During these past few months, my desire to share the beauty of aviation with the public and females, in particular, has grown particularly. FlyGIRL has been used to reach out and demonstrate all of the benefits of general aviation, flying and taking on personal dreams and challenges. Because of this, there have been many new experiences and connections made with individuals all over the world. It has truly been amazing for me.
This past week has been filled with so many amazing experiences. My flying skills have been tested and improved upon immensely. There were many things that were expected before embarking on a recent trip. Inevitably, there are the unexpected events as well. And so the story goes…
Confidence is Good
Since beginning my training, my life has changed in so many ways. Flying an airplane has brought confidence in me that did not exist before. When you become comfortable with who you are, many other things aren’t as scary or challenging as they once were. I’m passionate about sharing my love of aviation because of what this journey has done for me!
Several weeks ago, a complete stranger reached out to me via social media and invited me on a cross-country flying journey. This pre-planned trip would take me further than I’ve ever flown. Miraculously, the timing was perfect. Recent personal set-backs were calling for a hiatus. The completed itinerary would take me through eleven states! The highlights included mountain flying in Colorado to the highest elevation airport. We would also land at an airstrip at the bottom of The Grand Canyon, fly through the Grand Canyon corridor and visit Sedona. We would then circle back home through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Everything was perfectly laid out. All I needed to do was show up in my little plane!
Building Relationships: The Old
After receiving the invitation to join this flying group, I decided to invite my uncle Robert. He has been a huge part of my life and flying interest. He is getting older and spending time with him is very important to me. Besides the fact that he’s full of aviation experience and knowledge, he’s also a great listener. And I needed his advice on many things during this trip.
OK. Soooooooo, We were about to spend an entire week with two complete strangers! Have you ever planned a vacation with some people you have never met? What if we didn’t get along? What if they were annoying as hell? What if they turned out to be some kind of crazy stalkers?!?! After we reached our initial meeting destination, Kansas City, I realized they were normal. Whew! We hit it off very well and were graciously treated to lunch by some new aviation friends and supporters. Our journey together during that week took us through all kinds of environments, altitudes, weather conditions, hotels, meals and adult beverages. :) We will remain friends forevermore because of our common love of aviation and flying accomplishments. We will all be cheering for each other from here on out, even if we live in separate cities.
Because of the widespread reach of social media, connecting with other female pilots has been simplified. While visiting sunny Arizona, there were opportunities to enjoy a lunch with a new acquaintance and I was treated to a surprise visit from a new Facebook follower. Each of these women was such a joy to spend time with.
I’m extremely appreciative of the relationships that grew during this adventure.
Mountain Waves, Turbulence and Weather, Oh My!
The extreme conditions of flying to the west of the Mississippi…Wow. My “personal minimums” were forced to be abandoned after our first landing. Every airport had crosswind (ugh) gusting conditions of 15 knots or more from Missouri all the way back through our return to Arkansas. There was no mercy! Landing in Ohio is bound to be a piece of cake from here on out. Someone please slap me if I ever complain about a 10 knot crosswind…
I’d be lying if said I wasn’t scared out of my mind when embarking on the Rocky Mountain flying day lesson. Two minutes into the climb, we were being bounced around like popcorn in a skillet. The thoughts in my head went something like this: “What the #*@$ am I doing here?!?! I’ve lost my damn mind!” There are 14,000 foot mountains looming on every side of me. My knuckles were white and my hands were numb from squeezing the yoke so tightly, not to mention the amount of perspiration dripping down my back. There were nearly four plus hours ahead of me fighting the demons of mountain wave turbulence. If my instructor for the day had shown any reservation, I would’ve burst into tears! Thank God after the first hour, my confidence grew and anticipating the forced ascents and descents became much more tolerable. IF I ever decide to put myself through that torture again, there had better be a shot of tequila waiting for me on the ramp upon my return. That’s all I’m saying about that!
My autopilot was being uncooperative during some portions of the trip, which brings in a challenging physical element. Looking on the bright side, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about “Arm Day” at the hotel gym! Ha! We also had several unanticipated weather delays and diversions. Weather is such a HUGE part of aviation. As a pilot, you must learn to listen and accept what Mother Nature decides. These delays brought much needed rest after long days of flying and opportunities to download pictures and relive the flights.
The Best of the Best
The most memorable and best “unexpected” event took place while flying to the Grand Canyon. We had decided to mix it up a bit and rotated passengers. The trip coordinator, John, was now flying with me. We got to know each other well and shared a lot about ourselves, our lives, and our love of flying. I was lost in conversation and then, what seemed to be out of nowhere, surprisingly found myself flying through Monument Valley, Utah. We were surrounded by all of these beautiful formations. My electronic chart was leading me from one airport to another. I was just following the magenta GPS line, not really knowing what would lie along the route. We were alone, in the sky, at one of the most gorgeous regions in the United States. We could turn in any direction we chose if we wanted a closer look at any of the natural structures. And we did. It was colorful, peaceful and pure freedom. I will never forget it.
This trip brought a treasure of experiences; planned and unplanned. Pilots prepare as much as they can for flights and train for unexpected events that may occur. Many times these situations can be seen as annoying delays or obstacles. They can also be seen as opportunities to learn something. Unexpected opportunities are much more fun than disappointments!