Flying as a girl/biography

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Tristar, May 29, 2014.

  1. Tristar

    Tristar Pattern Altitude

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    Wanted to see what you guys thought of this story. It's a bit long winded but do you think it's pretty good, same story but different person or should I add/delete some things?




    A friend once told me, “If you find a job you love doing, you will never have to work a day in your life.” That quote has stayed with me my entire aviation career.

    I am no different than many career pilots. I graduated from college with a degree in aviation. I then became an instructor. Next, I was one of the lucky ones to become a charter pilot. Something is bugging me though. In every job I’ve ever had, I was the only female. Male pilots aren’t bad but you still get a little lonely. In retrospect, I’d like to tell what it’s like to go from being a scared student pilot with a heart full of aviation to a career building pilot with a bit of a soft side.

    Have you ever seen the movie Horse Whisperer? There is a beautiful scene with an injured horse. Its young rider was in an accident and the trainer is trying to teach both of them to trust each other. The horse is asked to lie on the ground and the trainer asks the girl to sit on his side and stroke his neck. He asks her to trust him. Thankfully flying isn’t as scary as recovering from an accident but to many, it is this full of emotion. You arrive for your first flight lesson with so many questions and doubts of “I can’t do this, there’s so much to learn, and all the guys will make fun of me and say this isn’t for girls.” Yet, you still step in the door. Why? Because there is something about the way those blue lights shine on the black tarmac on a crystal clear and calm night. Because there is something magical about the sound of those engines from the little Lycomings to radials and all the way up to those gorgeous Pratt & Whitneys. There is a sense of freedom to surf the clouds with eagles and no one is going to stop you! Then your instructor hands you the checklist…oh boy, we’re not dreaming anymore. This is real! You take a deep breath and run your hands along the leading edge of the wing and feel every rivet your fingers ride across. As you move along the flaps and towards the tail, you start to get a mental picture of what the plane feels like in your mind. Every part that moves and whether it’s supposed to move. The plane starts to become a part of you. You briefly close your eyes and picture where the metal overlaps, you can hear the density of the metal in the prop as fingers run from root to tip, and you memorize what 100LL is supposed to smell like. The last step is to get in the cockpit and buckle in. Instructors have a sense of hesitation in their students so they say, “trust me, it’ll be okay. Let’s go have some fun!” And it was.

    Solo was very much like the next part of the scene from the horse whisperer. He says, “there’s a point where neither of you are going to need me anymore and we’re there.” With me, I walked back into the front of the FBO with my instructor one evening just before the sun set. He told me, “okay, I think it’s time you tried it on your own.” Very hesitantly I said, “uh, are you sure?” One foot at a time you step in to the empty airplane and buckle your seat belt just like she slipped her foot in the stirrup for the first time. My heart was pounding as I taxied to the end of the runway and wondering why in the world the airplane was so noisy with just me in it and if I should turn around. At the end of the runway, I added full power. The airplane lurched forward and with absolute grace, it lifted in to the air with almost no effort from me. My mouth was wide open and in shock that I was off the ground. Immediately I was thinking, “oh great, now what!” Halfway on downwind I remember how quiet and peaceful it was looking at the sunset that had just dipped through the horizon. I was smiling from ear to ear and even maybe a tear. It was just like the girl in the movie as she galloped around the pen for the first time and then put her arms in the air. It was pure freedom! A part of me wanted to stay there; the other part was thinking how in the world I was going to get this thing on the ground. I remember looking at the other seat and instantly my instructors voice rang in my head, “pull power back to 1500 rpm, add a notch of flaps, you got this.” So I did. The plane touched down with a squeak and in the dead silence over the radio I heard the controllers say, “nice! Keep up the good work.” It was the best feeling in the world. I soloed October 3, 2003. Almost 11 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.

    It took two years to decide whether I wanted this to be a career or not. I wasn’t able to fly as often as I wanted to and fear crept back in. I would get physically sick every time I would try to rent the airplane on my own. I loved it so much but by not flying I was terrified of it too. I finally decided I had enough of myself and went to college. Three years and its own challenges later, I had a bachelors in Aviation Science. Now looking back, I do wish I would have had a minor in something else but finances aren’t always in favor of your good hopes.

    My first job was a flight instructor. Getting that job was by pure luck! I had kept in contact with the manager of the flight school I liked. One day I showed up asking if he needed an instructor. He told me point blank that he didn’t but he said if I wanted to give it a try I could. The first six months were tough. I kept thinking of how little I knew and how much trust these new kindred spirits had with me. If they knew how scared I was when I learned to fly, there was no way they’d fly with me. I hadn’t read the FAR/AIM from cover to cover. My CFIs always told me I needed to be more confident and speak up. I was way too quiet. To this day, I can never thank my first couple students enough for having just as much patience with me as I did them but together we got through it and they passed. Years later and to this day, I love to teach. I’m not a dictionary by any means but the passion is there. My favorite is the “oh, I get it!” moments when things like landings click. Soloing students, I will tell you, is just as nerve racking for the instructors as it is the students. My last words before they went were, “just do what I taught you to do…oh, and have fun!” Right up to the last student I taught, I took a handheld outside and watched them. I couldn’t talk to them but I could listen in with ATC. I remember the smiles on their faces as they taxied in. It made the hours of endless landings on hot and windy days worth it for both of us.

    As much as I love instructing, my heart has always been towards flying charter. I thought how neat it would be to fly such a beautiful animal as a jet to far off exotic places, meet people in fancy ties, and see things you’ve never seen. Oh how magical and mysterious that would be! My head was full of pictures from national geographic, The Robb Report, and Jet Set magazine. I want to be just like the fancy Cessna Citation advertisements and pull up to my customer’s fancy Ferrari in Miami or Denver! One step at a time though.

    My first taste of corporate flying was, and still is, flying a King Air 90. For a woman of 120 pounds, it was a beast. I went from flying a Cessna 172 to this thing that felt like I was fighting the Cessna autopilot constantly. Trimming was a trick! All the guys said I was just making things up and it was the easiest plane to fly. It’s not and it took me a while to learn to land it softly the way I wanted but I did. My heart would pound each time we’d come in for a landing. One pilot finally told me, “I want to see how softly you can land this thing, don’t let it touch until last minute.” Something I used to tell my students but I needed to hear for myself. It worked. Flying the King Air was a huge step but the captains took the time to walk me through procedures and answer questions. These are a good group of pilots.

    Most of the flights I am on are restricted to Nebraska and although the flights are usually boring except the occasional thunderstorm or ice storm to wake you up, I did learn a few things. There’s a lot more to flying out of a non-towered airport part 135 than you think and being conservative is a good thing. All the pilots are there for each other as a crew no matter who you are and everyone makes mistakes. The trick is not to make any big enough that people will remember. There was something else though that makes these local flights feel worthwhile; helping people. We fly cardiologists to areas that do not have their own. Rural Nebraska is a little difficult to find a specialist so we bring the specialists to them including a heart monitoring machine and doctor’s assistants. It makes me feel a little like part of a life flight team.

    Flying a jet, wow, I made it! Every since I was a little kid this was exactly what I wanted to do. It was so beautiful with its sleek design. No propellers sticking out, the boots are shiny, and what a song she writes when she starts up! The most beautiful creature on gods green earth and they were going to let me fly it! Okay so it was a Citation Mustang and the tiniest in the Cessna jet series but I was going to fly her and that is all that mattered. The cockpit was practically home. A G1000 very similar to a 172 I used to teach except someone decided to add an extra screen and some new buttons. How colorful it was though! The blue and browns of two dual PFD screens and all the functions and colors you could ask of a fully equipped MFD screen larger than my own laptop! My first flight out of the gate was an absolute dream. She took off and climbed like a home sick angel. Throttles have to be pulled quite a bit back since the plane has absolutely no problem going past red line down low. I did not expect this and got a quick little beep from the never exceed speed warning. Phew! After some maneuvers, we came in for a landing and I learned very quickly that this wasn’t like any of the other birds I flew. You don’t really have to flare. As long as you put it right on Vref as your coming over the fence, pull it to idle and the plane practically lands itself. I have never been in a plane that landed so gently the first time. That FADEC system was my new best friend. The FAA examiner thought so too and as of recently, I passed a second time. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that agreed I loved to fly and worked hard for it. This isn’t the last jet I want to be in though. My dreams get even bigger.

    Over ten years later and I never regretted taking that first scary step in the front door for my first flight lesson. Every minute of this journey has been filled with bursts of pure joy for myself and others mixed with scary moments of learning new things. This is not a guy’s sport ladies, it’s for everyone. If you ever come across a girl that says, “oh I’d be too scared” or “that’s a guy sport” show them the group picture EAA takes every year at Oshkosh of all the woman pilots. There are hundreds of them just at one convention during one day! Almost all guy pilots I have run across are fantastic to be around and will support you all the way and if they don’t, come find me. If I can do it as a terrified student pilot that wouldn’t fly out of my back yard transformed into a Citation pilot, I know you can too. Good luck, fly safe, now get out and chase those clouds!
     
  2. AdamZ

    AdamZ Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Tristan, it's your story and you told it well.
     
  3. EppyGA

    EppyGA Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nice job Tristan!!
     
  4. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    C'mon, folks! "Tristan" is a guy's name in opera. This here was written by a genuine female, going by the name "Tristar" just like the big Delta jets I used to ride on.

    Well written, from a different point of view. Could be because she's part of the 6% of US pilots without a Y chromosome.
     
  5. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Well done.
     
  6. N918KT

    N918KT Line Up and Wait

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    I love your story Tristar!!! Very inspirational! Now for me to find the time and money to hopefully someday get my sport pilot license! I never lost hope in becoming a pilot and when the time and conditions are right, I will continue flight training for my sport pilot license (and maybe PPL if we can have the DL medical for private pilots).
     
  7. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Super Moderator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Very nice!

    It's great to hear a story from a different perspective, especially on the corporate side of the fence. Most professional female aviators I know (including my wife) go the airline route.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Dave Siciliano

    Dave Siciliano Final Approach

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    You sure didn't seem to lack confidence when you flew my p-baron. You had great pilot skills and I'll bet you still do. Great story. Wonderful that you are following your dream!

    Best,

    Dave
     
  9. Lawreston

    Lawreston En-Route

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    I like it, nicely done. A suggestion or two: "I am no different than many career pilots."
    Never different "than;" something is different from something else.

    In the next to last paragraph: " As long as you put it right on Vref as your coming over the fence," should be "as you're - - - - -"

    Nice piece!

    HR
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
  10. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    You think there aren't many girls in aviation, you should try Physics. Nice story, thanks for sharing.
     
  11. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Good writing, nice story.
     
  12. Z06_Mir

    Z06_Mir Pattern Altitude

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    Good writing girl. I love, love, love, seeing females on the corporate side. Personally I'd like to be on the freight or corporate side, but not the airline side. Although I see more females flying every year there still aren't enough of us, and the occasional look of "you're a pilot?" with eyebrows raised tells me we still have work to do getting our % up.
     
  13. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Try being a straight male hairdresser sometime!
     
  14. Lawreston

    Lawreston En-Route

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    Though I sold my camera store 10 years ago, and my reference will be quite a few years before that time frame, I remember this. I had an employee who was taking flight instruction. His girlfriend at the time was also interested in flying. She eventually went to Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire, known for its Aviation Program(though dropped in recent years). The last I knew, Jen (Singleton) ??????? was a corporate pilot, then Captain for one of the regional airlines. After the ensuing years, who's to know how far up the line Jen may have advanced. If the story strikes any bells with anyone, Jen was from Brunswick, Maine. Her mother was a Real Estate broker photofinishing client of mine.

    HR
     
  15. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Outstanding. Very well written, Tristan. Really enjoyed.
     
  16. Geico266

    Geico266 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    So, "T" what is the next chapter going to be? :confused:

    Can't wait to see what you do next. Go get em girl!
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  17. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    My sister has a degree in applied physics from CalTech. Specialized in lasers and optics. Had a quite accomplished career as well. But she is very much in the minority.

    John
     
  18. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Try maintenance, like ~ 1% are women.
     
  19. tlglenn

    tlglenn Line Up and Wait

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  20. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Who knows, Kim might make it!
     
  21. Tristar

    Tristar Pattern Altitude

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    I like watching the MX guys but I don't think I have enough interest to want to do that myself.

    Next steps? Well as of right now, my best outlook is staying here until they make me a captain on the mustang but that is a long ways off. Either that or a better opportunity comes along.
     
  22. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nice story. What you've shown is that gender isn't particularly critical here. We're all pilots because we love flying. Details in careers may be different, but we all share a love of flying. Well written and I look forward to the next chapter.
     
  23. jayjenkinssr

    jayjenkinssr Pre-Flight

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    Looks like prayers have been answered