Dianna Leason    (California)

Dianna Leason (California)

Dianna Leason is based at KSZP, Santa Paula Airport, Santa Paula, California. I’m a transgender woman. 65 years old. Flown my whole life. Built three EAB (experimental amateur built) airplanes. Worked for Burt Rutan for 12 years. Aero Engineer is my day job… I love aviation in all of its forms! RC Model builder/designer. Ratings: PPL, SEL, Glider Aircraft Flown: Ercoupe, VariEZe, Gemini (original design twin engine Canard), EAB Super Cub, Stearman, AT-6, Bucker Jungmeister, Bonanza, Grumman Tiger, Pitts S-2A Dream taildragger: My EAB Super Cub… Thoughts on taildragging:  I like the challenge of flying and landing them flawlessly! It’s a never ending quest…....

Michelle Messersmith     (Pennsylvania)

Michelle Messersmith (Pennsylvania)

Michelle Messersmith is based at KBVI, Beaver County Airport, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I own a 1955 Cessna 170B (N4491B) with my father. I come from a long line of female pilots, including my mother who has 100’s of hours in the Cessna 170, Cessna 195 and many other cool birds. I have attended EAA AirVenture every year since I was born and am also a member of Women in Aviation. Ratings: Private Pilot Aircraft flown: Cessna 170BCessna 195PA-11 Piper CubNA T-6 Dream taildragger: Owning the T-6 that we had when I was a child...

Diane Kraudelt     (North Carolina)

Diane Kraudelt (North Carolina)

Diane Kraudelt is based at BQ1, Gilliam – Mc Connell Airfield, Carthage, North Carolina.  So you have had a successful career or two and you’re not too young nor ready for an affordable care center, now what? With an airport less than 2 miles away from work, how about an intro ride? At the airport, having never even seen a small GA aircraft, I was a bit, (ha! a lot) hesitant; they sure are small! But I climbed into the left seat of a Cessna 152 and we’re off! I loved the takeoff and was not so thrilled with the straight and level but the view!!! We were just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the view! Indescribable! So, why not? I signed up for lessons. Later that same year I’m a Private Pilot and again, now what?By then I had learned flying “under the hood” is not something I was great at but I did love steep turns! Well, tail-wheel lessons seemed doable. So off to another flight school, one with a Super Cub. I had a very experienced instructor who laughed instead of yelled. And let’s not even talk about that first take off; fortunately the grass runway was VERY wide. This wonderful instructor, a former airshow performer with a Pitts, sold his Pitts and purchased a Decathlon which he leased to the flight school. Want to go up? Sure! Better than steep turns!!! I was hooked and purchased my Super Decathlon the next year. The first photo of myself and my plane was taken the day I performed aerobatics solo! My husband took the picture, probably for “just in case!”. I continued advanced training at Potomac Airpark. This is what airplanes are for!! I’ve had my baby for 19 years now and, while I have recently stopped aerobatics, I still fly whenever I can. Ratings: Private pilot Aircraft flown: Cessna 152Cessna 172PA-18 Super CubBellanca DecathlonACA Super Decathlon Dream Taildragger: Super Decathlon Taildragger thoughts: Actually, I think they are easier to land!...

Law of Primacy

Law of Primacy

First, I must thank Brian Lansburgh for allowing me to post another in his series of excellent articles. This particular article delves into flying the most efficient and safest pattern among your options. As a pilot, you can fly a pattern that’s a virtual cross-country on downwind with a ridiculously long final or you can operate your aircraft so at any given point in your pattern, with total engine failure, you can safely glide to the airport. Granted, if you lose an engine on take-off, your options are limited, but once on downwind, you should always be able to glide to the airport property. Personally, I’ve always tried to keep my patterns tight but after reading this article a couple months ago, I’ve focused more, practiced more and improved my skills. One note; after many power-off approaches in a gamut of wind conditions, I have to tell you, airplanes do not glide as far without power as you probably think. Practice! According to the Law of primacy, instructors must teach all facts correctly the first time.  That law ignores what “correctly” means.  It also gives an amazing advantage to those who first get their hooks into a student pilot.  Because, you see, the Law of Primacy also states that what is learned first is learned best.  It’s only recently that I’ve observed the truth in that statement and the fact that it puts common sense at a great disadvantage when compared with “the way we’ve always done it”.  And that is my big issue with Acme[1].  I’ve addressed this fact before in one of the documents that I give to all of my students.  I’m going to address it a bit more specifically here.  Although there are several areas where this law takes effect, I’m going to address the ones that I see all the time, in the order of their importance: Power-off approach: I think it was my CFI instructor, George DeMartini, who first explained the main reason that the power-off approach is a good way to go.  He explained that the guy who makes a power-off approach is practicing for the day when he has no power and must make an accurate approach into a field or other landing spot, improved or otherwise.  If, like a growing percentage of pilots, you feel that the modern aircraft engine is so reliable that you’ll never have an engine failure, think of the economy and efficiency of this approach.  It’s smaller, takes less time and gets your airplane out of the way of other traffic.  Acme doesn’t use it.  They use progressive power reductions that simply create a larger pattern and guarantee that you will not be able to get to the runway if the engine quits after you’ve turned base.  If you stand next to almost any general aviation runway, you’ll see that the vast majority of pilots gradually decrease their power, only closing the throttle as they flare.  You may also hear the sound of me, slapping my forehead while watching them.  I can’t tell you how many people have come to me as private pilots.  I’ve explained to them why we use this approach and what it’s advantages are.  They nod their heads and agree with me that it is a superior method.  And yet, later, they will revert to the method that has been proven to be inferior. The Law of Primacy has struck again. By the way, I recently saw a video in which the flight instructor demonstrated the “Power-off 180”.  He treated it as an unusual maneuver which takes lots of practice to do well.  What he demonstrated was the technique that we at Tailwheel Town use for virtually EVERY landing! Size of Pattern Personally, I think it’s important to understand that an airplane/s route to the ground is determined by an angle, not an altitude.  The feds and most localities publish a pattern altitude, which is usually between 800 and 1000 feet above the surface.  So, if we fly that altitude, we have to fly further away from the airport in order to have the proper angle which will enable us to glide to the runway.  Since the vast majority of student training flights in the pattern consist of “touch and go” landings, the airplane is being climbed at full power, only to descend with partial power.  The Tailwheel Town pattern is a bit different, but it depends on whether or not “Acme” pilots are in the pattern as to whether we fly it or not.  After all, safety is our biggest concern and if that means being somewhere where other traffic can see us, then we may have to bite the bullet and do what they are doing.   Even if it is wasteful and wrong.  Because the pattern I prefer is significantly lower.  All I care about is safety.  So if I’m in the pattern by myself, I might be at three hundred or so feet above the surface and positioned for an immediate turn toward and landing on the runway in the event of an engine failure or other emergency.  And I’m not making that engine work hard to get me to a pattern altitude only to give it up and glide down.  In fact, I normally reduce my power a bit after turning downwind. If I happen to be number two and be behind an Acme-trained guy (please forgive me, but we refer to them as “Dog Farts”), I have to alter my pattern somewhat.  Remember that safety is my number one concern and I must obey the first rule of pattern flying, which is that you must be able to glide to a safe landing on the runway in the event of an engine failure.  If you were a mouse in the cockpit (That would be a mouse who understood English), you’d hear me tell my student that if the “dog fart” is causing us to extend our downwind leg and get too far away to glide to the runway, we must slow down and climb in order not to be out of gliding range.  And for my more advanced students there’s another winkle in our actions.  We must get on that guy’s tail on landing.  Why?  Because he’s going to climb way out on upwind.  We’re going to take advantage of that to turn inside him and become number one.  Although I’ve often been accused of “cutting someone off” by doing that, I’ve never actually cut anyone off or caused them to alter their wasteful pattern.  In fact, most of the time I will tell the guy that I’m turning inside him and that I will be no factor.  Even Acme instructors seem to understand why I do that and have always been cooperative and understanding.  I’m not a Christian, but it might be useful to quote Jesus when he was quoted as saying, “Father, forgive them… they know not what they do.” Flap extension I’m really going to try to keep this short, ‘cause I can go on and on about flaps!  Assuming that we are on a fairly accurate no-flap approach, we’ll hold off putting flaps down until we can make the runway with them.  Then we put all of our flaps down and re-trim as necessary.  Acme prefers to add a notch of flaps at a time, starting on downwind and ending on final.  In my opinion, this kind of defeats the purpose in favor of making the trimming easier and a bit at a time.  I also teach a technique not widely understood, but really handy!  Let’s say that we are at best L/D speed (about 65mph in the 140) and it looks like we are really close or maybe too low without power.  Let’s have a hand on the throttle, but hold off, because we know that ground effect will shortly extend our glide and that airplanes glide a bit further than we think.  As we enter ground effect, we extend all of our flaps and guess what!  The airplane leaps up because the combination of greater lift with flaps and greater lift in ground effect has been greater than increased drag with full flaps.  We made it to the runway and never had to add power.  This technique requires a bit of practice, but it’s really fun and effective.  Just remember that if, like Acme, you already have flaps down, you are not going to glide as far and may need that burst of power in order to extend your final long enough to make the runway!  I like to view flaps like a parachutist’s reserve:  Don’t use them until you need them and you’ll likely have a better result.  My pal, Jerry says it best when he states, “if you have to use power AND flaps, you’ve already made a mistake”.  (I think he might have stated it a bit stronger, but I’m treading lighter for my more sensitive readers). Radio work I once watched one of the most talented students at Outlaw Aviation land the 172.  While I watched her land, I listened to my handheld radio.  One of the things this particular student excels in is the use of the radio.  She always sounds good and sounds like she knows what she’s doing.  I was impressed by the landing, although, like almost all students, she failed to have the control wheel all the way back at touchdown.  Almost everyone gets away with that and it’s not a big deal, just resulting in a very slightly longer touchdown.  But when she cleared the runway to come back on the parallel taxiway, I couldn’t help but notice her use of the common transmission, “Sisters traffic, Skyhawk six one lima is clear of the active”.  There are times when this call is useful.  An example would be a runway which is obscured so that a landing aircraft can’t see the guy who hasn’t yet cleared the runway and may be in the way.  But every time?  I think not.  This call, which is designed to increase safety, actually impedes it because the frequency is blocked. Many is the time that my instructions to my student or my transmissions to other traffic are blocked needlessly by this transmission.  Is it a big deal?  Not necessarily.  At an airport like Sisters, it usually doesn’t get in the way, but at busier airports, it simply adds to the congestion. I recently read a piece by an “expert” instructor, who said that the call, “Any other traffic, please advise” is wasteful and to be avoided at all times.  What nonsense!  First of all, he ignores the fact that a large percentage of pilots are afraid of the radio and will not answer you if you call them directly.  That is the main reason that we would always make that call when getting ready to drag our glider out to the runway for launch at Sunriver Soaring.  It’s a good call, doesn’t clutter the frequency most of the time and I think that guy did the flying community a real disservice by acting like an “expert” and disparaging its use.  Even now, when I’m giving tailwheel instruction, I will sometimes use a long back-taxi in order to build competence at understanding and controlling a tailwheel airplane.  I often use a call of, “Any other inbound or outbound traffic, give me a shout”.  I don’t want to be in their way if they are inbound or outbound and by letting me know their intentions, I can hold my position for a while and let them in or out. And finally, a little correction that you won’t find in a previous edition (pre – third edition) of my book.  When you make a call, start it with where you are and end it with where you are.  The instructor is probably talking to his student on the intercom and they are going to miss the first part of your transmission.  Then, when you end with where you are, they are listening and they won’t miss it. The Law of Primacy works because most pilots never ask “why”.  If they did, they might realize that just because they learned a certain way to do things first, it may not be the best or most efficient way.  [1] “Acme” is the admittedly negative name that Tailwheel Town ascribes to the estimated 98% of all flight schools.  The author has contempt for them simply because their teaching is peppered liberally with bad information, like the short field takeoff technique, the gradual cessation of power during the landing and the gradual extension of flaps starting on downwind....

Bonnie Ritchey     (California)

Bonnie Ritchey (California)

Bonnie Ritchey is based at E45, Pine Mountain Lake Airport, Groveland, California.  I’ve been flying 10 years, starting in a Citabria 7ECA. Right after I got my PPL I bought a Pitts S2A and love every minute of flying that plane! I now live at E45, a beautiful airpark with an active aviation community near Yosemite National Park. Ratings: PPL, Instrument Rated Aircraft flown: 7ECA, 7KCAB, 7GCBC, 8KCAB, Pitts S2C, S2B & S2A, Extra 300, V35B, C172, C170, C182 Dream Taildragger: Waco UPF-7. I tracked down the one my grandfather trained in and would love to be able to buy it one day. Thoughts on taildragging: All the really fun planes are taildraggers!...

Julia Clare Cornay     (Tennessee)

Julia Clare Cornay (Tennessee)

Julia Clare Cornay is based at KLUG, Ellington Airport, Lewisburg, Tennessee. I live in Franklin, TN and have a 1949 Aeronca Champ! I love hopping around Tennessee and flying cross-country. Last summer, my dad and I flew the champ from Columbia, CA all the way to Lafayette, LA and back to Franklin, TN in five days. Talk about spending a long time in a little plane!! I am currently working on my commercial certificate and CFI. Can’t wait to meet some awesome ladies who love to fly 🙂 Ratings: Private Pilot, Instrument Rated, Taildragger Endorsement, Basic Ground Instructor. Aircraft flown: Cessna 150 and 172, Diamond 20, Aeronca Champ. Dream taildragger: My dream taildragger is a Super Cub with tundra tires so I could land that thing anywhere. Thoughts on taildragging: I love taildraggers because I come from a long line of pilots who all learned in, and love, taildraggers. And because our little taildragger is where my dad and I truly bond and reconnect....

Sara Schwerin     (Montana)

Sara Schwerin (Montana)

Sara Schwerin is based at KBZN, Bozeman Yellowstone Intl Airport, Bozeman, Montana. I got my private pilot’s license about 20 years ago but took a long break from flying to focus on my career in NYC, working in Mergers & Acquisitions. I stopped working in 2014, got my instrument rating, and the next year, I flew my Lancair Columbia 300 to Montana where I now live with my husband (also a pilot) and two children. I spend part of my time sitting on boards of non-profits trying to make the world a better place, and the rest of my time actively pursuing a long list of hobbies: flying, skiing, hiking, trail running, scuba diving and oil painting. In 2018, I went to FlightSafety and learned to fly a Pilatus PC-12 NG. Later that summer I learned to fly an Aviat Husky A-1C. The Husky is my primary focus these days, and I am working on building up my backcountry and mountain flying skills in preparation for a trip to Alaska. Ratings: Private pilot, Instrument rated, Tailwheel endorsement, high altitude endorsement. Aircraft flown: Grumman American, Lancair Columbia 300, Pilatus PC-12 NG, Aviat Husky A-1C. Dream Taildragger: I already own it – the Husky! Thoughts on taildragging: I love to explore, and that is what taildraggers are made for. It is a totally different experience than flying a Point A to Point B airplane. My favorite thing to do is to go “surfing” in the mountains around Bozeman in the Husky – riding the thermal currents up and down, following ridge lines, always thinking about my way out, watching elk herds. Flying over a high mountain pass at a 45 degree angle feels like I am in an IMAX movie. It’s exhilarating. I can’t wait to take the plane into the backcountry to camp where no one else can find me....

Still time to get to Sun ‘n Fun!

Still time to get to Sun ‘n Fun!

I was so close to Sun ‘n Fun but close doesn’t cut it. The sad fact is I had to leave my Decathlon at Zephyrhills, Florida just 50 miles from Lakeland. Timing is everything and there’s not much time after the daily airshow ends and the field closes for the day. Time ran out on me on Day 1, Tuesday of Sun ‘n Fun. Our short-notice LadiesLoveTaildraggers meet-and-greet started off on shaky grounds. I posted we would meet at 2:00 at the SnF Sunset Cafe but the place turned out to be packed with people still at 2:00. We found our niche spot thanks to the owner of the little tiki bar inside the large pavilion. He literally gave us 1/3 of his bar space to display LLT tshirts, hang our banner and greet the ladies....

Scouting our LLT Natchitoches Fly-in pays off

Scouting our LLT Natchitoches Fly-in pays off

This little adventure has been on my mind since deciding to host our next LadiesLoveTaildraggers fly-in in Louisiana – Natchitoches, Louisiana. And if you can correctly pronounce Natchitoches, you’re a lot better at Cajun chatter than I am! The great joy of being here is that I’ve discovered first hand what a wonderful destination this small town in central Louisiana truly is. After a beautiful flight into the KIER airport and a day spent immersed in the local culture & cuisine, I’m now confident you’re going to love visiting here too. The Chateau Saint Denis Hotel featured in Southern Living Magazine is a choice that, until today, I thought was way too expensive to consider. Their $350/nightly rate throughout the holiday season had scared me away but a meeting with their sales manager today left me smiling. I’m tickled to report our group is getting a super rate at the most sought after hotel in the heart of the historic district, $139/night. Get your reservation in as soon as possible. They are holding just 20 rooms for us and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Ask for LadiesLoveTailraggers’ Group Rate: Chateau Saint Denis Hotel Speaking of food, I had a great time wondering around downtown today debating the most fun and interesting restaurants we should visit. Here are the two oh-so-southern restaurants where I’ve reserved seating; Thursday and Friday evenings. Check ’em out at http://www.maglieauxs.com/home and http://mamasandpapasnatchitoches.com/ All women pilots are welcome and encouraged to join our fun, regardless of whether you have a tailwheel endorsement. FYI: Camping on the field is free, shower & restrooms available at the FBO 24/7. For all the details about our 2019 LadiesLoveTaildraggers Natchitoches Fly-in please refer to this earlier announcement or proceed directly to the Fly-in Registration Form. https://www.ladieslovetaildraggers.com/blog/2019-ladieslovetaildraggers-natchitoches-fly-in/...

They Told Her She Couldn’t, but She Did.

They Told Her She Couldn’t, but She Did.

Article from FAA News “They Told Her She Couldn’t, but She Did” The complete article can also be read at https://spark.adobe.com/page/UyvSQr6tbz9tP/     This is too real and too fantastic not to share and many thanks to my friend Nita Sweeney for forwarding. It’s about Gloria LaRoche, the third woman to become a captain for a U.S. commercial carrier and the obstacles ambitious  women pilots faced at the time. The good-old-boys were hell bent on maintaining their domain in the cockpit and a new woman pilot wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Ladies had to be focused, confident and assertive, not to mention smarter and better pilots than the men, just to get their foot in the door.  Like many of you, I’m very interested in the history of female aviators and have read many articles and books about a variety of women pilots. My favorites are about women who had a burning desire to fly from an early age – they all desperately wanted to be a pilot! Happily, they usually managed to get the job done. This article in particular had me completely engaged and immersed from the get-go. I hope you’re as sucked in as I was as Gloria “shares her story of perseverance and tenacity for Women’s History Month”.   The epiphany dawned upon Gloria LaRoche when she was just eight years old. She had just finished watching a John Wayne movie, “Jet Pilot,” in which he exposes a female Russian pilot spying on America. But LaRoche wasn’t captivated by the Duke’s swagger so much as she was by the idea of a woman flying. “It struck me, ‘Hey, I could do that,’” LaRoche recalled. That evening, she went home and wrote in her diary: “Today, I want to be a piolet.” In that day and age, a girl dreaming of becoming an aviator was just that — a dream. Despite the achievements of Amelia Earhart and other female aviators, the reality in the 1950s was that women were only meant to be teachers, nurses, or housewives – an idea reinforced by her father. “He was very chauvinistic,” said LaRoche of her dad. When she told him of her ambition to fly, he shot her down. “My father said women do not go to college and for sure they don’t fly airplanes.” As LaRoche grew up and pursued her dream, she would recognize her father’s attitude deeply engrained in her male colleagues in an industry driven by testosterone. And perhaps subconsciously, it prepared her to meet the obstacles thrown in her path on the way to becoming this country’s third female captain of a commercial airline. The experiences that LaRoche, an aviation safety inspector and project manager in Flight Standards, shared with Focus FAA, unfortunately have been well documented in this country for decades, and throughout many industries — and families. Her first champion was her mother. “God bless my mother,” said LaRoche. “Anything I wanted to do she made it happen. She was definitely the wind beneath my wings, my mom. She was going to counteract that chauvinism, absolutely. She wanted me to do whatever I wanted.” Her first chance to fly came at age 14. Her father, an Air Force sergeant, had deployed overseas for a year. Her mother knew a local flight instructor who gave LaRoche her first ride in an airplane. On a crisp fall day with nothing but blue skies, LaRoche flew down the Rappahannock River in Virginia. At one point, the pilot even let her take the controls to keep the plane level. “I remember the smell of the air,” said LaRoche. “It was one of those days that will live in your memory. It was just a dream come true. That was my first experience. I was in love.” The flight instructor offered her free lessons if she could pay for the plane’s oil and gas. In 1962, at the age of 16, she soloed for the first time in a J-3 Cub flying out of Murfreesboro, Tenn., her mother watching at the airport. Her father “wasn’t too happy about it,” she recalled, but he grudgingly allowed it. Her father’s attitude toward his daughter never softened, however. One day when she was 18 years old, he told his daughter he had a surprise for her on the front porch. LaRoche went outside to find a packed suitcase. She was on her own. For the next half decade, she supported herself as a secretary while working on the weekends at a small, grass airstrip, where she staffed the counter and answered the radio in exchange for flying time. “That’s how I got my private license,” she explained. LaRoche continued to fly, eventually earning her flight instructor’s license. She gave up her secretary’s job. “When I got my ticket, I threw it down on my boss’ desk and said I’m going to be a flight instructor. He said, “You’re going to starve.’ I starved,” she admitted. In 1973, she convinced a Piper salesman to keep open the flight school she’d been working for. Impressed with the flight instruction LaRoche gave his daughter, the Piper salesman loaned her one plane and provided a small office. By the time she left in 1976, the flight school was the largest in Dallas and was expanding to Ft. Worth. “It was my flight school, my philosophy,” said LaRoche with a quiet pride. It was during her time as a flight instructor that she met her greatest mentor, Gene Mason. “He would do the check rides for the students from my school,” LaRoche explained. “And he would teach me his techniques. I would utilize his techniques in flight school and in commercial flying.” She remained in contact with him off and on through the years. “He was very proud of me,” she said. “He was such a taskmaster. I would hear his voice in my head: ‘Stay right on altitude.’ I can still hear him,” she added. It was one of the few male aviators that had a positive influence on LaRoche’s career. One day while working as a flight instructor at Dallas Love Field, she saw and fell in love with a DC-3, the legendary commercial airliner, being flown by cargo company. “Oh my God, I’ve got to fly that,” she remembered thinking. The cargo carrier hired her as a one of its “freight dogs,” a name given to pilots of cargo aircraft. She was made a first officer. The male captains she served with had at one time been her students. That stung, but LaRoche still remembers it as “the best time of my life. When I started flying the DC-3, there were five women in the free world that were flying in any capacity with commercial airlines,” she said. The seminal moment in her career came in 1982 when a commercial carrier, Interstate Airlines, made her a captain of a Convair 580, a commercial passenger jet. The achievement hardly proved to be celebratory. “The company went all out to prevent it,” she recalled. She was written up for the smallest discrepancies or mistakes, all but ignored when they happened to male pilots. “They had a little separate file on me in their office,” she noted. But when she took the check ride, she passed and there was nothing Interstate could do about it. Her male colleagues, on the other hand, thought there was something they could do. Resenting the fact that a woman had been made a captain, they gave her the silent treatment. On long trips, they refused to eat with her. She dined alone. They placed pornographic photos throughout the cockpit to humiliate her. LaRoche retaliated by putting up her own. “Oh, did they get upset,” she said. “It was horrible — total rejection.” Still, she refused to be cowed into quitting. “They weren’t going to do that,” LaRoche said with a soft, intense voice. “They weren’t going to get me down. That wasn’t going to happen.” It was around that time that LaRoche began to look beyond her personal goals to take a broader view. “That’s when I was thinking, ‘Hey, I’m a pioneer,” she said. Instructing other captains at the airline made her realize that she had “surpassed what I thought I could do.” Only once did the brutal treatment and sexist behavior get to her. She’d learned that two women, Sharyn Emminger with Hawaiian Airlines and Nancy Johnson with FedEx, had been made captains before her. LaRoche had been offered a position at FedEx years earlier, but she had turned it down because they were flying only smaller planes. “When I found out I didn’t make being the first woman captain, it was the only time I let a tear slip out,” said LaRoche. But she insisted, “nobody saw it.” She holds no resentment toward Emminger and Johnson. After all, she said, “number three’s not bad.” LaRoche’s career continued to rise. She joined United Airlines, flying Boeing 737s and 747s, before ending her career flying 767s. “When I came to United, I was just in in seventh heaven,” she said. “I didn’t know they were under pressure to hire women. But they were a cut above compared with the people I’d been flying with.” In addition to flying, she was assigned to instruct other United captains on how to fly 727s. “I remember thinking how am I going to approach these gray-headed captains? How would they respond? When they found out what I had been doing all these years [with cargo carriers], they knew freight was tough, so I got their respect.” LaRoche left United after reaching the mandatory retirement age. Her last flight was roundtrip from Chicago to London. As is customary, she got to select her own crew for the trip. She picked all women. “When we landed back at Chicago … I think all 300 people on that airplane shook my hand,” she recalled. “Everybody was supportive on that flight.” That evening, LaRoche went home, lay down on her bed in her flight uniform, and sobbed. “I miss it so much,” she said wistfully. After United Airlines declared bankruptcy in 2002, LaRoche faced yet another obstacle. Her retirement was cut so drastically, she had to keep working. She hoped to sign on with the National Transportation Safety Board. “I thought it would be fun,” she said. “I thought I had the knowledge to do it.” The NTSB wanted to hire her but there was no money in the budget at the time. They did notify her about an opening with the FAA. LaRoche joined the agency in 2006 as an aviation safety inspector in the Air Carrier Training Division at Headquarters. She provided valuable input re-evaluating stall procedures for transport aircraft. All of the major manufacturers and the FAA changed their recovery procedures. She also worked in the field as an assistant principal operations inspector for a regional airline and she now works in the Flight Standards Workforce Development Division, developing curriculum for other aviation safety inspectors. “I had been in training all my life,” LaRoche reflected. “Training was my bailiwick. It’s been a perfect fit.” LaRoche continues to use her life lessons to help others. She has signed up for different groups as a mentor. Over the past few years, she has mentored 10 women on-line and via email. “They want to know how to advance in their career,” she said. Women pilots are still experiencing some of the same sexist behavior she experienced, but not as much, said LaRoche. “I just hope I helped other people along in their struggles.” Said LaRoche: “My motto is if you can dream it you can do it. Not any obstacle in the world can stop you. Just press on. They told me I couldn’t, but I did.”...

Page 3 of 17412345»