Sunday, October 21, 2012

Funny How Life Works Out

I've debated about telling this story but I think the time has come because I have realized how things have worked out to make my charmed life possible.

In February of 2009, I interviewed for a scholarship for my multiengine and/or instrument rating.  The policies of the organization allow a candidate to apply for two scholarships only.  When in the interview, I was asked which other scholarship I had applied for.  I replied that I had selected one for a seaplane rating.  The response was, "Why did you pick that?"

"Because it is something that looks like fun that I have always wanted to do, and it would be a new experience," was my response.

This sharp reply answered: "Why would you bother doing that?  You'll get the rating and no one will ever rent you a seaplane so it's worthless."

I didn't know it at the time, but it was a catalyzing moment for me.  Never before had I felt like everything I was doing in aviation was so wrong.  I have always been of the opinion that we each have our niches and desires to explore.  It just so happens that my niche does not include a Boeing 737 or Learjet.  It is partly because of this interview that I have come to terms with my status as a puddlejumper.  I've embraced the title and revel in all that it means.  It is who I am, and I have recognized over time that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Fast forward 2.5 years later.  I was personally contacted by the renowned world leader in aircraft float manufacturing (which also has world-class services like maintenance, paint, interior, and avionics) to apply for a position as marketing manager.  After much hemming and hawing over where I would work after graduation, I accepted the position.  In January, I began interning to get a handle on things.  In May, I started full-time under the tutelage of the outgoing marketing manager.  In September, I assumed full responsibility for the company's marketing department, including two employees.

Let's think about that for a minute.

I was called by a market leader to apply for a job they wanted me for.  I secured full-time employment well before graduating and moved straight into a fabulous job.  At 23, I now manage other people and oversee the marketing department of a world-recognized company.

The most satisfying part?

My boss informed me that "it is part of your job to know how to fly floatplanes."

That's right.  It's part of my JOB to get my seaplane rating.

It turns out following the beat of your own drum has a funny way of working itself out.  I feel so incredibly lucky that some days it is hard to believe it's all real.  Of course, there are still plenty of challenges and frustrations, but then I sit back and think about all the people--respected professors and industry professionals--that told me I'd never get a job doing what I was interested in.  Now I get to smile and say "I DID IT!!!!!"  No matter where things go from here, I have proven to myself that I am perfectly ok just the way I am.  It's ok that I don't want to fly for an airline.  It's ok that I will always prefer little fabric-covered airplanes with the little wheel in the back.  It is what makes me who I am, and no one can take that beautiful fact away from me.

I owe immeasurable thanks to the many people that encouraged me along the way, gave advice, lent a sympathetic ear, and prodded me along.  I can't say enough about the amazing experience I have had in aviation and I am thrilled to be able to work in this industry and help others discover just how awesome it really is.

Thanks for all the support and friendship--I hope I have made all of those friends and mentors at least a little bit proud!

A very lucky girl,


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Every day, I am reminded how incredibly fortunate I am to have the world's best network of friends.  Not surprisingly, many of them are involved in aviation (though certainly not all), which emphasizes one of aviation's most appealing aspects--that of the sense of community.

Not everyone can find a friend that knows someone to answer just about any question that comes up, yet this is common in aviation.  What's even more awesome is that I have many people I can call and prod for advice or just to chat.  I'm like the Travelocity gnome--I never roam alone ;)

So, airplane friends, thanks for being there.  Thanks for the advice and open ears and head-clearing services.  I know my friends will always be there, whatever far reaches of the earth we get flung to.  With such a widespread smattering of friends, it is fun to realize that I can be at home almost anywhere in the country.  I count myself very lucky to be able to be a part of this community and hope that we are all doing our share to introduce others to this unique atmosphere.

Just had to share and say thanks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In Love With the Moment

It strikes me that we as humans fixate on moments, and for good reason.  Moments are more than an event; they are a feeling, an emotion.  As I reflect on the awesome experience I have had through my involvement in aviation, I can't say that I really had a moment where I knew instantly that I wanted to fly.  I do, however, remember snippets of flights like they were yesterday, and I am of the belief that we as a community must help other fall in love with moments.

A few favorites from this year involved the trek to and from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  On the way out, my friend Dave in his PA-11 and I in Little Airplane stopped in Knox, Indiana for the night.  We had stopped at Knox on the way back from Lock Haven in 2011 and had had a great stay with couches available and even a shower.  This year, we arrived about 30 minutes prior to sunset (which is a world record for Dave) and tied the airplanes down.  As we each checked in with family members, I sat down on the ramp under Little Airplane's tail and took in one of the more perfect evenings I've ever experienced.  The pavement was pleasantly warm, the remaining rays of sunlight warmed my face, and the view was spectacular.  I can't remember what I said or how long I was there, but this image has been burned into my brain forever.

As far as I can tell, this image should appear in the dictionary next to the word "perfection."

Later in the evening, we took the courtesy van to town and picked up Chinese food to go.  There is nothing quite like picnic tables at an airport with takeout food, a good friend for company, pleasant weather, and only the sound of crickets and the rotating beacon making its rounds.  Absolute heaven.

Another great moment from the Lock Haven trip was on the way back.  We ran out of daylight and picked an airport that can only be described as the best option available.  I am sure it had great facilities but there was no way to utilize them.  With no cab service in town and the nearest restaurant (and restroom) 3 miles away, we got creative and called Domino's (this did not solve the second problem, but that is another story).   Again, we plopped down on the ramp and had our dinner leaning up against tundra tires watching the world go to sleep.  We popped the tents and settled in for the night, departing before the FBO ever actually opened.

These moments are by no means glorious.  In fact, they're sort of crude and rudimentary.  They're not fancy.  But they are things that, to me, epitomize the barnstorming mindset of aviation.  You get up, point the nose in the direction you'd like to go, count to a given number of hours, and then poke around for a fuel stop.  It's delightfully unsophisticated and freeing.  

Essentially, these moments are about finding your place.  For me, it is somewhere in an eternal summer with an airplane that has the little wheel in the back at a grassroots airport as I wander about somewhere.  I suppose if I could accurate convey what I feel I'd be miles ahead but I can only really show you.  So here are a few pictures that make me smile.

This one is special because it shows Little Airplane as a Sun 'n' Fun 2011 Survivor.  

On the way home from SNF11.  Loved the light on the hills.

Flying the first love.  

Love the light.  Love the subject more.

She's got a few injuries left here, but she's surveying her kingdom.

Hanging out while Aaron Tippin flies the Super 18.  It was a tough job.

A sweet gentleman gave me a 4-leaf clover for good luck in the spot landing contest.  Apparently I had already won with Little Airplane by then but it was cute :)

View from a nap

I think it's full!

Feels like living!

First solo in a Pietenpol.  A tremendous privilege!


Show her the pancake, let her get the scent, then proceed to nearest pancake breakfast.  Works every time.

On to the next great adventure.

Who, ME???

A girl can dream.

I feel like the luckiest person in the world every time I look out and see this.

IFR, Cub style.

My chariot awaits.

Which one, which one?  I can't choose!

Fueled up and off to find adventure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Reader's Digest Update

  1. In August 2010, I began an internship with a company called Dakota Cub Aircraft (  I worked there part-time until the summer of 2011, when I interned full-time.  I continued working part-time through May 2012.
  2. I survived Sun 'n' Fun 2011, but one of the two Super 18s we flew down there did not.  The one I flew down survived and flew back home.
  3. 21Y did not make it to Lock Haven 2011, but I flew one of the Super 18s available via my internship and defended my honor and regained my spot landing title.
  4. I graduated on May 5th.  Now accepting donations for student loan payments.
  5. I began a new job at Wipaire on May 8th as a marketing project manager and am drinking from the proverbial fire hose in terms of learning!  May get a chance to earn my webbed feet sometime too.  
Told you it was the Reader's Digest version.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can You Be Too Safe?

For those of you who have followed along before, stay tuned for updates.

One of the most encouraging things I have read in aviation to date has been the FAA's review of FAR 23, which governs the certification of small aircraft.  Over the years, FAR 23 has grown more extensive, mostly from the business jet sector, and these higher requirements have trickled down as far as the single-engine piston market.

Perhaps it's because most of my experience is in vintage aircraft, but I can't help but think that CAR 3 airplanes are still safely operating today, 60-70 years after being certified.  I'm certainly not saying that the safety improvements made in the past decades haven't been worthwhile, but I have to wonder if imposing the costly Part 23 process on small aircraft manufacturers has really saved any lives.  Airplanes are lasting way longer than we ever thought they would; in fact, I'm willing to wager that a higher percentage of 70-year-old airplanes are still in operation compared to 70-year-old cars.  Mr. Piper was even quoted as saying the lifespan of a J3 would be 7 years--and the aircraft was essentially designed to be disposable after that expected period.

Yet, here we are, with thousands of J3s and their descendants safely puttering around.  You can argue their lifespan has been lengthened by safety developments spurred by Part 23, and that by now the aircraft is probably nowhere near original, but the fundamental design has proven solid.  Are we really gaining something by imposing draconian certification measures?  Or are we simply discouraging innovation and smothering sales?  Few other industries have as strong of a used product market as aviation.  A strong used market makes new sales difficult, which means cash flow is minimized and innovations take longer to come to market or never make it at all.

Now, I'm not advocating planned obsolescence, but rather saying that, if manufacturers were free to pursue new developments more cheaply, they could and would respond more rapidly to market forces and capture customer attention better.  Personally, I have no problem if the guy down the hangar row buys a new airplane every year.  Increased new aircraft sales create a more competitive and, therefore, cheaper, used market which keeps older aircraft more accessible.  Consumer needs coupled with tastes and preferences drive aircraft purchases.  A cheaper, more streamlined certification process allows manufacturers to be more nimble in responding to changing tastes and preferences to better appeal to today's consumer (read: draw more people into aviation).

Essentially, aviation faces the conundrum of the mature domestic market.  Growth is not occurring or occurring at such a slow rate it hardly counts as growth.  Producers want to create products they can sell, but doing so is so costly that manufacturers elect not to pursue projects or new manufacturers never emerge due to these high costs.

The review of Part 23 will hopefully reduce the cost and time required for certification such that new products can be developed more cheaply and designed to meet more reasonable standards.  Aircraft design has reached a state where structural failure is exceedingly rare, and airmanship continues to be the most lacking factor in improving flight safety.  With that said, have we created an illusion of safety through expensive and unnecessary certification procedures?  Have we been taught to rely upon product design more than our own skill?  Has Part 23's primary accomplishment been to stifle innovation and new product release, while creating a product overbuilt and overpriced?

Food for thought.