Judy Birchler     (Indiana)

Judy Birchler (Indiana)

Thank you for visiting LadiesLoveTaildraggers. My name is Judy Birchler, founder and president of the LadiesLoveTaildraggers organization and web-host of www.LadiesLoveTaildraggers.com. LadiesLoveTaildraggers is a loosely bound group of dynamic women pilots drawn together by one shared love – flying conventional gear aircraft, a.k.a. taildraggers! LadiesLoveTaildraggers’ first post was in May 2009 and I was the first-and-only member. We have grown steadily since that day and now have over 2,000 members based around the world. The majority of our members are based in the U.S. but many European countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Columbia, Africa, Czech Republic, Argentina and more are represented. On a personal note, my love of flying began when I was 15 and shows no sign of slowing down. When I was 19 I made a few static line parachute jumps, but a seriously hard landing and a broken leg convinced me skydiving wasn’t my best option for achieving flight. At 20, I earned my private ticket in a taildragger, a 1946 Aeronca Chief, at a small grass strip in southern Indiana. I had nose-wheel time in a Cessna 150 and a Grumman AA1 but it was taildraggers that I loved and what I was meant to fly. I was in awe of taildraggers! Soon after, I bought a 1/3 partnership in a two-place tandem, 65 hp Lycoming, 1940 Porterfield. It was my first taildragger!! I absolutely loved flying that little red bird but after a year sold my share because my partners thought I was putting too much time on her. Of course there’s always a silver lining and, in my case, it came in the form of a 1946 Cessna 140, owned entirely by me! I was in heaven.  I spent many hours flying long and short cross-countries, doing lots of touch & go’s and chasing birds low over the Ohio River. And then something unexpected happened. My flying came to an abrupt halt when I was suddenly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. At that time, Type 1 diabetics could not obtain a medical to fly. There were no exceptions and the reality was, I would never fly again as PIC. I was devastated.  It took nearly 25 years but my life changed again when the FAA establish a waiver procedure for some Type 1 diabetics to obtain a third class medical. I met the strict criteria for a waiver!  I was terrified. You would think that when I heard the news I could fly again, I would be overjoyed. I was not. I was scared. It had been nearly 25 years since I’d flown solo and the thought of being alone and aloft seemed impossible. For me, fear was a difficult obstacle and it took some encouragement and gumption on my part to get over it. Looking back now, 8 years later, it seems impossible, even ridiculous, that I hesitated jumping back into the cockpit. The honest truth is, it took time to get comfortable flying solo. It was a process that ran the gamut from extreme nervousness to ultimate joy, with joy eventually overriding everything else.   It was that joy and delight at being back in the cockpit that led me to start LadiesLoveTaildraggers. I was thrilled to be flying again and anxious to find a few other like minded ladies who shared my passion for flying taildraggers. In the 8 years since starting LadiesLoveTaildraggers, I’ve owned a 1958 7EC/FC Aeronca Champ, a 2003 Rans S7, and currently a 1974 Bellanca Decathlon 8KCAB. I continue to fly and continue to be inspired by the incredible women of LadiesLoveTaildraggers, all of whom I consider friends. Today the FAA still has special protocols for people with Type 1 diabetes, but for those in good health, it’s much easier. We now have BasicMed, a simplified program to assure pilots’ medical fitness for flying, including those with diabetes. I was one of the first 1,000 people to be approved for BasicMed, which is the medical certification I fly under.  ...

Gettin’ my ride ready for the LLT fly-in!

I’ve been dreaming about a new spinner for my Rans S7 for months and I can’t tell you how excited I am about finally getting the job done! Boyd and I have way more hours invested in planning, sanding, taping, more taping, and painting than I ever dreamed possible. It still needs a little work but it turned out pretty darn cool. My “vanilla” spinner was painted perfectly but seemed like such a waste of space – it need a little pzazz! But it wasn’t just the spinner that needed attention, the top and bottom cowl had seen better days and were in desperate need of a touch up. Painting the spinner came in 3 steps… Then we taped it and sprayed the white. Sorry, no picture though. It had to dry overnight which was a painfully long time to wait to see what it would look like! I’m in love! There are a few spots that need some dry sanding but for the most part it’s done. Of course, the hangar’s a wreck since we’ve been almost living in it for a week – probably time to vacuum (i.e. take the leaf blower to it again). Love my hangar gas grill! It’s been grilled brats and turkey burgers all week, lots of peanuts, Frito’s and diet cokes! Rule of thumb…. if you’re in a hangar, all junk food is legal. Diet when you’re home!...

Keep on Flying!

Hello everybody! Fall is officially here and I’m counting on some nice, dry, cool flying weather for awhile. I had a very busy summer flying every chance I got and I don’t expect that to change just because the weather is changing. My great niece Kaylise and sister-in-law Regina were in town last month and Kaylise couldn’t wait to get a ride in an airplane. She argued that her brother was her age when he got an airplane ride … like I was going to say “No”?! 🙂 Boyd’s Mooney 231 was sitting right there and I think she was thinking “that’s pretty cool, let’s go in that!”  I had to convince her how great a ride in the Rans S7 was going to be. I think I finally won her over when she realized the difference between sitting in a side-by-side airplane was having to look around somebody else to see out. You just can’t beat a tandem, stick airplane! Kaylise was thrilled to get belted in, taxi out to the runway and watch & listen as I did the run up.  She was as excited and happy a passenger as I’ve ever had and sooooo disappointed when I told her we were heading back to the airport. A couple weeks later I flew to Marion, Indiana for the Fly-in/Cruise-in and ended up doing an interview with local WIWU TV51. It was kind of fun being interviewed by a woman reporter and her woman camera crew! I may not have done a great job but they sure did! They made the rounds that day interviewing pilots and attendees for their 30 minute TV program “Crossroads” – here’s the very short “commerical” version if you’d like to take a look. The temperature was a sticky 98 degrees that day! Keep on flying and having fun doing it girls. Life goes by fast and we’re only here once. Leave with no regrets....

Judy’s Rans S-7 Update

Hey everybody, I’m getting some great flying in these days in my Rans S-7!!  I’ve adapted to the amazing rate of climb I get on solo take-off (1300′ + fpm) at 65 mph and the equally astounding rate of climb I get even with hefty passengers in the back (900′ + fpm). Right after I bought it, I’d pull the stick back to 60 – 65 mph and it’d climb so steep I’d hold my breath and just hang on! 🙂 I knew it was going to have great performance but after flying nothing but the Champ recently, it was a shock! I loved my Champ but the two of us never set any Rate of Climb records! The Rotax 912 engine runs smooth but I make a lot more power adjustments to keep pitch and altitude than I ever did with a Continental.  The Rotax hums along straight and level at 5200 rpm at 112 or so and burns 5.2 gallons an hour. I’m just as happy zipping around no where in particular at 4900 rpm at 4.0 gph. I’m constantly surprised how well it glides and wonder if I’d feel the same if the engine actually quit! * Haven’t flown with the doors open yet, but its coming!! The Indy Airshow starts today at KMQJ and runs through the weekend. Laura Stantz will be flying a T-6 Texan. Come on by hangar 508-14 & 508-16 and say hi and have a hot dog with us . http://www.indyairshow.com/ Judy...

Sad To See It Go

With no warning, the day I’ve been dreading arrived today. I’ve worried about today for too long and tried to figure out a way to keep today from happening, but when it was all said & done, there just wasn’t any stopping it. I sold the Happy Champ today. OK, I admit it’s not the end of the world when you own an airplane you dearly love and you have to sell it, but it’s really hard. You know I bought a beautiful Rans S7 a few weeks ago and am tickled to have it and thrilled with its performance. So the Rans got moved into the hangar where the Champ used to be and I was out of hangar space. There just wasn’t any way around having to sell it — had to pay for the Rans and couldn’t wear our welcome out at our friend’s farm strip where they were temporarily hangaring the Champ – in style I might add! (thanks Phil & Tess!) If there’s anything that makes me happy about selling it, it’s knowing that Jerry (a CFI) is buying it to teach his family how to fly; his wife, Jane, his children and his grandchildren all want to learn how to fly and Jerry wants to teach them in a taildragger!… on a grass strip!!… and it’s only 38 miles from me so I can stop in anytime! I can’t resist adding a few pictures of some of my fun spent flying the Happy Champ. I think you’ll understand why I dubbed it “happy” – it made me, and everybody else that got a ride here and there, happy too. Some of my many, many fond memories of N7569E…… – – – – – –   – – – – So, we said goodbye today. It gave me a tremendous amount of pleasure for almost 4 years and flying it I found the kind of happiness you’ll never get with your feet on the ground.  Even though I’m sorry to see it go, owning it was a great experience and I wish the very best to Jerry and his family as their fun begins! Judy P.S.  Jerry, I’ve stopped crying now....

Lessons learned – so far!

Gals, send me your flying pictures or I might have to resort to more Rans pictures and ME! I’ve added a new email address to receive your pictures, updates, and whatever you’d like to send me, so feel free to forward to LadyTaildraggers@gmail.com when you can. Until then, this the latest on how my Rans S7 is breaking me in. It’s been a way bigger transition than I expected. I actually thought I’d hop in, recognize there were a few minor differences in the way it flies from what I’ve flown before, and it’d be a piece of cake. Not so! Here’s what I’ve figured out so far…. – It only weighs 690 pounds empty so there’s a whole lot of rocking around and pitching going on if the air’s not pretty smooth. Riding in a kite comes to mind. – It’s a slick little guy and it takes a little planning to slow it down without gaining altitude. I’ve made some adjustments and am now slow flying it by the time I hit the pattern, keeping it slow all the way around. With not much power and some airspeed it’ll stay up there forever. After the floats came off, it was running 500 RPM too high and would taxi at 20 mph unless you held the brakes. Those extra RPMs in the air caused all kinds of havoc trying to get the power back far enough to land. Last week Boyd set the idle RPM to the minimum – now it will actually decend, with a little coaxing! – There’s no such thing as no bounce landing gear on a Ran S7. Slicking it on is not impossible but you’re always going to know you’ve arrived. That wonderful feeling you get when you grease one on and aren’t even sure you’re even rolling, I have not yet experienced! That’s the highlights so far. I had a great flight last night and was dreaming about really green, short grass strips in my sleep so that’s a good sign!!...

Going from Amphibs to Gear

It’s been another big week in Indy. The airport I’m based at, Mt. Comfort Airport, had a name change and is now officially “Indianapolis Regional Airport”. It was changed because the 2012 Super Bowl will be in Indy and the airport wants to make sure potential fly-ins recognize us as a possible destination for the big event. Nobody asked me but I’m thinking, if I’m flying into an unfamiliar city, I’m going to look at a Sectional or Area Chart, pick the airport I want, and who cares what the name is! Anyway, the big story here is, I’m getting that whole name change thing down pat flying my new Rans around the pattern. YES, it’s flying, on gear – not floats – and I’m impressed with its performance!! Here’s how it went: to this… then this…. Oh, please don’t fall on that beautiful belly!! But the guys persisted… Luckily they are good friends (and husband!) who I thank very much for their willing help. I finally got to fly it yesterday and after we got a few bugs worked out – I was not disappointed! I picked up almost 25 mph from amphibs to gear and it climbs like a bat outa hell. Unbelievable. Really. We’re still getting acquainted. I’ve only got a few landings in her but the last couple I was pleased with. Thank heaven we’ve moved to daylight savings time and we can all hang out at the airport a little later now. I’m going to need the daylight to practice!  ...

Back home in Indiana!

Good news! My Rans S7 is finally in Indy and tucked into its new hangar!! I’m happy as I can be today but you may not have recognized me yesterday, the day I figured out how to fly it and brought it home. It was one incredible roller coaster of emotion day; elation…. anticipation… anxiety… excitement… nervousness… and that’s just the beginning! Oh the joys of airplane ownership. Even though I was hoping for blue skies and warm temperatures for my “figure out how to fly it and get it home day”, Manoquia, Wisconsin was cold, had a dusting of snow and low ceilings in the morning. I started out taxiing it around and all I can say is, visualize a big ol’ shopping cart taxiing around and toe brakes instead of a rudder . It’s got 6 little wheels and they wanted to slide across the dusting of snow and weren’t always interested in heading the direction I wanted to go. The first couple of landings I had an overwhelming urge to pull the power, flare and do a full stall landing and that’s a bad idea. By the third landing I was figuring it out – left some power on and flew it in flat and raised the nose ever so slightly right before touching.  Amazing – it worked! I did a few more touch & goes getting a better feel for how it flies and waited for the ceiling to come up to 1,000 agl. By noon I was off and on my way for my 500 mile southbound trip home. I flew out of the low overcast somewhere around Wausau and had a little tailwind to boot. I had to stay low that first leg of the trip but was happy to climb a little higher when the weather started clearing further south. At least I was happy till a cloud layer decided to form at 2,000′ agl and the updrafts and down drafts started picking up. Talk about getting beat to heck, I had a good couple hours where I was hoping those boats hanging underneath me (make that floats) were hanging on there tight cause I was sure getting tossed around and didn’t want to lose them on the way. Luckily, the bumps eventually eased up and my new little buddy and I got to spend some quality time together over the flat farm lands of Indiana.  ...

Judy’s new wings!

Happy news -it’s official – it’s mine!! I now own this lovely Rans S7 Courier longtail! It’s a done deal and I don’t believe it myself yet. I think I’m still in shock! We finalized the deal this afternoon and the annual is tomorrow. I haven’t even got to fly it yet because it’s out of annual but that’s all going to change on Sunday.  I’m REALLY anxious to see how it flies on the amphibian floats. Boyd and I are at Minocqua, Wisconsin right now where the Rans has been based. The weather’s not going to be great tomorrow anyway with snow and high winds gusting to 40 mph forecast so might as well get the annual out of the way. If all goes well, I’ll get a few practice landings in Sunday and head back the 500 miles to Indy. Wish me luck ladies as my adventure unfolds!...

A new Big Girl toy!

You may have heard my husband’s a Mooney guy; he’s owned 4 of them and if there’s ANYTHING you want to know about them, he’s your man. Last Sunday he was one happy guy as we pulled his 231 out of the hangar at 6:30 a.m. and loaded up for a 1,000 mile round trip cross-country flight. This was a flight with a mission and sometimes ya just gotta get there fast! We’re talking Indianapolis, around Chicago, up into northern Wisconsin, back to Greenbay, across Lake Michigan, down the Michigan shoreline and back to central Indiana. Wow – lots of flying and one really great day! So what were we doing wondering around 4 states covering a lot of ground fast?! Well, you can bet there’s a “new” taildragger involved! The pre-flight inspection is done, I’ve made the offer, the offer’s been accepted and now its just a matter of finishing the deal. At this point, everything’s looking good for this weekend. I’m checking the weather hourly and hope to make the trip again in the Mooney – only one way this time!  As soon as my name’s on the title of the shiny bird, I’ll be flying it home and will be posting pictures!! So if you’re asking “what is it?”!! Sorry, I really wish I could tell. I’d really love to but I’ve got to wait till I’ve sealed the deal!!...

Page 1 of 3123