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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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Michael Combs Inspires the World

Friday's Fabulous Flyer...

Michael did not have money. He did not know how to fly. And his health was so poor that he fought for life daily. His heart stopped twice over the span of three days, and his doctors did not believe he would survive. But none of this stopped him from living his life to the fullest. 


Living... he broke "5 world records" in a REMOS light sport aircraft, and is getting ready for another! How did he do this? He learned the secret of finding harmony in life. 

How did he make his dream to fly come true? 
Michael said, "I am a pilot!"

Michael landed in all 50 states in his Flight For the Human Spirit. But what makes this amazing is that he did this because of his spirit. An attitude that he would live his life to the fullest by using all his God given talents to become everything he could be. He believed in himself.

"It's never too late to follow your dreams"

Michael has written several books, composes music, painted hundreds of paintings, and has inspired thousands worldwide. He has inspired me. 

He tells us that we must all create the power to say, "I am!" That statement resonated within me. I wrote a children's book called, "I Can, Because I Am."  One of my daughters is illustrating it and we'll see the results this summer. But I had no idea on the power of that message until I listened to Michale's interview (below). I had wanted to buy a plane when I retired. But why do I have to wait? If I was not committed before... I am now. 


I listened to Michael tell us to use our talents. He paints, creates music and writes books. For those of you who know me, I began painting this year, too. We all receive messages in our life, when it's time to hear, we will. This is my time. Could it be yours too? 

Michaels messages are so powerful, and hit home on so many levels. I needed more, so I clicked on: and purchased his book, and a CD.

"Hope for the Human Spirit."

Michael Combs is a person living for a purpose. I think that purpose is to inspire us, and convey that we can be anything we want. We all we have that power within us, despite the limitations we think we have. He is the gift of opportunity that is knocking on your door today.

A New World Record? Coast to Coast! Believe it!

Michael joined my friend, Christina Nitschmann at Savvy Central Radio, and they discussed how he survived his heart issues. More than survival, how he is achieving his dreams. His secrets to success and survival skills are something that we can all use to make our lives profitable. Not to be confused with prosperity... An amazing analogy, and a concept that I had not thought of before listening to the interview. I will not tell any more secrets... you must listen to Michael for yourself.

"Michael is by far one of the most inspirational people I know. Showing by his life lived, that nothing is impossible if you go for it with all your heart and might"  Christina Nitschmann


Click: Michael Combs and become inspired!

What limitations have you placed on yourself? How will you change those to achieve your dreams? What lessons can you learn from Michael, and what can you share with the world? Today is about becoming inspired and sharing that inspiration with the world. 

Follow Michael on Twitter @Combscoach

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Thursday, June 27, 2013


T.H.ursday's with Tom Hill

There are a couple of things we do in the aviation business that are necessary but don't produce much reward. They also have lots of opportunity for failure. In the USAF, we say you can only "break even" in such situations. One thing that comes to mind is doing fly-bys. We've all seen them. They're common at the start of sporting events when, at the high note of the Star Spangled Banner, a flight of fighters miraculously appears overhead. It's great drama. There are cheers. People are yelling, screaming, clapping. It's awesome. Yet, hardly anyone I know who's never seen a fly-by quite understands the complexity of such a seemingly simple thing. After all, isn't it the military's bread and butter to be over a point at a certain time? You bet. 
 Next time you are traveling 600 feet per second, try to be over the given point at precisely the time when the singer wants to be dramatic with their version of the song. Oh - and add in the fish bowl of national TV. A few seconds early, you drown out the ending of the song. A few seconds late, the singer is done, packed up, and gone--you look like an afterthought. You can only be there on time. You can't be any more on time than on time. The best you can do is break even.

Backyard during a partial eclipse

More often than not, fly-bys are not done at sporting events. Many times we fly at memorial services. In some ways the stress level is so much higher. You may know the grieving family and all you want to do is do your best job, playing your part in ensuring the memorial service serves the family as best as it can. Nothing may be more important.

A few days after the Columbia accident in 2003 when I was the Operations Officer of the Test Pilot School, I was asked to organize a memorial Missing Man formation at the Edwards AFB service. The local NASA Dryden Flight Research Station folks couldn't put a four-ship together for many reasons, one of which was that they wanted as many of their folks as possible on the ground attending the service. We developed a plan to have three of our T-38's with a single NASA F-18 in the #3 position do the Missing Man fly-up when overhead at the outdoor service.

I assigned the project to one of my great captains, who didn't have much experience doing such events but certainly was capable enough. I decided to fly as #4 to be out there "just in case.”

One of the challenges of fly-by's is you can't make up time. As fast as fighter-type aircraft are, there's only so much speed you can add or take off while still meeting all the rules and not breaking the laws of physics. Add on the unknown qualities of speakers and singers and these fly-bys become a lot like performing a play with no rehearsal. What helps is we cheat. First, we have a guy on the ground with the script. He keeps us updated as to how the service is progressing. Next, we plan a route that allows us to add or cut off distance at strategic points. When flying at six miles a minute, if you're late and need to cutoff a minute, you cutoff a mile. If you're early and need to add a minute, you add a mile to your route. With your spy on the ground, you note little milestones on the route to verify you're on the right point based on how the service is going. Instead of speeding up or slowing down, you have more options if you use geometry to add or subtract distance.

A perfect fly-by is when you sail overhead at the right moment, very nonchalant like. Just like a duck that looks calm on the surface of the water but is paddling like crazy underneath, we only want the crowd to see us calmly execute. Inevitably, nothing goes according to plan with these things, meaning we're paddling like crazy. This fly-by was no different.

My lead did a great job planning and briefing the mission. The NASA F-18 pilot, the guy doing the fly-up, was well known to us. We had flown together many times before. We were very comfortable with the plan, which included many contingencies we hoped would never happen--i.e., not having four aircraft, weather being a factor, the timing being completely off, yadayada. 
Sunrise on Midway

The absolute last “what-if” situation we briefed was when to do the fly-up: when precisely was the F-18 going to pull-up as the Missing Man into the sky, to pay tribute to the lost astronauts? You see, timing for the fly-up was important. Having it too early meant the crowd couldn't see it or was too far away. Having it too late meant it was straight over-head, or worse, behind the crowd. No matter what, we needed to have the F-18 pull-up into the sky at the right point on the ground. To make this harder, as a wingman in formation you have very little awareness of where you are on the ground. That means you need a radio call from the lead with a backup call from the others just at the right moment to tell the Missing Man to pull-up. When you’re moving at 600 ft/sec, timing is really important.

The takeoff was about the only thing that went according to plan. Just after airborne, it all went out the window. We held, waiting for the service to start. Then, the service didn't go on plan. In the middle of the route, we had to hold again. My flight lead sounded a little frustrated. I couldn't blame him. I began to worry whether we had enough gas for more holding and still do the fly-by.

Eventually, we rush in on the final leg. "You're late!" Damn, we have to push it up. The three wingmen are holding on. Afterburner is selected to get up to speed. All that pre-mission planning isn’t useful. All we have is speed to arrive on time. "On time,” the throttles come back to idle. The speed brakes come out. The formation is a mess, the wingmen bouncing all over the place due to all the sudden changes in our speed. Fortunately, we're too far to be seen. The duck is paddling as hard as it can.

Amazingly, we're just arriving at the service when the formation calms down--we’re in position. Friends in the crowd tell us later we look perfect--the duck is calm. I get a quick thought: "I can't believe this is all going to work out!" Arriving at the pull-up point, the lead calls "Pull-up!" Nothing. The F-18 does nothing. It's stuck there on the wing. One or two seconds later, #2 and I mash our mics, "PULL-UP!" I'm desperate, willing it to fly away. Another second, he's gone. The F-18 flies out of view into the sky. Darn!!

After all that, after all the changes and everything, we arrived on time at the right point only to miss the fly-up. I'm dejected. I'm thinking we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. We had it, then lost it.

Back at ops, we're all quiet. I'm thinking about how to guide my guys through this so there's a positive learning point. Eventually, people begin to trickle in from the service. I ask one of my folks who attended the service, "How did it look?" "You guys looked great. Umm..." she tapers off and thinks, "how did you do that with the moon?" "The moon?" I ask, a bit confused. "Ya, the moon. You flew right overhead, which I thought was a little late for the pull up. Then, we're looking straight up with the moon in the background when the F-18 pulls right towards it. How did you figure out when to pull right into the moon? It looked great and especially appropriate since this was a NASA memorial." I had no answer.

To this day I’m still amazed how that worked out. In flight, I went in seconds from full elation making the pull up point on time and in formation, to complete dejection from having screwed up. Then, out of the blue comes this fortunate set of circumstances where it all worked out. I could not have planned that.

I am absolutely a firm believer in saving luck for those times when needed. (See last week's article.) I am also sure that if we hadn't done the other mission planning we would have missed something else and never would have had an opportunity to "fly into the moon." Still, I will not look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say. I just feel fortunate to break even.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lesson's Learned from the Airlines

Last week I read a great post by Brent Owens, Why Do We Suck at Being Safe? He pointed out the conflict with the pilot personality and what it takes to be safe. Yes... there is a huge disconnect between the pilot and their innate behavior. 


Flight Reminders:

Safety is a choice. It's the ability to focus on the task at hand and not allow your mind to wander. It means understanding the threats are everywhere and learning to mitigate them. The airlines use the term Threat and Error management. This is something that must transport to the general aviation world. 

Threats do not care if you have one person on your plane, or 300. But your family and friends care. 


And now the FAA is talking about the Startle Effect.

There have been many times I have seen a pilot startle. It has nothing to do with the enormity of the situation, but everything to do with the mind wandering. I have flown with a captain who startled when the power reduced (as it should have) and she jumped, and grabbed for the thrust levers. Her mind was not in the plane prior to that. The power reduction brought her back.

A captain spent 20 minutes starting an engine with a manual start valve procedure on a 727. When we started the second engine, as the fuel increased, he startled and inadvertently shutdown the engine with the start valve failure. The FAA was on board, and obviously his head was not with the starting engine...but someplace else. 

I flew with a captain who was asleep with his eyes open on final. When he did not respond to my standard callouts, I landed his plane. When we touched down... he startled. Where was he?

This stuff is very real. The benefit that commercial aviators have over general aviation world is that we have each other for backup. You have yourself. Well... that and ATC, mechanics, FBOs...etc. The resources are there, you just have to use them. And then when the devil and angel are sitting on your shoulders... it's up to you to make the right decision. 

Always ask yourself this... "Is it worth my life?"

What threats can you share with your flying friends? We're all in this together, and can learn from each other.

Be Safe and Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Connecting Kids to Aviators

Airpark TV Kid’s Show

The world is moving full circle for me... Perhaps it was watching the screening of Planes, or meeting all the ladies in the Air Race Classic, or the fact my middle daughter just bought a house a block from the Bend Airport.  But when Tony Pfau emailed about AirPark, that was the final straw. 

I want to buy a plane! I am going to try to find my old Aztec and paint it fun for the kids, naming it after a character from one of my children's book (coming soon), and flying it to airshows! Going back to my roots. General Aviation is too much fun to not be in the middle of it. 

 Tony Pfau

More about AirPark from Tony Pfau:

"There is no question that aviators played a huge role into the shaping of this great country. Their winning attitude, their right stuff, and the often overlooked, spirit of encouragement, have made a difference in our world and many a youth’s life.

Aviators, as a group, generously reach out to youth passing on the spirit of that inspires one to reach for new heights, and get there. That is one of the "good things life is made of…", the spirit, that award winning and seasoned producer Tony Pfau seeks to capture and get to the screen with the kids TV show all about aviation, Airpark TV.

The children’s TV show, Airpark, will consist of fun and exciting segments designed to engage and captivate youth, generate an interest in aviation, explore aviation jobs, and connect kids to the aviators. There is even a reality segment that will take the audience on the journey of youth getting to their first flight, then later, catching up with them as they continued on in aviation.

The show would be natural complement to existing youth outreach programs, guiding audiences to groups such as EAA’s Young Eagles where they get involved with aviation & activities.
The plan is for the show to be hosted by real teen pilot mentors and other kids and real aviators. The sequences are all being designed to entertain, inspire, educate and captivate youth about aviation. The producer hopes to get the show available through a variety of distribution channels including to the iPad® screens. There are seven regular segments being developed as well as special feature segments.

One of the special feature segments being developed is one to reach out to young girls. That segment would have female teen and adult pilots working with younger girls in a special workshop and their first flights. These segments are planned to help inspire girls too, showing that aviation is not just for the boys.

The idea was inspired by Tony’s desire to create good family entertainment and something cool for kids. Drawing on his experiences in motion picture aerial production and different projects about aviation a while back, the idea was born. Then, last year he read the memoirs written by Michael A. Davis about his days growing up at a local airfield. Visiting the colorful past in those memoirs, Tony decided it was time to blow the dust off the file, take some chances to try and get this kid’s show into production.

With the enthusiasm of a Buzz Lightyear, Tony seeks to start spreading some more of the aviator’s "right stuff.” Tony explains "…I really hope to offset the constant barrage of bad influence on our kids by creating good healthy entertainment that will inspire, pass on the winning attitude of aviators, foster attitudes for success, and bring something good to lives of kids and their families, and our society."

Emmy award winning producer Sheri Kaz, loved the idea so much, she offered to come on board with the pilot effort before Tony was even halfway through with the pitch. Tony & Sheri had worked together many times before including on an award winning family feature film "Moosie". They have already been out filming some material at Young Eagle's events and now working on the creative development.

Real television production is not cheap. In order to get the project produced to professional standards it takes enough money to do right. The first phase of crowd fundraising using IndieGogo started in June. The link, , will go to the fundraising site. The production is also seeking segment or show sponsors as well as advertisers. The goal is to get a spectacular pilot episode done that can be used rally more support, sponsors, advertisers to make a full weekly series, digital feed a reality. 

The producers hope to explore ways to get the show into production much like the way “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom" series was produced, where the show has one main sponsor.

But right off the bat, the show could immediately be made available to different aviation groups and schools as another tool to reach out to kids. To find out more, visit the project website is at AirPark."

Time to brainstorm: What can you do to help inspire children, and share the love of general aviation? Become a part of AirPark... and spread the word. 

Follow AirPark on Twitter by clicking HERE.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Monday, June 24, 2013

Flying Home....

Monday Motivation....

"When you fly down the freeway of life, 
make sure you take time to enjoy the journey!"

We're home! 3015 mile journey and we landed in our driveway just minutes before midnight, ten days after the journey began. 13.5 hours on road today... but I can do anything for 13.5 hours!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Friday, June 21, 2013

Aviation History: Friday's Fabulous Flyer

The year... 1912. 
The city... Palms California. 
The company... Bennett Aero

The Ad...

"Young lady to learn to fly 
for exhibition purposes"

There were 50 applicants and the woman selected became the first aviatrix on the West Coast. In addition to the her being the first woman to fly in California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Canada, she also set the woman's altitude record in 1913.

Who is she, and how high did she fly? 

I'm headed to Truckee California today to babysit Miles and Ellis for a couple days. The road trip continues... 

Enjoy the journey
XO Karlene  

Thursday, June 20, 2013


T.H.ursdays with Tom Hill

Since I've started writing for Flight To Success, I have described a couple of close calls. For the uninitiated, you might think that, based on the number of these stories, and with respect to all the other things I've been writing about, close calls are an everyday event. Far from it. In the span of a 30 year aviation career, I have collected plenty of "there I was" stories. But that's simply a matter of exposure. The more you are exposed to the wild nature of aviation, the more probability you will experience first hand how fickle aviation can be. Because of the inevitability of close-calls, I have developed a philosophy: the Theory of Limited Luck.
 A leftover Thunderstorm at Tom's Office
In a nutshell, I figure you are only supplied so much luck. Do you want to use your limited supply of luck needlessly? Of course, your answer is no. This should lead to a certain perspective. I think I need to save as much luck as possible for those times when I unknowingly do stupid things or stuff just happens beyond my control. The reality is, bad stuff will happen to you. The question is, will you be depending on luck to get you out of it?

Here's another reality: There are aviators out there who knowingly live on the edge of the rules and common sense. They knowingly put themselves or others at increased risk by constantly operating beyond the edge of what's allowed. When there is a choice, they may say, "Well, the rules don't say I can't do it!" Then, they will inevitably be the ones to do it. Mostly, they leap before looking. Mostly, their risk management is done as an after thought and it's something along the lines of, "Well, nothing bad happened so it must be okay." I believe the odds will catch up to those guys. It's only a matter of time.

All those times you do your best job as an aviator are saving your luck for the times when you will really need it. All that boring effort fuel planning, checking the weather at your destination and at your alternates, having backup plans and options - it all pays off. Instead of hoping Lady Luck will save your bacon when you barely load enough gas to complete the mission, you don't even test her because you double and triple checked your calculations.

I think non-aviators who see complex flights come together flawlessly and (seemingly) effortlessly have no idea of the true energy required to make such things happen. Because of superior success of making a flight operation work perfectly and with no raised heart-rates, bean-counters may begin to wonder why they spend so much on training, planning, and preparation. In reality, training, planning, and preparation are precisely the reason an operation IS successful. Sometimes, it's really difficult to point out why they're important. Then, when the cuts happen, meaning you can't spend the time to be the best aviator you can be, it's only a matter of time before your limited bag of luck runs out.

I had an instructor in Navigator Training tell me a story when I was new to the whole aviation business. He stood at the front of our class with his arms stretched out like he was holding two bags. He said, "The bag in my right hand is full of luck. Every time you fly, with every mistake you make, a little luck comes out of the luck bag. In the other bag is your air-sense. It's empty. You have no air-sense. You're learning to fly and learning the art of aviation. Every time you fly and you do the right thing, your air-sense bag is filling. Eventually, your luck bag will become empty from a life of inexplicable stuff just happening. You can't predict it. It's not the same for everyone. But, it will happen. Your luck bag will be empty. Hopefully by then, your air-sense bag is full enough to bring you home."



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Where Dreams Come True

Disneyland is more than the rides, the characters, and exhaustion. It's a place where imaginations soar, and dreams come true. And nothing is beyond possibility in the land of imagination.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Road Trip Continues....Birthdays...

The adventures never end. And today the car behaved. No Service lights. She shifted down gears for the hills. And...nobody has had as much fun watching their mileage flip over to 200000.0 as I did! I even looked for a theme song... rapidly flipping channels we found one, but I didn't know the name. Something Crazy.

We Broke 200000 and She did NOT Break!

The question of the day.... What bumper stickers? Well... here you go. The funny story is that when my friend Kathy Obrien, Alias NWA 747 second officer retired, had turned 50, someone made her "Kathy is 50" bumper stickers. The mailman was giving them out in Lahaina. And I grabbed a few. Not only did my car have one, but I proceeded to stick them all over the world. And send her photos. 

10 years later, I had picked Kathy up at that airport and gave her ride downtown. We visited for awhile, I hugged her good bye and she went on her trip and I returned home. About two months later I was in my front yard, and my neighbor yelled, "Karlene, when did you turn 50?"

I said, "A few months ago why?"
She said, "Nice sticker."

At that time I walked around my car and looked at the bumper. I laughed so hard. She got me good. This by far was my best 50th birthday surprise ever. And our friend Robin was in on the caper. They pulled it off and kept it quiet.

Does anyone know what this other sticker means? 
Yes...Kathy stuck this too.

 What is your funniest birthday surprise?  
Speaking of which Capn Aux is turning 51 today. 
 Wish him a Happy Birthday!

And this is why were are in Disneyland!

Celebrating Kadence's 5th Birthday!
It happened in April, but good things take time to plan.

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Monday, June 17, 2013

Road Trip...

"Listen to the soul
within for it will guide you
to places you never dared to
go and to exactly where
- you need to be."

~ by Eleesha,
Author of - The Soul Whisperer

Saturday we started our road trip... and headed East. Stopped in Selah WA and said happy father's day to my dad. Then pressed on to Pasco for the BBQ with the ARC racers, who will depart for their adventure tomorrow. We drove to Wasco Oregon to see Kathy and Kevin. Stopped in Redmond to say hi to Heather. Dropped into Bend to check out our daughters new home... and on down to California. 

The good ole suburban is on 199799.9 miles. Tomorrow we will break 200,000. But... I say "break" with caution, as she's been acting up ever since Pasco. But she a good old girl and if we can make it to Los Angeles, we'll have her looked at while we play in Disneyland with our eldest daughter and eldest granddaughter.

Departure Day

Pasco/Columbia River

Team Wild Mama  And NDU Ladies!

 Kevin and Kathy on their Farm
"Thanks for Brunch"

Heather in my favorite store! 

Kayla and Ryan's New home
Happy Father's Day Dick! 

 Mount Shasta


We spent the night in Willows last night. We hadn't planned on stopping there, but I saw a Holiday Inn Express next door to a Starbucks, and the car drove itself off the freeway exit. This is exactly where we needed to be. 453 miles to go today. We can do anything for 453 miles. And... they put us in the Presidential suite. Life is good.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

PS... I have two bumper stickers on my suburban... with a funny story attached. Take a guess what they say...Answer tomorrow. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Women of The Air Race Classic

Friday Flyers...  

In memory of one of our racer's brother... An Air Force pilot whose RF-4 j crashed during an airshow.

This is the final Friday before the Air Race Classic begins. And the excitement mounts... I am giving a book away to the person who guesses the winner. Details at the end of this post.

Barbara Goodwin and Maureen Kenney

Barbara Good win and Maureen Kenney
Barbara Goodwin and teammate, Maureen Kenney along with 96 other women will fly across the country as they compete in the 2013 Air Race Classic.

The race begins June 18th in Pasco, Washington and spans over 2,128 nautical-miles. I will be heading to Pasco tomorrow and stop directly at the airport. Kids day will be well underway. We can meet the racers, and participate in all sorts of fun activities.

Barbara Goodwin is back for her tenth ARC. She is a Commercial pilot with single-engine land, flight instructor and basic ground instructor credentials and has logged 2,918 hours. As retired middle school math and science teacher, she is now a Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) out of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Why does Barbara fly?

“I fly the ARC for fun, friends and skill-building.” During the 2010 race, on their first leg, her vacuum system failed in Georgia. The airplane mechanic was also the town emergency medical technician, and they were delayed Waycross for 36 hours. 
Barbara is active in multiple volunteer groups, including the Young Eagles, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA); the Air Museum at Kalamazoo Airport; the Michigan chapter of the Ninety-Nines, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and Women in Aviation International (WIA), where she is a member at-large. Her husband, Robert, is also a pilot. When she’s not flying, Barbara enjoys gardening and travel.

Michelle Bassanesi and Gretchen

Michelle Bassanesi and Gretchen

Broomfield, CO – Gretchen Jahn

"Gretchen Jahn is a veteran racer, with 17 Air Race Classics under her belt. An instrument-rated Commercial pilot with 1,650 hours logged, Gretchen has single-engine land and sea certificates and a tailwheel endorsement. “I love to meet and help new racers,” Gretchen said. “There is always more to learn about the airplane, weather, aviation rules, team coordination and personal capabilities. It's fun to ‘collect’ airports, become more proficient and go fast!” 
Gretchen is a businesswoman and entrepreneur, focusing on manufacturing, aviation and management. She is the former CEO of Mooney Airplane Co., general manager of Alpha Aviation in New Zealand and COO of the German company Remos Aircraft. She also founded a software company. Today, Gretchen runs a management consulting firm working with midsize companies."

She and her husband, Karl, who is also a pilot, just bought an RV-7 so they could travel cross-country fast with lower fuel costs. Gretchen is a member of the Colorado chapter of the 99s, Colorado Pilots Association, TiE Rockies, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), AeroInnovate, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Women in Aviation (WIA).
This dream catcher will be celebrating her 51st birthday the fun way! For more about Michelle, click HERE. She has her own page and this lady is one to watch. Happy Birthday Michelle!

Gene Nora Jessen and teammates,
Patty Mitchell and Brenda Carter

Gene Nora Jessen and teammates, Patty Mitchell 
and Brenda Carter

Gene Nora Jessen returns to compete for a ninth year in the Air Race Classic, she is no ordinary pilot. Gene Nora is a Commercial pilot with single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, instrument flight instructor, advanced ground instructor tailwheel and formation flying credentials and has an astonishing 4,430 hours logged. It’s no doubt this female pilot loves the wild blue yonder.

“It's an opportunity to stay sharp in the airplane,” Gene Nora said, “I enjoy the company of a group of truly inspiring women.”

Jessen has a fervent interest in aviation history, as evidenced in the publication of her two books, "The Powder Puff Derby of 1929" and "The Fabulous Flight of the Three Musketeers." She has the distinction of being one of the so-called Mercury 13. She also flew as a sales demo pilot for Beech Aircraft, then married and moved to Idaho to operate her own flight school.

She has been a member of the Ninety-Nines for more than 50 years and was the organization’s International president from 1988-1990; today she remains an active member of the Idaho chapter. Gene Nora and her husband, Bob, owned Boise Air Service until their retirement. They are both recipients of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, a high honor and prestigious award to receive. In addition, she has been inducted into the Idaho Avia Hall of Fame.

JoAnn Speer and Kristy Gentry-Cox

JoAnn Speer and Kristy Gentry-Cox
Kenton, TN – JoAnn Speer and teammate, Kristy Gentry-Cox are ready to fly!

JoAnn Speer is an Instrument-Rated Commercial pilot with single-engine land, flight instructor, advanced and instrument ground instructor and tailwheel credentials and logged 862 hours in the air. “Since I first heard of the ARC, it has been a dream of mine to one day enter,” she said. “I feel that preparing for and entering the race will be an experience of a lifetime. I really want to encourage more women to experience the wonder of flight.”

JoAnn began flying at age forty, at the time she was the owner and operator of a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) called Jo-Aire before becoming the manager of Everett-Stewart Regional Airport in Tennessee.

“What an awesome experience for a country girl from northwest Tennessee! Who would have ever thought,” Speer said, “that I would someday be flying an airplane – let alone enter an all-women's cross country air race!”

She and her husband, Kerry, who is not a pilot, enjoy outdoor activities; flying, camping and riding four-wheelers, as well as spending time with their grandchildren. JoAnn is a member of the Memphis Chapter, the Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation (WIA)

Kristy Gentry-Cox is an Air Transport Pilot with single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, instrument multi-engine flight instructor, instrument ground instructor, tailwheel and aerobatics certifications, a jet type rating and 9,000 hours logged. “I am flying the ARC because to be honest, JoAnn asked! JoAnn and I are both airport managers in Tennessee, so we see each other once a year at the Tennessee Airports Conference in Nashville. During the 2012 conference, JoAnn asked if I would be interested racing with her. Now, here we are!”

Gentry-Cox owns and manages the Athens Air Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the McMinn County Airport in Athens, Tennesse. In her spare time, she flies B-737s for Delta Airlines out of Atlanta. For Kristy, aviation is all in the family. Her husband, Andy, who is also a pilot, is a helicopter mechanic and does a lot of general aviation maintenance. Her father works for her at the FBO, and her mother is a proctor at her testing center and helps with catering. Even her dog, Pancake comes to the airport, to work security – or wait for treats.

Heather McCoy and Marisia Makowski

Winnemucca, NV – Heather McCoy

Heather McCoy is an Instrument-Rated Private pilot with a Single-Engine Land Certificate and Tailwheel Endorsement. "The Air Race Classic has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time,” Heather said, “but I never had a friend to race with. Now that I have met a fellow pilot from joining the Ninety-Nines, I have the opportunity to race for the first time. I am nervous and excited at the same time.”

She is an academic adviser at Great Basin College, where she has worked for twelve years. Previously, she was the college’s director and a business instructor. Her best – and worst – job ever was the elected position of county commissioner.

The wide-open spaces of northern Nevada allow for many activities that Heather enjoys, such as running, dirt-biking, cross-country skiing and, flying in non congested airspace.

Heather’s husband, Randy, is also a pilot and is building a Pitts Model 12. She is looking forward to learning to fly aerobatics. Heather is a member of the Reno High Sierra chapter of the Ninety-Nines and an at-large member of Women in Aviation International (WIA). "

Marisia “Moe” Makowski

Reno, NV - Marisia “Moe” Makowski is a Private pilot with a single-engine land certificate with 380 hours logged. Moe has had many adventures in her life. She has been rock climbing on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and in Mexico, spent two months climbing and camping out of a car in Australia with her boyfriend, hiked Mount Kilimanjaro to scuba diving with sharks in the Bahamas. Now, she can add the air race to the list!

Moe is flying the race in memory of her brother, an Air Force pilot whose RF-4 jet had an engine flameout during an airshow in Wales in 1986. He ditched in the ocean, killing himself and his navigator but sparing the lives of thousands of spectators.

She is a sales engineer, custom-designing safety equipment for manufacturing facilities. Previously, she worked as a manufacturing and project engineer. She is a member of the Reno High Sierra chapter of the Ninety-Nines and an at-large member of Women in Aviation International (WIA).

There you have it. 
It's time to push these little birds 
out of the nest and into the sky.  

Thanks so the Air Race Classic for providing the information on these fabulous flyers. We wish all the women the best luck in their race.  
Enter a Chance to Win 
a copy of Flight For Safety

Guess who is going to win the race. You have until Tuesday the 18th (the start of the race) to post your guess on this blog. This is what you have to do:

1. Click to follow Flight To Success. 
2. Go to the List of Racers and select your winner. 
3. Tell me who will win, and why, in a comment below.

Racers, you can Vote for Yourself!
Do you think you are going to win? 

Note: If there is more than one correct guess, I will have a drawing. Also... many of the racers have blogs (found on the List of Racers link), so you can follow your selections progress, too. And I am sure they will have updates on the ARC website

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene