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Report From the 25th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference

photo by Andrew Zaback—record attendance to hear Eileen Collins speak at the Luncheon on Friday, March 7 at the 25th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference

On the weekend of March 6th 2014, over 4,500 people attended the 25th annual Women in Aviation International conference held at Walt Disney World in Florida. I was fortunate enough to find myself able to attend for my first time this year. Although I was not sure what to expect, I left the conference with unforgettable memories and a true love for Women in Aviation International.

I was determined to get out of my comfort zone and make the most of this experience, so on my first day I made a beeline for the volunteer booth to sign up to help in whichever area they needed me. I was told by the volunteer coordinator that they had over 300 volunteers signed up for the conference. She said that the success of the conference really had so much to do with volunteers, who help with every aspect from registration to article writing for the Daily newsletter. I shared a resort room with fellow aviation writer Sarina Houston, so I was nudged towards volunteering in the press room and had some great learning experiences with the women working there.

On the first day, after attending a New Member breakfast and meeting tons of great people, I was sent to the exhibitor hall for my first volunteer assignment. In celebration of the 25th anniversary, a large time capsule was filled during the conference and will be reopened in 25 years. I was asked to talk to each of the 133 exhibitors individually and pick up their time capsule items. Many were unsure as to what they should put in the capsule, but I assured them that a pamphlet or business card would work. Simply a way to say “I was here.” The capsule will be opened at the 2039 conference.

It was invigorating to hear some true aviation legends speak at the conference. On Thursday night attendees were treated to an inspiring speech by SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul. After flying 212 combat missions as a USAF fighter pilot, Shul was shot down and so badly burned that he was given a very slim chance of survival, and next to no chance at a normal life. After spending 2 months in intensive care and an additional several months in physical therapy, he made a full recovery and was able to return to flying. He presented a stunning collection of rare photos he took after his recovery, during his time as a Blackbird pilot.

Attendees were invited to a special luncheon on Friday featuring a speech by Eileen Collins. Collins is a retired NASA astronaut and has the distinction of being the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. It was unreal to hear her causally talk about her training, and describe in detail what it is like to feel a space shuttle takeoff. She chuckled and told about when she looked out the window and it hit her that “wow, the earth IS round!”

Of the thousands in attendance, a large percentage had come for the job opportunities. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United Airlines were all present at the conference, taking resumes and conducting short interviews with applicants. Sharply dressed pilots flocked to their booths and it was fun talking to some of the energetic young job searchers.

I’m in a great spot for attending this conference, because I am graduating high school and beginning the rest of my flight training in a few short months. I tried to make a point of visiting every flight university and hearing about what makes them special, and how they are conducting their training of the next generation of pilots. I lingered at the Bristow Academy and Whirly-Girls booths, envisioning my life as a helicopter pilot. There are so many scholarships and opportunities available for an education in aviation, it is simply a matter of knowing where to look.

After passing by and lusting over an Abingdon watch a few times, I went to some of the education sessions. I learned tips and tricks for publishing my own book, and listened to a panel of female airline pilots. There were dozens of other educational sessions happening, and I only wish there were more of me so I could have attended more of them!

Seeing thousands of people who are passionate about aviation and are enjoying their careers in the field was extremely inspiring. I highly encourage anyone who is serious about aviation to look into attending the next Women in Aviation International conference. I can’t wait to attend next year’s conference myself and reunite with some of the great girls I met last weekend.

Your Guide to Summer Aviation Fun

After months of freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and grounded airplanes it’s nice to finally have some warm weather in the forecast. What better way to embrace the end of winter than to begin planning for summer aviation activities? The number of events that await your attendance this summer is both exciting and a little overwhelming. I hope to help give you a quick reminder of the major events, as well as introduce you to some that are lesser-known but well worth looking into.

Airshows

There is nothing better on a warm summer day than to go to an airshow. You can grab a cold drink, wear a sun-blocking hat, and watch beautiful aircraft dazzle you from the flight line. Listening to the buzz of the engines and hearing the enthusiastic announcer awakens the love of aviation that is inside all of us. Last year was a difficult one for the Airshow industry, but thankfully things are looking hopeful for 2014.

The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are back in action, ready to woo audiences in their tours around America. The patriotic and awe-inspiring pilots will be at several locations during the spring and summer, so visit their websites to get more information on this can’t-miss show.

Classic airshows for summer fun are being held at AirVenture and SUN 'n FUN. However, most states host at least one local airshow during the year, several hosting more.  The Globalair.com Aviation Events calendar can help you find your nearest show, and give you an idea of what is going on around the world.

Fly-Ins

For pilots who are itching for a change of scenery, a fly-in is a great option. Many airports and aviation organizations host fly-ins, which usually involve great food. Most EAA Chapters host monthly pancake breakfasts which are open to the public and feature speakers or activities that are of interest to aviators. These events are great for meeting other friendly pilots, and enjoying a relaxing summer’s Saturday.

I have recently come across a couple of truly unique fly-ins that would be unforgettable to attend. The International Seaplane Fly-In in Greenville, Maine is designed specifically for those with an interest in seaplane operations. Beautiful Moosehead Lake is the setting for the graceful seaplanes and visitors are close enough to town to explore the unique shops and restaurants of Maine. The Cessna 150-152 Fly-In in Iowa celebrates the most loved basic training aircraft. The small Cessna has been the starting point of a life in aviation for nearly 60 years. Over 100 of the aircraft will be flying into the heartland of America for this event.

Conferences

If the weather gets too hot for you, there are plenty of indoor conferences going on this summer. The Ninety-Nines are hosting their annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana during the month of June. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is happening the first week in May. If there is an area of aviation that you find particularly interesting, there’s very likely a conference happening which covers it. There is even a NBAA Business Aviation Taxes Seminar happening in May. These seminars and conferences offer the perfect environment to learn new skills, network within your industry, and have a great time.

Other Happenings

In addition to all of the fun events already covered, there are plenty of unique activities going on if you know where to look. The 6th Annual 1940’s WWII Era Ball is happening June 14th in Colorado. Visiting this amazing ball has always been on my bucket list. For pilots who want a good challenge this summer, the Arizona Rumble in the Desert is a self-proclaimed “back country Olympics.” Competitions include short field landing, short field takeoff, power off approach, spot landing, and flour bombing.

Last but not least, there are always aviation summer camps. Many are available for all ages, but I cannot think of a more perfect way to introduce today’s youth to aerospace than a fun week of learning. These can get a little expensive, but there are scholarship opportunities available for most. AOPA has compiled a good list, but doing some quick Google searches around your area may help find one that is not listed.

Hopefully this quick list has helped you get excited for all the events happening this summer. It’s almost time to shake the ice off, pack some snacks, and enjoy beautiful summer weather!

Pilots Getting a Buzz

Recently the world of Aviation has been flooded with criticism of the Federal Aviation Administration's update of regulations regarding the crew rest period. Highlights of the new regulations state that all airline pilots get at least 10 hours of rest between shifts, eight hours of which must involve uninterrupted sleep. Depending on when the flight begins, pilots are also limited to spending only eight or nine hours in the cockpit.

These stricter regulations come as no surprise to many airlines, as incident reports stating "pilot fatigue" as a main contributing factor became too frequent to ignore. To quote the FAA’s Official Report on the amendment: “Fatigue manifests in the aviation context not only when pilots fall asleep in the cockpit in flight, but perhaps more importantly, when they are insufficiently alert during take-off and landing. Reported fatigue-related events have included procedural errors, unstable approaches, lining up with the wrong runway, and landing without clearances. ”

As most pilots know, human error is the #1 cause of aviation accidents. Add in fatigue and stress from a long flight and you have a recipe for disaster. These new regulations will assure pilots rest as much as needed before beginning a long period of flight.

One additional facet of this change is that more responsibility has been given directly to pilots in determining their fitness for flight. They must confirm that they are fit for duty before any flight operations, and may be removed from the flight should they display signs of fatigue.

It will be interesting to see how this has an effect on the daily consumption of certain stimulants, namely caffeine. Pilots are no strangers to a good cup of coffee, which many drink as a delicious energizer before flights. The short-term effects of caffeine can be great for feeling alert and awake, but these benefits wear off quickly and can put a pilot in danger.

Caffeine has been linked to such symptoms as anxiety, fear, sweating, irritability, nervousness, and feeling “on edge.” These are perhaps the worst feelings for a pilot to have during a complicated flight. Should they not feel these symptoms, they are still likely to suffer from insomnia and have a difficult time managing their rest period. Caffeine effectively blocks the chemicals in the brain which tell you that you are tired, causing the brain to be exhausted but unable to rest and recuperate.

The best thing for pilots to do is to only drink coffee or caffeinated drinks in moderation, monitoring caffeine consumption to assure the safety of their flight operations. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating foods rich in protein will also help give a natural “boost” without paying the price of negative symptoms.

Confessions of a Student Pilot

Over the past 5 years I have more than earned my right to be called a student pilot. Between when I was 12 years old and now I have attended 3 different flight schools, passed my FAA Written Exam twice, and been lightheartedly made fun of by CFIs for rookie mistakes countless times. It’s been said that it’s about the journey, not the destination, and this rings incredibly true in the world of aviation. I have learned more about life and passion through aerospace than I ever learned in my standard high school curriculum. I have been taught discipline, self-control, dedication, logical thinking... All through my experiences in chasing my dream of becoming a pilot.

I hope to help other student pilots remember why they are doing this. It can be such a challenge to continue training when you feel you are stuck in a rut, or you will never achieve the dream that we all chase after. I have compiled a few observations or “confessions,” if you will, that have stuck out to me during my journey. A few come with stories, a few are simply food for thought. Here are my confessions of a student pilot.

Keep your training consistent. This may seem obvious, but it keeps many student pilots from advancing quickly enough to reach their full potential. It is far better to wait and save up enough money for a flight lesson every week or so than to attend your flight school sporadically. For the first 3 years of my training I could only afford one lesson every month (between allowance and babysitting money that wasn’t too bad!) If I could go back and do it again, I would have saved up for a year or so and had lessons sequentially in just a couple months. In having to wait, I kept relearning the same concepts every month and was nowhere near reaching my full potential.

Don’t be scared to be assertive. On June 19th, 2013 I was on a routine flight with my instructor, going around the traffic pattern at Capital City airport. As my instructor continually pointed out, I was spending too much time with my eyes glued to the instrument panel and not enough time looking outside. As I turned for my downwind leg, he held a sheet of paper over the instrument panel to stop my nervous eyes from glancing inside too much. I huffed a bit, then began making a call to other traffic that I was on downwind. “Capital City traffic, Cessna -” my heart sank. I hadn’t memorized our tail number yet and the sheet of paper was obscuring my view of it. Without skipping a beat, I forcefully moved (read: slapped) my instructor’s hand out of the way, read the tail number off, and finished my radio call. I immediately felt bad and apologized for what I had done, but I had never seen my instructor so thrilled. “That’s what I’m talking about! THAT was a pilot in command move. If you know what you need to do, don’t ask my permission.” The very next day I was endorsed and did my first solo flight. Which is the perfect segway into my next point...

Your solo IS as big of a deal as everyone says. Let’s say you have comprehended enough knowledge to safely takeoff and land an aircraft, and your instructor has enough faith in your abilities to let you do it completely by yourself. Congratulations, it’s time to fly solo! The whole ordeal in and of itself isn’t a big change from your previous lessons, as you have probably done exactly the same routine of taking off and landing many times before your instructor steps out. The real value and importance of a solo isn’t in the fact that there is one less passenger, it is that YOU are now the pilot in command. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.3, “The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.” You are now the CEO head honcho in charge of all aspects of safely executing your current flight mission. The boost of confidence that a student pilot gains after safely landing their first solo flight is astronomical. Celebrate this accomplishment and truly think about what it means to now be the pilot in command.

Networking is everything. I am a first-generation pilot. Nobody in my family has any ties to aviation, besides a strange obsession with warbirds my father and grandfather share. When I first started my flight training I felt like a very tiny fish in a very huge pond. All that I knew was that becoming a pilot was extremely expensive, difficult, and overwhelming... but that I absolutely could not live my life without doing it. I had not met a single female pilot in my first two years of training, but I knew they had to be out there. I began doing google searches, talking to family friends, and subscribed to seven different flight magazines in an attempt to gain an understanding of the general aviation community as a whole. Through a family friend I came in contact with a female UPS pilot, and she introduced me to the Ninety-Nines. From there I learned about Women in Aviation, AOPA, EAA, NBAA, all of these crazy acronyms which represented different organizations in the aviation community. I have met tons of interesting people who have taken a genuine interest in my future as a pilot, and I have learned so much about the different pathways that are available to me in the aerospace industry. Having a good network to support you is incredibly important for an aspiring pilot.

Do not give up. The most important "confession" I have for fellow student pilots is to not give up, no matter how difficult it becomes. Keep trying. Stay motivated. There have been times in my training where I have been completely overwhelmed and felt very unsure as to whether or not I would actually achieve my dreams. When this happens, I like to take a step back and evaluate what really draws me to aviation in the first place. I watch episodes of The Aviators, or read aviation literature and really soak in the pure beauty and freedom that a pilot can obtain. The challenge is half the fun, however daunting it may seem. I encourage all student pilots to really think about what keeps them going and to cling to it until they finally reach the day of achieving their ultimate goals.

High School Aviation Students Restore Historical Biplane Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny"

 

The Fully Restored Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny"

Kentucky is truly making a name for itself in the world of Aerospace education. Recent modifications to the professional flight program at Eastern Kentucky University have put it on the map as one of the top-ranking aerospace schools in the nation. The Aviation Museum of Kentucky offers summer camps for young kids to have an introduction to aviation and their first experiences in aircraft.

Masterfully filling the gap between introduction to aviation and professional training in Kentucky is The Institute for Aerospace Education. This high school program was formed with the simple mission of helping improve students’ STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through the context of aerospace. Since its inception in 2010, more than 23 school districts have been added to the network and begun offering aviation classes in their curriculum.

One of these network schools is located in Tompkinsville. Jon Foote facilitates and teaches the aviation classes for students of Tompkinsville high school at Monroe County Airport (KTZY.) As well as being the owner of the FBO, Foote offers maintenance services to aircraft in need. Through his maintenance service, Foote was contacted by filmmaker Dorian Walker asking to help him restore some work on his Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" aircraft. Seeing the perfect opportunity to expose his aviation students to a great piece of history, he got permission to let the high school kids help with the restoration.

Proud aircraft owner Dorian Walker

The work took a year to complete, with several students working every day. Three students in particular took the project to heart, spending multiple hours on the weekends working on the plane. Originally built in 1917, the biplane helped train pilots in World War I. After the war the model proved fundamental to the barnstorming age and helped make civil aviation prominent during the 1920s.

Many non-aviation individuals will recognize the historical plane from a postal stamp that was an accidental misprint, showing an inverted Jenny. Because only one sheet was printed featuring this mistake, it has become extremely rare and valuable. A single stamp sold for $977,500 in 2007. A version of this stamp has recently come back into circulation to celebrate National Stamp Collecting Month.

It is amazing that high school students have had the opportunity be around a plane with such historical significance while experiencing maintenance procedures firsthand. The work is now complete and the aircraft has more exciting things on its horizons. Jenny 38262 will be joining six other flying Jenny biplanes in a trip around the country, and will be made available to educational groups for exhibition. There is also talk of this exact Jenny being on display at AirVenture 2014.