All Aviation Articles By Tori Patterson

Celebrating Girls in Aviation Day

This past week something happened that is vital to the advancement of women in professional and general aviation. Women in Aviation International started an initiative earlier this year that helped make September 26th, 2015 officially "Girls in Aviation Day." The idea is a spin-off of their Girls in Aviation day held during their annual WAI conferences. The event focuses on introducing girls between ages 8 and 16 years old to aviation and involving them in various learning opportunities.

The ultimate goal of Girls in Aviation day is to help the next generation of young women to consider aviation as a future career choice. In my personal experience, many young girls simply do not see aviation as a field that they have the option to get into. The common image of a pilot presented in the media is usually a male. Having a day like this that raises the awareness of the general public about women in aviation can have a huge impact on how many girls decide to go into aviation in the future.

A large majority of U.S. and international chapters of Women in Aviation International hosted events in their hometowns for the big day. Activities put on by different chapters ranged from an airport tour with static displays to a hands-on experience learning what is involved in creating a flight plan. Several chapters also hosted presentations by women in a variety of fields in aviation. WAI provided the participating chapters with gift bags and informational packets to hand out to the girls. Additionally, a total of 29 states and two cities released official proclamations naming September 26th as Girls in Aviation Day.

A few aviation museums got in on the fun as well. The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada hosted hundreds of girls, and guided them through "career stations" highlighting different paths such as ATC, maintenance, airport operational manager, flight attendant, and several others.

Another meaningful event that happened on Girls in Aviation Day is that Delta flight 8877 – call sign WING 1 (Women Inspiring our Next Generation) operated with an entirely female crew chartering more than 130 young girls to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA for a day of learning about aviation career opportunities. Originating in Minneapolis, WING 1 was the airline’s first-ever all-female charter flight. It is so encouraging to see huge companies really caring about their employees, and many girls who flew on WING 1 reported feeling inspired and amazed at how they saw women were capable of doing any job related to flying.

The all-female Delta flight WING 1 - "Women Inspiring our Next Generation."

The global initiative of promoting women in aviation has certainly been gaining traction in the last several years. As more jobs are opening up in general, the increased demand for qualified and passionate pilots could definitely use a healthy dose of girl power. With programs like this and organizations such as the Ninety-Nines and Women in Corporate Aviation actively recruiting more ladies, the outlook for future increase in female pilots looks very promising.

A few years back when I first began looking into aviation seriously as a career I had no idea how many great opportunities were out there. There is an entire generation of female pilots that want to encourage, support, and mentor as many young ladies as they can. I am incredibly excited to see what the future holds for women in aviation, and I hope that through pursuing professional aviation training I can someday be a mentor or role model to a girl who has aspirations to join such a challenging and exciting field of work.

The Importance of Accident Investigation

This semester I am taking a class that is required for my major called "Aviation Safety Programs." I did not know much about this class before the first day, besides that we would be learning how to be safer and more cautious pilots in our flight operations. Now that the first week of classes has come and gone, I am looking forward to this class more than most of my others. The basic setup of this class is that we will be reading and watching videos about aircraft accidents and analyzing what went wrong. We then write 250-500 words a week about a factor of the accident that stuck out to us. A large percentage of our final grade is calculated from a presentation that we each give about an accident that is randomly assigned to us.

This may sound grim, but it is so important to sit down and work through exactly what caused a deadly accident to happen so that you can avoid the same mistakes in the future. Whether it is pilot error, instrument malfunction, or an accident caused by ATC, knowing how to understand and avoid the same fate is paramount to creating safer skies.

For example, the first accident that we investigated was Colgan Air flight 3407. As 40+ aviation students anxiously watched the projector screen, we were shown a video that recreated the accident with a 3D model of the aircraft and instruments visualizing what the black box had recorded. Additionally, this video had real audio from ATC communicating with the copilot shortly before the accident. It was disturbing to hear, as it made the accident seem so much more real.

After watching the video, we opened discussion to what we believed went wrong. Was it icing? Was it the captain who had previously failed stall awareness training? Was it the first officer who had been working so much between flying and being a waitress that she was deliriously tired? It is important to consider all of these factors and logically work through why this was a bad decision/scenario. We then read the NTSB report and discussed how they came to their conclusions.

This is the infamous accident that lead to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introducing the "Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009." Many things changed in the world of professional aviation after this law was passed. Regulations governing pilot training became much more strict. Additionally, the hour requirements for a pilot to earn their ATP rating changed from 250 to 1500. Although both pilots had several thousands of hours of training, the distraught families of the victims who pushed for these updates to regulations simply wanted to try and ensure something like this never happened again.

As you can see, the aftermath of this accident was colossal. It had a huge impact on the aviation industry as a whole, the effects of which aviation students will witness firsthand for years to come. Had the NTSB reported that the cause of the accident was icing with minimal other factors, perhaps the outcome would have been different. However, we cannot be sure of this. The important thing to gather from this is that the entire accident could have been avoided if the pilots had stopped the sequence of bad events from early on.

The "Decide" model is often used to evaluate in-flight emergencies. Having a prior knowledge of events that have lead to accidents can assist with logical thinking when evaluating impeding danger.

Each accident starts as a chain of events. Imagine dominos in a line. When you knock down one, others start following after quite quickly. One of the things we will be doing in my class is identifying which moments leading up to the accidents are dominos. We will analyze where it starts, what makes it worse, and what the ultimate result is. I think that this is fascinating, and it is extremely important for all pilots to examine aircraft accident reports to become better informed and prepared in case they recognize something that could be a domino.

I want to encourage every pilot out there, whether it is their profession or they fly for fun, to begin paying attention to accident reports. It can be difficult, as most pilots have an "it won’t happen to me," attitude, but doing so will help make flying safer for yourself and everyone around you.

Kids Flying Biplanes

Plane and pilots en route AirVenture 2015

At 19 and 22 years of age, my boyfriend Daniel and I are still considered "kids" by the majority of adults. For this exact reason, we got a lot of interesting reactions when we flew a 1931 Waco ASO open cabin biplane into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last week. Most people cannot fathom flying such an antique aircraft themselves, and seeing us doing it seemed out of place.

This particular Waco has been in my boyfriend’s family since the 1960s. It was an old crop duster that had been sitting in a field in Louisiana and desperately needed a restoration. They obtained the aircraft and spent over 10 years restoring it to the stunning condition that it is in now. Although he grew up around this plane, Daniel got his license and spent a couple hundred hours flying a Stinson 10A before he was allowed to move to the Waco. His tailwheel skills still amaze me, and his transition into the Waco only took a handful of hours.

He debated for several days if he should fly the Stinson into AirVenture for a second year, or take the Waco. He finally did decide to take a leap and fly the Waco, and we are both so glad he did. Although it is pretty much the opposite of the type of plane you would want to go on a long VFR cross country with, the flights there and back were unforgettable and enjoyable. The flight up was 6.7 hours total flight time (plus a stop every hour to stretch our legs and snack), and the flight back was only 5.7 hours (plus hourly stops as well).

Wearing our "Straightwing Crew Hats"

The flight was a particularly enjoyable experience for me because Daniel would give me full flight control for entire legs of the trip while we were enroute. The seat in the front has a grand total of zero flight instruments besides the stick, rudder, and throttle control. It was a fun learning experience for me to fly entirely stick and rudder, and for him to give me constructive feedback based on what his instruments read. My first couple attempts I kept getting into what I called "The Dolphin," where I would over-correct for altitude changes and fly in a constant slight attitude of up and down, like a dolphin swimming near the surface of the water. Once I got the hang of how much input I needed to stabilize the aircraft, it was much smoother sailing.

Half the fun of AirVenture is relaxing in the shade of the aircraft wing and talking to fellow aircraft enthusiasts that walk past. We set out chairs and spoke with people for a couple hours every day. It was always interesting to see the reactions of people who had been admiring the aircraft from the other side, then came over to see us smiling and asking how they were. The most common reaction was "do YOU fly this?" and a general disbelief that such a young guy could be the pilot in command of such a plane. Most people congratulated him on his accomplishments and expressed their jealousy. There was one flight line personnel who saw Daniel climbing on the wing to reach his iPad and promptly came over to scold him for climbing on the aircraft and asked several times if he was REALLY the pilot. We did appreciate his concern for the well-being of the aircraft!

An interesting thing to consider is that the average age of WWI and WWII pilots was early 20's. Pilots younger than Daniel were flying more powerful aircraft in extremely dangerous circumstances. We kept that in mind during our journey and certainly feel reverence and respect for all veterans. Aviation has such a rich heritage and we feel honored for the opportunities we have had so far to experience flight as it would have been in the 1930s.

Beautiful view of Chicago and some sailboats off our right wing as we headed back south.

Daniel's father and my good friend Hayley flew in their Waco YKC, which is closed cabin. It was funny when we would land on the way back and they would be sweaty from all the heat the engine gives off combined with the hot day, and Daniel and I would be wearing two or three jackets to keep from being freezing. The higher the altitude, the colder the air, so we generally flew around 2000 feet.

It was an amazing year at EAA Oshkosh AirVenture and another great experience flying in. Hello to any of the brilliant people we met while up there, and I hope everyone enjoyed the week as much as we did!

Behind the Scenes at the Air Race Classic

Last Monday I had the opportunity to be a small part of history. 50 teams participating in an air race dating back to 1929 were landing at an airport right in my backyard and I had the opportunity to visit and help as they arrived. As the all-female Air Race Classic came to their third stop along the 2,200 NM route, Clark County Airport in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a small army had gathered to welcome them, provide them with food, fuel, and transportation to hotels. I was a volunteer "greeter," meeting the racers as they came into the airport and providing them with answers to any questions that had about operations. Most importantly, I directed them to the restrooms and food.

The Air Race Classic had not been in the area since 1981, so spirits were high as many people worked hard to make this the best stop of their trip. In addition to an abundance of food and desserts provided by UPS, racers were offered complimentary massages and transportation to their hotels. The stop had a Kentucky Derby theme, so several volunteers wore colorful derby hats. The men’s restroom had a sign saying "Fillies (Women); Men’s Restroom Outside," to accommodate the 123 women who would be flying in.

Special accommodations had to be made for the 123 women flying in.

Preparations for this day started almost an entire year ago. Once the route for the race was announced, Honaker Aviation teamed up with several local pilots and organizations to gather volunteers and create a game plan for the day the racers arrived. It was difficult to predict how weather would affect the day from months away, so Stop Chair Amy Bogardus prepared for every possible outcome. An online scheduling system through Sign Up Genius was set up with slots for Timers, Greeters, Transporters, Hospitality, and Stuff to Bring. Time slots were available for each task for Monday-Thursday. The organizers anticipated racers being able to spend the night and leave out Tuesday, but with the unpredictable weather it was best for there to be too many volunteers than too few.

My time slot was from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm but I ended up staying until 6:00 pm. My younger sister has recently taken an interest in aviation, so I brought her along to meet all of the Ninety-Nines who were volunteering and to experience the race. I had been watching the racers make their way towards our stop since they took off in the morning through the live tracking at Trackleaders.com. Excitement was building as I arrived at the airport and watched the same live tracker from a large TV in the command room. All volunteers were given bright yellow arm bands to identify themselves, and we were ready for racers to begin flying in.

Stop organizers and spectators watched the live feed of aircraft flying in all morning, ready to serve as soon as they arrived.

The first few racers came in at a moderate pace, having left the last airport sooner than the others. After an hour or so of airplanes steadily coming in 10 minutes apart, the bulk of the racers came and it was amazing to see them doing a high speed pass and landing one after another. Because the race is judged on a handicap speed, the only time that the racers had to beat was their own.

The first few arrivals enjoy food provided by UPS.

My sister commented on how young many of the collegiate racers looked, as most of them are in their early 20s. I could see in her face that her dream of becoming a pilot seemed more and more realistic as she saw these shining examples of female pilots casually walking into the airport from their aircraft. It was different for her from hearing about my piloting adventures and actually being at an airport and experiencing the sights and sounds. The entire drive home she excitedly spoke about how she was beginning to find her purpose in life, and that becoming a pilot and flying medical missions was her dream.

I had an amazing experience volunteering at the Air Race Classic, and all racers said that the Clark County stop was well done and efficient. A huge thank you to every single volunteer, organizer, and sponsor for making the day incredible for everyone.

What I Learned During my First Year at a Flight University

Transitioning to life in college can be challenging. The completely new environment, new responsibilities, and losing the comforts of home can wear down on any first year student. Add in training to become a professional pilot to the mix, and all of this instantly becomes more complicated.

I am happy to report that myself and the handful of friends I have who decided to attend Universities with flight programs succeeded in our first year of this endeavor. It was not easy, but we learned a lot and we are all going back to continue our training next semester.

During my first year I learned more piloting knowledge than I had learned in my past 4 years of being around aircraft. I was on a schedule of flying three times a week, so what I learned was always fresh on my mind. This was especially helpful as I completed my first Instrument flight lab, because there are so many small things to remember when flying under IFR. Additionally, I learned so much about the aviation industry itself. I spoke to recruiters and airline representatives about the kind of pilot they seek out. This invaluable information will help me when I begin getting my foot in the door with potential future employers.

I have a few friends who are coming in as freshman in the fall, and I decided to put together a list of a few major things that I wish someone had told me before I went to school. I hope to inform you with a little knowledge that I observed during my first year. Everyone will have a different experience at the flight school that they chose to go to, but these are all good things to keep in mind as you enter the collegiate type of flight training.

You will be mostly teaching yourself – I had this vague idea when I started school of how ground courses would go. I thought we would spend hours in our ground classes every week learning exactly how to do every flight-related thing we needed for that certain part of training, with a little homework every week. I was very wrong. Your success in ground training is still pretty much 90% up to how much studying you do on your own time. There are more resources available to you (Aviation tutor, library books, etc.) but it is still mostly up to you how much you learn during the year.

Simulators are life savers – With every ground course you take at my university, you get 5-10 hours of simulator time covering the in-flight information you cover. These simulator lessons helped me soak in the information about ten times quicker than I would have without flying the simulator. We have the ability to "put on the parking break," which pauses the entire simulator so you can take a breather and have your instructor explain everything to you. I will never underestimate simulator training again.

Record your hours diligently – If I learned anything from the recruiters that visited the school, it is that recording your hours in an organized manner is incredibly important. Whether that be online, or in a logbook with every checkride tabbed, having an accurate and updated log of your hours is a big deal once you start gaining hours at breakneck speed at your flight university.

Start planning for the future from day one – There was this magical website that every recruiter I talked to spoke about called AirlineApps.com. They highly recommended recording and updating my personal, work, and education information as it happened, so that when it came time for me to submit my "online resume" to whichever regional airline I decide to join the information will all be there ready for me. This is an example of a way that pilots can be constantly planning for the future and staying on top of the competition.

Prioritize – I cannot tell you how many times I heard this. Unfortunately for me, the non-flight part of my University is not very accommodating of the flight part. It is a struggle to find a class schedule that works with the preferred flight schedule of three times a week, but it is possible. As with any college, the workload for each class will vary and change dramatically throughout the year. The most important thing you can do is prioritize your aviation studies, but still maintain good grades in other general education classes.

This is still college – I found that it was way too easy to start thinking too much ahead and stress myself out. Some days when I had two quizzes, an eight page paper due, a stage check, and had to read an entire novel, I felt like the weight of the world was on me. It helped so much when I took a step back and realized that this is a special time in our lives for growing, making friendships, and enjoying the time we have before we go out on our own. My friends and I started hosting cookouts and weekend trips to make the most of any and all leisure time.

But don’t be stupid – The final lesson I learned from being at school and observing the behavior of others was to not be stupid. Use common sense. Don't do anything illegal or harmful to others, because your reputation is always being either built up or damaged by your actions. Word travels fast in college. There are rules for crew rest and avoiding pilot fatigue for a reason. Don’t even rack up too many speeding tickets, as I have heard many stories of pilots getting rejected from jobs because of a driving record riddled with speeding tickets.

Above all, enjoy your time in college but do your best in every academic thing you take on. Flight student or not, this is a challenging time. Keep your eyes on the goal of graduating and make yourself proud.

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