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     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.”...

Allison Leeward    (Florida)

Allison Leeward (Florida)

Allison Leeward is based at KCRG, Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig,  Jacksonville, Florida. I own a little C120 that I love to pop around Florida! Can’t wait to see y’all at SNF! Ratings: Tailwheel and High Performance Aircraft flown: DHC2, Stearman, Piper Cub, Super Cub, Piper Pacer TW 22/20, Kodiak, C3, C120 C140 C150 C172 C185 C182 C170, Lockheed Electra Jr, P51, T6, T34, Baron, Citation Jet, TBM 650, Bonanza, Super Decathlon, Pitts…. that’s all I can think of right now. Dream taildragger: A P51 Thoughts on taildragging: My great grandparents loved taldraggers, my grandparents loved tail staggers, my parents loved taildragger‘s… And I love Taildragger‘s....

Ann Pellegreno Receives the Wright Brothers Award

Ann Pellegreno Receives the Wright Brothers Award

Thank you to the AAA/APM for the following big news about our very own LLT member, Ann Pellegreno. Ann is well known to LadiesLoveTaildraggers and members of the AAA, as well as being a fixture at the AAA/APM Invitational Fly-In at Blakesburg, Iowa, over Labor Day weekend. However, many of our newer or younger members may not have heard of her, or that in 1967 she completed Amelia Earhart’s ill fated attempt to fly around the world, using an identical Lockheed 10. It was great news then, to hear about Ann receiving the FAA’s highest honor. We received the following report about Ann’s award from TX AAA Fly-In Chairman Joel Meanor. Hello Brent, As you know, our friend Ann Holtgren Pellegreno received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award on March 8th.  This award is the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years! Several Texas AAA Chapter members attended the lunch at Hannah’s in Denton, including AAA National Director Terry Wallace. Others were Kathy and Joel Meanor, Cindy and Bo Case, Cathy Hulme, and Mary and Doug Sockwell. Mr. Joe Murphy, Program Manager of the FAA FAAST Team at the Dallas FSDO, presented the award. Our “CONGRATULATIONS !!” to Ann on this much deserved award....

Jess DeVan     (Oregon)

Jess DeVan (Oregon)

Jess DeVan is based at KBDN, Bend Municipal Airport, Bend, Oregon. Just recently got my tailwheel endorsement. I don’t have my own plane, and it’s difficult to find one for rent, but I’ve been lucky enough to find an instructor who doesn’t mind sharing his (and his knowledge). I’m a high school math teacher, but thinking about a possible career change to pilot. Ratings: Recently certified private pilot. Just got my taildragger endorsement. Aircraft Flown: C172, PA28, and PA12 Favorite taildragger: Anything! But something with big wheels would be really fun....

Visions Under My Wings

Visions Under My Wings

Frequent Flyers of the airline sort may think they’ve seen America but the fact is, nobody really sees America from aloft until they’ve experienced it from the cockpit of a low flying, small plane – preferably a taildragger. A jet can certainly get you to your destination in a hurry but for those who are really out to SEE America, it’s not about the destination at all. Pardon me but screw the destination – it’s about the journey and the landscape that unfolds beneath your wings. I was reminded of that last week while flying a 270 nm trip in my Decathlon across Midwest America. Poised low enough for a good look and high enough for a little altitude to spare, I hummed along and quietly scanned the horizon and everything in-between. I love flights like this and no matter many how many years I do it, I never get bored. Flying a taildragger never gets old. Moving slowly across the countryside I’m curious about what’s under me, across the next field or over the next little hill. It’s not always possible but I prefer to fly with flexibility and don’t hesitate to veer off the pink line when “interesting” pops up a few miles off my wingtip. If I see something that strikes my fancy I’m going to go take a look! If you’re a pilot, you know what I’m talking about. Last week’s flight delivered a constantly changing landscape of crooked creeks, tiny towns, church steeples, messy junkyards, and lonely country roads. There were decaying barns, dilapidated homesteads, tiny woods surrounded by acres of plowed fields, and a few random wetlands. I was also on the hunt for grass strips which I found plenty of, and a favorite, old cemeteries, as well as abodes like family farms, random trailers and mini-mansions. Oh so interesting! Of course those are all stationary sights but not everything you see while flying stays put. Objects in motion were billowing smoke, moving trains, jet contrails, free-flowing river water and an occasional small plane slowly moving across my window. With my engine humming along and an occasional scan of essential instruments, I’m able to focus on one tiny plot of land out my window and get sucked in. I fly along and watch it all unfold. I wonder about the people who live at each tiny, tucked away parcel of land I fly over. Who are these people and what’s the story on the very small to extremely large personal kingdoms each have created? From a distance, one spot was particularly curious. I debated what I was seeing; randomly positioned old mobile homes? Junk semi-trailers? Boats on trailers? No – No – No. This property, just a couple miles north of Rough River Airport in Kentucky, had me circling repeatedly. Turns out it was Piper fuselages, mostly Aztecs and PA-28s, some others, all without wings. Woohoo, an airplane junkyard. Jackpot!! And so I think you’ll agree. You find the most interesting places and objects simply by flying cross-country. If you have the time and the inclination, I’ve found it only gets better when you actually land, explore, and connect with the same people you’ve admired from aloft. Do it!! ...

Katherine Tryon     (Florida)

Katherine Tryon (Florida)

Katherine Tryon is based at KCRG, Jacksonville Executive Airport, Jacksonville, Florida.  I’ve had a heart for aviation for longer than I understood. My favorite memories from my childhood were when I would lay outside looking up at the airplanes. And before I met my fiance I had expressed a lot of interest in flying. My fiance has been a huge cheerleader for women in aviation and he has given me the tools to succeed. So the past 7 years we’ve traveled the East coast doing as much as possible to immerse me into the world of aviation. I’ve had the opportunity to meet folks like Bob Hoover, Huerta/Ellwell, the Rutan brothers, and so many more who’ve strengthened my love for flying. I even found out it was my uncle who was the building superintendent for the Udvar Hazy! I’m a student pilot and the aircraft I’ve spent the most time in include a WWII L-4, Piper Cub, Taylorcraft, and even an Aircam. 💕 Aircraft flown: L-4 Grasshopper, Piper Cub, Cessna 172/182/150, Aircam, Taylorcraft, Bird Dog! Dream Taildragger: C-47/DC-3 Thoughts on taildragging: Stick and rudder skills; they are beautiful and I love the challenge.  ...

The Dirt Runway

The Dirt Runway

The Dirt Runway Article by Brian Lansburgh There are some of you who have never put an airplane onto a dirt or grass strip.  You would be amazed at how many rated pilots have NEVER landed on dirt or grass.  Trust me, I get this all the time.  A Tailwheel Endorsement or Master Class applicant will declare to me, “that was the first time I’ve ever landed on dirt!”.  It’s really to those that I’m aiming this little article:  The most forgiving terrain you can ever put an airplane on is dirt or grass.  For one thing, the surface itself is incredibly forgiving.  The tires of your airplane will not be “grabbed” by a paved surface, so the heading of your aircraft will be a lot easier to maintain.  For all of you who are concerned with “rules”, you should know that at a normal airport, there are very few “legal” dirt runways.  One that I use all the time, is not a recognized runway.  It is simply the area to one side of a paved runway.  So we announce its matching paved runway on the CTAF when we call our position in the pattern.  I guess that while we’re on the subject of legalities, we should point out that simultaneous operations on an unrecognized runway are not allowed.  I know of one legal grass runway which sits alongside a paved runway.  Although those of us who use them both refer to them as “Right” and “Left”, simultaneous operations are still not permitted, although we often disregard that rule if we trust the other guy! You don’t know what’s hiding in the grass to one side of that grass runway, so don’t be allowing the airplane to head into it!  There could be big ol’ rocks!  Keep that plane right smack in the center to avoid those embarrassing collisions!  Probably the most common mishap is to hit a runway light when you should be rolling out between them if you’re planning to leave the dirt and taxi back on the pavement. This brings up what may very well be the most important challenge to the pilot just starting to use a dirt or grass runway.  You see, most pilots don’t know how to put the airplane exactly where they want it.  But that is what they will need to do in order to keep the airplane from wandering into the deeper grass which might be hiding rocks or to avoid a big ol’ hole right smack dab in the middle of the runway.  You see, landing on the runway isn’t always good enough! And I’ll close with one of the most useful characteristics of a grass or dirt runway:  It’s the fact that it’s normally very safe to do a landing to a full touchdown while in a forward slip to one.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student who would do that.  Mine do.  I try to teach that completeness to every Master Class graduate and to my two current students.  The grass runway is forgiving enough that it will not grab your tailwheel, giving you the completeness that we’d all like to get out of a forward slip. Happy Swooping Brian For more about Brian Lansburgh visit:

Nano Farabaugh     (Indiana)

Nano Farabaugh (Indiana)

Nano Farabaugh is based at KEKM, Elkhart Municipal Airport, Elkhart, Indiana.  My father was a WWII pilot, airline pilot and FBO owner. My first flight at the controls was in a Cessna when I was 17. In 1967 a dear friend of my father’s landed in our farm field and took me for a “Spin.” I was hooked and asked my dad to let me take flying lessons. To determine if I was serious he asked me to cut my hair. He didn’t want me to take up flying as some teenage lark and kill myself. He didn’t specify how short, so I only cut off a few inches. A few months later he was my first passenger with my newly minted PPL. My next venture was the Cessna aerobat. I loved that plane. Again my dad was my first passenger and asked me to take him back after 30 minutes of performing all the maneuvers I had learned. In the 90’s my dad bought a ultralight/Challenger. I flew it one time and told him I’d never get in it again. I felt completely out of control and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get her back on the ground. He quickly sold it and bought a 1971 Bellanca Champ. We flew that all over the US in it. We took our time, flying low and slow. Some of our best times together were together in that plane. He told me landing it was harder than landing a DC-3. I inherited the Champ from my dad. I thank God every time I can fly and see the beauty of creation and the sky. I have been a pilot for over 50 years. I must say I’m glad I cut my hair! Ratings: Private, Instrument, Commercial, CFI Aircraft flown: C150, C152 Aerobat, C172, C182, C337Piper Tomahawk, Warrior, Archer, Comanche, CubBellanca Champ (7ACA)Challenger/ultralight Dream taildragger: My Champ Thoughts on taildragging: The freedom that comes from flying it. Here is a video of me flying that a friend who is a professional videographer made.

Christy Anderson     (Arkansas)

Christy Anderson (Arkansas)

Christy Anderson is based at KORK, North Little Rock Municipal Airport, North Little Rock, Arkansas. I am 50ish. I solo’d at 24, earned PPL at 25. When I told my mom that I was learning to fly she said “if you want to fly why don’t you just become a stewardess.” I told her that I didn’t want to ride, I wanted to be in charge and actually do the flying! I married my flight instructor. We own a 135 operation – we specialize in helicopter/UAV services for the public utility industry. We have 2 sons. One is a pilot and mechanical engineer, the other is a soon-to-be famous musician in Nashville. I have had long periods of time where I have not flown due to family demands, and staying current became one more dadgum thing I had to do. But that is about to change. Rusty Pilot no more. I’m hoping to make new aviation girlfriends. If you’re ever in the area, give me a call. Ratings: Private – SEL, Glider Aircraft flown?…. as in by myself? Or have time in… Let’s see. Bell 206 helicopter R22/44 Stearman biplane Supercub J3 C172 C150/152 A bunch more but that would require the other log book Dream taildragger: A Great Lakes Biplane and my J3 Thoughts on taildragging: Because they are just more fun, a lot more challenging, and people think you’re badass if you fly one....

Anne Moore    (Virginia)

Anne Moore (Virginia)

Anne Moore is based at KFRR, Front Royal-Warren County Airport, Front Royal, Virginia.  Like Judy Birchler, I am a Type I diabetic diagnosed 47 years ago when I was 25, after the birth of my first child. I have been on the pump for 22 years. I am a classically trained artist and art educator and have had my own business for many years. I enjoy helping to keep “Kate”, our Cessna 140, clean and well maintained. I’m as old as she is and we keep getting better! I have trained for several hours learning to land from the right seat. Aircraft flown: Piper Cherokee 140, Cessna 140 Favorite Taildragger: Our 1947 Cessna 140, of course! Thoughts on taildragging: I love their classic looks and simplicity....

Page 5 of 175«34567»