To Gayle,

I am in awe of your passion and determination to learn to fly IN A TAILDRAGGER…. nothing else, no way, no how…. only a TAILDRAGGER would do! You have my ultimate respect for turning your dream into a reality. Congratulations on your 1st solo and all my best to you as you build hours and get that long awaited PPL.  Judy

Gayle Crowder

I live in Madison, NC and my home airport is Shiloh (KSIF) Rockingham County Airport. In October 2010 I met a 1941 Taylorcraft taildragger and went on my first General Aviation airplane ride. I was instantly and irrevocably in love! My lifelong endearment with airplanes and my fascination with history and antiques immediately overlapped when I met that Taylorcraft. I never knew “regular people” could own and fly an airplane. What an awakening! I knew I had to fly….and I knew I had to learn in a taildragger. Nothing else would suit me. Thus began my aviation journey.

THE T-craft!

I wanted to make sure I could pass the FAA written exam before I spent money on flying lessons. I started by taking online courses offered free through AOPA, then attended a 2-day ground school class. Two days later, I passed the written on the first try with a score of 93. I was ecstatic…passing that exam meant it was time to learn the “fun stuff”.

First solo takeoff. Never felt so great in my life as when my wheels lifted off the runway and I knew it was all up to me!

Months went by as I searched in vain for a CFI who could take me start to finish in a tailwheel aircraft. I joined LadiesLoveTaildraggers.com (LLT) and met some wonderful people, who introduced me to more people, all of whom began scouring the state and, indeed, the entire East Coast, trying to find that elusive Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). We had no luck at all.  Because of people I met through LLT, I joined the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA)  and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). I went to the VAA Chapter 3 Spring Fly-In and was introduced to a fellow who owned a 1947 Aeronca L-16A. We were each planning to attend an airplane poker run a couple of weeks later. He was going to be there giving short flight lessons and said he’d take me up and let me “have at it.” He was true to his word, and it was wonderful! I loved that L-16A and I wanted to learn to fly in it so much I could hardly stand it. And his plane happened to be hangared at the airport right by my house. It couldn’t have been more perfect…

I waited, waited, finally got my first logbook hour after flying a shiny new Liberty XL-2 and felt like a traitor to my own cause. I
decided not to give up on getting my tailwheel flight instructor. There were insurance issues to work out regarding a student pilot
flying a tailwheel aircraft at the point of solo. So, I continued to wait and wish and hope, and my frustration level was off the chart.
Then…I received an email from the L-16A CFI saying he had it all worked out and I could fly his plane from start of training to finish.
That was a wonderful day! I was, at last, on my way to learning to fly “the old way.”  That email was better than any gift I have ever
received.

After 1st Solo!!

And thus my long, aimless journey finally had a destination. Flying lessons commenced and I was forever changed. My CFI is just awesome and has more patience than I knew a person could possess. We’ve had to battle bad weather, conflicting schedules, annual inspections, etc. and just fly when we have the opportunity. I am on top of the world now…..on December 14, 2011, I did my first solo flight, 3 takeoffs and 3 landings to a full stop in the L-16A taildragger, a dream come true.  It was a real boost to my confidence and I can’t wait to climb back into that lovely yellow plane next week and continue on this amazing journey.

Gayle Crowder

4 Comments

  1. Gayle
    December 21, 2011, 6:15 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you both!

  2. December 21, 2011, 4:47 pm   /  Reply

    Many congratulations Gayle! I am so thrilled for you and proud of you. Welcome to the sky.

  3. Lisa Martin
    December 20, 2011, 9:27 am   /  Reply

    Congratulations! I’m so glad to hear that it’s all working out great for you.

  4. Gayle
    December 19, 2011, 7:55 pm   /  Reply

    Thank you so much, Judy! And a BIG thanks to Susan T. as well, she set me on this path by introducing me to Jim and then everything fell into place after that. I’m so glad to be a part of LLT!

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