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.