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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.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Most Unusual Flight

31 years ago, I forked over my $15 to take my first introductory flight. I remember thinking, "They're going to pay me to do this?" I was hooked! There was absolutely nothing that I loved more than getting in that plane and taking her into the sky. The freedom. The view. The calmness.

I'd already decided to become an Airline Pilot, and after that first flight--- there would be nothing that could stop me. But not only a pilot--- I wanted a family too. Yes-- women can do it all! Can't we? Why not?

Oh, the answers to "why not" were many. Responsibility to the kids, to the family, to the home. How could a mother be out of town and leave her husband to babysit? How could the family survive without our cooking, and cleaning skills? What kind of mother would fly off and leave her kids?

Guilt. Exhaustion. Conflict.

I actually had a captain at a major airline, during an interview, say to me, "You haven't flown in three years, you don't appear to be a very dedicated pilot."

My response, "But sir, my kids were born in 83, 84, and 85, and I was in college during that time, and I..."

He interrupted me and said, "That wasn't a question, that was a statement." End of that interview.

Yes, the balancing act of motherhood and flying has been an exhausting challenge. There would be times I'd go to what I called my paid vacation, others called work, to rest. But the journey has been exciting, and continues to throw new surprises my way.

This year I had the opportunity to meet Mireille Goyer, the woman behind the Centennial Of Women Pilots. Mireille has been honoring the 100 year anniversary of the first licensed female pilot, Raymond De Laroche, by introducing women and girls to the gift of aviation. She opened the door for many. But for me as well.

Pilots stepped up. Aviation enthusiasts emerged. People came together to partake in our Fly It Forward event. Not once, not twice, but on three occasions energy rose in Seattle/Renton.

Thirty one years ago I took to the sky in a Cessna. Today I fly wide bodies worldwide. But my step back in time, coordinating our Fly It Forward events... Talking with the pilots.... Seeing young girls light up like I once had.... brought my life full circle. Remind me of what aviation is all about. It's more than the job, it's the people who sparkle when they see an airplane and who bend over backwards to share that gift with someone else.

December 31st, I took to the sky, with a skilled and daring instructor Shad Pipkin. 31 years later, my life has come full circle. I taxied a Cessna off the same ramp, and departed the same runway, that I had 31 years ago.

But I needed passengers! It was New Years Eve. The women were gone. There was nobody for me to fly. We called the other FBO's, we called the Tower... "Do you have any unlicensed women we can take flying?" The answer, "It's New Years Eve, everyone is gone."

Fortunately, a couple in BEFA, opened their phone and began calling friends. They found Marcella, who said she'd bring her daughters down. The sky was growing dark. I was supposed to be home to babysit my grandson. Mireille, Shad and Theresa had an opportunity to go for a helicopter ride if they could get to Boeing. The clock ticks, and we wait.

Marcela, Victoria, and Veronica

I took our final two passengers, Victoria and Veronica, for the last flight of 2010 in our Fly It forward Event, in hope of making Renton Airport the most female friendly airport in the world. The same airport that gave me life.

Mireille asked me to send her this story to enter in the most unusual flight of the year. If nothing else, it's definitely unique.

Happy Flying!

~Enjoy the Journey



  1. Then as an ex-Cessna pilot ad current jet pilot, you will appreciate the humor in this:

    On short final to land at McKinney airport, I heard the following exchange between the tower and a small Cessna 140:

    Tower: “Cessna 4GM, right downwind, you’re number 3 to land on runway 35, following a Lear Jet on left base. Caution wake turbulence, cleared to land”

    Cessna 4GM: “4GM, number 3 cleared to land, looking for the Lear”

    In the meantime, I landed and was exiting the runway.

    Cessna 4GM: “Tower, is that the Lear about to land?”

    Tower: “The Lear’s on a 1/2 mile final”

    4GM: “Oh, I wasn’t sure. Looks slow for a Lear”

    Tower: “Well, see if you can catch him!”

  2. It's amazing how far you and the industry have come from that horrible interview with that man. Times they are changing. You're a wonderful part of that change!

  3. D.B. This is so funny! And yes, I really do appreciate this. Thank you for making me smile today.

  4. Heather, Thank you so much! I'm amazed how far this industry has come and the opportunities for women. But every once in awhile something happens and you take stock and realize--- we're not there yet! But if we never give up, we will continue to make progress. I'm not giving up. :)
    Thanks for being my inspiration!

  5. Karlene, I love this story! I think it's fantastic that this initiative has rejuvinated in you the passion for GA. Congratulations on all your achievements, including your flying career, your success in the Centennial event and your flight on December 31st!!
    Lesley Page,

  6. Thank you so much Lesley! You motivated us beyond belief. I'm now wondering where my career will go. Who knows what the wind will bring.
    Happy New Year!!!


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