Contract Airline Services


"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, August 23, 2013

Sharon Menear

Friday's Fabulous Flyer


Sharon Menear

From Flight Attendant to 
Airline Pilot to Award-Winning Author

"Once again it brings me the greatest joy for authors to share their stories. Why? They write themselves. Today we are meeting a wonderful lady, who 

My love affair with airplanes started when I was fifteen. My brother took me flying in a Piper Pacer before he shipped out on a US aircraft carrier. I was hooked but couldn’t afford lessons.


After college, I began a career as a Pan Am flight attendant. I earned enough money as a Pan Am flight attendant to afford lessons in the Pan Am Flying Club at New Tamiami Airport near Miami (1973). It only cost $50 to join the flying club. Pan Am crew schedulers scheduled the flying lessons, Pan Am pilots were the flight instructors, and Pan Am mechanics performed all the maintenance on the Cessna 150s and Cessna 172s. The airplane cost to students was $5/hr. for the C-150s and $7/hr. for the C-172s, and the flight instructors were $5/hr. You could never get a deal like that now.


I was based at JFK Airport in New York and flew to eighty-eight countries spanning the globe. Those were the glory days of the airline industry. Pan Am stewardesses were treated like movie stars—when I was in uniform, people stopped me on the street and asked for my autograph—no idea why. 

Airline pilots were revered as sky gods. Gourmet food was cooked to order in first class, and baked Alaska was served flaming. Hollywood legends and international tycoons were frequent passengers.


In the early 1970s, I transferred to Miami and joined the Pan Am Flying Club. Three months later, I earned my private pilot license. The Pan Am sky gods were kind to me. They let me hand fly a Boeing 707 for two hours over South America on a flight with few passengers and good weather. I also enjoyed flying a Boeing 747 en route from JFK to Frankfurt, Germany. The jumbo jet felt as steady as flying a big house. That was my light-bulb moment. I wanted to fly jet airliners.

When I began my quest, there were no female pilots with major airlines. I spent the next few years earning an instrument rating, commercial pilot license, multi-engine rating, and flight and ground instructor certificates, and logging flight time instructing and flying charter flights. After enough flight experience and a perfect score on the Airline Transport Pilot written test, I was the first woman hired by a small regional airline that was part of the Allegheny Commuter Network.


With no budget for flight simulators or flight training, the chief pilot employed the sink-or-swim method. I received a half-day ground school for each airplane type and one hour of flight training followed immediately by the flight test with an FAA examiner breathing down my neck. While I waited to takeoff for my checkride, an airplane crashed right in front of us, but no one was injured. The fed onboard was also an accident investigator. My chief pilot suggested we drop him off so he could investigate. The fed said the wreck would still be there when we finished. He didn’t want to miss a chance to put me through the ringer.


I loved my job as a commuter airline pilot flying Shorts 330s and 360s and STOL Twin Otter prop jets. On a typical day, I flew several round trips in the Shorts and then switched to the Twin Otter for a late trip to JFK or PHL. The Twin Otter was the most fun because it could takeoff and land in short distances and cruise at decent speed. My copilot job included plenty of experience flying in bad weather, hundreds of instrument approaches, and lots of landings. I was well prepared when the time came to apply to USAir a year later.


Thanks to good recommendations from my old boss at Pan Am and my chief pilot, I was granted an interview with USAir right before their big hiring wave in 1980. My first hurdle was a flight check in a DC-9 simulator. I’d never flown a jet airliner or simulator. After I passed the flight test, they told me I had flown well.

 

Next, I was taken to a conference room and grilled by six senior captains who asked me lots of questions that would be illegal in today’s world. I managed to convince them they could count on me to do a good job and not be a “pain-in-the-ass whiny broad like the first one they hired, who quit when her husband complained she was gone too much.” I told them if my husband disapproved of my pilot career, I’d find a new husband, which would be far easier than getting a pilot job with a major airline. They laughed. I won them over and then endured six hours of the strangest written tests I’ve ever taken. They saved the flight physical for last.


I was the only woman in the first new-hire class. We were all trained to be BAC 1-11 copilots, which involved some exciting late-night training in the actual airplane because the simulator was a primitive machine with visuals from a camera on a track over what looked like a toy train board with model towns, rivers, hills, and an airport. My training partner had been a Navy fighter pilot, and our instructor had been an Air Force fighter pilot—absolutely fearless, until we practiced the stalls.

We were at 15,000 ft., and his voice filled with tension as he reminded me our jet would lose 15,000 ft. in the first turn if it entered a spin. Translation: “If you screw this up, Sharon, we’re all gonna die!” Everyone survived.


After some time in the British airliner, I moved to copilot on the B727, the queen of the fleet. Pilots received one week of ground school followed by written and oral exams, then six days of flight-simulator training followed by the flight check. Back then, we also got some fun late-night training in the real aircraft because the simulator wasn’t approved for everything. Later, I flew copilot on the DC-9 and B737. After seven years as copilot, I earned my fourth stripe and flew as captain on the BAC 1-11, DC-9, and B737.


During my career, I also flew many antique and exotic experimental aircraft on my days off. I helped my husband restore antique airplanes and build experimental aircraft. My flight favorites were the fully aerobatic Bücker Jungmann biplane, Italian SIAI Marchetti SF260, Glassair III, Swearingen SX300, Russian Yak 52, and my Piper Cub Special, which played a role in my thriller novel, Deadstick Dawn, but that’s a story for the next blog..." 


Sharon's flying career was taken from her without warning. But her love of flight and passion for aviation continues on. Join me next Wednesday to see what this flying angel is up to after life clipped her wings.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

40 comments:

  1. Fascinating story! Always great to hear your gals' "survival stories"--aviation is hard enuf as it is without the dadblamed male ego getting in the way!

    I briefly talked to Sharon when my book 1st came out. Always wanted to do an interview with her. Kudos for getting to her 1st, lol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the kind comments. I'd be happy to do an interview with you.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the comment Eric!!!

      Delete
  2. You story is JUST SO AMAZING, Sharon!!! I am awed by what you have done in your life! And I loved reading the details about your journey as one of the first female jumbo jet pilots! BRAVA!

    Now I can't wait to read your airline thriller! WRITE ON!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Heather. I loved reading your romantic suspense novel, Forgive & Forget. You kept me up all night.

      Delete
    2. Nice to meet you Heather! Thank you so much for the comments!!!

      Delete
  3. Wow, what an amazing individual. Sharon shows anyone can live their dreams if you stay the course and keep reaching for your stars/goals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Piper Mama. You'll enjoy my thriller, DEADSTICK DAWN. There's an exciting scene involving some major stunts with a Piper Cub Special like the one I used to own.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Piper Mama! Soooo true!

      Delete
  4. Absolutely awesome story. Thank you for sharing Sharon. Hopefully smart young women will read your story and set their eyes towards the sky. Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sad to hear her career ended suddenly but inspired by this story. Love it how she still loves aviation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once aviation is in your blood it never leaves. As Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return."

      Delete
    2. So true... sad. But one door closes another opens. And she is running through full speed!

      Delete
  6. Great career you are an inspiration to us all!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Leslie. I was on the edge of my seat reading your paranormal thriller, ANGEL HEAT. It's awesome!

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the comment Leslie. Another author? Awesome!!!

      Delete
  7. Such an inspirational story! Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your great comment! I'm a bit internet challenged at the moment, but know that I read and appreciated your words of support.

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. Thank you for your great comment! I'm a bit internet challenged at the moment, but know that I read and appreciated your words of support.

      Delete
  9. Hi Sharon,

    Wish we had met along the way.

    In 1978 I rented airplanes from the Pan Am Flying Club at Tamiami. I knew from the first flight that I wanted to be an airline pilot. Pilot friends told me I was crazy, would never make it, was too old (35) and a woman. I ignored them, and kept woking to get all the ratings. Eventually bought an Aero Commander, got a 135 certificate, and flew charter out of MIA until the chief pilot at Marco Island Airways finally agreed to talk with me. He told me they had no openings, but called the very next morning and offered a slot in their Martin 404 ground school that was beginning in 3 days. (Later his secretary told me he'd been stomping around the office the night before saying that two things Marco would never have were women pilots or male flight attendents! Times change, and you and I helped them change.). Marco was a great little 121 operation, professionally run by competent, generous people, and I learned a lot about airline flying from them. In 1985 Orion Air sent me to Piedmont to train as an engineer on the 727, and Piedmont hired me 4 months later. Flew the B727 as FO, then Captain on the F28 and 737, then FO on the 767 and A330. In Jan 2000, I was in USAirway's second A330 class, and was told by Airbus that I was the first female in the US to be typed on it.

    Retired in 2002 because of the age 60 rule.

    Hope to meet you some day. We would have a lot to talk about!

    Linda Crush

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, Thank you for your great comment! I'm a bit internet challenged at the moment, but know that I read and appreciated your words of support.

      Delete
    2. Linda, I wish I'd met you back then. We have so much in common it's amazing. I'm glad you had such a great career.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete
  10. Sharon is amazing, inspiring, and a trailblazer in aviation!

    Wow, she has such an exciting story of personal aviation-history, passion, and a determination to succeed.

    Cool photos too!

    I'm waiting patiently for the second part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your great comment! I'm a bit internet challenged at the moment, but know that I read and appreciated your words of support.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the kind comments. I hope you enjoy my thriller, DEADSTICK DAWN.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete
  11. As a boy in the early 80´s I remember waiting for several hours at the boarding gate at BWI before getting on a plane to Miami for a short holiday. Those were the days of Ozark DC-9´s, Republic MD-80s, Eastern A300´s, Allegheny 330´s, and the USAir BAC1-11´s, which captured me the most. I did so many double takes that morning, watching the slightly different and loud-as-heck ¨Pocket Rockets¨ taxi to and from their gates. Sharon, you might have been on one of them, who knows. Those were great times. I set up a telescope in my backyard in Maryland after school, and my buddies would wonder what stars I would be looking at in broad daylight. I was readlly homing in on the contrails overhead, picking out the TWA L1011´s in front of them, on their journey from Florida to JFK.

    Thanks for those contrails.

    Can´t wait to read more on this story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment. We all want to support Sharon in the next stage of her life!

      Delete
    2. It's good to hear from a fellow aviation enthusiast. I hope your enjoy reading DEADSTICK DAWN.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete
  12. Sharon, your story is fascinating and reminds me of an Israeli flight attendant who also just acquired a commercial license. Words can not describe what an inspiration this has become for me and I will definitely think of your story as I continue my journey to achieve my ultimate goal/dream.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your great comment! I'm a bit internet challenged at the moment, but know that I read and appreciated your words of support.

      Delete
    2. Jeremy, I am honored to have been an inspiration for you. I hope you achieve your goals and dreams.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete
  13. Sharon, this is a fabulous blog and a great lead-in or follow-up to Dead Stick Dawn!

    Tina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment Sharon!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Tina. This is a lead-in to the other half of the story that includes how I wrote Deadstick Dawn, which appears in this blog on Wednesday, August 28.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete
  14. Loved this blog post, and great pix too. Kudos to Sharon, and to Karlene for spotlighting what sounds like a terrific new novel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Deborah. I love your hilarious books. Your opinion means a lot to me, coming from such an accomplished author.
      Sharon L. Menear

      Delete

Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!