Friday's Fabulous Flyer!
For much of the public, TV shows like Flying Wild Alaska have eliminated much of the mystery surrounding Alaskan aviation and sparked an interest in the state’s stunningly rugged terrain, the exciting flying stories, and the lives of its bush pilots.
For many of the pilots who live there, though, Alaskan flying is more sobering than the daring near-misses shown on TV.
Meet Colleen Mondor: historian, pilot, writer, and more.
A pilot since she was eighteen, Colleen is a voracious historian at heart. She harbors a thriving interest in science fiction, especially the works of Ray Bradbury, and describes herself as “the family genealogist.” Her book, The Map of My Dead Pilots, describes her experiences working for a small commuter company in Fairbanks and details what really happens when the TV cameras aren’t watching.
She says of her book, “It has been interesting meeting people in the wake of my book’s release. So many people have ideas about what flying professionally in Alaska is like, and the power of those myths and misconceptions is really quite daunting. The bitter truth about the state’s aviation industry is that many of the accidents, among commercial operations in particular, are completely avoidable and should be avoided.”
However, the outside influences pressuring pilots to fly are felt even more strongly in our most northern state. “The pressure to fly – from passengers, the USPS, other companies, your own inner, demons, etc. – often makes bad choices seem like the only choices. I wrote Map to put a face on the business – to make people see how accidents happen and why they should not. It’s easy to watch TV and think it’s the wild west, but living there every day makes you realize that the frontier image is not worth dying for.”
Q: Where you live and what you do for a job. How did you get interested in aviation? Any pilots, or aviation people in your family?
A: I live in Fairbanks, AK and Anacortes, WA (avoiding AK during the colder months nowadays). I obtained a BS degree in Aviation Mgmt mostly because of my stepfather's affiliation with my college. He was career USAF and thought a management degree in the aviation industry was a smart profession.
I was mostly persuaded because Top Gun came out the summer I graduated from high school. Once I was in school, it was easy to stay, as the guys outnumbered the girls by a tremendous margin. I know none of this sounds particularly impressive, but when you are 17 and the school is in your hometown on the beach and you can keep surfing while you attend classes, well, it's easy to see why I went along with it!
Q: How did you get to where you are today? Would you have changed anything?
A: I couldn't plan this route if I tried. In retrospect, I wish I had majored in history first rather than get that degree the second time around, as it really is my first love and the assignments taught me how to be a better writer.
Q: What were your greatest obstacles and how did you conquer them?
A: Sheer stubbornness has gotten me through pretty much every tough spot to come my way. It's how I learned to catch a wave and fly and airplane and everything else. I just didn't quit.
Compliments of Christine Hollingsworth.
Colleen, I try not to regret or want a do over in my life. But... of the things I would do over would be a different degree myself.
That old saying... if I only knew.
Colleen, keep making history! Christine thank you for a great interview!
Enjoy the Journey!