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.  ...

Should It Stay or Should it Go?

Should It Stay or Should it Go?

It’s been an emotional week for me but, truth is, it all began months before 3rd Class Medical Reform passed and was signed into law. So what’s going on? First I should say, I’ve held a private pilot ticket since I was 21. Five years ago I made the difficult decision to exercise my right to fly light sport privileges and forgo the whole medical thing. Even though it seemed ridiculous that my 90 hp Aeronca Champ 7FC/EC did not meet light sport qualifications, I did what I had to do. I sold her, the ‘Happy Champ’, and replaced her with a Rans S7 – a Champ on steroids! Keep in mind the gamut of aircraft I had previously been able to choose from had now shrunk to a handful. It had to be a taildragger, a tandem, and a STOL. Three musts. Frankly, there were few light sport options. Turns out my new bird blew me away and I fell in love with her. Her rate of climb was incredible, she was speedier than expected, she was a STOL and had the most amazing visibility of any aircraft I’ve flown to this day. Hard to beat. Then July 15, 2016, Obama signed third class medical reforms into law and it was a moment of truth for me. The reforms opened a floodgate of airplane possibilities I could fly again. It was mind-boggling. Even though the FAA was given 12 months to initiate the reform, the clock was ticking. I knew that soon I’d legally be able to fly any aircraft I wanted, just like all my flying peers. No more ‘light sport’ only. ANY AIRPLANE. The only thing soon to stand between me and ANY AIRPLANE was my willingness to part with my Rans S7. And that was a problem for me. We bonded several years ago and hanging a FOR SALE sign on her seemed impossible. After the reform was signed into law, I flew her to OSH and refused to put a For Sale sign on her. I flew her to Triple Tree and refused to put a For Sale sign on her. But the fact is, I’ve been “unfaithful” to her and thinking all the while about what else I could be flying.  It all came to a head this week and Tuesday evening I listed her on Barnstormers. I actually hoped nobody would notice but I’m not surprised that two people contacted me within 24 hours; one from the US and one from overseas. Both made offers and I accepted the full price offer from the cool guy from the US. So crap, here I am, waiting for a guy to show up and take my bird away. Sad for sure but I’m looking forward. There’s going to be a new taildragger in my hangar soon. I’ll let you know what it is …. just as soon as I figure that out! Will it stay or will it go? The LadiesLoveTaildraggers sticker, of course! P.S.  Sale pending until $’s arrive  ...

Rudder Cable Incident, Rans S-7

Rudder Cable Incident, Rans S-7

If you’re on Facebook, you may already know about my incident while attempting to depart my airport yesterday evening. I want to thank all my Facebook friends for your comments, especially your suggestions and recommendations. It’s pretty amazing that I can have a problem, post pictures on Facebook and have real time, immediate, knowledgeable and useful information just that fast. You all are amazing. For those that don’t know, I decided to do a solo, evening flight after dinner last night and, if I was lucky, enjoy a nice view of the sun setting. My plan was to take off, fly around a small lake just to the north, probably do a touch-n-go at a grass strip or two, and head back home. Turns out I wasn’t lucky at all. Wait a minute, what am I saying? Turns out I was VERY lucky. I did my preflight, started my Rans S7 and taxied to depart runway 16. At MQJ it’s a much shorter distance to taxi to runway 07 or 25, but I decided to add on the extra taxi time to 16 because of a south wind. After the run up, I applied left brake, added power to get her on the runway, and at that moment the left rudder peddle gave way and slammed to the firewall. My brain didn’t get it at first and was trying to make sense of why my leg was stretched to the firewall. I remember thinking for an instant, “what, is this normal?” A moment later I realized my rudder cable had broken…and how lucky I was it broke at that instant instead of after rotating or being fully airborne. Whoa, too close for comfort. I’d be lying if I said “No big deal” or “Didn’t bother me a bit”. Truth is, a friend was very seriously injured just a week ago when the Mooney he was riding right seat in lost power on departure and crashed just south of their runway. The pilot was killed and our friend was pulled from the wreckage by a witness just before flames overtook the aircraft. Last night, we were supposed to visit him at the hospital for the first time but his son messaged to wait a little longer. I have flown since then but I admit I was thinking of him when I was taxiing out and wondering when my turn for the unexpected was going to happen. Guess the answer was, sooner than you know. As of last night, my perspective as PIC has evolved once again. With nearly 700 hours in my S7 in 3 years I admit to getting very comfortable in her. I always approach each flight with a level of respect and an understanding she’s a machine, and machines do break. But I’ve also gotten very relaxed about flight which is a double edged sword. There’s nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening but I intend to spend extra time on emergency procedures and recommit to airtime awareness. Special thanks to Tim Cochrane for pointing out that stainless cable is not as flexible as galvanized steel. In this case, it appears the failure was with the stainless cable used. http://mechanicsupport.blogspot.com/2011/03/aircraft-control-cable-stainless-or.html .The new rudder cables will have galvanized steel instead. I’ve been unusually nervous since the Mooney accident last week which isn’t like me. I think the reason is, we also have a Mooney and the first photos from the accident site looked identical to our Mooney. I’ve been thinking this week about my husband’s response when I mentioned how strange is was for me to suddenly be nervous about flying. He said “We can all live your lives to the fullest, and fly, or we can stay under our bed and have someone bring us food and only climb out of there long enough to shit, shower and shave. If we do,  we can still have a meteorite fall from the sky and land on our bed and end it all anyway.” 🙂 Enough said....

Flying the Rans S7 with Jessie!

Flying the Rans S7 with Jessie!

Saturday was a spectacular flying day, all the better because my wonderful daughter Jessie joined me. Flying the S7, we formed up with a few other pilots heading to breakfast at Putnam County Airport then on to Metropolitan Airport for their Vietnam Veterans appreciation day. Jessie had her trusty phone along and created a happy little video in the process. Never flown an S7? Check out the view from the back of a tandem taildragger!...

FLYING at the BMW Motorcycle Cookout

FLYING at the BMW Motorcycle Cookout

I’m blessed. I’ve had two great flying days in a row! Winter’s still hanging on here in Indy with a snowstorm brewing but yesterday the sun was shining, there was a crisp horizon line and we topped out at 49 degrees. I had an invitation to fly my Rans S7 south to a friend’s grass strip that I hadn’t been to in over 5 years, never by air. The event was a BMW motorcycle cookout and host Mike Williams planned on hopping rides in his Tiger Moth and wanted additional pilots to give his motorcycle friends airplane rides. Gentle grace in the air as the Tiger Moth passes by. The strip runs about 030/210 with cushy grass that’s like landing on a long, green marshmallow. Here’s a Chipmunk project waiting in the wings next to a Laird Swallow awaiting an engine change from an OX5 to a more modern engine. Original style wheel pant on a C140. This pair of restored VW campers were getting some attention. AND the highlight of my day was giving this young 6th grade girl a ride in the Rans. It was remarkable; her name is Piper, she was named after a Piper J3 Cub RC model that her father flew …. and she had never flown before. I gave quite a few airplane rides, many to people who had never flown, but this one thrilled me! Take a look and listen to this 20 second video. Mike’s taxiing off the runway to pick up his next passenger and you can hear the lovely inverted, inline (Gipsy Major) engine....

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!...

Love those Saturdays!

I love Saturdays! And I really love Saturdays when I get to spend the entire day flying into grass strips and hanging around great taildraggers. My mid-afternoon was spent getting my Biannual flight review and you can tell by the picture that CFI Wayne Norris and I had a good time doing it. Hey, I got started talking airplanes and flying way before that though! Chapter 1121’s EAA meeting started with an early breakfast then on to Harter Field for a look at what the guys are working on. Harter’s got a really nice 2500′ grass strip east of Indy. On this beautiful blue sky morning it was hard to believe all the boys drove in and my Rans S7 was the only fly-in arrival. They’ve got some great old airplanes in a couple of hangars including a Fleet, Champ, Chief, Cub, Cessna 170, and 3 Davis Monoplane projects. The one getting all the attention was rightfully the Davis project…. No, make that 3 Davis projects. The group is restoring/rebuilding one D-1K Davis for the grandson of the original owner and they have pieces and Kinner engines from others they are incorporating into 2 additional aircraft. The Davis Monoplane is a rare, vintage aircraft designed and built in Richmond, Indiana by Walter C. Davis from 1929 to 1930 and this is an ambitious and exiting project for several Indianapolis area EAAers. It’s always interesting to see old aircraft coming back to life but nothing tops hearing the passion the builders have for their projects. We all owe a huge thank you to all the craftsmen that are saving and restoring these and other antique and vintage aircraft everywhere. Judy www.LadiesLoveTaildraggers.com  ...

East Tennessee Fall Super Club Fly-in

Anne and I had perfect flights to the East Tennessee Fall Super Cub Fly-in – beautiful weather & scenery and non-eventful! A quick stop for breakfast at Columbus, Indiana was down memory lane for Anne who had lived in the area almost 20 years ago and had landed at BAK on a cross country flight with her instructor. There’s a darn good restaurant on the field with big windows that overlook the ramp and runways and the French toast is the best you’ll find anywhere. Turns out Anne’s Super Cub is a tad faster than my Rans S7 and so, even though we started our trip flying loose formation, we eventually gave it up. We communicated on 123.45 but after our fuel stop in London, KY she pushed ahead and I started hanging back just a little. It all worked out in the end and we somehow ended up landing one after the other at Elizabethton, TN. I’ve been trying to meet the allusive and dare I say infamous Greg Swingle for ages and was beginning to think he may just be a Vimeo video allusion. What, you’ve never heard of  Greg Swingle, seen his fabulous, fanatical, theatrical, S7 videos?! Google him right now – do not delay! Greg showed up at the lady taildraggers flyin in August – for 15 minutes – the same 15 minutes I was out having a great time in a Navion (of all things at a taildragger flyin!) and I only saw him as I was departing and he was arriving. By the time I got back he was long gone, I was bummed I missed him and thinking, “how the heck ya come to a lady taildragger flyin and stay for just for 15 minutes?!!” Well, turns out he had a good reason but it left me well over due to finally meet him! When he said “Let’s fly! Your Rans or mine?” I was not passing up the chance to fly that beautiful black & taupe, big bush tire, Ohio bush pilot, back-country, hill landing tested, riverbed driven, Alaskan flown Rans S7. We took his. * A great way to start out the Thursday, ‘early arrival day’ at the East Tennessee Fall Super Club Fly-in.  The event officially runs Friday through Sunday but a few people always start gathering early. Based on the number of aircraft that arrived on Thursday the last couple years they expected about 20 airplanes. This year 50. It’s going to be one great fly-in!!  ...

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....

Lee Bottom Flying Field Sinful Sunday!

I’m so sorry if you don’t live close enough to fly to Lee Bottom Airfield (I64) in the summertime. Its a frequent destination for vintage taildraggers and antique airplanes and a spot not to be missed by taildraggers traversing cross-country. The gate keepers to the airfield are Rich & Ginger Davidson who own and operate this 4000′ grass strip in the Indiana low lands along side the Ohio River. When you’re flying right downwind for 36 you might have one wing in Indiana and the other in Kentucky. It’s a beautiful, scenic spot that’s been known to make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time – a time when airplanes all had a tailwheel and you could sit under a tree and be happy doing just that. In the summer months Rich & Ginger host a Sinful Sunday one Sunday a month  (i.e. sundae) and the sundaes are FABULOUS.  Last Sunday it was Strawberry Twinkie sundaes and all I can say is OMG!  Fresh strawberries, whipped cream, ice cream, twinkies and a cherry on top. Can it get any better?! And I wasn’t the only one thinking that! Did I mention that they work really hard pulling this off so we can all fly-in for a tasty &  fun afternoon? OK, ice cream aside, there’s more to see than just ice cream….. I always think the people I meet at fly-ins are the most interesting folks. I had to meet this next lovely lady – she was wearing an Aeronca Champ t-shirt and carrying a 99er’s bag – had to be one of us! Let me introduce you to Kaye Combs Moore from Lexington, KY who learned to fly in a Champ at Bowman field in 1958. Not many women flying Champs back in ’58! Very cool, Kaye! – – – But when it’s all said and done, this is what we all came to see…. – – – Oh, heck yes, ya gotta see my S7 heading home…. – – Hope you get a chance to visit Lee Bottom some day too. http://www.leebottom.com/ Judy...

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