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!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cross Country Part III

In the last blog entry I talked about the middle portion of my Air Race Classic adventure. We had made it to Rawlins, WY, and needed to cross the country again, this time to the Terminus in Mobile, AL. Originally Jasmine and I needed to make the trip in one day - over 10 hours of flight time! However, because of the changes made in the race we had two days to make the trip.The Racing Aces recommended we stop halfway, at Tulsa, OK, to rest and refuel. I'm good with that.

I woke up early early to start calling 1-800-WX BRIEF.  This number enables pilots to talk to "Air Traffic Control Specialists assigned to Lockheed Martin Flight Services, certified by the National Weather Service (NWS) as Pilot Weather Briefers. Pilot Weather Briefers are authorized to translate and interpret available NWS products describing the enroute and destination weather. The leading contributing factor to general aviation accidents is weather. Pilot Weather Briefers are trained to help you avoid dangerous situations." There's a really great page from Flight Training magazine that includes all that Flight Service offers, but let me sum up: it is the best way (supposing you've done a little bit of research in advance) to get a good overview of the weather situation along your route of flight. Plus they can tell you all of the NOTAMs (discussed previously) and TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that violation of can put your license at risk. And it's a real person. Ask for clarification on that turbulence forecast, and they can tell you whether it's going to be a factor for you or not.

I wanted to get up and going as soon as the sun came up to take advantage of the lighter winds and smoother skies that are more common first thing in the morning but the FBO didn't actually open til 7am. I still got up before dawn. I'm much more of a morning person. As I was listening to the briefer tell me how it was clear it was at RWL, I was also looking out of my westerly facing window at the dark ominous storm clouds rolling in from that direction. They were currently caught up by the mountains on that side of the airport but I knew they were coming eventually. I got a hold of Jasmine and we departed the hotel for the airport as a light rain started falling.

I should have taken pictures of what I was looking at, but I was trying too hard to interpret the clouds around the airport. The current weather at the airport was still saying clear, but there were definitely clouds all around. I filed an IFR flight plan, but I feared that we'd have to climb too high to get seen on radar and as a result get caught in the bumps that usually exist in such cloud formations. No way I could have gotten on top of them. I looked to my right and my left but never did see another flight crew member to help me make a decision as I was used to. So on my own I determined we could fly to the east, under the clouds, and get out that way. Conveniently in my intended direction of travel. But I was never going to get anywhere unless I took off! C'mon, Lynda, make a decision already!

Sure enough, it was pretty clear after takeoff that we'd have NO problem getting out of there to the east. Not only that, it was a much smoother flight at the lower altitude than what we flew up higher on the way in! Interestingly enough, though, when I checked in on the Denver Center ATC frequency for radar advisories, the controller started asking me about the IFR Flight Plan I had filed. Panicked, I was thinking, oh, no, what did I forget? I didn't activate it, so why were they looking for me?? A CFI friend says that's just the conscientious controller keeping an eye out for folks flying out of the Rockies. Nice, but still raised my BP a bit!

And just like that, we were on our way to Tulsa, OK, at 7500 feet. It was so neat to see the rocky terrain change to farmland and go from grey to brown to green. We even flew right past one of the Air Race stops, Great Bend, KS. I really feel that on this leg a growing comfort level  in the airplane. My "cone of understanding" was growing, as I had more time and ability to look around and observe all that was going on, playing around with power settings and leaning the engine. Especially since I had a challenge on this leg. I wanted to take off from Rawlins with the least fuel load to be at the lightest weight for the best performance in the mountains, where climb performance can be an issue. But I also wanted to be able to make Tulsa nonstop.

The problem is that the fuel quantity indicators in airplanes are only required to read correctly at 2 different fuel levels: Full and empty. So even though the fuel was showing sufficient, I still had some hesitation about trusting them. I kept recalculating, trying to determine if I should preemptively land to get more fuel. It would be a bit wasteful if I didn't need to land, get gas and take back off again if I already had enough on board. Should I? Shouldn't I? I was trying to recalibrate my brain. Used to seeing a fuel flow in the hundreds of gallons (we actually use pounds of jet fuel usually) per hour in the jet, the C182 burns about 11 gallons per hour. With over 20 gallons remaining, I still had two hours easily. But, I was thinking, if you run out of gas in an airplane you just don't coast to the side of the road. And we pilots are ALWAYS hearing about "fuel starvation" accidents where a pilot ran out of gas and has to land in an emergency situation...

...but it was no problem. Just to make sure, when I landed at Tulsa, I checked the tanks myself. Since the fuel gauges are so inaccurate, the best way to check the tanks is to use one of these. Stick it in the tank, hold your finger over the end, and the fuel level will be indicated on this gauge. Turns out I had TWICE the fuel load required by the Federal Aviation Regulations. I only needed to have a half hour of fuel (6 gallons) for this day flight and I had over twelve. However, in all honesty, did I feel real comfortable with that? Not so much. Especially since I wasn't very familiar with that airplane and with how accurate the gauges were. I'm now beginning to understand why my friends who are pilots are SO conservative on their fuel burn rates.

Frankly, even though at this point it was still early afternoon, I am done for the day. A couple of pre-4 am wakeups followed by hours and hours sitting in a gently rocking airplane under the hot sun was working me over.  Time to plan for tomorrow's KTUL to KBFM flight...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cross Country Part II

In my last blog entry I talked about the cross country flying that I'm doing in conjunction with the Air Race Classic thanks to The Racing Aces, who have recently announced they have raised over $14,000 for Girls With Wings. Yeah, that's right.  I cannot thank The Racing Aces - Dianna Stanger and Victoria Holt, for their amazing generosity, as well as their sponsors:
As I was mentioned previously, the Air Race Classic was delayed by a day because of weather. There was a low pressure system just stuck over Iowa. To the left is a schematic representation of flow around a low-pressure area in the Northern hemisphere. Wind is initially accelerated from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. This is due to density (or temperature and moisture) differences between two air masses. The pressure-gradient force is represented by blue arrows, the Coriolis acceleration (always perpendicular to the velocity) by red arrows.  A low pressure area is commonly associated with inclement weather, while high pressure area is associated with light winds and fair skies. Said low pressure system was right over IA, with the strongest storms to our north and west - where the first stops were. And it wasn't moving any time soon.

The decision to delay the race by a day led into a plan to have everyone relocate to Alliance, NE, to resume the race. Everyone was left to their own devices, as long as they got there by noon. KIOW to KAIA was over 500 miles and many of the racers decided to go either halfway, or divert way south around the weather system, or, as we did, wait until morning.  Jasmine and I met Dianna and Victoria at the airport and after they left (Jasmine is their PR person), we departed IFR. On an IFR flight plan. So what, you say?

Citation X Panel
What's so significant about my filing an IFR Flight Plan? (For IFR flights, flight plans are used by air traffic control to initiate tracking and routing services. For VFR flights, their only purpose is to provide needed information should search and rescue operations be required, or for use by air traffic control when flying in a "Special Flight Rules Area") I mean, I used to fly IFR all the time. However, I haven't flown IFR (other than an Instrument Proficiency Check) since I got furloughed a year and a half ago. And this time I was flying through the clouds, not facing a huge avionics panel as shown above, but a big blank space.

Cessna 182 Panel
Since I'm training to be a Flight Instructor, I've been flying the whole route from the right seat so that when I return from this trip I'll be ready to wrap up that durn checkride. So I guess I didn't really think through having to lean over to see the instruments. Jasmine, I should mention, is not a pilot. That blue middle round gauge on the top row? That's the attitude indicator, or artificial horizon. Since we fly an airplane in relationship to the horizon (nose above the horizon = climb, wing below the horizon = turn), something had to be done for us to fly through the clouds. Eureka. You can see the difference between the two panels. On the X panel you can just barely see the standby attitude indicator on the upper left. It's the third one of three. Used for emergencies. So it took a lot of concentration for me to climb through the clouds - luckily ending up on top of the layers of white stuff.

May I add, it was fuh-reezing up there. The temperature drops on average 2 degrees Celsius for every thousand feet of altitude. My passenger gets a little queasy and the heat was messing with her stomach.

Once we got past the low pressure system, it cleared up wonderfully, so I didn't have to descend through the clouds to do an instrument approach - yay! We landed in Alliance, NE, and met a huge crowd of folks. You wouldn't have believed the crowd on the ground here. They were able to take advantage of all of the airplanes showing up at relatively the same time and doing their flybys (flying past the timing officials). The local Chamber of Commerce donated food and families were welcome to walk around and look at the airplanes and talk to the pilots. It was great to see the interaction. THIS is what it's all about.
After every one started taking off again, we departed for Rawlins, WY, what was scheduled to be the previous stop, but canceled. That was another two hour flight and my first in the mountains in a single engine airplane. I decided to fly high - but, yes, VFR. I flew about as high as I could without using supplemental oxygen - 10,500 feet. I have been in a jet at 30,000 plus feet and lost altitude in seconds because of mountain wave: The rising air of the lee wave, which allows gliders to climb to great heights, can also result in high altitude upset in jet aircraft trying to maintain level cruising flight in lee waves. Rising, descending or turbulent air in or above the lee waves can cause overspeed or stall. 

So it was a little bumpy, and the strong crosswind kept swishing the tail around. Woah... Woah.... Yes, I'm afraid of heights. [I say this knowing how completely ridiculous it sounds.] My grip on the controls slooooowly loosened as time went by without going kittywumpus (that's an official aviation term - look in the Pilot/Controller Glossary). We found Rawlins, and I remembered the lessons taught to me by a Captain I flew with into the Rockies for the first time. From Pilot Friend: A rule-of-thumb states that the airplane flies faster than indicated airspeed at altitudes above sea level by approximately 2-percent-per-thousand feet above sea level. This is a built-in compensator for reduced lift caused by the thin air at higher altitude airports.

I got slowed down early, down to traffic pattern altitude, turned final right on profile, and heard a warning over the radio to watch out for the crop dusters. Sure enough, as I was on base I told Jasmine to tell me if she saw that airplane short of the runway moved closer. Yup. I had hoped they'd be off before I came in, but I ended up also doing my first go-around in the mountains. I'm not sure the guy ever even looked in the direction of final to see if anyone was in the pattern. Grr.

Well, the hospitality was more than made up on the ramp. The marshaller was just as friendly as could be, and very happy to see anyone associated with the Air Race show up. He had cut a bunch of tiedowns for all the racer airplanes.... And the woman in the FBO gave us a couple of the hats that they had embroidered for the racers.... Oh, we felt so bad the race had passed them by! It unfortunately had another consequence. We had gone to Rawlins because we had hoped to do Girls With Wings promotion by offering to do the presentation. Even though only the race stop was canceled, the residents also must have assumed the presentation was also canceled.  I did get to spend some time chatting with Minetta Gardiner, the woman who arranged the wonderful start activities and her co-pilot, Charissa A. Dyer-Kendler, a flight instructor at Sporty's Flight Academy, who were one of two teams who decided to do the whole race as scheduled.

I was so disappointed that we weren't able to meet any local girls at the stop. It wasn't for lack of trying. My success in finding opportunities for doing presentations has mostly been through pre-formed Girl Scout troops or other groups - and when school's out, this can be a tough, sometimes impossible, job. It's not the first time I've been stood up. It usually helps to get preregistration - a commitment - but there just wasn't time to arrange for it with the time frame we had (we have no idea how many would have showed in Jamestown since we couldn't make it there because of weather). We promoted Aviation Inspiration Day for MONTHS to get such a large crowd. And even when a group says there will be x number of girls, I can almost guarantee that 10-20% just won't show. Even if they've paid the $5 in advance. I don't know why that is. What could come along that would be better than the GWW presentation? I know, right??
Like I said, not for lack of trying. I've been watching Jasmine do the PR thing for some time now and am learning from her efforts. For years I have hoped that someone would volunteer to do marketing for Girls With Wings - I'm a pilot, not a PR expert! - because it takes up a huge amount of time. You've got to email, call, email and call again to get any response out of some people. I've been for the most part a one woman show working with my nose so close to the grindstone that what publicity I've gotten has been through luck finding someone supportive of the Girls With Wings mission. I spent years working on building the organization before I started to get enough cache to have my press releases published, and even now only sporadically. I think offering money for scholarships got the ball rolling getting the word out about the goals, but Girls With Wings does a lot more than that! Dianna's PR guru, Jasmine, has shown me how much work can go into promotion. She's had an amazing amount of success getting the word out about the Racing Aces, and therefore the Air Race Classic. If you go to the Racing Aces site you can see the many hits. 

Here's hoping that the donation from Racing Aces will let us take it to the next level and increase the ability of Girls With Wings to reach out more - and to be able to handle the increased attention. But please. Wait til I'm done with the CFI checkride, ok? And then Oshkosh. I'll definitely have more free time after Oshkosh. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Now THIS is a cross country
On Sunday I left for my major trip to promote Girls With Wings in conjunction with the Racing Aces and the Air Race Classic. We had originally planned to leave Monday, but a little heads up from the other racers that the weather was going go downhill rapidly this week caused us to depart a day early. I had been checking the weather since Friday - via the Weather channel, Aviation Digital Data Service, DUATS,, AOPA weather... you get the idea. All of them said something different, and frankly, 24 - 48 hours out was enough time to make a 180' change in the forecast anyway. So I was awake around 4 on Sunday morning, thinking, packing and heading to the airport to see if the trip could happen. A brief scan of the weather sites followed by a call to 1-800-WX BRIEF gave me the answer I needed. It was a go for launch.

So Jasmine and I loaded up the Cessna 182 Skylane with about 300lbs of gear - hey, what do you expect from 2 women on the road for 7 days? Actually, the vast majority of the stuff was promotional items and video equipment. And laptops. And gee-whiz electronics to make our lives easier. After takeoff the weather was just as the briefer predicted: low clouds, which I climbed on top of, which cleared about an hour into the flight. Pretty smooth sailing, I must say, all things considered.

I spent the first leg pouring over the sectional charts, my multitude of printouts for planning (in excel spreadsheets - geek!) and nav logs and playing with the Garmin 430. And working on the whole "leaning the engine" concept trying to get the fuel flow number that I had come up with during my planning. And scanning for other VFR traffic, of course. I was originally planning to stop in KASG, or Springdale, AR, where they have an on-airport cafe. Part of my pre-flight planning was using the website Adventure Pilot, which allows you to find on-airport restaurants when time is short. Well, thanks to the Garmin Aera that Rod Rakic of myTransponder lent me, I was able to check the weather for KASG enroute. The conditions on the field were clear, but there was a 16 to 25 knot quartering crosswind. Doable, but not desirable.

Even more valuable, however, was the advantage of having weather radar. I could see that there were a couple of cells moving toward the area and considered that there was a possibility I might get ON the ground at Springdale, but not back off again, at least not for a while. You know all of those stories you read about people who get themselves into trouble and wish they wouldn't have been so stuck on their original plan it made them do something stupid? So, I broke out the Airport Facility Directory, found another airport somewhat in the direction of flight, far enough on to be missed by that weather. Monett Aiport in MO had a long runway and fuel. And the winds were much more favorable. Back and forth I went. Should I? Shouldn't I? Finally, I decided to press on. I landed at Monett, a VERY well maintained airport, and taxiied up to the fuel pump. Yeah, that's right. Dragged out the ladder, climbed up to the top of the wing and gassed up my own airplane.

Meanwhile, Jasmine went in and checked out the crew car. Most FBOs have old cars they'll let visiting pilots use to go grab lunch. I'm so happy this turned out to be available, because all this work was creating quite an appetite. Times must be changing, because they charged us $10 for the use of the car. Given that it was a huge Crown Vic, that might have been how much in gas we used to get to the restaurant. Especially since we had to turn around halfway there. I could not remember for the life of me if I'd turned off the master switch. Fearing the consequences of a drained battery, I made Jasmine turn around. Of course it was off.

After lunch I called the briefer again and was told that the weather would be great and there were no TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions), no NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen), etc., to impede our progress. We took off and were on our way to KIOW. On this leg we had a MOA (Military Operations Area) to deal with. Technically, VFR pilots don't need any special permission to fly through a MOA, but given that this is an area used for tactical military maneuvers I wanted to make sure it was "cold." The controller I was talking to said she "believed" it was cold, but couldn't say for sure, so to be on the safe side I started to go around. When we were transferred to the next controller she confirmed it was inactive. Trust me, if you've ever done the AOPA interactive course on airspace, it has a little video of a military jet flying through a MOA that had a small airplane pass right in front of it (captured by its video equipment). My heart couldn't take that.

Group Photo
So we eventually landed at Iowa City, and taxiied through the many Race aircraft on the way to our parking spot. Jasmine and I loaded up our 300lbs of gear into the golf cart and we proceeded on to our hotel in just enough time to shower and make the Air Race Classic banquet. It is so good to see all of the old friends I'd met in so many venues in the past years. And the food was delish, too. But it was soon time to head to the hotel. It had been a long day and I needed sleep. We have some long days ahead of us and crew rest is invaluable.

Update: I've just heard that the Race is delayed by a day because of the weather. Unfortunately this means we won't make it to Jamestown, ND, for the Girls With Wings presentations tomorrow evening. Here's hoping the race will go on as scheduled on Wednesday. We're appearing in Rawlins, WY, to do a couple presentations before we meet up with the racers in Mobile at the terminus. As the saying goes, "Time to spare? Go by air!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Air Race Classic Preparations

As usual, an event you've been looking forward to for months just seems to pop up on the horizon before you know it. I've been burying my head in the stack of books studying for my Certificated Flight Instructor rating and in the meantime the Air Race Classic has crept up when I wasn't looking.

As a background (as if I haven't talked about it enough before), the Air Race Classic is is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to:
  • Encouraging and educating current and future women pilots 
  • Increasing public awareness of general aviation 
  • Demonstrating women's roles in aviation 
  • Presenting and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation. 
As you can see, there's a lot of synergy with the Girls With Wings mission!

Heather and Lynda in 2009
This year's race covers 2365.40nm in 11 legs and visits 10 states, all in four days (other activities add a few days on either side. I raced it two years ago with a young woman from Australia, Heather Ford, and had a wonderful time (we didn't win, but we had fun!). I wrote a series of blog entries on it. I haven't had the opportunity to again race personally, but I've been helping to promote it ever since. I think it's a wonderful event and too few people are aware of it. Heck, we even had air traffic controllers asking us why there were so many VFR targets (airplanes) flying all to the same airport. We had to tell them about the race while they were giving us the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) about it!

Victoria and Dianna departing KPKV for KIOW.
There is a team in this year's race who is generously promoting Girls With Wings: The Racing Aces. I have spoken of Dianna Stanger, the owner of the Aviat Husky A-19, who's flying with Victoria Holt, her usual co-pilot on her Premier Jet. I've blogged about Dianna before, she's the woman making it possible to finally wrap up my CFI here at her flight school in Port Lavaca, TX. Both she and Victoria are confident they will make a great showing in their first attempt at the Air Race Classic.

As Dianna says on their website: "Flying has truly made me a different person.  There is a certain amount of aggressive behavior, attitude and need to share the love side of it that has become a new facet of my personality.  Clear air, clear head and a great ride can’t be beat on any day when you are a pilot and I am so very thankful that I am one of the very lucky ones that get to enjoy it." Not only are they co-pilots, they are also friends, as reflected in Victoria's statement: "I’ve been having “the time of my life” as a professional pilot for nearly 20 years now. There have been times when peanut butter and jelly was all I could afford and times when I have cried because I was so cold and tired but I have not one regret!"

And not only are they racing for themselves, they're racing to raise funds for Girls With Wings. I am so honored that they should do so and in addition to studying for my CFI and keeping up with GWW while on the road, have been helping them get prepared for the race. In all honesty though, they have a powerhouse in their corner already that goes by the name Jasmine Gordon. She's been recruiting their many sponsors, generating publicity buzz, building a newly designed website and integrating the Spot Tracker feed that will allow folks to follow the Racing Aces as they travel cross country on this page of their website. It will also be on the Girls With Wings homepage.

Jasmine has also been helping promote GWW in the local area and has set up a few presentations for me here at the Port Lavaca (Calhoun County) airport - as has Beckey, from the Victoria Airport flight school. This is not a new thing here, though. Dianna has been sponsoring events for kids long before we heard of each other - starting when she bought a GWW tshirt to wear at one of her events, which says, "It's not how tall you are, it's how high you fly!" from the Girls With Wings Pilot Shop. She is also a role model on the GWW site. As a result of this wonderful relationship and the support shown by Dianna and Jasmine, I am about to depart on my latest adventure!

Jasmine and I are leaving on Monday for our own cross country trip. We're flying from here in Texas to take video of the racers departing the Iowa City airport and then we're going on to Jamestown, ND, to do a couple of GWW presentations to local residents so they can be aware of the significance contributions of women in aviation. The next day we're on to Rawlings, WY, to do the same. Then we'll be departing there to get ahead of all of the racers so we can video their arrivals in Mobile, AL. Yeah, yeah, you say, Lynda, you've been flying around the country (and around the country) for years. Well, not in a Cessna 182. And not single pilot. And not VFR (visual flight rules). [Insert fingernail biting noise here.]

Of course I am capable of doing this, but I am just taking longer than a pilot who is used to this type of planning might. I will be trying to blog along the way on our trip, but I know it's going to be a busy one. I mean, think about it. There's no dispatch to call to ask where my release is. I have to do the flight planning myself! It's summer, so you know there are going to be storms (so thanks to Rod Rakic, of myTransponder who lent me his Garmin Aera to use enroute). We're on a tight schedule, so no sitting on the ground waiting for them to pass.

And I'm going to be flying in the mountains - where all those tragic stories of pilots underestimating the effect of density altitude take place. And though I'll sit in the left seat and teach Jasmine along the way (what? it's going to be like a 30 hour trip - that's almost to private pilot level!), it's all on me. No Captain or First Officer to practice that Crew Coordination concept. But there's no doubt I will always practice safety first. There's no good reason to break an airplane or my neck. Or Jasmine's, for that matter.

And upon my return, finally, wrapping up the CFI. I hope to study along the way, but another GWW role model, Theresa, is helping me by giving me practice oral exams. I am really grateful also for her donation of her instructor services. She's catching me up on all that general aviation policy and procedure I've missed out on as a military and airline pilot.  And once I pass that CFI checkride I can move on to the next hurdle. EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh. The big Girls With Wings booth. Woo-hoo!