My First Oshkosh, Part III (Final)

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The little girl next to me was completely absorbed in the performance by the great Sean Tucker. Her eyes, wide with excitement and wonder, followed every movement of his plane. When he finally landed, she looked over to her mom, suddenly appearing concerned. Her smile faded.
Why are there no girl pilots?” she asked.
Before her mom could respond, I turned to the girl and said, “I’m a pilot.” 
Her smile quickly returned, bigger and brighter than ever. She pumped her fist excitedly into the air and shouted, “YES!“, with a little jump at the end.
Thank you,” her mom said, smiling and looking like she just dodged a bullet.
I don’t think she realized that her daughter had just decided her future.

~~~

Today was the big day – the day of the first Blue Angels performance in the history of Oshkosh. Technically, it was going to be their practice show, but it’s basically the same as the main performance. People who haven’t seen them a million times like I have don’t realize that.

After saying goodbye to my friend who had visited the night before, I started my day at the EAA Museum. Honestly, I’m not much of a museum person. I find them depressing… something just seems so sad about seeing relics of a bygone era forever frozen in time. Fascination with the past draws me in, but I’m not one to linger long.

So, despite many interesting exhibits, I barely spent an hour wandering the graveyard of artifacts.

IMG_20170728_100434742.jpgDick Rutan, retired USAF pilot famous for flying the Voyager around the world non-stop with co-pilot Jeana Yeager, speaking to a crowd at the EAA Museum.

I debated about taking one of the Bell helicopter tours being offered out front, but a $50 charge and 2 1/2 hour wait pushed me to lunch instead.

One large, greasy brat and pile of fried Wisconsin cheese curds later, I made my way back to the main grounds, deciding to finally take a stroll through the hangars where the vendors were set up peddling the latest and greatest. I wasn’t really interested in buying anything, mostly because I didn’t have room in my bags to bring anything back, but figured it would still be fun perusing the gadgets, gizmos and gear.

I found one particularly delightful booth run by a woman I had seen in many of the Facebook groups I frequent, Jen Toplak, owner of of Dare To Fly. Her products, unlike most of the other aviation stuff out there, are actually designed for women pilots.

Like a tall glass of ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day, she and her booth were a refreshing combination.

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Jen Toplak (far left), me and two fellow 99 pilots having some fun for the camera!

Much to my excitement, it was finally – FINALLY!!! – getting to be time for the Blue Angels (eep!!!!!!!), so I made my way down to the flight line to secure a spot. A friend, a very lucky bastard whose boss actually said to him – “Take the jet and bring a few of your coworkers up to Oshkosh for the day!” – had just flown in from Georgia. I invited him to join me and together we watched the Blues play.

 

They did not disappoint. They never do.

Following their stunning-as-always performance, I made my way to a dinner for women in the airline industry. The friend I came to Oshkosh with had scored us tickets to the event and, while I really do not have any interest in working for the airlines, I am never one to turn down free food. Plus, I was curious to learn about the issues those women face and how they manage to juggle work life with family life (apparently they don’t, though they tried to argue otherwise – blog on that later).

The dinner, however, ended up being a bit… strange. The so-called meal was a potato. Yes, a single potato. Apparently you are supposed to take said potato, slice it and stuff it with other items laid out on the buffet. Where I come from we call this a “side item,” but, hey, it was free and I was hungry.

Even more strange was that a few minutes into the talk, in popped someone quite unexpected…

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Buzz freakin’ Aldrin!

He sat at the table next to me, never talking, just watching and playing with stuff on the table. He stayed for about 30 minutes, long enough for his son, seated next to him, to fuss at him for attempting to throw Frisbees in the room. I’ve heard he’s a bit eccentric, and his behavior coupled with that very pink shirt certainly did not conflict with those rumors.

After dinner, my friend and I made our way down to the UltraLight area to watch a short field landing competition to the tune of country music. A fun event with a redneck flare, we sat for a while watching the planes zip around havin’ a hootin’, tootin’, good ol’ time!

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When the competition concluded, lighted paramotors took flight, sparkling in the skies with the moon and stars.

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IMG_20170728_205649550.jpgSee if you can figure out which light is the moon in the picture above!

We hit up the beer tent after, but smoke from the campfire got to be a bit too much and I’m not really one for crowds or dancing. We were both tired, so we only stayed for a couple drinks and headed back.

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I had the pleasure of getting together with so many great people at Oshkosh, but there was one… the most special one, and if I’m honest with myself, the real reason I decided to venture all the way to freakin’ Wisconsin of all places… who I had yet to meet. Saving the best for last, most of my final full day of Oshkosh was spent off site with this woman and her mother…

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We have a story. One that greatly affected, enhanced and in so many ways saved both of our lives. One that that will perhaps end up as a book down the road, but, for now, is kept sacredly between our families.

After hugs and a warm goodbye, I made my way back to the grounds feeling secure that my trip was complete. I was almost ready to go home.

But there was one final and very important task.

THE MONKEY.

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Anyone who has followed this blog knows about The Monkey and his history.

Cliffnotes – He has traveled pilot-to-pilot across the country via GA aircraft. I picked him up at an airport restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma (KOUN) back in February. Together, we had many adventures – Flying around the Grand Canyon, Underwater Egress Training, Volunteering for Above the Clouds, attending 99s Meetings, Night Flights, and even meeting the great Harrison Ford. But it was time for him to move on.

A pilot out in Colorado offered to take The Monkey and start him on some new adventures. So, the next morning, we enjoyed one last bittersweet breakfast together and said our goodbyes.

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A few hours later I was on my way home, exhausted and satisfied. I had enjoyed a wonderful week, built so many cherishable memories, and met so many wonderful people. There were still many things I had wanted to do, but was unable. But that’s ok…

Oshkosh 2018… I’ll be seeing you soon!

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My First Oshkosh, Part II

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You will come back with so many stories.
        –“Su” Lin, friend and fellow pilot, who recently had her own first Oshkosh experience

~~~

The adrenaline of the DC-3 flight carried me through the rest of the day. Like a love-struck girl, I walked around in a daze after, smiling at no one and everyone. I’m sure I looked crazy, but I didn’t care. If I could have found a flowery meadow to spend the remainder of my day alternating between twirling in and laying in, I would have been in Heaven. But every inch of grass was taken by planes, spectators and campsites.

I’m not complaining.

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A fun site I discovered strolling through Camp Scholler. 

I decided instead to reach out to some others I knew were at the event, but hadn’t had the pleasure yet to meet – the editors of Plane & Pilot (I’ve written a couple pieces for them). Having missed my lunch with Women Venture, my stomach was growling and, as luck would have it, Robert Goyer, Editor-In-Chief of the magazine, had just scored some free food. Sweeeeet!

We had a lovely meetup and Robert showered me with wonderful compliments about my writing. It was nice to hear such praise from someone like him. When you have two young kids, work full time and juggle an aviation addiction on top of it all, you are lucky when you can string a single thought together let alone multiple words.

After lunch, I started an aimless wander. The sun, which had been mostly hiding that day, had peaked out just enough to start toasting my skin. Sweat began to form and my lips began to parch. Knowing the signs of dehydration far too well – I used to work outside all day as an Archaeologist, I knew it was imperative that I find a cold beverage sooner than later.

Beer seemed the smart choice.

I had heard legends of a place called “The Beer Tent.” I wasn’t sure why it was famous and I didn’t care, but I liked its name and followed the giant yellow ball floating over it until I found its location. It didn’t take long for me to note why the place had gained such elevated status among men, and it had nothing to do with the beer.

I texted my husband the following pictures to assure him that he was in no way missing out by not being with me on this trip…

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That’s trashy,” he responded, quickly googling directions to the tent.

Since I had such great luck after reaching out to my last two contacts – scoring both a fun ride and a free meal, I decided to see if three times would be a charm. So, I messaged a couple pilot friends I moderate a Facebook group with and, as it turned out, one of them was not only at OSH, but also close enough to pop over.

We’ll call this friend “David Black.”

David is a young guy in his early twenties who has gained more flight experience in his short time than most pilots 2-3 times his age.  He has around 4,000 hours of flight time, much of it up in Alaska flying in situations the rest of us would probably soil our underwear in. Not sure what exactly he does, but I know it involves transporting things… legal things I assume, but I don’t ask too many questions.

Occasionally he sends us pictures like these –


We hate David.

But in a very loving way.

The best part about the guy is that he can tell a story about paint drying and have an entire room laughing so hard they are brought to tears. It didn’t take long after he rolled in; The stories started and the Tent came to life. When it was time to leave, there was a crowd around us.

Honestly, I could have just hung there for the rest of the evening and called it a day, but both of us had been invited a while back to a party in the North 40 called the “H.O.P.S. Party,” an annual gathering hosted by Jay Honeck, owner of Amelia’s Landing Hotel. In exchange for a free meal, attendees are asked to bring a six pack of brew from wherever it is they hail from. It sounded like a good time, plus I’d get to meet some others from the online pilot world.

This party was pretty far away from our current location and I was exhausted. Thankfully, it turned out that David had access to some kind of Chinese knockoff version of a dirt bike. Most of the parts still appeared to be attached, so I figured it was safe enough.
(…stop judging, I only have to make good decisions when I’m Pilot-In-Command!)

I hopped on the back and away we rode to the next adventure.

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It was a fun get-together, but at some point the weather turned from the blue skies you see in the picture above to the torrential downpour in the one below.

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That, apparently, is the nature of Oshkosh.

By the time the rain fell, fatigue had already won its battle and it didn’t even dawn on me to move my bookbag to higher ground. The next morning I found my logbook, my precious precious logbook… the one that features signatures of many great people such as the still-handsome Harrison Ford… saturated. There was no denying it.

I had two choices – freak out and start crying over wet paper, or smile (through my apparent hangover) at the mark that would eventually dry, but forever remind me of my first Oshkosh experience.

I decided the latter. Life’s too short.*

After soothing my throbbing head with copious amounts of coffee and a plate full of syrup-smothered pancakes, I decided to catch the early bird special being offered at the Ford Tri-Motor tent. If anything could cure a hangover, a ride in an 80+ year old plane, dubbed the “Tin Goose,” could!

It wasn’t as fun as maneuvering around in a DC-3, but it was still a damn good time with some pretty fantastic views.

I spent most of Thursday casually strolling the grounds, admiring planes and ducking into talks or safety seminars whenever my feet tired. I was the nerd who sat in the front row asking all the questions, by the way. Sorry about that. I may not technically be a “student pilot” anymore, but I will forever be a student of piloting.

Hard as I might try, though, I just couldn’t shake the IPAs from the night before and eventually decided to retreat back to camp. It was nice to just sit for a while, doing nothing beyond soaking in abundant sunshine and enjoying sounds from the sky.

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Life is good.

And it was about to get better.

An older gentleman strolled by, saw my cold beverage and asked where he could find one himself. Before long, we were sitting side by side, talking life, family and flying. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I had on the trip.

He told me about how he used to be a pilot, but gave it up when his young daughter – 15 at the time – began to show interest in learning. He could only afford one pilot in the family, so decided to invest his money into her instead. At 16, she soloed. By 17, she was a private pilot. Before long, she’d be flying 747s and living the dream.

By the time his daughter stopped over to say “hi,” I felt like I was meeting a hero. She certainly had a very proud dad.

I told her what a delight it had been to chat with her father. What I didn’t tell her was how sharply my experience with him had contrasted with some of my other, less pleasant, interactions with men at the event. This was the only thing I did not enjoy about my experience. Sadly, it turned out that many men thought that my wanting to talk shop/planes with them equated to my wanting to sleep with them. Not once, but twice, did I have to remove myself from situations in which men thought it was OK to actually put their hands on me.

(NOTE – In both cases, it was complete strangers and no one mentioned in this blog.)

I was starting to become hesitant to engage anyone other than women in conversation, so meeting this gentleman was a a very welcome experience.

Later that evening, my best friend, who had recently relocated to Madison, WI with her husband, stopped by for an overnight visit. If there was ever a perfect place to catch up with an old friend, it was there… under the sea of a dazzling sunset, watching the Blue Angels play in the sky.

IMG_20170727_200811714_HDRTwo Blue Angels can be seen at the top left. They were supposed to practice earlier in the day, but a taxiway incident (not clear on details) delayed their flight. 

Tomorrow the sun would rise, I’d say goodbye to my friend and begin the fourth day of my first Oshkosh experience. I was tired, but just as “Su” had promised, there were still many stories to be made, including one involving a dinner-crashing cameo by a famous astronaut!

To be continued…

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* While my logbook sadly did get soaked, the main reason I didn’t lose it was because it is backed up electronically. I greatly value my logbook and all its entries, but, to me, every entry and, yes, every mark on its pages, is its own story. And one I will forever treasure.

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My First Oshkosh, Part I

EAA Airventure (aka, “Oshkosh”), the  largest airshow and aviation gathering in the the world, was just held last week in Wisconsin. This year, more than 10,000 aircraft flew in, almost 600,000 people were in attendance and a grand total of 2,991 showplanes performed. The event attracts pilots of all types – general aviation, airline, military… even NASA. This year, it would feature an Apollo Astronaut Reunion and its first ever airshow by the Blue Angels.

Having a strong aversion to crowds and not being exactly a “people person,” attending Oshkosh was never on my Bucket List. But, just as how groupies follow their favorite bands, I follow the Blues. I got hooked on them when I was living in Pensacola, falling completely in lust watching them practice all the time. The second I heard they would be performing, I started planning my trip.

Unfortunately, as a renter, flying directly into the event was financially a big, fat no-go. I would have had to contend with a three hour/day minimum aircraft usage charge, plus the hours required to get from Bedford, MA to Oshkosh, WI. All in all, it would have cost nearly $5000. Yikes.

But lemonade from lemons… or, as I prefer, chocolate from cocoa beans… flying commercial meant getting to enjoy a real drink. No eight hour bottle to throttle rules to worry about! Plus I was able to read some aviation smut to get myself in the mood.

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I don’t know about you, but that plane pictured gets my juices going pretty good. I wonder what its favorite color is and whether it likes long walks on the beach…

On our initial arrival, I was in complete shock as to what I was seeing. I mean I had heard stories over the years and seen tons of pictures from friends, but I truly had no idea what I had been missing. The place was massive, and there was so much to see and do.

My friend and I wasted no time agreeing – this would be an annual thing for us.

20447314_10155550349728894_1219032747_o (1)Arriving at Oshkosh!

Another friend had kindly offered us a camping spot near his plane, which happened to be parked waaaaay back in the nosebleed section of the North 40. Lugging my giant duffel bag, which was busting at the seams with all my gear – a tent, sleeping bag, camping pad, tarp, rope, clothes and so much more, was quite the feat. But slowly, we made our way down, hopping from bus to tram to tram to bus.

I wasted little time facebook-bragging my new home away from home.

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On the first night, our friend and his gang – the Cirrus 2 AirVenture crew (C2A) held a big BBQ. It was a fun event filled with good food, good beer, good folks, lots of airplane spotting and many fun prize giveaways – including a seat in one of the renowned AeroShell Formation Acrobatic planes for a show the next day.

image (2).pngPhoto Credit: AeroShell Aerobatic Team

I never win anything… ever, so I was not surprised when my raffle number didn’t get called for any of the goodies, but being there that day with such a fantastic crowd was prize enough.

 

(The friend who invited us to camp with their fleet was the lucky winner of the Aeroshell flight… well, technically it was another C2A pilot named “Spike,” but that person was kind enough to pass his prize on to Mike, who, if you knew him, would know why. He’s the one I flew across the country with in February. He also happens to be one of the founders of COPA. He does so much for so many, and no one there deserved the joys of such an experience more than he did.)

When day 2 arrived, I stepped out of my tent and into one of the most gorgeous sunrises I’ve ever seen. While attending Oshkosh was never a bucket list item, plane camping certainly was. I had dreamt of this view for so long.

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There is no “sleeping in” at Oshkosh. Planes begin buzzing the skies at 6:00 AM sharp and, if that doesn’t stir you, at 7:30 AM a loud wake up call is boomed from the ground’s PA System.

For me, my excitement and giddiness had me going before any outside noises could. By 6:00 AM, I was already showered with a hot coffee in hand. Sitting and sipping in the small backpacking chair I had somehow managed to fit in my carry-on, I settled on my first to-do item for the day – I would rip up my meticulously planned itinerary.

This was a “go with the flow” kind of event. There could be no planning, only exploration.

After enjoying a delightfully bacon-heavy breakfast at the North 40 cafe, I began my trek to the main grounds. I felt dizzy watching all the planes… they were up in the sky, they were down on the ground, they were bombing the runways…

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There were planes, planes everywhere! I was in heaven.

 


It didn’t take long for my introvert self to start feeling overwhelmed, though. I decided to take a breather and seek out an online acquaintance, Russell Still. Russ, an ATP, CFII and CEO of Gold Seal, was a man I had gotten to know a bit on an internet forum for pilots. This past winter he offered me and some others free access to his new instrument written test prep program in exchange for us helping him QA/QC it.

I was excited to finally meet him in person. And thankfully his plane, a big DC-3 with a gold stripe down the side, was pretty easy to spot.

Things were definitely hoppin’ when I arrived…

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I asked around and eventually found Russ, an older gentleman with a bushy mustache – more reminiscent of a train conductor than a pilot, laying on the grass duct taping something on the belly of his plane.  We shook hands and introduced ourselves. It was like meeting an old friend.

Always the business man, he offered a trade – if I’d rock out one of his Gold Seal shirts for the day, he’d let me have an empty seat in his DC-3. Apparently they were just about to take it up for a photo op and performance flight. I had popped over to say “hi” at just the right time!

Knowing that accepting this offer would mean missing the “Women Venture” lunch I had already signed up and paid for, and had been quite excited about attending, I quickly agreed on this chance of a lifetime opportunity!
I’ll catch the ladies next year.

I laughed as I changed clothes. I mean, I couldn’t believe it – there I was, on merely my second day of Oshkosh, shamelessly taking my shirt off in the cockpit of 79 year old DC-3, whose model was the first commercial aircraft in history. These are the things we do for aviation.

And, boy, was it worth it!

 

The man flying left seat was Paul Bertorelli, editor of The Aviation Consumer and AVweb.com. He got a little internet famous after this silly instructional video came out in 2010.

But, while Paul might know his way around other aircraft, this would actually be his first time handling a DC-3. He was instructed by a pilot in the right seat and bravely handled some impressive maneuvering, pulling off low approaches, tight patterns and a bit of wing wagging. For dramatic effect, they landed on one wheel first before finally bringing it all the way down.

From my window, I could see crowds along the flightline cheering and clapping.
What a high! Definitely some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a plane.

Video I took during the flight –

It was going to be hard to top such a wonderful experience, but, as I’d learn later that day when I found myself zipping around on the back of a dirt bike, things at Oshkosh were just getting warmed up.

To be continued…

 

 

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July Dream Flight

This weekend was another successful Dream Flight event with Above the Clouds. I served as Flight Coordinator for a young boy named Justin, who was referred to us by Boston Children’s Hospital where he is a patient.

Justin was very shy and quite nervous about going up, but with the help of a kind, patient pilot named Bill and a warm, fuzzy therapy dog named Willow, we were not only able to get him airborne, but we also got him back on the ground with a smile on his face.

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Willow hard at work with Justin (center, in gray) and his family.
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Bill showing Justin how to use flight controls. “This button fires the missiles, so be careful.”
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Justin’s proud mother and two other siblings (with a third cooking in the oven).
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He ended up letting his little brother ride shotgun, opting instead for the back next to his dad.

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Lift off! This was a really big moment, as we weren’t sure he would get off the ground due to his fears.
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But he came back with a smile… a small one, but one that was a pretty big for a boy like him.
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Each child gets their own personalized flight jacket and aviator glasses at the conclusion of the flight.
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Looking cool!
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A shot from my plane as I headed back to Hanscom Field. Another wonderful day!

Seeing the way the children transform from the start of the day to the end is incredible and humbling. Above the Clouds is truly a wonderful organization to be a part of. Hopefully one day I will be able to fly for them, but in the meantime I will continue doing what I can to make the day as special as possible for these very special kids.

Now off to the next adventure… Oshkosh!

 

(Pictures above posted with permission from family)

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Harrison Ford is a Good Pilot… and I’m not just saying that because he’s still hot at 74 years old

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Quotes from Harrison Ford in the blog post below were taken directly from video that I recorded at the event. That video can be found here (not the best quality): Harrison Ford ACONE Acceptance Speech

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Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away… called Heaven, a beautiful specimen of a man was created. God came to his mother in a dream, telling her about His upcoming Gift to Women and advised her to name the boy Harrison, as no other name would be even remotely cool enough to suit him.

He blessed this child with an ability to act and cast him in two major roles of ultimate sexiness – Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Women everywhere… and, let’s be honest, men too… swooned at these heroic action figures he flawlessly brought to life.


Harrison Ford saw great success for many years, raking in big money, pairing up with beautiful women, and continuing to be a Hollywood heavyweight. From an outside perspective, he should have been the happiest man on earth.

But, few humans – even, and often especially, those whom it seem are the most blessed – reach a place of total satisfaction in life.

There was a void.

I was lucky enough to meet Harrison Ford a few weeks ago. By meet, of course, I mean that the second he reached for my hand I went from being a 36 year old woman to a 12 year old giddy, giggly little schoolgirl speaking gibberish while he smiled on patiently and politely.

I heard him give a speech that morning and in it he confessed that one day he woke up and realized that he didn’t want to die being known only as an actor.

In his words –

I didn’t start flying until I was 52.  I was motivated by a couple things. Mostly by the thought that I was 52. And I hadn’t learned anything in a long time. I had been pretending, that was my job. I had been telling stories, which I deeply enjoy. I was having a wonderful time. But, I thought, I didn’t want to be buried under a rock that said HARRISON FORD – ACTOR.”

I, for one, would have also added, SEXIEST MAN ON EARTH.

In a voice able to melt the heart of any warm-blooded creature, he continued –

“Although it (acting) is a noble occupation, I wanted to learn something else. And I was not really convinced at first that I was capable. You know, you go without stretching your mind for a period of time and it’s a bit daunting, or at least it was for me… a failed arithmetic student, a poor student of many of the disciplines I did study. But I was encouraged by people and I loved to fly. It brought great benefit to my life – it brought discipline, structure, freedom. And I recognized that blend of freedom and responsibility, that is a big part of what aviation is all about. I’m very, very grateful for what it has brought to my life.”

There is an undeniable magic to aviation. I always referred to my flight lessons as Aviation Therapy, because every time I lifted from the surface of the earth into the sky, everything that troubled me and took up head space would clear out and be replaced by one simple focus – fly the plane. When I fly, I’m blessed with scenery even the most beautiful of paintings could never capture. And then there’s that feeling of pure freedom.

In the air, Harrison Ford isn’t Harrison Ford. He’s a man flying a plane. He’s a pilot.

The event was hosted by the Aero Club of New England. Harrison was in attendance because the Club was presenting him with an award for his efforts promoting aviation.

I want to note that I did not attend this event just because he was going to be there and because this super hot picture of him went out with the announcement –

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Ok, maybe I did. I mean, look at that beautiful scowl that’s almost a smirk and the way his t-shirt buckles in all the right places? Good gawd. Excuse me for a minute…

What was I saying?

Oh, yeah… he was given an award. For aviation.

I’ll give all you media lovers who scream that he needs to stop flying because you think he’s crashed dozens of planes and can’t differentiate a runway from a taxiway a moment for that to sink in.

anyone have any chocolate chip cookies while we wait?

Alright, that’s enough time.

First, let’s address his so-called crashes.

The first “crash” was in a helicopter. Ford, in a student position at the time, was being instructed on autorotations to a power recovery by a certified flight instructor. The first attempt was a success, but on the second, the power did not come back in time to recover to a hovering position and the aircraft made a hard landing.

The incident occurred 18 years ago and the NTSB concluded that it was caused by the flight instructor’s “inadequate supervision of the flight.” In other words, not Ford’s fault.

The second “crash” was caused by an engine failure during takeoff in one of Ford’s planes, a Ryan PT-22 Recruit. I’m not sure what the public thinks he did to make that engine failure his fault, but, according to the NTSB report, it was not. His so-called crash was an “emergency landing,” and his life was saved thanks to his exceptional skills as a pilot.

Now… the taxiway thing.

Yeah, ok, on that one he goofed.

With the setting sun at the end of a runway and distracted by trying to avoid wake turbulence from a much larger aircraft (trust me, that’s not something you want to get caught in), I can in some ways see how it happened. But there really is no excuse. He made a mistake.

That said, it is important to note that, while this kind of event is uncommon, he’s far from the first pilot to accidentally land on a taxiway. Even I accidentally started lining up to one once during a night flight, and I know many pilots with similar stories. The only reason he made headlines is because he’s Harrison Freakin’ Ford.

Everyone makes mistakes. No pilot, or person, is perfect. How we behave and respond after our mistakes is what separates good people from bad ones, and in this case, good pilots from those who need to be grounded.

There are 5 Hazardous Attitudes in Aviation —

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Ford did not exhibit any of these after landing.

If you listen to the recording of his call to ATC, he sounded humbled, embarrassed, shaken. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I’m the schmuck who landed on the taxiway,” not, “I’M HARRISON FORD, I DO WHAT I WANT.”

Although he’d be welcome to with me…
I mean, if I wasn’t a married woman.
(sorry, honey)

For whatever reason, the public takes a sick joy in building people up and then tearing them down. Saying that Ford needs to quit flying because of this single incident is ignorant.

One argument I often hear is that he is too old to keep flying. It doesn’t work that way. His FAA Medical is just as good as mine. And just as good as my 83 year old friend, Olga, who not only still flies, but enjoys performing aerobatics in her bright yellow Decathlon named Sunshine.

Olga

It’s a real shame how the taxiway incident has clouded the general public’s perception of Ford and his many remarkable accomplishments in aviation. Thankfully, it hasn’t clouded that of the pilot community.

As I watched Ford speak that day, his humility was evident. He seemed almost embarrassed to be accepting the award, like he felt himself undeserving.

I was very honored and very reluctant to accept this award and the obligation of following in the footsteps of General Chuck Yeager (a previous recipient).”

But the reason why Ford was so deserving of this award, isn’t because of any character he’s played on TV, or because of his name or because of his sexy sexiness, it is because when he decided to become a pilot, he wasn’t just in it for himself.

According to him –

“I thought I could possibly be useful with my notoriety in carrying some of the water that needs to be brought, so people can understand the value of general aviation and the incredible benefit aviation has brought to our modern lives. It is my ambition, even after landing on the taxiway, to continue to be useful.” 

Since earning his wings, Ford has used his pilot skills for the greater good, most notably by assisting search & rescue missions in his Bell 407 helicopter. In 2000, he rescued a 20 year old hiker from a mountain in Wyoming. The following year, he flew a lost 13 year old Boy Scout to safety out of Yellowstone National Park.

From 2004 to 2009, he served as the Young Eagles Volunteer Chairman, an organization whose primary mission is to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation. Ford has personally flown more than 300 Young Eagles, giving them their first (and free) airplane ride.

9-15-16-2-million-harrison-Young-Eagles-960Harrison Ford gave the 2 millionth Young Eagle flight to 16 year old Jodie Gawhtrop at the 2016 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh event. Photo Credit: EAA

In addition to the above, he is active on Capitol Hill, frequently advocating for General Aviation.

Maybe, having never personally flown with him (YET! …you reading this, Mr Ford?!!), I shouldn’t definitively conclude that he is a “good” pilot. But he’s certainly a good person doing great things in the aviation community. And I’m not just saying that because he’s God’s Gift to Women.

No, seriously, I’m not.

He may play a hero on the big screen, but, more important is that he has become a hero in real life. And that’s something to add to the rock over his grave.

HARRISON FORD – ACTOR, AVIATOR, HERO

It is my sincere hope that, after more than 20 years of flying and contributing to the community, his recent incident and the bad publicity surrounding it do not scare him away from another 20 years or so of doing great things for aviation.

Ford concluded his speech as humbly as he began –

I’ve been asked to speak for 20 minutes (he was about 8 minutes in). I’ve made movies in which I didn’t speak for 20 minutes. But I’m more interested in hearing from you than I am from myself.”

He then gave the remainder of his time, generously, to his audience for questions.

~~~

 

Desiree Kocis is a private pilot out of Hanscom Field, MA (KBED). She is Secretary of the Eastern New England Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, volunteer Flight Coordinator for Above the Clouds, and a freelance aviation writer, with publications in AOPA Flight Training and Plane & Pilot magazines.

~~~

 

The Monkey (who I’m passing off at OSH if anyone is interested) grabbed a quick selfie…

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Ford was kind enough to take his picture with me (horrible pic of me, but a handsome one of him… as always)

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But even cooler was that he also signed my logbook…

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An entry I am honored to have and will forever cherish.

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Every Time I Land a Plane, I’m a Bad@ss

BAM, that’s how that shit is done!!!” I texted out shortly after landing in Norwood (KOWD) Sunday morning.

Every time I land a plane, I feel like a total badass. Every time I land a plane perfectly, or near perfectly – especially in gusty winds, I feel like a mega super badass.

Perfect-landing

MEME

Yesterday was another event for Above the Clouds. The skies were clear and the winds were forecast to be calm, so I decided to fly down. The plane apparently wanted to fly as bad as I did that morning… I barely put it full throttle before it reached rotation speed.

Yeehaw!” I said to the plane as I pulled back on the yoke. “Guess we’re going flyin’!”

Little did I know how much I’d be yeehawing by the end of the day.

The event went very well.  Sadly, a couple kids couldn’t make it – one with terminal cancer had to be rushed to the hospital the night before.

My kid was very special. He was an 11  year old boy. On his bio, it said that his goal was to become a businessman… he wanted to start his own lemonade stand and make lots of money. Cute, right? Grab some tissues…

He wanted to do this so that he could buy a house for his mom, one “they can’t take away from us this time.

He had a blast yesterday, though. He was very engaged in the entire process… from helping to create his own flight plan (he chose to fly over Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park), to preflighting the plane, to filling out his first logbook entry.

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After playing my part in the event, I decided to climb back on into my bird and head up to Nashua, NH for lunch.

bahstonCity of Boston off my wing tip… looks so small from the air. 

The winds had definitely made some changes in the few hours I’d been on the ground. When I got to KASH, they were at 16 knots, gusting to 19. Thankfully, they were mostly down the runway, but there was enough of a crosswind to make me Yeehaw! a bit through touchdown.

I was certainly feeling like a cowgirl that day!

My initial plan was to meet up with a couple other pilots, but one had to cancel and the other ended up having his parents and child with him, so dined separately.

As it seems to be lately, it was just me and the monkey.

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Fun fact about KASH – the lady who runs the diner is married to the man who runs the control tower. It’s a great place to stop if you’re in the area. They even have a nice little pilot shop to stroll around and buy stuff you absolutely don’t need, but want to buy because you are a pilot and you obviously need more paraphernalia stating such… coffee mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads, bumper stickers… you name it, they have it.

The winds had not even remotely relented when I got back up for my return to KBED. I took off pretty much sideways into them, then Yeehawed all the way home.

Despite weather not being as predicted… it never is in New England anyway… it was a fantastic day. Definitely a logbook entry I will cherish.

As for the monkey – one state left on the list, then it’s time for him to move along to the next pilot. Vermont, Vermont… brace yourself, you’re next!

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Night Flight with The Monkey

CLICK HERE for backstory on The Monkey.

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Flying… it’s definitely a drug. If I were to ever OD on something, I’d want it to be aviation.

I’ve been working ’round the clock the last few weeks. I’m passionate about what I do and am honored to play a key role in enhancing the safety of a national event. But it’s been exhausting. I’ve started to get cranky. More so than usual.

The Monkey, neglected and bored, was beginning to act out around the house… trashing the joint… slinging poop everywhere… drinking all my booze. The latter was unacceptable.

It was time for a fix. An aviation fix.

Since I’ve had The Monkey these last couple of months, I’ve gotten him down to an airport in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island. My goal is to get him to all of the New England states before passing him along, so this time I decided to head for Maine.

Maine is a beautiful state with so much to offer. It has, uh, snow. And, um…

Well, anyway, we threw together a quick flight plan to Portland, figuring that since it’s a city, kinda, it’ll at least have lights and maybe we’ll be able to see it to land.

~~~

First step before doing ANYTHING in New England is to hit a Dunkin Donuts. It’s actually a requirement for living  up here. If they catch you going more than a couple of days without frequenting a DD establishment, you get deported to some place called “Ohio.”

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First step before doing anything with The Monkey, on the other hand, is to – assuming one hasn’t already – go ahead and bring sexy back.

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of the above.

~~~

Once we got to the airport, the sun began to set. Made for a beautiful preflight. I was definitely excited to be getting back in the air.

sunset

The night couldn’t have been more perfect. Calm winds, clear skies and a quiet frequency.

night

And, as you can see, The Monkey actually maintained a pretty good attitude…

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It was my first time flying into a Class C airport as Pilot-in-Command. I figured there’d be a lot of big planes trying to intimidate my little plane. Or that the tower guys/gals would be screaming at me for getting in their way or messing up their perfectly organized pattern.

I was ten miles out and admittedly nervous when I made my initial call. “Here goes the shitstorm,” I thought, bracing myself –

He was obviously enraged and just masking it well. I’ve never even gotten clearance to land at my own airport that far out before. Maybe his boss was looming over him. So, I decided to test the waters again, this time with a request to brighten up the airport for my arrival. Everyone loves a special snowflake.

What a jerk.

Anyway, we decided that since the coffee hadn’t hit our bladders too hard yet and we both knew there was whiskey waiting for us back home (you work up a thirst when you fly), we’d just do a quick stop and go, then head back.

flight2

I made a pretty sweet landing on arrival at KBED… or as they say up here, a pretty wicked landing. Guess I didn’t have as much rust built up as I feared.

~~~

Unfortunately I did not get to partake in a celebratory beverage at the house. As usual, The Monkey beat me to it… ugh.

jack

It’s really getting to be about time for him to move along. Especially since I’m getting sick of picking him up from State Police HQ ever morning.

popo

Otherwise, it was a great night. I feel rejuvenated. Alive again. Like maybe I can get through these next couple weeks at work without completely losing it after all.

Maybe.

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