Keep Your Eyes to the Florida Skies

Welcome to the Florida Mystery Writers Blog Hop and Sandy Parks‘ True Airspeed.

“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we write are actually inspired by true events in our Sunshine State. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. READ Sandy’s blog about flying in Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, ENTER the contest to WIN a Kindle Paperwhite, and CLICK the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida.

Since I write stories full of action-adventure, mystery, and a quirky band of characters who legally steal big airplanes for a living, I chose to write about Florida from the perspective of people who fly in our skies. What do pilots and their passengers encounter living in this swampy, beach-lined, and lightning capital of the US, that they might not in other states? I asked that very question of two pilots at the Sun-N-Fun airshow last week.

T-6 Warbird

T-6 Warbird

Thom Richard, who races P-51 Precious Metal in the Reno Air Races and lives in Kissimmee, had a definitely unique Florida tale. He was flying his T-6 Warbird (similar to the one pictured above) to Marco Island at night. When he approached the airport, he was asked to do a low flyby down the runway. For anyone who flies a unique aircraft, this is not an unusual request. Aviation fans love to watch and hear the powerful (and loud) warbird aircraft. But this was at night, in the dark, when no one would be able to see much. He did as directed and executed a low flyby and came back and landed. After he taxied in, he was curious as to why they requested the flyby. Simple. It was the best way to get the twelve-foot saltwater crocodile off the runway! We have more than gators in Florida.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal, at Sun-N-Fun 2014.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places...like runways.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places…like runways. (Nile croc photo from Wiki Commons/Leigh Bedford. Gator photo by Will Parks.)

Chuck Gardner works at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Texas, but has many hours in the Florida skies. He flies warbirds like the Stearman biplane (shown below), the T-6, or the famous P-51 Mustang. His favorite time for flying in Florida is March in an open cockpit. That time of year a low level flight over central Florida orchards brings the sweet sweet smell of orange blossoms wafting (rather blowing) into the cockpit. Sure hope he doesn’t have allergies.

Orangeblossomcollage

Stearman Biplane with the open cockpit makes a great way to smell the orange blossoms in Florida.

On the other hand, Chuck had a number of things were not so great about flying in Florida. There are the afternoon thunderstorms that are accompanied by lightning…lots of lightning. A few years ago a small tornado blew through the Sun-N-Fun airshow at Lakeland, overturning aircraft and tents. No injuries, but a lot of damage and shook-up fans. Mother nature has other very small, very annoying ways to cause problems flying in Florida that every driver here will understand…Love Bugs. Those two little black bugs that are stuck together and airborne. The front end of a car can turn black with bugs stuck to them, and so can the propellors and leading edges of an aircraft. Yuck. BIG, beautiful birds are another claim to fame for the state of Florida. Contact with one in the air or on the ground can cause quite a bit of damage to an aircraft. Chuck said frequently when taxiing out to fly, he has to rev his engines to clear stubborn Sandhill Cranes who refuse to move off the runway.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

Last but not least, since I write about extreme characters who steal/repossess airplanes for a living (REPOSSESSED and coming soon OUTFOXED), I thought I’d mention that there are several people in Florida who have recently become well-known for a reality TV show on Discovery Channel called Airplane Repo. One of the stars is Mike Kennedy who lives in Orlando. He’d make a great character in a novel. Another is Ken Cage of IRG, who has part of his business, International Recovery & Remarketing Group, at the Orlando Executive Airport. It’s a strange world out there, folks, so pay your bills and they won’t take your airplane back.

Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott on left.

At 2014 Reno Air Races we ran into Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott (lt).

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll come back sometime to read other blog posts on aviation, travel locations, or simply to check out some of the fun photography and crazy stories.

Enter Now to Win a Kindle Paperwhite

Now for the good stuff. As part of this blog hop with other mystery/thriller/suspense writers, we are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Just click on the following link and follow the directions to sign up.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the participating authors’ email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on FMWA and authors’ social media sites. U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

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To continue on this BLOG HOP, VISIT other Florida Mystery Writers, read they Florida stories, and WIN more prizes:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog <http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog>
Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca <http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca>
Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html
Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog
Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Joan Lipinsky Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677 <http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677>
jd daniels He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com <http://www.live-from-jd.com/>
Joy Wallace Dickinson, “In Florida, It’s Great to Be a Cracker”, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com
Dallas Gorhman, http://www.DallasGorham.com
Linda Gordon Hengerer Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/ <http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/>
Vicki Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com <http://www.victorialandis.com/>
Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com <http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com>
Neil Plakcy, Moscow on the Intracoastal http://www.mahubooks.blogspot.com/
Johnny Ray Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us
Joanna Campbell Slan, Honey, You’ll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com <http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/

 

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A Little “Diversion” on Trip to Peru

Overseas flights tend to be long, tiring, and for hubby and me, who seemed to be frowned upon by the Trim Gods, frequented by electrical problems that cause delays or diversions in the airliner’s flight plan. To prove my point, look back in the blog archives for a story about a fuel dump from last year’s trip to Morocco (Morocco Part One: Fuel Dump, and Flight to Morocco Part II).

Plane we took to Peru.

Plane Boeing 767 we took to Peru.

Headed to Peru and halfway to Lima on an evening flight, the Captain popped on the cabin lights and announced they had a little electrical problem and would be diverting to Guayaquil, Ecuador. While, I’m usually up for visiting new countries, we’d visited Ecuador a few years ago on a trip to Quito and the Galapagos Islands (Blogs: Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, and Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise). As travelers we have learned to be flexible and “go with the flow,” and lauded ourselves for planning in extra time at the beginning of our trip just for such an occurrence. Considering these delays have happened more than once, it’s not a bad piece of advice if you can afford the time.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Welcome to Guayaquil sign in Ecuador airport.

Once on the ground, the Captain filled us in on the circumstances. The aircraft had a battery problem. The good news…maintenance would look into it. The bad news…maintenance had to get a copy of the battery (what they believed was causing the problem) manual. Ah, the joys of contract maintenance.

Pilot hubby guessed that it would probably mean a plane change, which considering our destination, posed a logistics challenge. There were no other B767s in Guayaquil. The plan…another flight from the airline would be arriving on a planned flight from Miami to Guayaquil in a few hours. Once unloaded, that plane would then take us to Lima.

The positive outcome? This time we didn’t land to fire trucks and ambulances, and the little cafe in the Guayaquil airport had coffees, tasty banana bread, and beer.

The little coffee, sweets and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport.

The little coffee, sweets, and beer cafe in Guayaquil Airport stayed open late in the evening.

Eventually we made it to Lima, our connection picked us up (in the wee morning hours), and upon arriving at our delightful, boutique hotel, discovered cookies and champagne waiting in our room. Ate the cookies and saved the alcohol for the next night when we celebrated hubby’s birthday.

Bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home.

Hotel B, a bohemian little boutique hotel in Barranco (Lima), Peru. Loved all the little touches and wonderful art in the restored old summer home. Note champagne bottle at end of bed. Sweet little cookies were on the small desk. Security all over Lima and in this high-end area was high. Even though this neighborhood was a safe one and the Spanish embassy was across the street, a doorman had a key and unlocked the front door for arrivals and departure in the evenings. Absolutely wonderful  place if you’re one to avoid big hotels.

Signs of the Times: Air Marking

The words “Air Marking” create visions of a biplane releasing smoke traces across the sky. While a romantic thought, it misses the “mark.”BiplaneClipAir Marking is painting done under precise federal regulations to designate airports (ex: names and elevations easily seen up to 10,000 ft), directions to airports, or to provide visible compass headings for aircraft to use on the ground or in the air.

Jfader_drydenComapssRose

The largest compass rose in the world is at NASA Dryden on Edwards AFB, California (Photo by JFader)

I had a chance to interview Laura Sherwood, an Orlando intellectual property paralegal (trademarks and copyrights), who has been involved with air marking since 1988. As a member of five different pilot organizations, she painted her first compass rose in 1988 at Twenty-nine Palms, California, along with other 99s, an organization of female pilots. Today, she is part of the Spaceport 99s and the air marking organizer for the chapter.

The marking paint squad at Orlando Executive Airport.

The marking paint squad at Orlando Executive Airport. Laura Sherwood is at center. Left to right: Verba Moore, pilot, 99s; Mary Maher, Superintendent, Orlando Executive Airport, Women in Aviation member; Bobbi Lasher, pilot, 99s; Laura Sherwood, pilot, 99s; Pat Ohlsson, pilot, 99s; Marilyn Paterino, pilot, 99s; Judith Ann Garrett, Women In Aviation.

The first air marking started in the 1920s, frequently as signs on barn or business roofs directing pilots to a landing field. Some were as simple as a giant yellow concrete arrow pointing the way. In the late 1920s, beacons, powered by generators housed in small sheds, were placed on top of the arrows (see drawing below). Remnants of the tower frameworks can be found still partially protruding or laying nearby the remaining arrows today.

Airway Beacon Illustration Circa 1931, FAA

Airway Beacon Illustration Circa 1931, FAA. The beacon tower was usually centered on the yellow concrete arrow and the generator housing on the arrow feathers.

During World War II, the markings were covered over or destroyed so enemies wouldn’t be able to easily find the airfields. Once the war ended, air marking began again in earnest and it soon became evident standardization was required.

Air Marking of Taxiway A at Orlando Executive. Photo by pilot Bobbi Lasher, an active member of Spaceport Chapter of 99s with 21 years of flying.

Air Marking of Taxiway A at Orlando Executive. Photo by pilot Bobbi Lasher, an active member of Spaceport Chapter of 99s with 21 years of flying.

Federal rules for air marking started back in the 1950s. These include things like the size and location of lettering, and the layout for compass roses. Circular FAA advisory circular AC 150/5340-1j covers the regulations.

Sebastian, Florida compass rose painted February 9, by members of the Spaceport 99s, the Embry Riddle 99s, and the FIT Flight Team.  Photo taken by Joe Griffin, Airport Manager

Sebastian, Florida compass rose painted February 9, 2013 by members of the Spaceport 99s, the Embry Riddle 99s, and the FIT Flight Team. Photo taken by Joe Griffin, Airport Manager

From past experience, Laura said under good conditions, a compass rose can be painted in one day. Lettering takes longer (usually two days) because of the time necessary to block out the lettering.

Measuring and painting letters and numbers at Orlando Executive Airport. Photo by Bobbi Lasher

Measuring and painting the black outlines for the letters and numbers at Orlando Executive Airport. Photo Courtesy of the Orlando Executive Airport Authority

A compass rose size is dependent on the size of aircraft using the airport. The colorful indicators of the four cardinal directions range in diameter from 50 to 100 feet. They must be placed on the airport where planes can access them and swing around to check their compass alignment. Placement must also be away from any source of compass deflection such as electrified fences, strong metal (such as metal buildings), and underground pipes. Concrete buildings do not usually case a problem, but most compass roses are placed about 600 feet from buildings. The airport hires an engineering firm to survey the center mark of the rose and the cardinal points N-S-E-W to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. On occasion, the surveyors might also mark the 30 degree points, otherwise the painters must be prepared to measure those.

This team worked so fast under good conditions that they completed the compass rose in a morning. Sebastian Compass Rose

This team worked so fast under good conditions that they completed the Sebastian Compass Rose rose in a morning. Photo by Bobbi Lasher

Plan ahead on the time of year for the task. If the tarmac gets too hot, the paint curdles. Too cold, the paint won’t stick. Too windy, it requires a special technique to keep it from splattering in the wrong places. Lastly, having it rain before the paint dries will likely produce a Matisse effect that will have to painted over on a dry day.

So find a friend who knows how to properly lay out a compass rose or airport identifier, grab brushes and more friends willing to wield a brush (a flying organization is a good place to start), bribe with a promise of food, and make short work of the task.

Thanks, Laura for the info and great tips.

I’d love to hear reader comments. Have you ever seen remnants of old air markings on rooftops, or recent ones at a local airport? Even run across one of the old concrete arrows or beacons (there’s a beacon in the Smithsonian)? If so, let me know.

Clear skies and good painting!

***

More references and details on Air Marking can be found at the following links:

– Photos and research on concrete arrows and their beacons can be found at the BonnievilleMariner.com blog.

– In the 2006, AIR & SPACE Magazine article about the early history of air marking championed by race pilot Blanche Noyes.

– At Missourinet: The Blog, a post-war photo and blog of an air marking for Jefferson City Municipal Airport and the tale of pilot Phoebe Fairgrave push for air markings to aid navigation.

20th Century Aviation Magazine.com has an article about pilot Louise Thaden and details her involvement in air marking.

Federal Aviation Administration shares some history about beacons.

Spaceport 99s

***

The Case of the Mysterious Biplane

My husband has a new hobby– uncovering the family history. A few weeks ago a distant cousin came up with a photo of two relatives standing in front of a biplane. We knew their names and that they were from the Atlanta area. The young gentleman held a stylish straw hat with the ribbon band popular in the late twenties and early thirties.

The Mysterious Biplane Family Photo

The Mysterious Biplane Family Photo

Being a family full of pilots, we had to discover something about the plane behind them. So I posted it on Facebook, friends started passing it around (thanks to you all), and the guesses started coming in. Each time someone proposed a possible plane (Sopwith Camel (supposedly offered in jest), Travel Air, Waco, Stearman), I spent time on-line looking it up. However, biplanes are a true weakness in our household repertoire and I failed to get any kind of match.

This weekend I attended a 99s meeting (women pilot’s organization). While there I mentioned to Bobbi Lasher about the biplane mystery. Without a second thought, she said send it her way. So I did, expecting another wait and round of guessing. Never underestimate a 99. She sent the photo out to over 170 aviation friends and information started coming in almost immediately. Would these new guesses to the plane’s identity match up with the facts concerning the young couple?

Dick Peiffer, from the Melbourne Area Pilots Association, in particular mentioned taking a close-up look at the aircraft and seeing lettering on it beside the couple. He was pretty sure it said “MAIL.” I took the photo and did my best to enhance that area. Below is the photo showing my efforts where the writing and symbol on the side can now be seen more clearly. But still, I wasn’t sure of the plane’s identity.

Photo enhanced picture after Dick Peiffer suggested he could read something on the aircraft.

Photo enhanced picture after Dick Peiffer suggested he could read MAIL on the aircraft.

AldermanSymblCrop2

Close-up of symbol and writing on side of aircraft.

Wayne Eleazer, an Air Force Lt. Col who retired after 25 years of active duty, came in with the first identification. Here’s what he had to say:

“My first thought was that it was a Pitcairn, since they have characteristic sleek and small rear fuselages and hefty fronts. And looking in the Juptner book (Reference: U.S. Civil Aircraft Series, by Joseph Juptner, Vol 1, P.228) at Pitcairns, I found that there is an “airfoil” symbol visible below the cockpit of one of the pictures of a Mailwing. The Juptner book has a couple of pieces on the Mailwing, one for each of ATC number assigned each version. That seemed to confirm it.”

This upclose look at the Pitcairn Mailwing symbol from Wikipedeia and attributed to Photographer FlugKerl2, 25 July 2011, is from a PA-7s Mailwing. This one appears to be sport configuration with Mail paint scheme.

This up close look at the Pitcairn Mailwing symbol from Wikipedeia and attributed to Photographer FlugKerl2, 25 July 2011, is from a PA-7 Mailwing. This one appears to be sport configuration with Mail paint scheme.

“The aircraft appears to be a Pitcairn Super Sport Mailwing, PA-6, which was the Mailwing mail carrying aircraft modified for passenger use. Normally that big hole in front of the cockpit would be for carrying mail or in the case of the Super Sport, a covered compartment for up to two passengers. The type certificate ATC #92 for the PA-6 was issued in December of 1928 and the revised type certificate for the Super Sport was issued in April of 1929.”

Wayne also mentioned he thought the aircraft may have been modified for airshow use. I’m guessing his reasoning came from the tall pole-like object seen sticking up behind the cockpit. [Update: Wayne later checked with his radio expert friends, who believe the tall object/pole is an antenna.] To help see the Pitcairn symbol being discussed, I added the detailing in yellow to highlight the areas from two photos above.

Overlay indicating the writing and Pitcairn symbol on aircraft.

Overlay indicating the writing and Pitcairn symbol on aircraft.

Aviation friend and pilot Bill Weiler also sent a long list of resources to check out which I’ll post at the end of the blog and he had this to say about the family photo:

“Absolutely a Pitcairn, but not totally sure of the exact model. A few confirming details are the logo markings, though faded on the subject aircraft, the elevator control wire location coming up from below, the shape of the pilot’s cockpit cut out, the windscreen, the longeron locations coming from the tail to the turtle deck behind the pilot, the bell crank location on the full span aileron, and the length and shape of the forward cockpit appears it’s a modified mail plane rather than a sport version. My guess is it’s an early PA-6 or very late PA-5 because of the lack of an engine cowling and the apparent extended fuselage.”

“Here’s a good PA-5 picture.”

“They claimed the PA-7 was the first 3 passenger, but it looks like when they created the cut out from the mail plane version there was enough room for 2 – and I’m sure no one worried about seat belts and gross weight. It does not appear to have a front windscreen like this PA-7 does.”

***So with all this good information about it being a Pitcairn, does it fit the family scenario?***

Remember back at the beginning I mentioned we believe the photo was taken in the Atlanta area? Would there have been any Pitcairn Mailwing aircraft in the region? My answer comes from Wikipedia so take it as you will. It all starts with FLORIDA AIRWAYS that Eddie Rickenbacker helped start in Florida in 1923. The airline flew to Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami. Florida Airways was the first to carry Commercial Air Mail (CAM) and eventually expanded the mail route to Atalanta in 1926. There could even be the initials C.A.M. under the word MAIL in the family photo, but it is impossible to see it.

Yea! Now we have an Atlanta connection. However, the planes they were flying were Stout 2AT’s like those pictured below.

This photo is of Ford's Stout 2AT's now in the Florida Photographic Collection

This photo is of Ford’s Stout 2AT’s (from the Florida Photographic Collection). Taken June 1926.

To expand the routes and stay in business, the airline needed to fly to Cuba. Pan American Airways beat them to exclusive rights. This was the demise of Florida Airways which was bought out by Harold Pitcairn (later to become Eastern Airlines). Pitcairn had the mail contract between New York City and Atlanta, Georgia flying the Pitcairn Mailwing biplane. Again this fits with the family being in Atlanta. Pitcairn was bought out in 1929 by the company that eventually became Eastern Airlines. That would place our photo likely before 1929 (before the logo would have picked up Eastern Air Transport and be painted on the Mailwing). This photo of a Pitcairn PA-5 in the Air and Space Museum shows that newer logo.

Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing in Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C. Photo by Parks 2015

Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing in Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C. Photo by Parks 2015

Close-up of PA-5 in Air and Space Museum.

Close-up of PA-5 in Air and Space Museum.

I certainly learned something about Florida’s involvement in the early air mail service along with tying in part of my hubby’s extended family history. Thanks to everyone who pitched in with information and links. If you’re interested in seeing more photos of Mailwings or further extending your knowledge, here’s a list of additional links.

Thanks for stopping by.

Some more good links from Bill Weiler:

Wikipedia Pitcairn_Aircraft

Aerofiles

Pitcairn-PA-6-Super-Mailwing-pictures

Elizabeth Pitcairn USplane PA-7

Airminded Photos and Specs

Wikipedia Pitcairn Mailwing

Interesting that Steve McQueen owned a PA-8.

Fly It Forward 2013

Fun, inspiring, and educational best describes the 2013 Fly It Forward day on Saturday, March 9. Women aviators and supporters of space and aviation gathered at Arthur Dunn Air Park in celebration of 50 years of Women in Space. Private pilots brought their aircraft and provided free first flights to women and girls. Of course, I hauled my camera along and had a chance to snap photos of faces full of expectation, zeal, and triumph.

Mom and daughter team, Amy and Cheyene Dokos, take their first flight in N1822H

Mom and daughter team, Amy and Cheyene Dokos, take their first flight in N1822H piloted by Elisabeth Wuethrich from N. Palm Beach county.

Barbara Ganson, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University and former NASA employee, planned the day with support from the Gulfstream, GoldCoast, and Spaceport Ninety-Nines, Inc (women’s aviation chapters) and various other organizations.

Florida Spaceport 99 Mary Anne Demmer

Florida Spaceport 99 Mary Anne Demmer

Florida GoldCoast 99s prepare certificates for all the flight participants.

Florida GoldCoast 99s prepare certificates for all the flight participants.

A large contingent of Florida Atlantic University women in engineering, belonging to Alpha Omega Epsilon Sorority, joined the fun. Some missed out on the photo as they were in flight for the shot. Three gals in the photo mentioned their majors, which show the diversity and depth of interests in this group of women; Caitlin Miller- Mechanical Engineering, Isabella Pinos- Ocean Engineering, and Heidi Levine- Computer Science.

Florida Atlantic University Alpha Omega Epsilon Sorority

Florida Atlantic University Alpha Omega Epsilon Sorority

The Civil Air Patrol marshaled aircraft and manned key positions to assist with the day.

CAP Captain Sue Martin (Civil Air Potrol) is manning the gate to the flightline. Sue became involved with the CAP when her son became interested in flying. The CAP also will be volunteering at the TICO Warbird Airshow coming up March 22-24, 2013. Behind Sue is Heidi and her daughters, Angelica and Samantha Jaksetic awaiting their first flight.

CAP Captain Sue Martin (Civil Air Patrol) is manning the gate to the flightline. Sue became involved with the CAP when her son became interested in flying. The CAP also will be volunteering at the TICO Warbird Airshow coming up March 22-24, 2013. Behind Sue is Heidi and her daughters, Angelica and Samantha Jaksetic awaiting their first flight.

Group getting ready to go up with Pilot Wuethrich. Note CAP in background helping marshal aircraft.

Group getting ready to go up with Pilot Wuethrich. Note CAP in background helping marshal aircraft.

NASA sent a contingent to interact with the girls at the event, and several commercial and private aviation pilots chatted with attendees, as did representatives for the EAA (Oshkosh)/Young Eagles program. There were other organizations that I missed, and would love to mention, so please let me know and I’ll add you to this blog.

First Officer Terry Ryan flies for Southwest Airlines

First Officer Terry Ryan flies for Southwest Airlines

American Airline Captain Kimberly Lowe

American Airline Captain Kimberly Lowe

Louisa King flies Boeing 737 charter for Miami Air International

Louisa King flies Boeing 737 charter for Miami Air International

Ruth Jacobs set the record for the fastest time flying around the world in a single-engine airplane, landing on all 7 continents.

Ruth Jacobs set the record for the fastest time flying around the world in a single-engine airplane, landing on all 7 continents.

Fun photo of Ruth and Louisa together

Fun photo of Ruth and Louisa together

Elisabeth Wuethrichan, engineer from Switzerland, came to pilot for the event with her hubby who is also a pilot.

Elisabeth Wuethrich, an engineer from Switzerland, came to pilot for the event with her hubby who is also a pilot.

99Pilots

Left to right: Florida Gold Coast 99s
Ursala Davidson
Kimberly Lowe
Tamra Sheffman (N37TJ is her aircraft)
Elisabeth Wuethrich

The efforts of these volunteers came to fruition with the participant’s smiles and often joy at surviving their flights. Congrats to all gals who braved their first flights and even bigger thanks to those who took the effort to give their daughters and family members this wonderful experience. The following three photos show daughters Angelica and Samantha climbing out of the aircraft, soon followed by mom Heidi who gave them both an excited hug. Heidi, a graduate of Embry Riddle and former safety engineer at Kennedy Space Center, wanted to introduce her daughters to the world of aviation. Great job mom!

Big smiles as Angelica Jaksetic climbs out of an aircraft. This delightful photo was picked up by the international organization Women Of Aviation Week and put in a front page story on their website http://www.womenofaviationweek.org. Five thousand women and girls received discovery flights at over seventy airports this year.

Samantha Jaksetic climbing out of aircraft after flight.
Followed by sister Samantha Jaksetic. Pilot Tom Powers, owner of the Bonanza aircraft.
Mom Heidi gives her daughters a congratulatory hug after the ride of their lives.

Mom Heidi gives her daughters a congratulatory hug.

I snapped a few photos of the planes flying for the event. One I missed, but wanted to mention to show the variety, was a powered glider. A King Air belonging to the local jump school also dropped jumpers for the crowd to watch.

A Piper Cherokee carrying a mom and daughter. Let me know if anyone can identify them. I'd appreciate it.

A Piper Cherokee carrying a mom and daughter. Let me know if anyone can identify them. I’d appreciate it.

King Air jump Plane located at Arthur Dunn Air Park

King Air 200 (retired from the Army) jump plane located at Arthur Dunn Air Park

Cub used for Fly It Forward flights.

Cub used for Fly It Forward flights.

Awaiting the next passengers on Women of Aviation Day 2014

Awaiting the next passengers on Women of Aviation Day 2014

I can’t wait to see what happens next year on Women of Aviation Day.

If anyone has information to add, please drop me a line. You can contact me through my website (see the page at the beginning of this blog).

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Sandy has a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. The one for March 2013 is on. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. Once in a while I may even have something special to win. Your choice. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Girls Fly Too- Graduation from Air Force Pilot Training

Today’s blog honors two occasions…my niece’s graduation from pilot training and Women in Aviation week. If you’ve spent any time on my website or reading through earlier blogs, you already know that aviation is a household word and a lifestyle in my family. Thus when someone gets a pilot’s license of any kind, it’s a big deal.

New Wings on the name tag

New Wings on the name tag

So in January, the family headed down to the rousing town of Del Rio, Texas. Once we left San Antonio, half of our cell phones went on hiatus in the great expanses of Texas lacking in cell towers (or really much populace at all save for perhaps a few prairie dogs). The perfect place to put a base with pilots learning to fly. Onward we pressed in the face of adversity, forewarned by my brother to be wary of speed traps. Imagine our surprise later when we passed the car with his family temporarily parked aside the road and my brother speaking to the nice gentleman whose car flashed colored lights. My brother must have smiled nice, because the man in blue gave him a warning and sent him on his way.

We had no doubts when we closed upon our destination as a buzz of aircraft swarmed the airfield. Opposite patterns ran to parallel runways, one which catered to T-38 jets and the other to T-6 turboprops. The entrance to the base took us past a line of aircraft on static display. We later discovered my father had flown a good number of them. Thus, as we traditionally do, we gathered all the military folks, put them in flight suits (some suits had shrunk since retirement) and did a photo shoot in front of the T(trainer)-28, a plane my dad had flown in his pilot training days.

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

To give you an idea of how proud my brother is of his daughter, just take a look at this close-up of the two. Kinda says it all.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

Later, after formal ceremonies inside where awards were presented, all the students went out to the flight line, where their chosen “rated” Air Force officer officially pinned on their wings. My niece chose her dad and they pinned them on in front of the T-1, a trainer for those pilots going on to fly heavy aircraft. She is thrilled to be going to C(cargo)-17s.

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

The first plane my niece flew in training was the T-6 Texan II turbo-prop built by Raytheon Aircraft as a military trainer. The second half of Undergraduate Pilot Training brought a switch to the T-1, built by Raytheon and Hawker Beechcraft, with handling characteristics mimicking heavier aircraft.

T-6 Texan II

T-6 Texan II

T-1

T-1

A photo of the women in the family was taken in front of the T-6 and included Grandma, Aunt (that’s me), and my niece’s mom. We may not have been the military pilots in the family, but we all gave her encouragement through the years that she could achieve the dream of being a pilot.

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

The next photo is of my niece in front of the T-6 with her shiny new wings visible above the chest pocket of her uniform jacket. After all the stress and effort to get to this point, I can guarantee she has a lot of pride in those wings.

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

Of course, I had to have my special moment for a photo. I couldn’t be prouder and am glad my niece had an opportunity to fly for the Air Force that when I was her age wasn’t open to me. Thankfully times have changed.

Aunt and Niece

Aunt and Niece

Any time family gets together to celebrate there are always presents or food. Since we were on the road for this celebration, we ate out and brought gifts. Tradition has it that pilots build a “me” collection of plaques, patches, photos, and models as they go through their careers. This T-1 model of her first aircraft is a great way to start.

Niece with T-1 Model

Niece with T-1 Model

After all the ceremonies and photos, it’s dinnertime. For the military, it means official mess dress (cummerbund and all). But once they hit the bar, dinner changes to party time and the jackets come off. Just to show you formality doesn’t come without some sense of humor, I took a shot of the  pilots’ party shirts not visible when their  jackets are on. My niece altered these shirts for herself and a few friends (her mom helped to get them done in time). Those are shoes on her shirt. Every girl needs a pair or two to party, and these are a lot hotter than suede flight boots.

Congrats new Air Force pilot 2Lt. Moffett.

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts

Ever been fumigated on a plane before?

Hunting through plane photos, I came across one I hadn’t added to my collection of travel aircraft. Part of what I like in traveling is to check out planes of other countries and the often unique towers at airports. On this particular adventure, it wasn’t the planes or airports that were memorable, it was the process.

South African Airways

South African Airways

This is the South African Airways plane we took to Johannesburg from New York several years back. Aircraft in the background are an Emirates, a blue KLM, a Swiss, an Air India, and a conga line of aircraft either taxing for takeoff or heading for the terminal. On average, the flight takes around 18 hours to South Africa. While the trip is long, the airline catered to the passengers as well as most overseas flights, and we did our best to stretch our legs and maintain the blood flow. The jaunt required a refueling stop in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, Africa (where a few passengers would deplane, too). Once on the ground in Senegal, our hopes for a break to stand were crushed. The crew informed us to remain seated for the entire stopover.

We soon discovered they had a good reason for this. Down each aisle flight attendants strolled with little canisters held high. From them sprayed a rather foul white mist. It took a minute for my brain to register they were fumigating the air in plane (and us along with it).  Evidently the Senegalese worried about tiny creatures (flies and mosquitoes) invading their airspace. Needless to say they didn’t inform the uninitiated like us before the trip. Not that I wouldn’t have gone, but sheesh, at least I would have been prepared for it. On the return trip I covered my head with a blanket- it helped some, but hubby thought I looked silly. So he might have been right (for once), but can I help it if I have a sensitive nose?

By the way, we loved South Africa and would go back in a heartbeat (once we’ve been to the other gazillion places on our bucket list)…but telling about that country will be for another post.

I’ve heard airlines no longer fumigate, but if anyone knows differently or has experienced it, please shout out. :  ) I’ve also heard a good number of airlines now have direct flights to South Africa and no longer stop in Dakar. If anyone else has weird flying experiences to share, click on the comment tag near the title above.

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Sandy is starting in January a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and we hope to hear from you.

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