So last Sunday was my first ever Fly-in. For the uninitiated, a fly-in is an event held at an airport, usually with food for a nominal fee, and it’s for pilots to literally fly in to get together and hang out. It’s pretty much a party for pilots. Sans alcohol, because it’s illegal to drink and fly, and we’re all getting high on our own special drug anyway on the way in and out. And yeah, it would probably be faster to drive than to go to the fuss of dragging the plane out of the hangar, fueling it up, yadda, yadda. So why the bother of flying if it’s easier to get there by car?
Because we can, of course!
Jill of course wants to get C-FLUG out to as many events as we can, to get awareness out among other pilots, and women who might potentially be interested in learning to fly. So I’m very much aware at these sort of events that I’m an ambassador of sorts, and try to be as outgoing as I can. There weren’t loads of people, so it wasn’t too bad. I had a pancake and sausages and orange juice, and Jill introduced me to some of the people she knew. I introduced myself to anyone I caught checking out C-FLUG.
You what’s awesome? Being at an event like this, and having people come up to you and go “Are you the pilot of this plane?” and getting to say, “Yup.” It’s hard to explain what that feels like. It’s not like normal everyday groups of people, where I say “I’m a pilot” and everyone is like O.o. Really? You’re a pilot? This is an event where most of the people there are pilots, and unlike the flight school, none of them know me. So it’s someone who doesn’t know me, guessing that I’m a pilot. There’s a certain amount of acceptance inherent in being asked that question in that particular way. I don’t have to convince them. They’re not surprised. They’re welcoming, an if anything congratulatory, and happy to have me among them. I think Jill and I might have been the only two female pilots there, but like I’ve said before, no one who knows aviation questions my ability to fly because I’m a woman.
Anyway, this fly-in was organized by the medivac helicopter group, STARS, so they had the helicopter come in and do a landing demonstration. They did a low pass over the runway, which was pretty cool, and then landed. Once I finished eating, I went to check it out. I went up to one of the crew and asked him “Okay, so which one of you is the pilot?”
He sighed and said, “They always want to talk to the pilot.”
So I went and found the pilot, and when he was done chatting with another guy, I climbed on the side of the helicopter to peek inside the cockpit and check out the controls. And I asked him “Okay, how does the helicopter fly?”
He asked me how detailed an explanation I wanted, and if he got too technical, to let him know.
I told him “I’m a fixed wing pilot. Proceed.”
Now, Nathan, my dearest husband, bless his soul, gets tired of me talking about aeroplanes. I get it. I get tired of hearing about his video games. I love it when people ask me questions about planes, and it’s even better when they know a little bit and I can start to fill in more for them, like the engine panel at Keycon, where some people who knew car engines were asking about how aeroplane engines were different, and asking about RPMs and stuff, and I had all those numbers off the top of my head. It’s awesome.
Well, when this helicopter pilot realized that someone who knew enough about engines and aerodynamics that it wouldn’t all fly over their head, wanted to hear him talk about his helicopter, I swear to god, his eyes lit up. And I got the how to fly a helicopter 101. Pretty much the equivalent to what they’d teach you on your first flying lesson in a fixed wing aircraft. It was neat, learned a lot of things I’d always kind of wondered about, like how does it turn, and how do you make it go forward.
I wonder if I get published, and then put helicopters in the sequel to Redwing, if I could write helicopter flying lessons off on my taxes as a business expense?
See, I think there is a cultural thing going on here, certainly across the English speaking world, and it’s this – if I go back thirty years,maybe twenty years ago, being a geek, loving all that technology, in fact being excited about: machines, Dungeons and Dragons, science, engines planes(!) etc. that all got slated mercilessly, people who loved all these things were marginalised.
But now the geek is out of the closet. Being a bit of a tech head, being enthusiastic about engineering, science, things that travel and fly, that’s all acceptable now, almost fashionable, which is great news for people who instinctively enjoy these things, and probably good news for women and girls who enjoy these things.
I’m hoping that my theory is right and it reflects a more general acceptance that people can do what they want to do, and also that the gender of the people doing what they want to do is pretty immaterial.
Geeky, sciency things, yeah, but being a pilot has pretty much always carried the label of “cool”. It’s like being the kid in high school that has a driver’s license and gets to drive all their friends around. It just generally wasn’t a label or stereotype associated with women.
But I’ve definitely felt nothing but acceptance from the aviation community. I’ve never felt this level of belonging in a group before.
They say a boat is ‘a hole in the water that you throw money into’.
A helicopter must be a man-made money tornado. Or I’d have one.
So I hear 🙂