, like the maneuvers, I never learned. But I don't think the book work will be that tough if I just hunker down! So I also let my instructor know that I want to start flying next week after I take the writtens. I have, effectively, three weeks until AcroCamp, and there's no way I want to show up there without some proficiency in a single engine. The last thing I want to have to worry about is basic SE aircraft knowledge.

And of course, the build up to Oshkosh is only going to make things busier. I am still targeting a rating or two before then (CFI and II, perhaps - maybe not MEI).

This is a good time to mention that I have launched a membership drive (yes, in addition to all of this other stuff!); I want to get 1058 members of Girls With Wings by Oshkosh on July 26th - our booth number is 1058. Please visit to sign up. The memberships start at free, but the other levels support our educational programs and scholarships. Thank you.

But all of this blogging is not getting me closer to studying - not by a long shot. So I must close this blog post and hit the books. As always, comments and tips are appreciated.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Aerobatics at Acrocamp.

Last time on the blog I covered the airplanes that will be used at Acrocamp. And although I admitted the reason I wrote the post might have been because I was also educating myself, the same does not hold true for this post. I am familiar with all of the maneuvers that Steve Tupper of the Airspeed podcast tells me I'll be doing. [Pause while the laughter subsides.]

Part of our homework was to read Basic Acrobatics by Geza Szurov and Mike Goulian. My copy of the book arrived last week and I just sat down last night to read, study and learn it. So I'm going to cover some of what I've learned about the maneuvers I can expect to do at AcroCamp over subsequent posts. It is, actually, a really interesting book which takes some, but not all, of the mystique out of aerobatic flying. It's still awesome, but proves these aren't magic tricks, after all. More like science. Elementary, my dear Watson.

The podcast I refer to was done before the campers were announced, so it covers some of the considerations in choosing the campers, like that we should be less than 220lbs, which thankfully doesn't disqualify me. I also had to prove I have long enough legs to reach the pedals. This IS sometimes an issue for me, so fingers crossed that parachute behind me helps... The producer was also looking for campers that represent different minority groups, because, as he says, "the fact that you are a woman doesn't matter. Gravity in aerodynamics is color and gender blind." That definitely applies to me and my co-camper Michelle.

Ok, so now that I'm in, what can I expect to be doing? The first order of business once we get to the AcroCampGround, Steve says, is for us to get the feel of the airplane and then move on to "Energy management concepts" and maneuvers: wingovers, stalls, pitch oscillations, unusual attitude recoveries. As the sorties go on: loops, rolls, hammerheads, and spins. The other aerobatic maneuvers are simply variants or combinations of those. Toward the of middle of camp we'll be designing our own aerobatic routine in consultation with the instructors. They're even talking of possibly judging and awarding trophies for best executed, bravest, most improved, and my favorite, who scared the instructor most. Ha ha. Lots to accomplish in just four days!

To get all of this done, we're expected to do three sorties of 1.3 hrs on the first two days, then 2 1.7 on days three and four for a total of eight hours on the Hobbs. [No, not this Hobbes, silly, the Hobbsmeter that records elapsed time for purposes of logging flighttime in an airplane.] That's a lot of flying when you consider the strain of flying upside down and sideways on the body. Motion sickness, everyone says, usually improves in subsequent flights but weather, the health of the aircraft and the people are all factors that will affect susceptibility to nausea. I've been ramping up my workouts (to increase ability to process oxygen and improve muscle strength) in preparation hoping it will help.

The reason for this is Steve says there's three types of pilots, those who have hurled, those who will and those who lie about it. My biggest fear is getting sick during maneuvers and not being able to continue the flight. We were advised if we get sick, there's no shame. We are just expected to head back to the airport and most likely practice tailwheel instruction. With all this to accomplish, I want to make sure I don't get sick right off the bat and have to quit. If the weather's too bad to accomplish aerobatics, at least we should be able to get a tailwheel endorsement. There's nothing we can do to guarantee good weather.

This has been a massive undertaking for Steve - and we haven't even started yet - AcroCamp is May 12th thru 16th (although it is coming up quickly, now that I think about it). Thankfully Steve has worked out the best prices for us to basically take over a flight school for four days to do the camp. I appreciate this since I'm furloughed and this is a rather pricey endeavor considering my current financial situation, but I have outlined some of the reasons that I feel like it was worth pursuing - and I'll keep discussing it over the course of the next few weeks. Steve is covering all of the costs of actually producing the documentary, which has got to be significant, so all of you readers will be expected to purchase a copy of it when it's made available (I'm making sure you're reading til the very end). While Steve works out all of the camera angles and such, I'll work on my closeup. Makeup!