Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time is running out!

Support Girls With Wings and secure your tax deduction now.

The year is almost is over but there is still time to support the nonprofit organization you love. We have just a few days to meet our $45,000 goal.

This is your chance to make a year end gift to Girls With Wings, Inc. Help us encourage girls to pursue aviation in the year ahead.

Thanks to supporters like you, we have had an amazing year − Presentations, Scholarships, Aviation Inspiration Days, and more! That means thousands of girls have been inspired by STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, AVIATION and Mathematics.™

But before we celebrate, we need your help by midnight December 31st. Your special contribution will help guarantee that Girls With Wings has the funding needed to launch our 2012 outreach events.

With one simple gift, you have the power to make a real difference in the New Year for a proven program that uses women in aviation to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. You can give with confidence knowing that Girls With Wings is classified as a tax-exempt educational public charity under IRS code 501(c)(3).

Please click here to make your tax deductible gift today using Paypal. To give the old-fashioned way, give us a call at 216.577.6131 with your credit card information or complete this form and mail it to our address below.

With thanks and best wishes for an amazing New Year,

Lynda Meeks
Executive Director

P.S. If you've already sent your contribution, please accept my sincere appreciation for your continued support. Forwarding this email to your friends and business associates will help even more!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Amy's Message to GWW

Hello Girls with Wings! 

My name is Amy Blechman and I am the 2008 Scholarship recipient. Winning the Girls with Wings scholarship meant the world to me because it allowed me to further my training and I was able to afford my first solo flight! That was the best experience of my life thus far and it gave me an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and a smile from ear to ear that made it difficult to make my radio calls! I will never forget that day and the feeling that came with it, No one can ever take that from me, and that is a feat few people in the world (besides all of you lovely gals) will accomplish. We are few, but fine in company! I’m sure you ladies can agree!

Since then I continued my education, pursuing a bachelor’s of science in Aviation Management from Dowling College in New York. During my undergrad I was a founding member of Dowling’s very own Chapter of Women in Aviation International. I traveled with my Chapter to two annual conferences, most recently the 2011 Conference in Reno, Nevada during which time I was the Chapter President.

During my senior year I also pledged The Alpha Eta Rho International Aviation Fraternity and became a member of the Dowling College Zeta chapter in spring 2011. I also graduated from Dowling College on May 21, 2011! Since my graduation I have enlisted in the United States Army as a UH-60 (Blackhawk) Repairer (15T). Which I am very excited about! I have always wanted to join the Army and I am excited to begin this new adventure in my life!

As of late I have been focusing on preparing myself physically for basic training so I spend a lot of time running and at the gym since I will be heading down to Ft. Jackson soon to start my new career! My future goal is to finally obtain my Private Pilot License and also to earn a position with the Army’s Warrant Officer Flight Training Program (WOFT) and hopefully be able to fly the Blackhawks I will be working on during my Enlistment. I am so grateful to Lynda and Girls with Wings for showing me all these wonderful possibilities in Aviation and giving me the opportunity and motivation to realize my potential and chase my dreams!!I wish you all much success in all your future endeavors and hope we cross paths! Blue skies!

Amy Blechman

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Kate's Final Entry as the 2011 Scholarship Winner

Girls With Wings, Inc., would like to thank Kate for exceeding our expectations as the 2011 scholarship winner. From her application to this final essay submission, she has been prompt, thorough and accurate in fulfilling the requirements of the GWW scholarship. We look forward to her continued participation as a Girls With Wings role model. Great job, Kate!

This past month Ohio offered its share of challenges in regards to seasonal transitions.  Anyone from Northeast Ohio knows what I am talking about.  We get lake effect snow in April, summer temperatures in November, and then there are the pesky winds which seem like they will never go away.  With all the maintenance issues I had in the Ercoupe, the Skycatcher has provided a new skill set and experience using rudder pedals.  The problem with the last month though was rain cancelling my lessons, wind cancelling my lessons, poor visibility cancelling my lessons… you get the picture. 

Last week I took another half-day off work, woke up to check the weather and yet again it looked like I would be buying time to get my third cancellation notice in a week.  Between working two jobs, I was not looking forward to wasting a half day and my frustration was settling in.  Determined not to let a chance go by I drove out to the airport anyway, knowing that at least if I got there before cancelling I gave every bit of persistence I could for the week.  Surprisingly though, during the fifteen minute drive, the closer I got the more the weather cleared.  I was actually going to get a lesson in.

When we got in the plane and I started taxiing, suddenly the struggle of using rudder pedals over the last few weeks seemed to be lifting.  How to manage the plane on take-offs and landings kept getting better with each approach.  The rain stayed north of the field and the winds were remaining consistent.  It was the first time since switching aircraft that I saw a huge return in my confidence level.  On the last approach, Ron directed us south of the field to a clearer area where we could get up above the clouds.  All of a sudden I was above all the dreary weather that had been in my way the whole month and the view was breathtaking.  I got to spend twenty minutes just playing up above the clouds and it was an experience I so needed when I didn’t even know it. 

Since winning the 2011 GWW Scholarship I have learned so much.  I know that when facing obstacles, if you are truly passionate about what you are going after, then an obstacle is merely a small bump in the destination.  Most importantly though, I learned and remembered what it is like to play.  I could list a hundred reasons why learning how to fly is beneficial in any aspect of life, but when it comes down to it, flying is a chance to get up above the clouds with the sun shining and play. 

Without this scholarship I would have definitely had to put training on hold.  When my Dad’s Ercoupe failed on me, I had to switch aircraft which more than doubled my training costs and face the possibility of having to retake my written exam with the expiration date looming this upcoming April.  I have a great deal of gratitude because the GWW scholarship gave me the opportunity to make my way through some tough financial decisions over the last month.    

One of the things that really sticks with me about GWW is the phrase “Girls need flight plans, not Fairy Tales.”  I am guilty of it myself, but I notice that women tend to attribute our successes to luck.  Through all the mishaps with the Ercoupe, I can’t tell you the sighs I have gotten or the pity talks about my lack of luck.   People have discussed my plane almost like a tragedy case and I was a victim of its problems.  But when talking with all the instructors, we would discuss how helpful it is that I now have actual background in dealing with emergency procedures.  We even joke that after seeing my airplane torn apart so many times that I might as well go get my A&P certification.  What I attribute to my success at each step is not reacting to the obstacle, but working with it. 

I sincerely hope that when I get my license shortly, I can share flying outside of my local airport community and stay involved with GWW.  More often than not when I tell my female friends or family members about aviation, they are genuinely interested.  They just have not been introduced to the fact that there are women pilots.  The first thing I hear is, “That is so great, but I couldn’t do that”.  My goal is to instead hear the phrase “I could do that”.  When I get my license and as soon as I am comfortable, I plan to take as many friends and family flying that are willing.  It is not about trying to make them see why I love what I am pursuing, but simply for the fact that without exposure to new experiences, we can limit what we are actually capable of without knowing it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our 1st Scholarship Winner passes her checkride!

It was September 26th when I made the call to schedule my Private Pilot checkride. I sat in front of my phone with a paper and pencil for a good 5 minutes. Just thinking about what was about to happen. I never thought I would get nervous about making a simple call!
A picture of me and my flight instructor RIGHT after my checkride =) and the plane behind us the the Cessna 152 I flew on the day of my checkride
Eventually I made the call, and my checkride was scheduled for Monday, October 10th. A week later my cross country flight plan assignment was emailed to me. I quickly scanned through it and I immediately knew this was not going to be easy. The day before my Private Pilot checkride was the most stressful day of my life so far. I couldn’t sleep as much as I tried to get as much rest as possible before my big day. With the help of many many friends I was able to make it through.
I also attached a picture of my friends because I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for them and their support. They supported me with help studying, self esteem, and even with a home while I finished up my Pilot training.
It has been almost four years since I received the Girls With Wings Scholarship, and it has been over five years since my first flight lesson. My point is not to show how long it has taken me to receive my Private Pilot certification, but to let everyone know that any dream or goal can be accomplished no matter how difficult something may get.

After I got my license I went up flying with my friends to go skydiving!

I was fortunate enough to have financial support from GWW as well as moral support. Throughout the years after getting the GWW scholarship I still happened to have financial struggles.

The pictures of my first flight as a PILOT have also been attached. Pictures of the beautiful bay area =)
When I was finishing up my flight training I was blessed with a gift. I had an anonymous person donate money into my flying account to make sure I get my flight training done. This person told the club owner/my boss at the time that they want to make sure I have nothing holding me back from getting my license. This person wanted me to have no financial worries with flight training . This person who is apparently someone who has seen me at work, as a student, and as a passionate pilot, knew that flying made me happy.

This was something that really took me by surprise. There was someone who met me while I was at work and believed in me ever since. This was a gift that I will forever be thankful for along with GWW scholarship. The support I have had has been so amazing! I have developed great relationships throughout my Aviation career.

Since graduating from San Jose State University and receiving my Pilots license I have been in search of a decent job.Recently, I interviewed with one of the biggest corporate aviation companies for a position as a crew scheduler. This interview was possible thanks to a great friend of mine who works as a Pilot for the charter company, Betsy Donovan is a wonderful person I met through Women in Aviation of the Bay Area chapter.

The interview was a great experience and went well. Still unemployed and living with my parents, using my time to read up on some instrument stuff!!! A job to me right now is a necessity in efforts to continue pursuing further ratings and pilot certificates as well as paying off some debt from college! With hard work and keeping my passion alive, I will reach my ultimate goal of being a professional pilot.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Kate's Second Entry as the 2011 Scholarship Winner

[Note: we've been having problems with the GWW message board and now it seems completely kaput - or, in other words, completely beyond my capability to fix it. I will be transitioning everything over to this blog and eventually deleting the board. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please friend the Girls With Wings Facebook group in lieu of the forum.]

As a condition of the Girls With Wings scholarship, we request updates from the awardees to keep us posted on their flight training. Here is Kate's Second Entry:

Last time I updated the blog I finished it talking about my concerns facing future maintenance issues in the Ercoupe and realizing it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I ended up having to switch aircraft. It took only one week after writing that for it to actually happen. I was set to go take my first cross county flight and the plane was not quite sounding right prior to take-off. End result? Lesson cancelled and after discovering the carburetor was the culprit, it was decided the plane should go in for annual early.

After talking with my instructor, Eric, we decided it was time for me to switch out of the Ercoupe so I can keep up with training during the annual. I am now flying in the Cessna Skycatcher 162. I have been happy to keep up with my flying, but it was a difficult switch because I had to change instructors in order to fly in the C162 due to the higher cost of the Flight Design CTLS Eric teaches in.

The first night I went up in the plane I almost felt like I had never taken a lesson. I always laughed when people looked in my plane and were puzzled with the one pedal on the floor. Now I was introduced to rudder pedals, differential braking, and a glass cockpit. Just trying to taxi the airplane to the runway provided a lot of entertainment for my new instructor, Ron. The additional clincher to all of this? Lessons could now be recorded so I could review my progress, habits, etc. Yikes! While it all felt overwhelming, I left the lesson feeling surprisingly content with this new challenge. All these changes were going to be good learning experiences.

I now have three lessons in the Skycatcher and because of a hectic work day schedule, I am getting a lot of night time flying in along with practice talking to air traffic control. Ron has been very helpful going over this and I started listening online to live ATC interactions to help learn how to talk in a controlled airspace. Because I have worked at the airport on the weekends for over a year, I am comfortable on radios, but ATC communications are a whole new thing.

The next few lessons will focus on getting experience flying under a hood and I will continue working on takeoffs and landings in the plane. Hopefully by the time I finish fulfilling all the dual requirements needed, I will be able to solo in the Skycatcher or move back to my Ercoupe to finish up the last few hours of solo time and cross country requirements.

I’ll also be spending some time with my Ercoupe getting a good look at all the parts of the engine and a view you normally don’t get when the plane isn’t up for annual. There is a great network of people at my airport who have been willing to teach me all the lessons that go beyond just flying the plane. With this entry I included some current pictures of the Ercoupe and I can’t tell you how much I recommend getting a detailed look at how an airplane runs. It really helps add an element to flying and brings another aspect of situational awareness, especially when faced with maintenance problems.

Kate's First Entry:

When I started flight training in June this year I took the optimistic approach of thinking this will be simple. I completed my written in April of 2010, found a great instructor, and figured if I flew so many hours a month I would finish in October. I didn't realize my faulty logic though which is I am not flying airplanes in my flight schools' line that are only 5 or 6 years old. My airplane is gracefully aging at a young 65 years old. It has a knack for getting attention not by people my age, but people who are my grandpa’s age.

I'll save all the specifics, but Ercoupes have no rudder pedals and as far as instruments go, I am flying about as simplistic as it comes. In the close to two years this airplane has been in my life I have watched it go from a trailer to test flights and due to prior maintenance issues, I am gaining a working knowledge of brake lines, carburetors, and radio wiring. It has been a labor of love, not without challenges, from day one. The best parts of it being this summer when I got to spend all my time flying with the canopy down and the most difficult part being brake issues that stopped me flying for a few weeks shortly after I soloed. 

Since starting back up with flight lessons this month I have been working a lot on cross country flight planning and my landings. It is a sort of an unnatural feeling landing in an Ercoupe, because depending on what the winds do I don’t always line up on the center line. If the winds are coming from the right side of the runway I line up towards the right side since the winds will then push me towards center line and vice versa.

In the last two weeks weather has been getting the best of my scheduled lessons, so my longer trips such as nighttime lessons have been postponed. This has left plenty of time to do pattern work. Ironically, my instructor Eric said my best landings were during simulated engines out and practicing short field landings. So the good news is I know how I am capable of landing, I just have to figure out some consistency. While this has been great practice, I’m most excited to get some nighttime flying in the next week and start flying to some new airports.

One of the best things Eric has taught me in lessons is all about preparation and making little adjustments to lead to a desired outcome while thinking ahead. Initially when I started training I was set on completing training in the Ercoupe and then getting my endorsement to fly with rudder pedals after the fact. Any concerns came not out of flying, but hoping I wouldn’t run into any major maintenance issues while pursuing my certificate. What I am learning is that if I run into anymore issues, it is not the end of the world if I have to change aircraft, but just making an adjustment to help me achieve my private certificate.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Book Review: Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls

You probably think you know what a book tour is. I thought so too. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it's a series of visits to bookstores that a writer makes, especially when they have written a new book. Sounds about right. But in the age of the internet, that is SO passe. Instead of the author having to physically go to bookstores (also unfortunately becoming passe), the blog tour has an author going from blog to blog.   According to the Book Publicity Blog: "Depending on the author and the blog, coverage may consist of any of the following: book review, Q and A (either posted or live) or book giveaway ....  Blog tours, like traditional bookstore tours, will feature a designated number of “stops” — often 10 to 20 blogs — and can roll out over the course of a week or a month (or whatever other length of time that has been decided upon)."

I was contacted by TLC Book Tours who prides itself on creating a buzz and drive up hits on Amazon.  "For a minimal amount of money, time, and travel, an author can gain exposure to thousands of potential readers." I'm not sure I can help with the "thousands" of potential readers, but I was certainly interested in obtaining a copy of another book about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The WASP were the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft during World War II. Out of the 1078 women trained, only a few are left - and all of them over 80. However, every one I've ever met has been just as sharp as a tack and incredibly interesting to listen to. I count them among my heroes.

So it's kind of a risk to give me to a "fictionalized" account of their training. Remember, I adore these women. Plus, fifty years later I was in similar shoes, going through MY military pilot training. So in a way, this might be like taking a peek into my grandma's diary. Do I really want to know everything about her? And her let-loose-on-society days?


C'mon, although these weren't Victorian times, women during the 1940s were far from having equal rights, only a generation after the 19th amendment was passed giving them the right to vote. And now, they get to travel the country ferrying airplanes?  A freedom not many women their ages enjoyed. And like most people during the hard times of training, and then performing duties during wartime, there had to be times where they needed to burn off some of that stress. What's "the rest of the story" as it were? How do we get to know them not as just heroes, justifiably eventually awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, but also as women, and as fellow pilots?

For the most part, I believe the book stuck to the facts as far as the training the women underwent, the living conditions, etc. But thrown in was some drama so as to turn this into something folks would want to read. The main character is an already experienced pilot who tragically loses her boyfriend during the fiery crash of their Jenny (a WWI trainer). The story covers her recovery and entry into training. Along the way she meets colorful characters and experiences a wide array of adventures. This description of the book comes from the TLC website:

Sally Ketchum comes from dirt-poor farm folk. She has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly—and becomes the first person worthy of her love. But Tex dies in a freak accident, leaving Sally to make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, and in a special school located in West Texas begins learning to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest airplanes the military has to offer. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer, who seems to offer her everything she could want. But many people see no place for a “skirt” in the cockpit, and Sally soon finds herself pitted against a high-powered Washington lawyer who wants to disband the WASP once and for all.  Their battle is a story of extraordinary women who broke society’s rules and became heroes, and of men who stood in their way.

I'd say I was pleased with the storyline, especially the first part, which dealt with their flight training. But this is a novel, and as such is a well written one, if historically inaccurate. But I hold anything about the WASP to a very high standard. If it encourages more people to find out about the WASP, so much the better. The author, Karl Friedrich, is a pilot, so his descriptions of the aircraft and associated procedures were spot on. He was also very complimentary of the abilities of the WASP and made a very strong case about their being treated as less than their male contemporaries.

Bee Haydu, also an author who I have blogged about previously (here she is at the Girls With Wings booth in Oshkosh several years ago), wrote a book entitled Letters Home 1944-1945. I greatly enjoyed her book as well. It is literally a collection of letters she wrote home to her mother and brother who was serving overseas. It is a wonderful way to gain insight into not only her life during training, but also the follow up campaign she launched to have the WASP officially recognized for their military service.

I have run into her several times and when I was asked to review Wings asked her if I could send her the copy to see how SHE felt about it. I was so flattered when she accepted. I sent her the link to the book on Amazon and an immediate comment was "I believe it is the back cover of the book that reads “Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.” It is not “Women’s.” It is “Women.” " They're very feisty, these WASP. I hinted to her about her "off time" and she said, "Most of us knew that some of the trainees did date some of the instructors in Sweetwater on our free time which usually was a week-end pass. Some got away with it and some were caught and washed out. I personally was a “goodie two shoes” since I did not want to wash out." Fair enough.

In a subsequent email, Bee says, "I know this is a novel to be viewed differently than an historical paper.  However, I feel the author has strayed quite a distance from what it was really like.  I am concerned about the so-called “spy” sent by Congress.  We both know the real reason the WASP were disbanded (Chapter 14 in my book)."

When I asked for specific example of historical inaccuracy, she had to just base her feedback on what she had read so far. She lost power in the snowstorm and had gotten the electricity back on only recently. This is what she offered,"The largest example is that he is saying Congress sent someone. That is extremely doubtful.  Another is his description of the trainees arriving and THEN going through their physicals, etc. before being accepted.  All of this was done prior to going to Sweetwater.  You had to pass the physical and other items BEFORE being accepted in a class.  Too bad I did not get as far as his description of the actual flight training. I’m sure there would be many more examples.  To say he painted an exaggerated and not so accurate picture of the WASP would not be out of order."

 This doesn't necessarily make the book unworthy of attention. Many of the things we read, or watch, etc., are "based on historical events." I just think we should be aware that there is way more to the story.

As a side note, I happened to be in the library with my nephews and from across the aisle this other fictionalized account of the WASP caught my eye.

Flygirl is about an African American woman who successfully enters WASP training, but unfortunately has to hide her heritage by passing for a white woman. According to Wikipedia: There were two Chinese-American women in the WASP, Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee. Hazel Ying Lee died following a runway collision, but Maggie Gee survived the war. Ola Mildred Rexroat, an Oglala Sioux woman from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, was the only Native American woman in the WASP; she survived the war and later joined the Air Force. All the other members of the WASP were white; no African-Americans were allowed to join the WASP. Although this book was written for ages 12 and up, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and again, think it is a great way to introduce more people to the WASP as well.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Life as a CFI

Despite my best efforts, I can find no one willing to take the blame for my not realizing how difficult it is to be a Certificated Flight Instructor. It may be as hard, if not harder, than my training to become a CFI, in fact. I know, I know, I've been promising to write again about this journey to CFI long enough. Despite what is now an even MORE hectic schedule adding instructing into the mix, I know I have to catch you all up. So many people have been asking how I did it and what I recommend, so here it is.

Mr. Newman and I
As I have mentioned previously, I started flying in Army UH-1 helicopters and had only 30 hours in a single engine airplane before transitioning to multiengine airplanes. My first airplane checkride, in fact, was a failure. My instructor was a great guy with thousands of hours and years of combat flying. As far as he was concerned, he was just there to teach us rotorheads to keep the greasy side down. At our checkride, however, the SP or "standardization pilot" broke out the equivalent to the PTS or "practical test standards" that the Army uses - which my stick buddy and I had never seen. We had no idea about the maneuvers we were supposed to be doing, much less the tolerances for them.

I had a sweet Jeep at the time, too.
From then on, we were in the multi engine simulator and then the actual King Air, which the army calls a C-12 Huron. It was during that time I forgot what my feet were for. On a single engine airplane there are several different factors necessitating constant use of the rudder pedals. In multiengine airplanes the two engines provide more balance. Add a little thing called "yaw damper," which minimizes motion about the vertical axis, and the only time those pedals get used are take off, landing, and engine failures.

From that point on, I've mostly flown multiengine turboprops or jets, occasionally renting a single engine airplane just for fun. Or stress. I once took my sister and her family up for a flight and didn't tell her til afterwards how nervous it had made me feel. I tried to explain to her that yes, it was still flying an airplane, which I had been doing for years, which made it like driving a different kind of car. But, because I was used to flying IFR or "instrument flight rules" and had taken them on a sightseeing flight under VFR, that it was like driving said car in a different country. Everything was just a bit different.  Not to mention the fact I had my two nephews in the back seat. I had to peel my hands from the yoke after shutdown.

So as I've been talking about here and elsewhere, when I got back into single engine airplanes to not only really learn to fly them but to be able to TEACH people to fly in them, I had quite a rude awakening! My first challenge was finding an instructor who could teach this nearly 5000 hour pilot like she was a student pilot. Remember I said at the beginning that my first airplane instructor hadn't taught us the usual maneuvers. I needed to go back to the basics. Literally. My 40 hours of single engine time (the minimum required for a private pilot certificate) was over 10 years old. Meeting up with an instructor who just said "let's go" and headed for the airplane wasn't cutting it. I needed and wanted more ground instruction on what I should be studying. Having gone through the Army flight school where everything was laid out in a syllabus and you better BELIEVE you do your homework (which included memorizing entire pages of text), I was completely lost. I asked friends what I should be studying and got a list of  books as long as my arm. Now that I had them I started studying all of them without any rhyme or reason. [Luckily, I was advised to get my writtens out of the way at least. I also recommend getting them done as soon as possible so they'll be less of a distraction.]

I ended up doing what I should have been doing FROM THE START. I started interviewing instructors. Yup. Got their numbers, called them up and was able to get a good impression of how we'd mesh just over the phone. For example, you probably want an instructor who is going to listen to you and your needs. I talked to a couple that would have spent hours getting to know me. Unfortunately, they were very far away. I talked to many more that spent nearly the entire conversation talking about themselves. Then I talked to Jeff Vandeyacht of True Course Flight School in Oswego, NY. I know, I'm in Cleveland and, yes, NY is far away, but I also have an uncle who lives nearby and used Jeff for his training.  And my uncle kindly offered me a place to stay.

I was really impressed with Jeff. We soon worked out a plan for me to intermittently come to NY and do some training (which would allow me to focus on training and put Girls With Wings to the side). Phase one was basic fundamentals and maneuvers. I spent a week flying with Jeff just relearning to fly a single engine airplane, prompted mostly by his nudging the rudder pedals to get me back into trim. He also demonstrated, and had me practice, all of the maneuvers from the private to the commercial. I found this to be very valuable and looked forward to phase two, which would be me doing the maneuvers from the right seat and learning to teach them like the instructor I'd eventually be. Unfortunately, I hurt my back badly, and phase two kept getting pushed back. Phase three, working on maneuvers in a complex airplane, looked farther and farther down the line.

Sara. And neither of those guys are me.
I took a break and some serious muscle relaxants and started to rebuild my back with different exercises. When I healed, however, it was time to travel to Mobile, AL, for my participation in the Air Race Classic's inspiration program for area girls. Coincidentally, I have friends in Alabama that just happen to own a flight school. I used to fly with Glen at Flight Options in the Citation IIs and Vs. He and his wife Sara run a multifaceted operation - Shoreline Aviation Services - and they offered to have me stay with them and train some more. Plan C (or was it D or E?) turned into going to their flight school between Mobile and Sun n Fun. Unfortunately, no one alerted the weather gods. Though we got some great flying in, it wasn't enough time. A couple of things I learned at Shoreline Aviation: how ground school was supposed to work. I'd only done training with the Army or professional (career) flight schools. I was totally unfamiliar with Part 61 lesson plans and how they were used. Part 61 schools are usually taught one on one and are more flexible than the training I had undergone. Another thing? Sara, shown above, also taught me to "sing like a bird" and certain key phrases to use while teaching my students - and encourage them to sing as well. Glen and Sara have been amazing mentors to me in my quest for my CFI and still continue to be a source of guidance, encouragement and advice in many areas.

But they had to get back to work on their other endeavors. So when I returned to Cleveland, I still wasn't ready for my CFI checkride and received a phone call from Dianna who runs a flight training operation down in Texas which I blogged about extensively. I gathered an amazing amount of knowledge being there - but there was still something missing. Actually two things. One, a complex airplane, which is defined as having
Additionally, I was studying, studying, studying, studying. I could have gone on for years studying never feeling like I had studied enough. So in looking for a complex airplane needed for the checkride I looked at American Flyers in Houston. They offer a free hour of flight and oral evaluation and so I figured I couldn't lose anything by doing it. I met with the chief pilot who asked a bunch of questions - yet also took some time getting to know me (sound familiar?) - and had me fly the maneuvers. His analysis? That I had all of the information floating around in my head and just needed to straighten it up a bit; I could easily be ready for the checkride in two weeks. Here's the catch. I had been doing my CFI on a budget up til now. American Flyers on their website says "American Flyers Flight Instructor Academy...CFI-A & CFI-I Certificates Only $2,995.00" Well, I wanted only to get my CFI - Airplane, not my CFI - Instrument so that should be at least half off, right? Don't believe it. The more upfront of the instructors there will tell you that there's no way it will be that inexpensive, and in fact my CFI training there was nearly twice that. For two weeks. Ouch.

I know. I get slightly nauseous every time I think about it. But here's the thing. They had a syllabus they taught out of. So every day I knew what was coming so I could study in advance. The instructor then met with me and reviewed all of the information and then we flew the appropriate maneuvers. Then I went home and prepared a lesson plan so I could teach him the next day. I spent all day every day at the flight school either in class or flying. I stayed at a hotel (more $$) and did nothing but work on lesson plans and now what I KNEW I had to study. Note: be careful about doing this because you can burn yourself out. There were other CFI candidates at the  flight school wondering why they weren't finishing up as fast as I was. To which the AF instructors said, then you need to be putting in the same time and effort as Lynda. The onus of being ready for a CFI checkride is still incumbent on the student.

Two weeks to the day I was standing in front of an FAA examiner beginning my CFI checkride. So, despite the huge tab for this training, I completed the rating. I don't think in retrospect I could have finished it for any less, and in fact, had I continued the training on my own, it probably would have taken months to finish. This way I was able to knock it out and be done before Oshkosh - my self imposed deadline.

And what have I learned and now recommend?

1. Interview flight instructors before you ever train with one. I think personality has a great deal to do with the success of flight training and you can get a good feel for an instructor by just talking to him or her. You want to succeed with the help of your CFI, not in spite of him or her.

2. Consider flying with another instructor during your training to see if you can learn something you've been struggling with because of a difference in technique. Don't be afraid to switch flight instructors. The first time that little niggling feeling tells you things aren't working out should make you analyze your situation. Fly with another instructor even just once to determine if you aren't going to succeed with your current CFI because of the singular YOU or the plural YOU. Do not be afraid to ask for an evaluation ride from your flight school - and then be willing to accept the result. This is YOUR training (and your money) - you are ultimately responsible for it!

3. Don't commit to a school by joining their flight club prematurely. I did, and nearly lost a $1000 deposit when I went elsewhere to finish flight training. Read the fine print.

4. Analyze your needs. I should have accepted the fact from the start that I was looking for a structured environment with a syllabus. I was wading through an ocean of things I could have learned and should have focused on what I had to learn.

5. or 4b. If you are a busy individual with a lot of things on your plate (not a full time student), consider a part 141 school or traveling to a flight school to remove your other obligations from your plate.  Again, I've talked to many busy professionals that are a year or two into their CFI training and struggling to finish. Starting and stopping their training only adds to the delay and cost. Jumping into American Flyers or their equivalent and their big lump sums may be more efficient in the long run.

6. Speaking of money. Apply for scholarships. I didn't because everyone told me that I'd knock this CFI thing out in two weeks given my experience. And then my plan fell apart and I didn't know what I was doing when. It would have been nice to have offset these training costs with even a $1000 or two. Most scholarships give you a large window to complete the training for which you applied for the scholarship. The money one earns as a flight instructor won't pay off a mortgage AND the incurred debt from getting the rating.

7. CFIs: Lesson plans. You're going to have to do them eventually. Get your writtens done and start on your lesson plans. Make them basic and revisit them to refine them later. I tried to "borrow" someone else's lesson plans but part of the learning comes from building them. I wished I hadn't had to do them too during my two week firehose course.

Well, that's all I can think of now. I welcome your feedback! What was your experience?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Scholarship Announcement from Girls With Wings

The time has come for us to announce the results of our fifth annual scholarship program! 

Before I introduce you to the winner, I'd like to take some time to thank all of the people that contributed to the Girls With Wings Scholarship, some by becoming an ATC Crewmember, others through donations. For example, I'd like to thank an individual (and she knows who she is!) for her continuing annual contribution toward our fund. This year we also received $500 from Rob Riggen, the president of Flying High Coffee, who donates a portion of the profits from incredibly-awesome-coffee sales to benefit aviation organizations.  Other folks used the Paypal button on our website to make donations and some contributed during their purchase from the Girls With Wings Pilot Shop, brought to you by Very Important Pilots, LLC., the licensed retailer of Girls With Wings items.

Selecting a scholarship winner is not an easy thing to do.  Actually, setting up a scholarship program is not easy, either! We are trying to learn our lessons every year and improve the process and the pool of applicants but there is nothing we can do when people apply for the scholarship but do not a. qualify, or b. comply. One third of this year's submissions didn't include every item that was outlined on the application document and were therefore immediately disqualified. We have a list of criteria that must be met, from expressed emotions such as motivation and enthusiasm to more tangible qualifications such as whether the individuals had completed their solo flights. To accomplish the comprehensive judging, applicants are examined in their use of social media sources, such as Facebook (and how said applicants portray themselves), whether the applicant has participated in GWW or other aviation and educational outreach activities, and other factors such as professional courtesy and clearly stated plans and goals for their training.

However, the most important element to the Girls With Wings Scholarship criteria is the desire and ability of the applicant to make a good Girls With Wings role model. This is difficult to determine when the majority of the essays submitted do not mention these factors... or even the words Girls With Wings. We do understand that we are asking our applicants to be willing to give something back to the aviation community, and so this scholarship is not a right fit for everyone.

Sadly, this meant that the vast majority of the applicants were not eligible to be awarded $1000 toward the pursuit of a private pilot's certificate. We'd like to think that folks donate funds to GWW because they believe in our mission. We could just give the money to anyone who applies (because certainly we felt that many applicants were deserving of assistance), but we'd prefer to stick to the reason the scholarship fund was founded: To use women in aviation to inspire girls to reach their full potential. Therefore, the Girls With Wings board has resolved to retain the remainder of the current funds and perfect the scholarship process before the next opportunity. Everyone who applied this year is encouraged to reapply during the next scholarship cycle. In return, we will make a greater effort to make more clear what we'd like to see from the applicants and attempt to let more people know of our scholarship. If you'd like to participate in our our program, please email me.

So who was the deserving winner of the $1000 scholarship?

Kaitlyn Hollingsworth, the daughter of a pilot and employee in the nonprofit sector who works at an airport to afford lessons. In her application essay, she writes,

If chosen as a scholarship recipient and representative of Girls With Wings, I would like to share the joy of aviation and ability to push through your fears with other women and girls. I am not getting my pilots license to become a professional pilot or pursue a full-time career in the field. I fly because every time I get in my airplane I am pushing myself to become a better version of myself. Flying requires you to be a good listener, detail-oriented, and build a value system which is constantly requiring you to evaluate your skill and accept constructive criticism from others. It has built faith in myself and has allowed me to listen to that voice inside which says this is a blast and shows me what I am capable of. I want to be that encourager of other girls and women who think that aviation is something that could be fun to be a part of but never give it a second thought.
Congratulations, Kaitlyn! She will soon have her application essay up on the Girls With Wings website, and has also been allotted a space on the GWW message board to post updates on her training.

And finally, we would like to also note that others have contributed funds for our operational expenses such as travel and other costs of running a nonprofit organization with outreach activities. For example, this blog entry is being typed on a laptop that Girls With Wings was able to purchase (a need long overdue, I might add) because of a donation of a Lightspeed Zulu headset to the Racing Aces, a team who raised funds for Girls With Wings during the Air Race Classic. We do appreciate all of the support we receive from the aviation community!

Many thanks to all and blue skies!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Post Osh11 Edition

Wow. Is Oshkosh really over? It seems like years ago that I went up to American Flyers in Houston, TX, to finish up my CFI training (which will be the subject of a future blog entry). For two weeks I did nothing but do one on one classroom prep, fly, and study. Ok, I might have let some Girls With Wings stuff slide in there, but mostly I had a goal: finishing my CFI rating before I had to leave for Oshkosh. And that meant leaving OHIO for Oshkosh, which was 1500 miles from Texas....

So on July 11th I passed my CFI Checkride. It was, by most standards (also known as other people's horror stories), "easy." But it was no walk in the park. When it was over, I went back to my hotel room and packed up everything I'd been carting around for the last few months. I was basically useless (IOW brain dead) for anything more. People have asked me if the CFI rating was harder than a jet type and I reply enthusiastically, "yes." There was so much to know as a CFI, mostly getting back to the basics, whereas my successive type rides mostly just built on each other. There are small differences in different airplanes, but to know the steps of the landing phases (and how to teach it!) was a lot more difficult.

Anyway, I said that was for a future entry... I drove the two day trip back to Ohio and immediately began the recovery process. First I cleaned up six months of spider webs, cat hair and dust that tend to accumulate in a century old house. Then I unloaded my car, mentioned in many blog entries and Facebook posts (I wonder if it should have its own FB page?) - with all of this driving, I have recently turned over 162,000 miles on it. Better not jinx it; it could require another sacrificial offering to the Honda God. Then I went to Daffy Dan's to pick up all of the t-shirts for my Oshkosh (otherwise known as EAA Airventure) booth. ALL of which needed to be received, priced, folded, packaged and packed into boxes. One of the many time-consuming behind the scenes tasks of a small business owner.

I left for Oshkosh at 3am on Saturday morning, hoping to get there at a reasonable time (daylight). I hadn't planned on leaving that early, but with all of the anticipation I couldn't sleep. I was awake at 12:30am and after an hour of tossing and turning, just got up and finished loading the trailer in the dark. In the rain. Not long after I left home I had to spend an hour under a freeway underpass because the rain was coming down so hard not only could I not see two feet in front of me, I also was hydroplaning all over the place.

The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful and my dad and I arrived Camp Scholler mid day on Saturday, which would become Home Sweet Home for the next week. We threw together our pop-up camper and then went over to Hangar A to unload all of the stuff. On Sunday evening, Dad, my sister, two nephews and I had just finished putting the booth together when someone from the logistics company came by to say that he'd forgotten to run electricity to the rest of our aisle and would need to access the floor panels running under our booth. Under our carpet. Under the mats. Under the grid system we used to stack all of the t-shirts. The grid system that took me hours to build (my dad refuses, too frustrating). And all of the t-shirts in the cubes that were sorted and stacked neatly in their slippery plastic sleeves.


So I ask, "can you not just run the electricity along the ceiling (since, clearly, everyone else in the aisle was set up too, and, in fact, gone for the evening)?"  He seems to think that's a pretty good idea but leaves. We wait around for a while, but he doesn't return. So I post a note that asks them to call me before dismantling. No call, so imagine our surprise when we come in an hour before the show starts monday morning and CLEARLY they had come in that night and disturbed the booth anyway. How did we know? Well, for starters there was a small mountain range of electrical cords snaking under the carpet, which was no longer flat and even. Especially were there was a foot size hole between the plates. And they had tried to move the grids, which if you have any experience whatsoever with them, you know that this is not possible, so many of them were now disconnected. And lastly, the t-shirts that had slid out of the cubes had been just randomly shoved back in. Wonderful.

Worse was the reaction from the logistic people at the show, which I will now gloss over. [Gloss.] Beautifully though, some angels from EAA stepped in to help clean up the mess, minimize the damage and try to make a mismatched carpet runner (we had to cut our carpet to shove the cords under the plates again) as pretty as possible. Sigh.

But we conquered this wrinkle and began what is truly the best part of Oshkosh, seeing all of the folks and telling them about Girls With Wings. And receiving their sincere compliments about our outreach efforts. And having them tell me how much the recipient of their Penelope Pilot book from last year LOVED it. Like this young lady, who came by repeatedly to talk to "LYNDA MEEKS!" (that's how she said my name, every time) as she visited to show me her airplane colored in Penelope's colors, update me on her activities at the show, and so on. She was completely adorable. HER dad said she's not going to make it again til 2013. Just won't be the same without her.

The week was really a blur, since I had very little opportunity to prepare for it because of the CFI training. Last year I had a color coded staffing chart. Not this year. I also was missing some of my key helpers, Erica and Jacqui, who were so tremendous last time. My dad, of course, was there all day every day. My nephews, ages 10 and 14, helped for the first couple of the days. I also had at least one person helping during the busy times and when I had to go to do a seminar with Youth Aviation Adventure, interviews or author's signings at the EAA Wearhouse. There are no words to express how much I would like to thank all that volunteered: Carole, Lisa, Lin and her mother, Keith and his son Aiden, Camila, Amy and Jim, Sarah and Barbara. My sister came back in at the end to help with the 2nd worst time helping at a booth - the cleanup.

There are a couple of times that deserve special notice, thanks to Rob Riggen of Flying High Coffee. He presented both Girls With Wings and Able Flight checks for $500 for our programs. As if his coffee wasn't insanely delicious on its own, he has decided to funnel his profits back into aviation programs.  I am very honored GWW has been chosen as a recipient of his generosity. He was also the inspiration for us to keep our spirits up the whole week. If you were there, you know that it was either a. hot, b. rainy, or c. hot and rainy. Rob had a smile on his exhausted face the entire time. After all, he was up before everyone else brewing his coffee, which he gave out for FREE to raise awareness of his brand. Please support his company - especially designed to cater to the aviation community.

Another special time was seeing the trailer for AcroCamp on a big screen. I don't know about you, but when I see people on a reality show I wonder how they can act so naturally. They, like I did, probably started forgetting they were constantly being recorded. It takes seeing yourself on-screen to realize that you may be setting yourself up for a bucket full of embarrassment. Stay tuned to the release of the documentary this fall and share this embarrassment with me!

Unfortunately, there were so many events I didn't make. I didn't make Arty's presentation about her ultra-light flight from Oregon to Oshkosh (she also flew from Oregon to Florida for Sun and Fun last year). She blogged about both trips. And so many more events, tweetups, etc. I'm so sorry.

For example, I was invited again to participate in Women Soar, but didn't receive notification until just before Oshkosh and sadly didn't have help that weekend to cover the booth in order to attend most of the activities. I did get to go to the icebreaker session - which was really fun. I hope to be able to participate next year, if they forgive me for standing them up. It is really a wonderful program. Some of the things these high schoolers have already accomplished make me feel like a slacker!

I am not going to even attempt to mention all of my wonderful social network or otherwise known aviation enthusiast friends that were there. I am embarrassed to say they had to all come by my booth to visit me since I was scarcely able to leave it. Next year my goal is to do something, anything, to free myself up a bit more to get out there to network, and maybe, even, GASP, enjoy the show!?!

If I sound too much like I'm complaining, I have to admit that at the beginning of the show my dad (who is my right hand man for most of what GWW does) and I were questioning our attendance. It's quite an expensive, labor intensive and time consuming endeavor. No matter how many t-shirts we sell, we never quite break even. But by the end of the week, though we were exhausted we both decided we'd go another round next year. If you need to know how supportive the aviation community is of your organization, you have to meet with them face to face. One certainly has a wide audience at Oshkosh. And if you want to know your impact, you have to see their reactions, like these girls, some of the many that sat down in the middle of the booth to read the Penelope book right away.

And so, Monday morning, as dad was fixing to drive away in his truck and camper, and I was driving home with my trailer, we both decided to have a go again next year.  It's just too rewarding.

And as far as my post-Oshkosh activities, though the trailer has been unloaded onto my back porch, the unsold merchandise still has to be inventoried and put away so it is available at the online Girls With Wings Pilot Shop. I have tons of emails and other correspondence to answer. Grants to apply for. Aviation Inspiration Days to arrange. GWW Chapters to train. And the Scholarship application window has closed, so those apps need to be evaluated and awarded. Gosh, what else? Oh, yeah, I need to actually get a job as a CFI before I forget all that I learned. Trust me, I do NOT want to go through that again.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everything heats up in July

Is it hot enough for you? The answer for most of us would be a resounding yes, as we wipe the sweat from our respective brows during these record-setting temps these past few days. My frustration with the never ending heat is somewhat tempered by knowing that the heat wave will have passed by the state of Wisconsin, at least leaving us with more moderate temperatures next week for EAA Airventure.

[Note. After spending the last few months in Texas, I thought I would find Ohio weather moderate in comparison. The thermometer is not as high, but someone added humidity to the mix. It's a lot more sultry here. And not in a good way.]

Oh, you say, what's AirVenture? It is known more familiarly as Oshkosh to the 500,000 or so people who treat this 7 day event, always the last week in July, as their Mecca. Last year we called it "SPLOSHkosh" because of the insanely continuous rainfall which turned the fields into muddy pits. This year, I hope, the weather will be more moderate. I mean, it always rains at least once, but hopefully the "once" will last hours instead of days. A break in the heat will also be nice. This will be Girls With Wings' seventh year having a booth to promote the organization and do fundraising. Family and friends stay at the campground, in a spot strategically chosen to offer the shortest walk to Hangar A every morning, with a pass by the food tent every evening. We're just too tired to cook at the end of the day!

Last year we moved into a bigger booth to handle the traffic (We're still in Hangar A, but now booth 1058). This means we need a lot more staffing. So in addition to designing and folding, pricing and packaging t-shirts, and ordering, receiving and packaging hair accessories, jewelry, etc, and then packing all of this stuff up into my trailer to get to Oshkosh, I also need to worry about finding volunteers to help. Trust me, this is SO important to me I could staff it myself because I feel so strongly about GWW, but realistically, it helps to have four people in the booth to talk to and help all of the visitors. One person on each side to engage the public (yes, our new booth is open on both sides, which means people use it as a short cut - this drives me CRAZY when other exhibitors do it) and one person helping to find sizes and one person to ring up purchases. Every year, because of the expenses involved, we barely break even, but it's a such a charge to interact with the community. Especially the ones who say, "Girls With Wings? Where's Boys With Wings?" Naaah. Most people get it and would like to spend all day sharing stories!

This year, more than ever, I am also being called away to do interviews,  Penelope book signings and a seminar on starting Youth Aviation Programs which means I REALLY need help. Especially on the weekend, the last few days, because I'd like to help out again with Women Soar. Then again, maybe I just try to do too much (I've heard that before). I've considered just having a booth with a table so we could just tell people about Girls With Wings, but I think a lot of people feel like I did, and do, that it's important to get aviation themed items out there for the girls (and ladies). Our t-shirts stick to motivational messages, like "Yes, Girls Can Fly!" Simple, but to the point. And necessary. So until I fall flat on my face, I'm going to continue to have a booth at Oshkosh. Please email me if you are willing to commit to a 2 hour shift at any time during the week.

Debbie Downer
So I'm stressing about finding help at Osh, as well as worrying (as I do every year) about getting some good applications for the GWW scholarships. We've really had to tighten up the application process because of lessons learned from the 4 previous years of doing the program. We still look for people who would make good role models and by that I mean being a good role model. As an example, one year in particular I friended one of the better applicants on Facebook. Her essay was a great story about wanting to be an example to her son by becoming a pilot that I was truly moved by. Her FB page, however, was filled with stories of public intoxication using words I don't hear as much since I got out of the Army. I don't have any delusions of (or intent to) instilling Victorian era modesty back into society, but I do hope to promote an individual with a positive attitude. I take seriously any lamentations on social media sites about how the universe and everyone in it hates you. Everyone has a down day, but actions speak louder than words. And one of my favorite mantras is, "You may not be able to control something that happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it." By selecting an applicant as a recipient of a GWW scholarship, I have to be sure that she'll personify our mission to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. You can't do this with the SNL character Debbie Downer mentality. Becoming a pilot is tough - we have to motivate (not discourage) each other!

My hope, with stylizing the scholarship to require the winners to post on the GWW Message board, is to encourage a lot more mentoring, and so that is not going to change. Again, if I could guarantee raising enough funds to offer four scholarships per year, I'd like to have a "reigning" GWW Role model every quarter of the year. But first, I'd like to find some awesome applicants for this year! As my good friend, Cindy Jacobs, always says, "Every year you worry about it, and every year you get a ton of applications right in under the deadline." Which happens to be July 31st. She's right, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to worry about it every year. Please tell everyone you know about the scholarship. Even if you don't have a friend who has soloed and is working on her private pilot certificate, your friend might know someone who does.

What else is bringing on the heat? I'm trying to generate more talk on the aforementioned message board. I decided to offer a very nice prize to the winner of a contest but haven't gotten much traffic. All you have to do is post your favorite pictures of a Girl With Wings on the board and/or vote on the ones you see there. The person with the most votes wins a travel bag valued at $95! Everyone likes to see aviation photos. Especially their own. And especially when they can win something for them!

And of course, the first couple of weeks of July were taking up by my finally wrapping up my Certificated Flight Instructor Rating. I have been working on this rating for about eight months, thinking I could knock it out in a couple of weeks, not knowing what I didn't know. I've been blogging over my experiences in the pursuit of it, but I've received many emails since with people asking my advice on how to best get theirs. I'll have to blog on it, now that I am an educated consumer of the flight school system. I imagine it will expound at length on the basic principal of accomplishing CFI training: There is no "cheap" and there is no "easy." And now I have to see if I can make a living at it!

And on that note, without becoming a Debbie Downer myself, I've got some work to do. A lot of paperwork that's built up over the last few months while I was on the road. I have to get it done before I leave for Oshkosh on Saturday so I can fully enjoy the show. See you there!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

It's Scholarship Time at Girls With Wings!

Yup, it's July and that means I have to find some people to give money to. I know, tough job, right? I always want to give the funds to folks that really deserve it. And thus far I think we've chosen some great winners. All of them are featured on the website.

For example, last year we chose Rose, an Air Force ROTC cadet at Florida State University. Besides posting updates to the GWW Message board, we posted her final essay on the website. It begins:

It has been a year full of leaps and bounds for me. I have discovered more about myself – my limitations and capabilities – than I ever have in such a short period of time. When I started this year, I thought (with the undeniable naivety of the young) that I could do everything, perhaps only sacrificing sleep to the wayside.

I’m sure you can already imagine the outcome of his essay with a beginning like that…

We have a very narrow margin of applicants we can accept which is why I SO want to get the word out. Potential recipients must have soloed, but not yet received their private pilot's license. We've developed the application considering some lessons learned over the last four years but we still retain the requirement for an essay with photo stating why the applicant believes she is a role model for Girl With Wings, to include her motivation, inspirations and future plans. Applicants then agree to possibly have portions of or their entire essays and pictures posted on the GWW website.

We also chose Janice, a student of aviation management at Mt San Antonio College/Southern Illinois University. Her final thoughts are in her essay, Girls With Wings: Truly Uplifting:

A boost of confidence and a lot of support is what I found to be the most important outcomes from this scholarship. I have come to realize that aside from the financial help, this year has been a huge year in my growth as an adult, a pilot and a professional. Prior to knowing about Girls With Wings, I was very timid in how I approached aviation. I was afraid to ask questions feeling that people would think I was dumb. I was extremely nervous when approaching certain challenges such as my first solo, solo cross-country, and long solo cross-country. Writing about my experiences on the Girls With Wings web site and getting feedback from other more experienced woman really helped me with my insecurities.

Ideally, I hope to start raising $4000 per year in order to have a scholarship award each quarter. But that's going to require more donations. We were SO close to $3000 on July 1st! Next year, I think we can do it. But first PLEASE spread the word about this year's scholarship application window. One of your friends just might know someone PERFECT for this scholarship!

Deadline for submission is Midnight EST, July 31st, 2011.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cross Country Part IV

I believe I can wrap up this adventure with this last installment. Having never been a woman of few words, I know I'm dragging out this experience but it's been great for me to reinforce all that I've learned. So where was I....?

Oh, yeah, Oklahoma. After another very short night's sleep it was time to continue on to the Air Race Classic Terminus in Mobile, AL. I called the weather briefers again and received the news that the way was MOSTLY clear, except for a couple of isolated thunderstorms along our route and some low ceilings about 2/3 of the way to our destination. Rather than mess with dodging these clouds later and perhaps running late (we wanted to get to KBFM before The Racing Aces did to record their arrival), I filed an IFR flight plan and left for the airport so we could take off at 6am.

Low clouds ahead
All in all, I'm sorry to say that it was a non-eventful flight. Wait. That's a good thing, right? Those cells showed up on the Garmin Aera right as scheduled and I requested a slight deviation from ATC to go around them (though I was suspiciously sure that the cells were purposely moving into our direction of travel). The low ceilings appeared just as predicted, but we were well above them and they didn't impact our flight at all. We passed them by in due time and it was clear and a million by the time we got to the Mobile area. All the way over there was a T-6 Texan following us on the frequency. And I do mean Texan. The pilot had quite a drawl!

"The North American T-6 Texan was known as "the pilot maker" because of its important role in preparing pilots for combat. Derived from the 1935 North American NA-16 prototype, a cantilever low-wing monoplane, the Texan filled the need for a basic combat trainer during WW II and beyond." Since  I made it to KBFM first, we taxied off the runway and turned on the parallel taxiway just as we heard the T-6s request and approval for it from tower. Don't know why and don't care, but the Texan did a low pass blowing smoke down the runway. Love it.

Jasmine and I unloaded all of our gear and prepared for the arrival of the Racing Aces. Their Husky was the only taildragger to finish the race this year, as apparently the Maule that was also entered unfortunately had engine trouble along the way. Also awaiting their arrival was Katherine, the young lady from the Mobile, AL, Boys and Girls Club that was paired with them for the Race. The racers all had to turn in their keys and their GPS trackers and are not allowed to mess with their airplanes until given the OK from the judges. At this point the racers were on their own again, for socializing, touristing, eating, sleeping, shopping, etc.  I heard from quite a few people that the active Facebook page not seen before the 2011 Air Race helped facilitate a greater sense of camaraderie among the racers. There was no shortage of pal-ling around!

Though I'm not officially a part of the Race,  I did make Saturday's Extravaganza for the Racers and their partner girls at the USS Alabama Battleship and Aviation Museum. These were the girls I gave a presentation to back in March. It was wonderful to see the girls so excited about interacting with the Racers! Inger Anderson of the B&G Club and Terry Carbonell of the ARC did a wonderful job bringing everyone together. I can't help believing that many young lives have been impacted by the relationships developed between the women and girls and definitely plan to have a role again next year in giving the presentation at the Terminus stop in the Cincinnati, OH, area. I appreciate the support I received from the other Racers for Girls With Wings and hope to have an increased role in the future. Even though I have no idea what the future holds for me, I know the Air Race Classic has incredible events planned for the kids next year.

Racing Aces getting their certificates
All in all, I am completely overjoyed to have been able to participate in the race with the Racing Aces, even if in a limited way and in several different capacities. It has been a crazy time for me since February when I left Ohio for the Women in Aviation conference and I have hardly been back since. I've been simultaneously keeping Girls With Wings going while working on my CFI and I know there are quite a few people that have been craving more of my attention. I am trying.

The planning for the Race took initially longer than it would for someone more familiar with this type of flying, but I am much more comfortable with it now (now to find some kind of income doing the same!). It will soon be time to put this all aside: I am returning the 182 to the Flight School tomorrow - after I give it a bath, of course, and will immediately be on my way to Houston to complete the CFI training and schedule the checkride. This absolutely must be completed before Oshkosh the last week in July or I will likely never get it done as new events and tasks will come rolling around in August. Do not be surprised if you don't hear from me until it's done. I will report my success [fingers crossed] here as soon as it's a reality!