Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Keeping Me Sane

I think everyone who likes airplanes is suffering with the dismal weather lately . . . toss in some stress, lack of sleep, and the ubiquitous college money concerns, and it gets worse!

Thankfully, there's this one thing I know I can always count on (and I have an awesome network of friends who care about me) that can cheer me up.

This little airplane.

In her I am home. I am complete. I cannot delineate where she ends and I begin. We flow together, two imperfect souls having found perfect partners in each other. She does not do my bidding; we work together seamlessly. I cannot recall giving commands, only desiring something to happen, and enjoying when it does. We meld naturally together, having become best friends after starting out timidly exploring each other. We have learned each other's quirks, growing closer in an inexplicable way only understood by those who have found their soulmates in the sky. There is a bond with her I cannot begin to explain--most, I'm sure, will dismiss such a notion as purely the construction of an overactive imagination. I'm ok with that . . . I know how this wonderful creature makes me feel, and I owe her the utmost respect because of it. If that relegates me to the outer fringes of the aviation family, so be it . . . the characters out here are more interesting anyhow!

These little yellow airplane "ruined" me. They ignited in me a passion so deep and pure not even I fully understood it, nor do I understand it today. They swept away the socially accepted appeal of a traditional airline job, baring me of any excuses to fly.

So why do I do it?

Because I love it.

Not because I desire a job sitting in the video-game cockpit of a massive technological marvel. I am a puddlejumper. I am "that little guy." I've got as many hours as commercial pilot checkride applicants, almost all of it hopping around in a Cub--and I wouldn't trade any of that for the world.

Too often we applaud people for saying what they want to do. I suppose I find this a little troublesome as those plans change at the bat of an eyelash. Where is the recognition for the ones who say "That's not for me" and seek to carve out their own niche? When did we start rewarding the safe bet and shy away from encouraging the daring, the impassioned, the dreamers?

I can tell you I will never be an airline pilot. I have several airline pilot friends who love their jobs, and I respect both them and their occupations greatly. But it's not for me, and everywhere I turn I'm the odd man out for knowing that about myself. I will not be that aviation school graduate who ends up hating their life flying for a low-paying regional carrier. I will do all I can, knowing this about myself, to keep the enthusiasm burning so I can introduce others to this wonderful world I'm so privileged to experience and participate in. To me, that's the highest calling--it has the most risk with the lowest tangible rewards, coupled with the greatest risk for financial ruin. Yet, it is the least recognized and least rewarded pursuit of them all.

Something's wrong with that.

We're only hurting ourselves by failing to support those striving to make a difference in the lives of others. We should certainly support those with a burning desire to become professional pilots, but not at the expense of losing great advocates.

Moral of this rambling: Cubs are cool. Cubs changed my life, making it more difficult inasmuch as career choices, but enriching it beyond belief with experience and clarity. Don't forget the puddlejumpers!

My bestest pal : ) Some day she'll be mine . . . I'm not entirely sure how, but I'll make it happen. My first post-college purchase will not be a car, a tv, a house . . . it will be this airplane, yes THIS one, because she means that much to me. I will live off of Ramen noodles and Easy Mac, driving my faithful old Saab, living in a cheap cramped apartment if that's what it takes.

Heading off to dream of warm times with my #1 girl, 21Y,



That midwinter itch has struck again! I've been stuck on the ground over two months now, and it's getting to the point where I fear permanent twitches will result. Man, this forced cold-turkey quitting is no fun!

Some days I feel like I'm stuck in a rut, and all the excitement of last year has worn off, leaving me with a dull few months. Spring semester always seems to be more hectic, but perhaps that's simply because that bright light at the end of the tunnel--summer, with its promises of warmth and, more importantly, little yellow airplanes--starts to twinkle a little brighter. As if I needed another excuse to daydream about airplanes!

After a particularly stressful night herding cats (or, attempting to organize a Women in Aviation chapter with two people attempting to act as president), I began chatting with my best friend (and boyfriend) about all the things we looked forward to in summer . . . puddle-jumping two Cubs from Wisconsin to Lock Haven for Sentimental Journey, the BARNSTORMING FLY-IN!! (which as you can tell, I'm quite excited for!) Other things include Oshkosh, Brodhead, and Blakesburg, which happens to be one of those few priceless places in the world where everything just seems to be right.

There's just much else to say about that, I guess. Everything is right, though it's always sad to leave because, although Brodhead is next weekend, Blakesburg always seems to signal the end of summer. It has fast become one of my favorite fly-ins (you didn't actually expect me to pick a favorite, did you??) because it is, indeed, a perfect little haven hidden away where seemingly no one can touch it. Here is a well-guarded paradise where people come together and stay together (out of necessity, if nothing else), all here to celebrate cool old airplanes. My kind of people indeed!

It is this environment I miss the most when I'm away from my home airport. I haven't found surroundings that match these gatherings of vintage airplanes for pure passion and encouragement of the passionate pursuit of flying. Everyone truly WANTS to be there. It's easy to forget that feeling when you're surrounding by 14,000 people simply plodding through the daily grind.

However, we cannot lose that attitude . . . without it we have nothing. The passionate people I found at my local airport, supportive and encouraging, made all the difference in fostering my growth and directing my energies. Unfortunately, this evnironment is difficult to come by, especially as a young person. Yet, this situation is the most vital--more young people need to be unquestioningly accepted with open arms by the aviation community, not branded as outsiders and taught to view everyone with an interest in aviation as suspicious.

Let's take Blakesburg to the rest of the world, one ride at a time!

Who COULDN'T fall in love with this??

Jim Koepnick photo, (C) 2009


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Polar Opposites

The end of September brought many different emotions . . . my flying season was being mercifully extended by cooperative weather and a work arrangement that required me to be home every weekend (which was certainly a double-edged sword, being a 5.5-6 hour drive each way). On September 18th, my beloved Sir Duncan the Saab, a 1993 Commemorative Edition Saab 900 Turbo, turned over the much-anticipated 200,000th mile!

Big moment for my little car!

Exactly a week later, Sir Duncan was involved in an extremely unfortunate accident less than a mile from the final highway exit at the tail end of a long drive (I was asleep in the passenger seat while a generous friend helped me get home). It was the second time in two months I woke up to smelling smoke (from the airbag), and the squealing tires weren't a bonus. Once was enough, thank you very much . . .

I KNEW there was no way to save my beloved car no matter how much I wanted to. I spent a lot of the next few days crying, nursing a bruised shoulder and ribs with a swollen ankle. We were fortunate that no one was injured aside from the requisite bumps and bruises, but the emotional pain of having my prized car stolen away from me was bitingly fresh. The fact that I got 1.5 hours of sleep, in the car, before working an eight hour shift on a swollen ankle certainly didn't help my mindset (refused to call in sick . . . too poor!).

Writing this almost five months after the accident reveals not all of the sadness has evaporated. The 4 months following the accident resulted in many disagreements with my dad (I wanted another classic 900, something with character, not a practical, but boring, new 9-3 or 9-5), much tension between my mother and me, and strained my relationship with my good friend who was driving. I drove 8-9 different cars, depending how you count, was stranded in the middle of nowhere once with a failed alternator, and ended up driving a loaner car with the turn signals dangling by the wires. I also got a $300 ticket for not having the car registered (doesn't make much sense when you get a new one to borrow every other week) . . . accepting donations! ; )

I'm sure some of my trouble adjusting had to do the chaotic months preceding the accident, from the house fire to moving back to school, to finding I couldn't transfer my job, which necessitated driving six hours back home every weekend until the hiring freeze was lifted and I could transfer. One of my most prized possessions, one which I distinctly recall being very relieved about knowing it was safe in a detached garage during the house fire, unexpectedly exited my life, leaving me feeling a little unsteady (daily dose of psychology: check).

Things are on the upswing . . . despite the world's best efforts to the contrary, I'm still alive and kicking. There is still a fair amount of residual stress in my life but I'm handling each day as it comes and trying to remember that kick-ass gal I used to know. No worries, with an injection of yellow airplane, she'll be back firing on all cylinders!

It's a new year, and I'm bound to make the best of it!

I know this post is a little off-topic, but I'm trying to explain my unexplained (and unexcusable) absence.


P.S. I'm now the title holder of a 1994 Commemorative Edition Saab 900 Turbo . . . convertible!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Brodhead, Wisconsin, is normally a pretty sleepy town, graced with a beautiful all-grass airport. Boasting three grass runways and a plethora of rare and gorgeous airplanes (the majority of which fly regularly), Brodhead (C37) hosts several awesome fly-ins each year. I have only been to the Midwest Antique Aircraft Club (MAAC) fly-in the weekend after Blakesburg.

This year I only spent the day there, flying with a friend in his Luscombe 8F. A few highlights:

~Finding a close relative of 21Y's
~Finding a few Bellancas
~Sitting in the grass watching airplanes
~Pork chop night (enough said)
~Beech 18 low pass. Photo says it all.
~Running into a student of mine
~Getting to fly in a radial-engine Hatz biplane because of said student!

On to the pictures . . .

Heck yes!

Cute pipeline patrol art found on a PA-12

I believe this is pretty much the definition of "classy" . . . art on the wing.

Pretty Ryan

After flying the Hatz . . . more on that later :D

Making Time for Fond Memories

My catching up has slowed, but I have certainly not forgotten. In all actuality, revisiting these warmer times has been therapeutic for me, and revitalizing (I have not been in an airplane since December 11th :'( ). So here's a quick little update, with pictures (we all know pictures are more exciting than pages of characters!).

21Y and I at Maquoketa, Iowa ($1 if you pronounce it correctly on the first try!) . . . this picture always makes me smile. It seems to me like the picture of love--a girl and her favorite Cub : ) Does it get any better than that?!

21Y and I got to share a cover : ) (she IS, after all, a cover model on EAA's 2010 calendar)

Fun stuff! More to come . . .