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

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, December 6, 2010

173 Women Took to the Sky at KRNT!

"After today, I know anything is possible," exclaimed a little girl.  And tears of joy flowed from a woman after her incredible experience in the sky.  Where do I start?  What pictures to I post? How do I describe the joy and excitement of our passengers, or thank all who made this day a reality?

Miracles happen when great people come together! 

We pulled off an incredible feat today--- nothing short of a miracle. This event could not have happened without our pilots, the ground support of BEFA, the effort in the control tower, the airport manager, and the women who worked non-stop running, documenting, and photographing. 

Unable to post every picture we took of our passengers, I've uploaded them to Face Book.  Please visit my Face Book page and leave your name on your picture.

Today, I'm thanking the people who helped.  I hope we got all your photos. If we missed any, and you have some--- please email me!

Wes, Mireille, Ryan

Wes McKechnie, the manager of BEFA enabled us to use their incredible facility. He moved planes, coordinated our effort and had the faith we could do this, and allowed us to try. He opened the BEFA list and enable correspondence to all, and made sure we were safe.

Mireille Goyer, the woman behind Centennial of Women Pilots drove down from Canada and spent her day documenting and logging our "171" female passengers who flew. What has Mireille done? She's the woman who created the Centennial of Women Pilots.

Ryan Zulauf, the airport manager who opened his door and pulled out his contact book when a crazy lady dropped into his office a few weeks ago, as the snow began to fall, and said, "We're going to make Renton airport the most female friend airport in the world!" He paved the way with the tower, and found two controllers for our event, came by to make sure we had everything we needed.

Shad, Austin, and Happy Passenger

Shad Pipkin, an instructor who gave his day at the dock helping with the float planes. He was the first person we met this morning at 0900, and the last person we said good night to at 1700, as he headed to a plane to take his student flying. He help set up, moved tables, worked all day--- the man of many talents. 

Austin Watson, a board member of BEFA, Boeing Engineer, who knows how to network. When Austin got involved, everything started happening. He spent hours contacting people on our behalf, sending emails, and communicating with the world.  If that wasn't enough, he spent the entire day flying his 172 on floats and making women smile.

Peter with two beautiful women

Peter Morton, our retired Boeing Executive, and Museum of Flight Trustee who loves aviation and continues to share the joy with the Young Eagles was amazing. He volunteered last minute to fly his Cirrus all day. Then he provided a power point presentation for our pilots with a route of flight, contacted the tower and coordinated communications for our group. He turned our touch and goes into a beautiful flight for the women. He organized the actual flying portion of our event, and made miracles happen.


Doug DeVries joined our group of fliers this morning. This amazing man soared in with his de Havilland Beaver and carried 5 passengers a time, multiple times. What has he done in his life? He invented the home-use ventilator when his father came down with ALS, later sold his company, and dove into aviation.  His adventures never cease. Apparently his plane had been totaled in the movie, 6 days 7 nights, after it crashed during a scene.  Doug purchased it, got an A&P and spent 7000 hours restoring it. He's taken some amazing adventures in this beautiful machine. Click on Great Arctic Air Adventure to read one such trip. 

More smiling faces and Tom

Tom Gwilym has been an been flying for 19 years and instructing for 16. He selflessly volunteered when he realized that we were encouraging men to help introduce women to the sky. Tom flew his 172 all day for us, and flew 33 women. Wow! He would have continued to fly, but someone needed his plane. 

Three really happy passengers and Mark

Mark Gaponoff emailed me yesterday to tell me he was available. He's a member of the Boeing Flying club, and rumor has it the only man who's a member of the 99's. He loves to fly, and he shared that experience with many today. One of our last planes to tie down.

Two happy passengers, Pilot Jay, Pat, and me.

Jay Sakas flew his Cessna 182 from Squim and joined our event. A retired NWA 747 captain, Jay has yet to retire. He's flying charter, instructing at Boeing, and busy rebuilding a Lituanica. An amazing story that will be told. A busy man took a huge part of his day to fly our passengers.

Pat Kassner, my mother. She came out early, donated her pot for cocoa, helped set up the room and greeted and name tagged guests as they arrived. Thank you mom for all your help. I really appreciate it.

Dick and very happy young ladies
 Dick's last Passengers of the Night

Dick Smith was amazing. And the reason this snowball began to roll. He was the first person who I asked if he'd like to fly,  and he said, "Yes! I can do that." And fly he did. All day long. He was the last person bring our three final passengers to safety at the end of the day--- his 18th flight.  These young ladies both foster/ adopted couldn't have been more excited.  Dick technically logged a night landing. He's a retired Alaska Airlines captain, and this morning he came over from teaching in the simulator at Boeing. His wife Linda was with us all day, too.  A wonderful lady who helped anywhere we needed it.

Emily, Karlene, Amanda  

Emily Winter Hiller flew all day and turned many young ladies into future helicopter pilots. She has about 1100 hours flying helicopters and her story is amazing. If you haven't read it, you should. She was last week's Friday Fabulous Flyer  She was our last pilot turning out the night when she flew over to Boeing at the end of her long day. 

Amanda Sargent worked for classic Helicopters, but today she moonlighted assisting loading and unloading all day. The day was beautiful, but it was cold. And Amanda spent it outside walking our ladies across the ramp, back and forth and waited patiently in between. 

And the day cannot be complete without thanking the women helping. 

Jean, me, Jay, Kathy

Jean Jones drove in from Tacoma and spent the entire day working at the desk, signing our young ladies up and assuring they had name tags. Jean is a retired NWA 747 captain and currently in natural health and wellness. 

Kathy McCullough is also a retired NWA 747 captain. She's spends her time writing, traveling and photographing. She drove in last night from Oregon and helped me get everything organized for the morning. She flew everywhere, taking pictures, organizing, loading... nothing she didn't do. 

 Glen with excited flyers

Glen Woolridge flew over from the opposite side of the field. My neighbor, he and his wife Annie joined us, too! Glen has been trying to get me to go flying for three years now. But with reserve, family, weather and a crazy schedule, I've yet to make it. Hopefully he won't give up! Today he helped incredibly by taking a multiple circuits around the pattern.

 Tom on the right

Tom Jones,  Jean's husband, spent the day on the dock freezing! He gave up his Sunday to help our event and loaded our passengers on our float planes. Without him, I'm sure we'd have bodies in the lake. 

Karlene and Bobbie

Bobbie Kahklen worked all day filling out certificates, signing people in and worked tirelessly helping in the command center. Who is this woman who wandered in, off the street, and said, "can I help?"  Bobbie works for the FAA, and at one time she was a controller in cities such as San Diego and Juneau.

Bonnie and Anne

Bonnie Dunbar arrived sometime in the day and stuffed envelopes, donating 20 tickets to the Museum of Flight! I was able to dash in and say hello, but didn't get my picture with this amazing women. Yes, she was our designated astronaut. We're grateful she dropped by and supported our event. 

Anne Simpson, a Delta A330 captain, who is active in everything aviation and science in the Seattle area began making phone calls for us a few days ago. She found Pilots Peter and Doug. Apparently, "when Anne asks," Doug and Peter "Can't say no."  We like that! Ann also donated an "Annual Membership to the Museum of Flight!"  Anne's husband, Charlie was also on the dock freezing. Charlie-- you escaped without a photo, but not without thanks. 

Finally... my family joined our event. I wish Krysta, Torrey, Dylan and Kohyn could have joined us too. 

Kalimar, Kadence, Dick, me, Kayla, Ryan, Miles

My final thanks are to my husband, Dick. He put up with the planning and organizing this event. Ran to my daughter's house to get a power chord for my camera early this morning.  Shopped for supplies. Loaded. Cleaned. And drove people back and forth to the lake. A Super Star!

Thank you everyone for making this an incredible day. You made so many dreams come true, and inspired many young women to take flight.

Mark, Thank you for my card holder, Mireille thank you for the scarf-- I will wear it with pride, and someone gave me a bracelet that says, "Expect Miracles."  Debbie was this you? The day was long, cold, but I wore it with pride. 

Debbie ... "Alias Superstar" 

Tomorrow, a wonderful letter from a future pilot--- Annika Sturgeon. Something you must read. 

Karlene Pilot, with Annika Future Pilot

0230 is approaching fast and I'm exhausted.  What am I doing up? Oh yeah-- blogging. 

Thank you everyone for making this an incredible day! 

Remember to post "what it felt like to fly" comments. Then check Wednesday and see if you won. 

Enjoy the Journey! 

~ Karlene


  1. Seen the photos on Facebook, what a fantastic day with some truely amazing people to make it happen.

    Does this mean that Renton is now the most female friendly airport in the world right now? It certainly has put Renton on the map!!

    Well done, keep up the great things that you do, sure there will be many little girls now want to be a pilot after yesterday!

    Jo xx

  2. Hi Jo, I'm thinking we have it right now! But, Lesley in Canada is going to try to beat us. We have a great lead. We'll know January 1st. Wish you could have made it over here. I tried. Thank you for all your support! Email me your address so I can send Lauren something.

  3. Looked like an awesome day! Can't wait to read that letter tomorrow!

  4. Simply amazing what you all managed to pull together. This must have been such an inspiring event for all those girls, and hopefully yesterday sparked something deep inside them, that will make aviation one of their deepest passions.

  5. Lauren Thank you! We tried to get you here.

    Thanks Vic!

    Cecilie, This was in credibly inspiring. I found it difficult to put into words. I have so much work to do to be a writer!

  6. THANK YOU so much for giving us the opportunity to fly yesterday. my sister and I had such a great time and the flight was so beautiful, truly a moving experience (my siter was the teary one!). We talked about flying lessons all the way home and for most of the evening. Mission Accomplished!!!!
    Janet Krueger

  7. I had so much fun yesterday, especially since I got to take the controls of the Beaver for a few minutes! I definitely wasn't expecting that, and it was an amazing experience. I loved flying in the helicopter too; Emily is an awesome pilot. But I think the best part was when my friend Elisa said "I want to do this now" and asked what she would have to do to get a license. There's nothing like getting other people interested in aviation. What a great day. :)

  8. Janet thank you so much. I couldn't get over how touched your sister was. Her emotions made my day. Thank you both for being there.

    Christine, I hope you had the happiest birthday ever! I am so sorry I didn't get a picture of you in the Beaver. I thought we had someone with a camera down there. One day you and Elisa will be flying together. And we'll find that beaver again.

  9. Hi Karlene,
    Thanks so much for organizing this event! My friends Karen, Deb, and I got to go in a Cessna 180, plus treated ourselves to our first helicopter ride with Emily. Awesome! We had soooo much fun. Thanks for organizing!
    - Linda Gwilym

  10. Thanks for organizing the event. It was an awesome day of flying! The weather couldn't have been better, and I managed to take up 33 women and one boy (ok we bent the rules a little, but he did have a cool flight jacket!).
    We need to do this every year how about 200 intros next time? :-)

    Tom - Pilot of Cessna 80847

  11. It's alright if it turns out there aren't any pictures. I'm still just as happy whether there are pictures or not because I'm definitely never going to forget it.

  12. What a great event!! My friend and I arrived and were almost immediately taken down to the water to ride in a float plane. She went first and then me (and sadly, no picture was taken of me) and it was so an awesome experience! As the daughter of a retired pilot I've flown hundreds of times but never in a plane so small. It was fun and beautiful and such a fun thing to do. The certificate I got will be going on my fridge after I show it to my dad!

  13. Got your Toms mixed up. First Tom should be Gwilym for the last name. You did have a lot of names to track!

    Tom - not the Jones type. ;-)

  14. Linda, I am so glad you had such a great time! So glad to meet you!

    And Tom, I was editing this morning, forgot to include Tom's last name... then inadvertently put it on yours. Lack of sleep and blogging not a good thing. Thank you again! 33 entries in our drawing.

  15. Laura I am so glad you had a great time! And sorry that we didn't get pictures of you. Who did your dad fly for? Thanks for joining us!

  16. Karlene,

    Had so much fun!! How old is too old to become a pilot or even a helicopter pilot? Anyway, I had a great time with my friends Karen and Linda. I just love being up in the sky! All of the female pilots were so enthusiastic, fun and inspirational. If you do something like this again I would be happy to help organize.

  17. Hi Karlene,

    Great to meet you yesterday, & thank you so much for organizing such an awesome event! I've always been nervous about flying, yet yesterday was so fun & exciting.

    Thanks to Dick, Emily, Tom & all the other pilots; & to everyone who contributed to making this a great experience!


  18. Deborah, you're never too old to become a pilot! I am so glad you had a great time. Thank you so much for joining us. It was great to meet you!

    Karen, It was so wonderful meeting you too! No kidding---the pilots made this happen. Double thanks to all.

  19. No "too old" but there is a "too young" (to solo at least). You can solo a plane at 16, and get a license at 17.
    If you can reach the pedals and see over the panel, you are old enough. My youngest student was 11 years old, but of course he was stuck with an instructor for a few years. ;-)


  20. For everyone who helped make yesterday a reality --

    I've lived my life close to the ground. While I've traveled on large carrier airplanes, it never occurred to me that I could get into a tiny airplane and take a trip, for no other "reason" than that it was fun. Now that I've been up in the air in such a tiny plane, I can't believe I never thought of doing it before!

    My little girls, 3 and 5, were too young to really understand how thrilling it was to cast oneself into the void, held up only by metal, glass, and the engineering and piloting knowhow of experienced and passionate people.

    But for me, as I was up in the sky in that tiny 4-seater Cessna, I felt a connection to the people throughout history who have cast themselves into that void.... to the people who sailed from one Polynesian island to another guided only by stars and wind... to the Russian "night witches" in World War II gliding low over the trees to accomplish their mission... and to all the brave people who have done amazing things throughout history, just because they believed they could.

    Thank you for sending my little girls and me up into the sky. What an amazing and inspirational experience!

  21. Thanks so much for a great experience, Karlene...LOVED IT! So did my friends, Claudia and Paula. I'm so glad to see Tom saying there's no "too old" to learn to fly. I might be thinking about this a while...

  22. Karlene - Congratulations!!!! on your successful event. You absolutely ROCK!!

    Great photos!!

    Uhm...only a few weeks to go and 60 women to fly to beat your record (with snow in the forecast for the next week)? Well, I can try!!

    And, Deborah, I started my flight lessons after my 50th birthday and now I fly my airplane to the Bahamas! And I know several people who started to fly after they retired - Never too old!

    Lesley in Canada

  23. Hi Karlene! I wanted to comment on the event after being a participant. It was life changing for both my daughter and her best friend. They loved it so much that Hannah will be applying for Aviation High School!! She loved the helicopter the best. Maria like both the plane and the helicopter and said she now wants to become a pilot so she can med-evac animals to care facilities! You did interview my daughter and maria and I and you wanted us to remind you that you did. I posted this on facebook as well but my email is You guys threw a GREAT AND AWESOME party!!

  24. Bravo to everyone who participated and made this happen. You people are dreammakers and that is no small thing. :-)

  25. What a great event Karlene!! I'm sad I missed it! I would love to go on a flight & help out with the next event.

    I'll be following your blog from now on so I won't miss out on something as cool as this! :)

    Thank you!!

  26. Tom, thanks for the never too old comment! That's my motto!

    Leukothea, your comment was so beautifully written. Yes... "just because they believed they could."

    Thank you Lesley!!! I'm afraid that the competition is on for the airport most woman friendly. The ladies and men who supported this effort, worked so hard on this day. An amazing feat... and now I must get them the title.

    Good luck my friend... but battle is on. LOL!!!
    You're wonderful!!

    Dawn, I am so happy that this event impacted your daughter and her friend like it did. Please tell them they can contact me anytime, if they have questions in the future.

    Heather, Thank you so much! I will be back among the living soon.

    Linda, Thank you so much. So... lets go fly!!!

    Kandyce, hang tight... I'm hoping we can get those of you who didn't fly, up in the air before the end of the year.

  27. Karlene, I'm incredibly grateful to you and all the folks who arranged this event - and especially to the photographer, who slipped in a photo of the whole family, and Tom (our pilot), and the airplane too!

    For my husband, a photo of our daughter on her first flight is a very big deal. Emiko's great grandfather had his license and loved to fly, and I know he would be very proud of what you have accomplished here. He would want his great granddaughter to have every opportunity to experience the joy of flying, as he did.

    Thanks for bringing that dream a little closer. She's not even two. She blew kisses to the other airplanes on the way down, and talked about the flight the whole way home. I know the experience will stay with her, and with us, for a long time to come.

    ~Nikki (& Emiko) Burns

  28. Thanks for the comments! Now I'm really inspired!

  29. Yeah! I too am inspired to fly small planes again.

  30. From Natalie: I really really liked it! It was really cool getting to fly over my Grandma's house and my school. I was scared at first and then after we were done I realized it was really fun and I should have sat in the front seat when my Mom told me too. Thank you for organizing this so I could fly.

  31. From Sandi: Karlene, it was so great to see you on Sunday. Thank you so much for organizing this awesome event. We had a great time and my Mom and Natalie loved their first flight in a small plane. I'm glad we could be a part of this event.

  32. Karlene,

    I have always wanted to fly in a float plane and it was incredible flying with Doug and his movie star Beaver, and I even got a few minutes at the controls which was a lot of fun! Flying with Emily in the helicopter offered an amazing view and was such a unique flying experience. I am really inspired by the pilots I met at the event and eagerly look forward to taking to the skies in 2011 to earn a private pilot's license. Thanks for organizing this amazing event.

  33. What a delight it was for me and my daughter to experince the wonder of flight.
    We were facinated to discover the history of the sea plane we flew in. Such as, Harrison Ford learning to fly the Beaver for the movie Six Days/Seven Nights as well as the anticpated PBS release of the Beaver's documented journey to reach the North Pole.
    I enjoyed flying so low that all of our surroundings were so vivid.
    You inspired me and my daughter that we as women can obtain anything we set our sites on.
    Thank you for gifting this to all the women and girls of our community. GIRL POWER :)

  34. Sandi, YOU are so welcome! I'm glad you were there too!

    Natalie--- remember to listen to your mother! :) Nothing like a front seat view.

    777Jupseat, 2011... Yeah! I'm going to start flying little planes again then too!

    Deborah-- Yeah on the Girl Power! Thank for being so patient when we started this event off.

  35. Thank you Karlene for making this event such an empowering experience for me. Even though my dad has his pilot license, never did I think that I could also until taking flight. This was my first time flying in a small plane, a sea plane at that! Absolutly Awesome Experience!

  36. Dana, you are so welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  37. Karlene, only you could pull this event off!! You are so inspiring, and what a role model for ALL of us! It was a thrill to ride along with "birthday girl" Christine and see her incredible enthusiasm as she had just solo'd for the first time 2 days before! She was honored with "taking" the controls of the Beaver, what an awesome thing for the pilot to let her do on her first flight in a float plane. It was touching to see the excitement on her face just waiting to get on to the tarmac!! What a great day this was!! We love you! Angelina and Maria

  38. Angelina and Maria, Thank you so much for joining us! I'm so glad you got to fly in the Beaver. What an exciting day that was. I will be dropping by to see you guys before I leave town. Love to you both!!! XOX Karlene


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