They’re Writing Stuff About Me Again!

Now that I have my full private license, I got another article about me on the Women in Aviation week website:

And I’ve been informed that the same article is going to be printed in COPA flight, the newspaper for the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, which is distributed to members across Canada. It’s kinda cool. And now I have the two beasts battling in my head again – the one that goes all shy when everyone’s looking at me, and the one that’s a terrible attention whore. So I’m just going to sit here and grin like an idiot.


Flight School Update: Taildragger Flying

I got to do my first Citabria solo flight on my birthday, August second. The wind was a good strong headwind, gusting up to fifteen knots, but it was mostly straight down the runway, and it was pretty much my sweet spot for wind conditions. Sandra and I went up together first, for a quick checkout, and it seemed like everything was just coming together that day. I did a few landings for her, and they were the best, most consistent landings I’ve done in the Citabria so far. She was happy with four, and sent me back up alone.

Harv’s Air linked an article today on twitter that was quite good, titled Why You Must Fly A Taildragger. It’s a rundown explaining the challenges of flying (mainly landing) a conventional gear aircraft (plane with a wheel on the tail instead of on the nose.) The point it makes it that planes with nose wheels, particularly Cessna 150’s  (and I imagine the 152 I learned on, since it’s nearly the same airframe) and 172’s, and Cherokees, are rather forgiving, and don’t force student pilots to develop piloting skills to the degree that a plane with conventional landing gear does. The precise attitude you get a Cessna 152 in at it lands – doesn’t really matter, as long as the main wheels touch first. They’re not a sensitive to a crosswind pushing the plane across the runway – what pilots call “drift”.

The taildraggers, like the Citabria, they just demand you be a lot more precise in learning to control how fast you’re going, power settings, attitude, controlling yaw – and how each of those elements interacts with the others. And then there’s knowing what to do, and being able to do it in time, without having to think about it, which are two different things. That point where it starts to come without thinking, where you start to react unconsciously, that’s what you need to be able to do. Like when you’re learning to drive, you have to pay so much more attention to everything you’re doing. But once you’ve been doing it for a while, you find yourself pulling into the driveway after daydreaming the entire trip, with no memory of how you got there. And studies have shown that drivers who are driving unconsciously like that, have fewer accidents.

I think I have more trouble with getting my skills to shift from conscious to that unconscious point than some people. I have other strengths, like being able to remember a lot of things, and good recall for remembering things when I need them, and being sensitive to noticing small things. But that getting everything together in the moment and reacting without thinking, I think it takes me a bit more practice to get that down than for others. Luckily, though, once I get it down I have it as well as anyone else.

I wonder if that might be something typical of people with Aspergers, and maybe that’s why clumsiness is one of the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers. It was never one of the criteria that I was diagnosed on – I was never clumsy enough for it to be noticeable, but then I also tend to be very careful, and tend to steady myself against things when I’m doing something. I climbed trees a lot, and was never afraid to crawl on top of something, but at the same time, I had a healthy fear of falling and always kept a good hold on what I was climbing on, didn’t go on anything that I thought had any chance of not holding my weight, and never relied entirely on my sense of balance to keep me from falling, with nothing to hold onto.

Which makes me wonder again, why flying doesn’t terrify me. It must be because I still have the plane to hold on to. Even when we had the door off the Citabria, which everyone else was horrified at, I was fine as long as I knew I was strapped in. I dunno. It seems to be a thing common to pilots.


Yesterday I went out to the Western Canada Aviation Museum, where one of the few B-17 bombers still flying in North America is on display for the week. They used to call the B-17 flying Fortress the Queen of the Air. Between the Flying Fortress and the Lancaster (which I saw when it came to Winnipeg three years ago.) There’s nothing quite like seeing those old war birds all chromed up. Elegant old ladies.

There was an hour long lineup to go inside the bomber, but I went early enough to stay in line. One of the crew members read us a poem as we waited, and I found a copy of it:

Tribute to the Queen

From Guadalcanal and the Phillipines at the start of WW2

to the hostile skies of Europe, thru miles of flak she flew.

At home at thirty thousand, majestic as a Queen,

a silver bird flown by men, many in their teens.

She carried war to the tyrants lair, to keep all nations free;

she flew thru flak and flame, as far as eye could see.

She slugged it out with Hitler’s best, brought her dead and wounded home.

Damaged and with engines out, it was often times alone.

Born of war but seeking peace, she carried valiant men

into the very jaws of death, and brought them home again.

Berlin, Frankfurt and countless others, courageous daylight raids,

and only God in Heaven knows the awesome price she paid.

She met death at 30,000, or on a tree top run.

A victim of ack-ack shell or Luftwaffe fighters gun.

Like all the men who flew her, for peace and hope she yearned.

But too often mission boards would read, “Failure to Return.”

Often plane and crew went down in a hostile place.

Others were missing in action and lost without a trace.

Her era’s in the past but the history that she’s made

must always be remembered and never be betrayed.

Generations have come and gone; enjoyed their hopes and dreams,

yet never paused in gratitude to this aging Silver Queen.

And the men who flew her, Heroes everyone,

Who stood between our nations shores and the tyrants mighty guns.

Yes, she’s tired and weary, a little aged and worn,

but she fought and bought their freedom, before most of them were born.

And we who still remember Tojo and Hitler’s dreams

Stand a little prouder…..
In the presence of the Queen.

Ivan Fail

She then went on to tell us some stories about the young men who flew these planes into combat. The awesome price she paid referred in particular to one day when one hundred B-17’s left England for Germany, each with a ten man crew, and one plane came back.

Another story she told was of a family who found a notebook in the bottom of a toolbox, written by an elderly family member who had been a crew member on a B-17. It began with details on how many bombs they left with on a particular day, and their target, and sometimes comments like “We really gave old Hitler hell today!” in lovely handwriting. As the pages went on though, the handwriting grew more careless, and there were notes like “We lost the new guy today – didn’t even know his name.” The family member who had written it had never spoken about his experiences – this was before PTSD was recognized as an issue with war vets.

The last story she told was about what they called “The Phantom Bomber.” Some farmers in a field, watched as a B-17 approached, dangerously low. They could see it was in trouble, descending to land in a field, probably damaged so badly it couldn’t hold altitude. They were sure the thing was going to crash horribly, but somehow it landed softly in a field nearby. They went to go help whatever crew was left alive in the plane, but when they got there, there was no one in the plane. The crew had jettisoned everything they could, but their parachutes were still there. The farmers supposed that the crew had bailed over the channel, and the plane had somehow just settled on the ground on it’s own. The crew was never found. I can’t help thinking myself that the plane was probably full of Gerry spies that buggered off as soon as they were on the ground, but who knows? Maybe the crew did bail, and maybe they made it out of the water and just never reported back to duty, knowing they’d only be sent back out again. After that story got out to other bomber crews though, they started telling one another, never bail out of a B-17, she’ll always get you home.

Anyway, here’s some pictures I took:

Being A Female Pilot

I’ve dealt with sexism a lot in the line of work I’ve been in for the last 9 years. That being technical support over the phone. I’m good at what I do. I get higher than average customer service scores, but I still get little old ladies that I overhear whispering to their spouses that “The boys do seem to know a little better than the women when it comes to these things” while I’m troubleshooting something with them. I’ve had women get on the phone and tell me without me saying anything but “Thank you for calling, my name is Lindsay, how may I help you?” that they didn’t want to speak to me, they wanted to speak to a man. And it’s always women saying these things. I’m sure the men think it, and it’s probably the reason I get more resistance from men as well as women than do my male colleagues, but they won’t say it out loud. I get called “Honey” and “Sweetie” by men on the phone. I think I got a marriage proposal once, or he might have just promised to come to my wedding, I can’t remember. That was when I fixed his TV after he swore at me for a half an hour.

Anyway, I’ve had a request for thoughts on my experiences being a female pilot. Well so far it’s not near so bad as being a female in tech support. But then, so far, I’m not dealing with the public. Like in tech support, my fellow pilots don’t doubt my abilities. Or, well, if they do, it’s legitimate because I’m still pretty new to it. I may have my licence, but I’m about as skilled a pilot as a kid that just got their drivers licence. They’re fine to drive as long as they’re careful and pay attention to what they’re doing, but you don’t so much want to see them headed straight for downtown in the big city the moment the papers are signed. They joke that you have a “license to learn” but it’s not really a joke. But that’s not sexism.

But fellow pilots have not treated me with any disrespect. In fact, it seems like once you get into aviation, fellow pilots crawl out of the woodwork, almost – people you knew a long time, but didn’t know they’d had their private licence at one point. And they’re all automatically your friend. One of the first people to encourage me to pursue it was one of the guys at work. When he mentioned he’d done a private license, and I wistfully commented how much I’d love to learn to fly, he said, well there’s a school I hear is good, you should go check it out, and suddenly it was a real thing, not abstract wishing anymore. There was a place, and a name of a school, and a person who it didn’t occur to him to think I couldn’t do it.

And then there was my dad, with his worrying that no one would hire me because I’m a woman. This is a man, keep in mind, who has been self employed his entire life, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what the phrase “affirmative action” means. He did agree to help me with co-signing student loans, though, so I like to think that his little outburst was a panicked oh-god-my-little-girl-is-going-out-to-do-something-dangerous-but-I-can’t-admit-I’m-worried-for-her-safety thing.

So, among people who know aeroplanes, things have been pretty amicable, short of one of the newer dispatchers asking me what he could do for me, in a way that made me think he thought I must be lost despite me walking confidently and purposefully toward the plane I was about to check out and take flying. But he might have said that to anyone he didn’t recognize – I can’t say, so I give people the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, my experiences so far are going to be coloured by two main things.

First, that I’m still in flight school and 99% of my interactions are with people getting paid to be nice to me. Not that I think any of them don’t believe in me as much as they do my fellow male students. It’s just when someone says, “Well obviously they’ll say that, they’re making money off of you,” I can’t deny that’s true.

The other thing I have to keep in mind is that St. Andrews recently won the title of “most female friendly airport”. It would be kind of sad if I were to be training at an airport with a title like that (and I understand Harv’s air was very much involved in that) and got slammed with sexism at every turn. So I also have to recognise that my experiences at St. Andrews may very well be more welcoming than at other airports.

So a lot of the anecdotes of sexism I know of come from other pilots. One, Cessna Chick, had a post one day about the reaction she got from some friends when she told them she was taking flight training. She’s dating a pilot, and these were the girlfriends and wives of his pilot friends, and their reaction was to smile and say “Oh, I went through that phase too.” Ugh.

The female instructors I’ve talked to all laugh about older male student who, the first time they showed up for lessons with them asked, “So where’s the instructor?” Sandra also told me about people asking her what she does for a living. When she says “I fly aeroplanes,” they have a tendency to answer “Oh, that must be exciting. What does your husband think of that?”

I’m sure I’ll get more of this stuff in the future. When I do, I’ll know how to deal with it – I’ve dealt with it before in tech support. But so far it’s been great. I’ve never been in such a supportive environment in my life.

Dating A Pilot

Reposting this because I think it’s awesome 😛 So annoying when people assume that “Pilot” automatically means male.

Cessna Chick

UPDATE to this blog post for those who want to know more about: Dating an Airline Pilot

Many of you may know already that I’m dating a regional airline pilot. I’ll actually tell you his name, Jake. I’m also just sick of writing “my boyfriend.” He is the reason why I’m interested in aviation, but we could break up and I’d still want to fly.

Now, the real reason I’m writing this post. When you date a pilot, you’re inducted into this special society of “pilot wives/girlfriends” which is nice in a way, because the lifestyle is different having your S.O. away for 4 days every week. But I find a lot of these women are prone to “pilot worship” their husband is GOD because he flies a plane. Him being a pilot is also always the excuse for any less-than-satisfactory-behavior. Just blame it on “oh, it’s a pilot thing.”

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Article Up On Women In Aviation Worldwide Week Site

Mirelle, from Women in Aviation Worldwide suggested I write an article for them. I thought for a while about what I should write – I mean, that’s the organization that had the First-To-Solo contest, so I should write about that right? But I thought, what’s the most important thing I have to say to the world about my involvement in aviation?

And I realized it’s something that my blog followers have already seen the blow by blow of as it was happening. When I was trying to get my medical certificate, I googled to see how other people with Aspergers had fared in the same process, and all I could find was an FAA article with an account of a commercial pilot’s medical certificate being revoked based on a new diagnosis of Aspergers. I felt pretty alone at the time, and wondered, has no one ever dealt with this before me?

If there had been an article like the one I wrote yesterday – if I could have found that in those weeks, I would have felt so much better. So I hope that if someone else in the world is going through the same thing, that they’ll find this and be comforted and reassured, and if there’s someone out there who thinks that they shouldn’t bother trying because they have Aspergers, that they’ll think again.

Anyway, here’s the link to the article: