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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sue Ballew

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

 Sue Ballew

Last week I met Sue at the Palo Alto Awards Banquet and what a dynamic woman she is! Such a fun night was had by all. And I'm thankful I had the opportunity to meet her (and her students) and the rest of the 99 group. And today you have the great opportunity to meet this dynamic flight instructor!

From Sue: 

"I graduated with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and immediately set out to pursue my passion for plants by starting an Interior Plantscaping company, Garden Habitats Inc. I received my Landscape Contracting License in 1982.

After owning and operating a successful, “award winning” Interior Plantscaping company for more than 20 years, providing the interior plants for some of the largest and most prestigious companies in Southern California, and working with some of the most creative and talented people in the business, I was looking for a new and exciting challenge.

I had always wanted to fly, but that image had been of “flying like superman”. Then one day while searching for this new challenge, I realized that maybe I could fulfill that dream, but in an airplane. So I was off to the airport, found the perfect instructor, and 5 months later in 1996, got my private pilots certificate. I joined the 99s – The International Organization of Women Pilots, and a whole new world opened up. I was flying everywhere, meeting new people, flying in air races, and having a blast.

Next came my instrument rating. Then in 1997 I decided it was time to sell my company and move on to new adventures. I was bitten by the “flying bug” and I proceeded to get several more ratings, including my instructor rating, taught flying for a year, got a Citation Jet Type Rating, then got hired by the airlines and moved to sunny Puerto Rico to fly to 25 destinations in the Caribbean. I was truly living my dream.

Then 911 happened and everything changed. I stayed at the airlines another two years, flew throughout Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba, and then resigned.

Realizing the industry changed after 911 and wasn't what I had hoped for, I left, only to discover that what I truly loved about aviation was flying small aircraft and the enthusiastic pilots and future pilots that can be found at local airports."

Sue also organizes monthly flyouts for one of the clubs which coincides with the Santa Clara Valley 99s flyouts. And anyone that wants to come is welcome! Check out the event at: Sky Trekker Flyouts. Sue says she usually has at least two students in her plane, so one flys out and the other back.

 Fly With a Friend!

"I try to introduce as many of my students to each other so they will have another student pilot to talk to while going through the learning process. Many of them continue to be friends and often fly together which keeps them in the air. "

I nabbed Sue's bio from her website as a time saving strategy, because the few minutes I carved out today I spent reading about all her awards, adventures, and viewing all the people she has helped reach their dreams on that website! Sue Ballew is an amazing woman.

Make sure you click HERE to read more.

If you have any questions about instructing or want to learn to fly, Sue is your woman!

Sue Ballew
“Live the Dream, Learn to Fly”
Gold Seal Flight Instructor
CFI of the Year 2012 - West Valley Flying Club
Professional Woman Pilot of the Year 2012 -
Southwest Section Ninety-Nines, Inc.
NAFI - Master Flight Instructor
Skytrekker Aviation 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Career Flight Instructors!

Success and The Love of Flying

Last week I attended the Palo Alto 99 awards banquet, and as Sue Ballew drove me back to my hotel, she told me about how busy she was as a flight instructor. 40-50 hours of flying a week for the previous two years. And when you're an independent contractor you can charge what you want. I'm thinking this is a great living for those who love to fly. I asked Sue if I could share the details of her career. Below is what she sent me: 

 West Valley Flying Club

"West Valley Flying Club has been in existence since 1972, over 40 years. It was the largest flying club in the US until recently. Way back in the beginning the members/CFIs decided to have the CFIs become independent contractors. The rest of the “Peninsula” has pretty much confirmed to that format.

What makes this work is that all of the operations are flying clubs. The members pay a monthly fee, usually between about $40 and $50. (WVFC has 850 members). This gives them access to all of the airplanes that are online. The majority of the airplanes are on leaseback from individual members. If the member needs training then they hire the CFI as an independent contractor. We teach with our own methods, are free to work as much or as little as we want, set our own schedules, and teach in whatever aircraft we choose. There is a small amount of oversight, and especially if there is a safety issue. West Valley Flying Club and most clubs monitor safety very closely.

So the clubs make money from the membership dues and aircraft rental – not out of the pocket of the CFI. We keep the entire fee. I, and I assume everyone else, charge from the beginning of the lesson until the end – unlike in the old days of charging for flight time only. (Sheesh – that was giving up our valuable time for nothing). My typical lessons are three hours each.

One of the big differences between our clubs and schools is that most of us generate our own leads. In this respect I have been very busy for close to 5 years, particularly because of my website, Skytrekker Aviation but also because I am active in the industry and now have a reputation. If someone just wants to have leads handed to them then they probably want to work at a school. But now that the economy has picked up, (we are in the heart of Silicon Valley also), lots of leads just come to the clubs. But the other thing is, the clubs have all of the CFIs out there generating business for them. So there is tons of online presence and networking.

There are four major clubs at Palo Alto airport with about 80 – 100 airplanes online. I teach at Advanced Flyers, San Carlos (which has three major clubs with maybe 50 airplanes online) and West Valley Flying ClubAdvantage Aviation  is also a large club in the area.

There are about 36 instructors at West Valley, with some teaching at other clubs. In total I would say there are probably about 80 active instructors on the Peninsula. (With a big caveat --- These are just my estimates)

There has been a big push by AOPA for flying clubs recently. Everyone thinks this is a way to reduce costs. I don’t know. I do know that this is a way to have really good instructors – career instructors, that can make a living and that stay. Many of the instructors in the Bay Area have been doing this for 10 – 20 – 30 years.

The instructor fees range from about $60 up to $90- $100 per/hour."

Enjoy the Journey! 
XOX Karlene

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Money For Flying!

Karen Johnson Solo Scholarship

The Ninety-Nines and EAA will award a $3,000 Karen Johnson Solo Scholarship to provide a young woman (age 16-20 at any time during 2015 calendar year) with financial support for flight training through her first solo and beyond. The application should include the name, address, email, cell phone, birthdate of the applicant along with a 500 word essay describing why the candidate wants to learn to fly, how she will apply her training, and her goals for the future. 
Applications must be submitted by email 
by July 7, 2015 to:
The scholarship will be awarded during the WomenVenture activities at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. The winner will be expected to provide a 400-1000 word essay to the scholarship committee at after her solo, sharing her training experiences and goals she has met. 
The scholarship is funded by the Ninety-Nines Inc. with support from the Ventura County Chapter of the Ninety-Nines and the 2014 Lightspeed Aviation Foundation Pilots Choice Award. The scholarship funds must be used by Sept 1, 2016. The scholarship honors the memory of Karen Johnson, a beloved member and chapter chair of the Ventura County Ninety-Nines, who perished in 2013 while flying frost control in Delano, California.

Susan Liebeler, International & Ventura County 99s Fundraising Chair
310-457-2926; 310-729-3350 (cell);

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Be The Captain Of Your Life

This young lady is the captain of hers: 

I will take all that I have learned from your book and from the conversations we had and apply it to my life. I have gained and absorbed so much and will continue rereading over and over again to always remember that the possibilities are endless and dreams do come true. 
"There are many things that I have learned number one being to believe in myself when everyone else don't and that includes family, friends, and everyone else in general. And fear is inevitable and I can't ever get away from it. I am still at a point of finding my true passion and my niche in life. What I wanted to do in the past was not what I envision doing now. I am just confused. 
 I just need not to be afraid to get out and try new and different things and who knows where I'll land. 
I know I will eventually encounter hardships, obstacles, and rejections of all kind. Every successful person has a history to tell. And even if my experiences slams in the face and brutally hurts my emotions, I must get up in the face of adversity and keep moving forward, keep doing and taking action because years down the road I'll regret never having tried and never accomplishing what I have always wanted to accomplish in my life because I did that to myself which is let the enemy--fear--conquer my life. I must admit that I was someone who used to live up to other's expectations and never caring about mine, but I realized now that it's not worth it and that I can't please everyone on this planet. I must look within myself and embrace my uniqueness and individuality. I think we all should."
Enjoy the Journey!
And remember... life is what you make of it!  
XO Karlene  

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memory Of...

 Those who gave their lives ...


 For the rest of us to live...

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Captain Dixie

Fridays Fabulous Flyer

Who Was Captain Dixie?  

This story came to me from a reader. A bit of editing prevailed to keep the name of the airline out of the picture for self preservation. But I loved the story. And this was the essence of the good ole days of airline flying when those boys had a whole lot of fun doing a job they loved. Play the video above and listen to the music as you continue to read.

"When I was a kid in Knoxville in the 60's, one of my favorite Christmas gifts was a VHF portable radio.. we had "all kinds" of traffic in those days, around 13-15 airliners a day, including the first French Caravelles in the US by United Airlines. Piedmont was a big player, but another Air Line of the South was the big player, too. Capital Airlines also flew to DC of course and Southern Airlines was our choice for two engine Martin 404 transportation.

So I listened to all these guys coming in and out of Knoxville; one that worked for the big Air Line of the South... when the DC-7's first flew there was called "Captain Dixie" by ATC. Why? He played Dixie on a harmonica during his initial transmission to Departure or Approach. It don't get no better does it... Air Line Captain Dixie coming in from Atlanta on long final..."


 Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taking Over the Plane!

Is this possible?
We have all heard snippets of the individual who claims he took control of aircraft systems. Did he? Or did he not?  A friend sent me addition news from his part of the world...

"More news, on the recently mid air hack of a United Airlines flight, as reported an individual "Chris Roberts " was, escorted off the flight, into airport police hands/ f.b.i after his list of tweets, causing the pilots to divert.

Appearing ,on our news channels today, reports that appeared in the Canadian press late Friday, of the said incident, where security advisor " Chris Roberts " , hacked into the on board oxygen system via his p.d.a., the Canadian press were told more of his activities from an f.b.I. report.

The, report, into "Chris Roberts" actions on the flight, were far more serious than originally stated, in the f.b.I. investigation, "Chris Roberts," said that, the oxygen system was not the only a.c system he had hacked into, that he, also got into others and on one separate flight, the "engine management system" taking over control of one engine and putting it into " climb mode".

In, the same report, " Chris Roberts" and of the investigation into, actions aboard the United flight, he said it was not the only, airline or aircraft model , he had hacked, he told f.b.I. investigators he had successfully hacked the following between 15 to 20 times.

Boeing 737/ 757 and Airbus 320

The report, also tells of how he would, squeeze wiggle the "seat electronic box" under his seat, and connect to the said aircraft's in - flight entertainment system, he would then connect a cable to this and his p.d.a.. Via this means, Roberts , was able to hack into other operating systems using default / passwords, Roberts said also, that when he had gained entry to a said system, that he overwrote the original pass code.

In , one incident, "Roberts" told investigators, how he gained entry to the planes " thrust management computer", which allowed him to take control any input, and that through this, "Roberts" ordered one engine into " climb mode" and send a.c. sideways as it flew, and he also gained access to monitor inputs by the flight crew in cockpit.

The, f.b.i. report, goes on to say, that an agent was sent to, Philadelphia, to meet the United flight in question from Chicago, and on inspection of seats 2a/2b, that, both seats " electronic box " had been partially damaged tampered with.

To date, Roberts, has not been charged by authorities."

What do you think? 

We need to assure our pilots know how to fly their planes in the event something breaks... or if they have to take back control! Brussels is a step in the process. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene