Baton Blog Hop

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Delightful author JB Lynn of the Killer Chicks invited me to participate in the Baton Blog Hop. This “hop” is of interest to readers who enjoy mystery, thrillers, suspense, or romance, and works this way: I answer a few questions about my work in progress, and then pass the baton along to three other authors. Hopefully that will introduce you to new writers you might have never read before.

Before we start, I’d like to say a few things about JB Lynn who writes the humorous series about a neurotic Hitwoman. If you love to laugh and enjoy quirky characters, this is a series you should enjoy. I’ve also heard she has a dark thriller in her past published with Carina Press. I just added another of her books to my TBR pile.

Now to the questions about my current project. I’ve been working on a series called HAWKER, INC about a team who repossess high-end aircraft. When the rich don’t pay, someone has to take their toys away. What happens when you put an ex-military pilot who grew up in the family casino together with a conman on the run, a mechanic who paints her nails to match the country of operation, and a sexy Greek lawyer who has his own secret agenda? Then, of course, there is the mysterious boss that hides his identity from his crew. The first book in the series, REPOSSESSED, won two major national contests last year.

1. What am I working on? I’m editing OUTFOXED, book 2 in the Hawker, Inc series. This book is unique because it has become relevant because of the missing Malaysian airliner. OUTFOXED deals with the loss of a team member over a botched B737 airliner repossession and the team’s attempt to even the score. What could happen when a B737 goes missing and how is it possible? While the theme may revolve around aviation, I write for the characters (they make me do it). This book deals with a team that has been demoralized by the loss of one of their own. Each sees the death as failure on their part. Come along for a ride to four continents and find out if Jet, Gregori, Lenny and Roxy can pull off this caper and bring their team back together.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre.

My characters are a bit quirkier than most in the action-adventure, thriller genre. I take suspense and action-adventure, and combine it with touches of humor and personal relationships. Jet is a loner who moves at her own fast pace. Her mother runs a fly-in casino with a dirt strip near Vegas. Gregori, is a legal eagle from an uber wealthy Greek family. He has missing years in his background that reveal he does a lot more than sit behind a desk. Roxy is a female mechanic who believes in only being the best. She is following in her dad’s footsteps. Lenny, a conman, is a displaced New Yorker not able to go home because he stepped on the “boys” toes while extracting Roxy from the midst of trouble. He does the teams groundwork and snooping for the repo team and can usually be counted on to get them into trouble.

3. Why do I write what I do?

First, I love to tell stories and to share them with others. That means putting the story on paper (or digital these days). Take that and mix it with a family who eats, sleeps, and breathes aviation. Visit my website if you’d like to see more details on my dad, hubby, brother, niece, son, and me who are involved in aviation. I flew as a kid with my dad in light airplanes and later learned to fly at Edwards AFB while my husband was going through test pilot school. Yeah,  I only fly puddle jumpers, but I get to live vicariously through the other “s@#t-hot” pilots in the family.

4. How does your writing process work?

My best answer to this is it changes with time, topic, and genre. The one overall process I try to stick with is a relatively thorough plot and character arc. I don’t consider myself a “seat of the pants” writer because my topics necessitate research for topic and locations. There are times, though, when I think I should have done a better job plotting details, and others when it seems I plotted things too tightly and had to loosen up to let my characters breathe. One thing I’ve learned over many years of writing, is that the process is fluid. As a writer, you’ll get better at some things and see where you need to improve on others. That means a tweaking of how you write. My biggest wish…I had more of the journalism touch and could write faster.

More great authors to check out: These authors will be posting next Monday on March 24th.

Enjoy romantic suspense and some inspiration with author Connie Mann. As the blogger at Busy Women~ Big Dreams and a boat captain (sounds wonderfully adventurous), Mann’s Angel Falls is currently #5 on Amazon’s Christian Suspense Romance Bestseller list. Join Regina and Brooks as they protect a young orphan from killers, while struggling to overcome problems from their own troubled pasts. Connie is a serious writer who has been honing her craft to great results. She’s an enjoyable, gracious lady, and a fellow Floridian.

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Hold on for a ride with romantic thrillers from Vanessa Kier and her Surgical Strike Unit. Vanessa is writer friend from the Kiss of Death Chapter. This chapter of writers goes on yearly trips to killer locations all over the US. We’ve been to the CIA, FBI, military installations, the State Department, FEMA underground shelters, fire and police departments, bomb squads (blowing up things was fun!), and have even met the LA mounted police. She has lots of great background to have written the six books in this series about a private special ops group. Visit Vanessa next week at her Facebook page or website.

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Public health nurse, Beverley Bateman, writes murder, mystery, medical thrillers, and romantic suspense. Imagine finding yourself along on a Caribbean cruise with no memory and someone trying to kill you. That’s the premise of Beverley’s latest book “A Cruise to Remember.” Another of my Kiss of Death Chapter mates, Beverley works as hard for the chapter as she does on her writing. Check out her blogspot next Monday to learn more about her books and writing.

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That’s it for the Baton Blog Hop. Please stop by and check out these authors and I welcome any suggestions of authors you love to read.

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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!

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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

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What’s in Your Favorite Pilot bar?

I’ve been in my share of aviation bars through the years from the Pancho Barnes room frequented by seasoned test pilots to the ones hosting pilots working toward their first set of wings. I’ve seen some interesting things. Photographed a good number of items, too. Some are typical things people might find in any bar, others are distinctly unique to those who enjoy the flying profession. Of course, because of the nature of aviation types versus the delicate nature of those who might be viewing this blog, I had to pick and chose photos.

Bits and pieces of aircraft give the right flavor and for an Air Force bar are pretty much essential. This can be a wing, prop, vertical stabilizer, an ejection seat (yes, I’ve seen one), a piece from a totaled aircraft (however it got that way), or perhaps landing gear.

Propeller above entry to crud table area.

Propeller above entry to crud table area.

T-1 Landing gear

T-1 Landing gear

Other basics usually include a bell found in most bars. Necessary in case someone commits a faux pas and is buying the bar a round. Also a variety of wood bar surfaces can be found from a full-fledged bar, to a wood surface where nicknames are carved and the tops scorched, to a bar table top similar to this table covered in resin, or a simple oak whiskey barrel for the smaller more private setting.

Standard "bar" bell

Standard “bar” bell

Temporary Emerald Knight's bar.

Temporary Emerald Knight’s bar.

Carved names and scorching on bar top.

Carved names and scorching on bar top.

Treasurers trapped in resin

Treasurers trapped in resin

In home pilot bar

In home pilot bar, whiskey barrel.

Now every bar needs a little action, so a Crud table is mandatory. The rules and variations for Crud will be discussed at another time (and at some places said game has been curtailed to reduce injuries (really?)). For more atmosphere, throw in some stain glass, a popcorn machine, a dart board, and hang a few decorations.

Crud game table

Crud game table

Squadron Stained Glass

Squadron Stained Glass

Snoopy from soda cans hanging at the Sedona Arizona Airport bar.

Snoopy from soda cans hanging at the Sedona Arizona Airport bar.

7-Up Biplane, Sedona, Arizona

7-Up Biplane, Sedona, Arizona

One thing I haven’t mentioned, which is quite common, is the beer mug (filled with beer, of course). Below are two typical mugs and a standard squadron mug rack. Some places have a little more creative display using things at hand…baseball bats, practice weapon, fire axe, electronics rack, handcuffs….

Close-up of pilot mugs in training squadron

Close-up of pilot mugs in training squadron

Typical wall mug rack in training squadron.

Typical wall mug rack in training squadron.

Creative Mug. Take a close look at how it's made.

Creative Mug rack. Take a close look at how it’s made.

A pilot needs something appropriate to wear, in particular if they are military. For a civilian pilot, almost anything goes (shoes and shirt usually required, unless in some exotic location and then you are a lucky pilot indeed). For military pilots, the appropriate attire is a flight suit, but once in a while formal attire is necessary. A savvy pilot can make a few adjustments of uniform to fit both ceremony and later bar visit. Simply remove the sleeves of mess dress shirt, keep the cuffs and attach them to new sleeves from material of your choice. This is easily hidden beneath your mess dress jacket.

Mess Dress shirt with "women's shoe" motiff.

Mess Dress shirt with “women’s shoe” motif.

And every party or visit to a bar is more fun with friends, family, or fellow pilots. So invite your buds and head to the bar. Below is a photo of a famous local watering hole for test pilots back in the seventies and eighties. The Pancho Barnes room at the Edwards Air Force Base Officer Club (name and layout since changed). Take a close look at some of the things in the background.

Test Pilot Class 83A in Pancho Barnes Room, Edwards AFB, California

Test Pilot Class 83A in Pancho Barnes Room, Edwards AFB, California

Over time as people find this blog post, I hope that to add items they have photographed (with photo credit) in aviation bars. All I ask is to keep it “clean.” Comment or contact me, and I’ll add your photos or you can send me a link to photos and I’ll be glad to add that. Thanks for stopping by. Remember 8 hours from throttle to bottle!

Fly safe.

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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