Me: Caribbean Fly Girl

Me flying in Puerto Rico today

I  first wanted to become a pilot when I started watching the cartoon Talespin in 1990. I was 11 years old. Trips to Oshkosh Airventure and watching the planes takeoff and land at our closest little airport, Timmerman, inspired me. Today I got to pilot a plane for the first time in the Caribbean, and it got me thinking about what it took to get to this point.

1991-355

My second flight EVER.

Above is a little photo of me of my 12th birthday. I got to see the cockpit! I was so excited! I eagerly told the two pilots that I wanted to be a pilot too. They laughed.  And one said I could work on this plane and bring them cookies. I nervously laughed too, not really understanding the sexist moment that just occurred.  They didn’t squash my fire. no no

A year later my middle school friend and I went to an informational meeting at Timmerman airport.  It was basic info for young people like us: what you need to earn your license, money and time involved. I loved it, but I knew it was too much money at the time.  After the meeting the head instructor came right up to me, looked at my sweat-shirt, and said gruffly, “You better not wear that here again!”

What was on my sweat-shirt? Olive branches around the USA and USSR flags, showing peace.  You see, my sister LisaMarie had just returned from a People-to-People trip to the USSR. The year was 1991 – Soviet Union would fall a couple months later. Maybe this guy was ex-military and hated the ‘reds’.  In any case, I felt puny and I have yet to set foot inside the terminal at Timmerman again. It’s 2016 now.  That’s a long time. That guy’s probably gone.  Or dead. And nobody cares about the Russians anymore. Sorry Russia.

2002. 22 years old…starting my flying lessons

The photo above is during my lessons at Morey in Madison. My boyfriend lent me money to reach my dream of being a pilot. What kinda boyfriend actually does that?? One you marry–haha

I earned my license in 13 months (and planned a wedding during that time too!).  I took a job as a line girl. Meaning – I got to wash all the oil, dirt and bugs off the airplanes, refuel them, mow the lawn, lean with all my might to open the old, frozen hanger doors, and tug (push and pull) the planes over uneven grass and mud. The airport was 70 years old. The fuel truck was from the 1960s.  It had no doors so I had to brush the snow off the seat in the winter, and pray it would start when I pressed the ignition button.  Most of the time I just flooded the engine! haha  oops.  Inside the building, the most direct path from the front office to the back shop hanger were we worked was through the men’s bathroom.  Yeah, I walked in on a guy once or twice. oops again.

I joined the 99s! It’s a club for female pilots started by Amelia Earhart herself. Met a bunch of awesome ladies.

I also had an old pilot guy tell me that if women were meant to fly, the sky would be pink. Ding dong. A) Up until WWII pink was a color for baby boys B) um, sunrise and sunset??

Call me Sully ’cause I hit a bird with my propeller.  Ok, bad analogy.  I didn’t do anything heroic except keep myself from tossing my cookies when the guts covered my entire windshield and I made my landing looking out the door window.  Aw, memories…

Since then I’ve flown a Cessna in the Swiss Alps, a glider and a Waco in Hawaii, and done a little aerobatics. Actually…I had another experience with the guy’s bathroom in an airport.  Sounds horrible – but no it’s funny.  I had to pee before our Alps flight, and didn’t want to be late, so I just dashed in the bathroom and when I exited the stall I noticed there were urinals in the bathroom. Wait, what? Yeah, as I was leaving the bano a dude gave me a funny look as he entered. well, I was excited and the sign on the door was in German  tee-hee

My view today

I was expecting smooth sailing, uh, flying today.  I knew I’d be a lone aviatrix among aviators.  This is nothing new. But Puerto Rican guys are very nice, not overly macho, and very respectful (not ONCE have I been cat called or looked up and down here. EVER! Way to go, hombres…)

I learned on a high wing Cessna from 1978. This was a 21st century low wing glass cockpit Piper Sport.

My maestro Jose was very nice.  Their practice area is where the UFO sighting were. And you need to fly around the big blimp. So pretty! I even saw my neighborhood! You realize just how small this island is up there.  And with so little air traffic on this end of the island, we had the whole southwest corner to ourselves.

By the way, the universal language for pilots on the radio is English.  So I get off easy with that! haha

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4 Responses to Me: Caribbean Fly Girl

  1. Britton says:

    That is so awesome! I got my license in CO after I finished High School. I’ve been half looking at airports here in PR to see if rentals are available and it seems scarce. Most of my 100 or so hours is in a 152 and I actually kind of like them. Simple, reliable and cheap. Pretty difficult to get in over your head as along as the weather is nice.

    Love the picture of 22 year old you starting your flying lessons. Brings back some really good memories when I learned to fly too.

    • Laura says:

      I didnt know you are a pilot too! haha cool. Trevor and I were talking about how we both like the old analogue cockpits rather than the new glass ones, but maybe we’ll get used to it

  2. Barbara Schutt says:

    Really inspiring that you persevered and got your license! I love all the photos. It would be very cool to see PR from a small plane.

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