Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Barter website creator is now a private pilot

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Great news in a happy email from Stephanie Thoen of Aurora, Colo., today: “I am writing to let you know I completed my PPL last week with Mary [Latimer].”

Stephanie, you may recall, launched a website earlier this year that seeks to connect student pilots with CFIs who are willing to barter flight intruction in exchange for goods and services. Flight instructors can register for free at WillWorktoFly.org, whereas student pilots pay a one-time registration fee of $18.95. A portion of the fee goes toward establishing a flight training scholarship, and all registered student pilots are eligible for that scholarship, which is to be awarded monthly.

Thoen came up with the idea after falling short of funds in pursuit of her pilot certificate. (I think it’s a fabulous idea, and am half-tempted to see if I can trade my husband’s comic book collection for a commercial certificate. On second thought—scratch that; he might barter my airplane to get the comics back.) She reports that a mention in Flight Training magazine and on our website helped to boost traffic to the site, so that she will be able to offer a scholarship in June. “Any additional amount I get above and beyond…will go toward putting together a free flying camp once a year for several students,” she said.

It’s safe to say that Mary Latimer likely provided the inspiration for the free flying camp. Latimer has held free flying camps for women for three years in a row at her home airport in Vernon, Texas. I spent a few days at one of her camps in 2013, and wrote about it for the magazine. Schoen sought Mary out to finish her training.

Congratulations to new private pilot Stephanie, and kudos to Mary for inspiring others to give back to aviation.—Jill W. Tallman

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GIFT keeps on giving

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

A-145-0274I was in Vernon, Texas, in November 2012, watching a remarkable crew help women from all around the United States put aside their worries and fears and press forward to obtain pilot certificates. The program is called GIFT (Girls in Flight Training).

As I wrote in “Women with Wings” (click the link to read the article), during that week Mary Latimer and her crew fed and housed more than 30 women, taught ground school and took them flying for 12 hours a day. At the end of the week, there were two new private pilots, eight solos, and five knowledge tests passed.

Is that the end of the story? Of course not. Mary keeps in touch and is happy to report that four more private pilots and a new instrument pilot have graduated from the 2012 GIFT. Several others are still plugging along; some are returning to Vernon to train with Mary, who works with her husband, Lawrence; her daughter, Tamara; and her granddaughter, Amanda—all flight instructors.

The 2013 GIFT is filled with a waiting list. Mary loves what she does, but also would love to see other flight schools put together this type of program to fill the need for this type of supportive, immersive training.

Mary says the 2012 FAA airman statistics reveal that the percentage of women pilots now stands at 5.29 percent (down from 5.35 percent in 2011). “Not a big change, but certainly in the wrong direction,” she says. “I think it says a lot about the industry. Any flight school that wants to increase their business needs to figure out how to get more women in the door and then get them through the training.”

Flight school owners and operators, Mary will be at AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, scheduled for October 10-12. Want to find out more about GIFT? She’s happy to talk to you. Contact me at jill.tallman@aopa.org and I will put you in touch with Mary Latimer.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Beech Sierra 200

Friday, March 1st, 2013

 

 This isn’t just any Beech Sierra 200—it happens to be the very first one off the production line. At the time Mike Fizer shot this photo, the Sierra 200 was owned by Hamilton Rial III of Austin, Texas.

Senior Editor Al Marsh gave the Sierra a once-over for his July 2005 AOPA Pilot article, “Budget Buy: Cargo Sierra,” which you can read online. In it, he notes some of the airplane’s attributes—it has six seats (or four seats and a huge cargo area); a large cabin with twin front doors (for 1971 and later models )—and some of its lesser qualities: Parts are scarce and expensive; cabin noise is high; and the airplane isn’t known to be a speed demon.—Jill W. Tallman

The best and worst of 2012

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

It’s that time of year again! Welcome to my third annual Best and Worst list for the flight training industry. I spent a few moments reviewing the 2011 roundup (which you can read here), and boy, did we have some interesting developments. Still, 2012 is shaping up to be notable, too.

In 2012, criminals continued to use airplanes for all the wrong reasons. We lost a beloved designated pilot examiner. Santa Monica Airport’s neighbors are using increasingly inventive and unlawful ways to show  how much they don’t want this airport—and its student pilots—in their backyards.

On the up side, I’m pleased to note some things that should affect the flight training industry for years to come. Some of these come out of AOPA. You may call me self-serving for including those in this list, but at least I’ve lumped them into one item.

So here are the worst and best, in no particular order. Tell me what you think I left out in the Comments section.—Jill W. Tallman

Worst

1. Santa Monica Airport makes it to the list again, this year because people are so intent on shutting down this airport–with its six flight schools–that one of them took it upon himself to scatter nails in the flight schools’ driveways to make his point (sorry). What’s next, flaming bags of dog poop on the flight school steps? (Maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas.) The Santa Monica City Council gets special recognition for considering a noise reduction plan that would have paid flight schools each time a student pilot and flight instructor took their landing practice to another airport.

2. Border patrol agents seized a flight school’s Cessna 172 after a renter pilot was arrested on suspicion of using it to smuggle illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. The owner said he wasn’t optimistic he’d ever see the airplane again, and its seizure could spell the end of his business.

3. St. Cloud University, St. Cloud, Minn., shutters its aviation program in a cost-cutting measure.

4. The U.S. Air Force told its oldest GA flying club–located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio–to hit the road. That the USAF would evict its own is a tad ironic, as is the fact that Dayton is widely considered the Birthplace of Aviation. This one’s not all bad, though; the club, 300 members strong, moved operations to a nearby GA airport and has vowed to remain active.

5. “Mama Bird” took her final flight. Evelyn Bryan Johnston, a widely loved designated pilot examiner and the grande dame of Tennessee aviation, died May 10 at the age of 102. She had logged more than 57,000 flight hours and administered more than 9,000 practical tests.

Best

1. Persons with disabilities are learning to fly. A fantastic organization called Able Flight is helping persons with disabilities to earn their wings. The organization really took off in 2012, when it helped six men to become sport pilots through a joint program with Purdue University.

2. Women are finding out that flying is fun. There are some very determined people trying to bring more women into aviation. Last year’s list mentioned International Women of Aviation Worldwide; this year my pick is designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer of Vernon, Texas, who hosted about 40 women at a weeklong camp at her home airport (Vernon-Wilbarger County, near Wichita Falls). The Girls in Flight Training Academy participants got free housing, food, and ground school, and they paid just $50 per hour dry plus the cost of fuel to fly in a Cessna 150. The result? Five took the knowledge test, four soloed, and two got through the private pilot checkride. You’ll read more about GIFT in an upcoming issue of Flight Training magazine.

3. Apps, apps, apps! From weight and balance to flight planning to weather to making a 3D image of your 10 trips around the pattern so you can see if you’re squaring off that base leg, cool, easy-to-use, and mostly inexpensive apps for the iPad and other tablet devices exploded in 2012. Student pilots will benefit from all that technology, so long as they remember to keep their eyes outside.

4. King Schools makes its private and instrument syllabus available free to independent flight instructors. Cheers and a tip of the hat to John and Martha King, who inspired my very first best-and-worst list back in 2010. I’m glad to bring them back for a happier reason. Honorable mention: Sporty’s Flight Academy in Clermont County, Ohio, whose modular flight training program that focuses on getting student pilots to solo is showing some impressive results–how about four solos in one week?

5. AOPA’s Flight Training Retention Initiative and the newly created Center to Advance the Pilot Community have been hard at work to tackle the problem of the shrinking pilot population. Some accomplishments to date:

  • Successful training programs were recognized during the first Flight Training Excellence Awards; you can read more about the people and flight schools that got special recognition here.
  • The Flight Training Field Guides for instructors, flight schools, and students are now available to download in .pdf format. Click here to get yours–scroll down the page to see where the field guides can be downloaded.
  • Have you noticed the series of articles on AOPA Online about successful flying clubs? Look for much more on flying clubs, including a Flying Club network that will strengthen the bonds among pilots and clubs nationwide.
  • Recognizing that we shouldn’t wait until a kid turns 16 to nurture his or her interest in learning to fly, AOPA also launched AV8TRS–a completely free membership program for youths aged 13 to 18. Go here to find out more, or sign up a youngster.

Airplane, SUV don’t meet cute

Friday, November 9th, 2012


Another week, another YouTube video to pass along to the Flight Training blog readers. This one involves what looks like a Cessna 172 that struck an SUV while on short-short final to a nontowered airport in Texas. Sorry about the ad at the beginning of this clip (and if the video window does not work in your browser, you can click here), but I chose this version for a reason.

I’m not passing judgment on either the pilot or the driver of the SUV. But it’s a good object lesson for flying in and out of a nontowered airport where ground vehicles or pedestrians (or, for that matter, animals) may have pretty unrestricted access. It’s interesting to note that in this version of the video, the local news reported that the driver was traveling on a private road near the airport. A stop sign she was supposed to have seen was painted on the ground.—Jill W. Tallman

A GIFT in Texas

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The women you see here all have one thing in common: They want to learn to fly. (And the state trooper in the background? He’s a student pilot.) As I write this, the ladies who are attending Mary Latimer’s Girls in Flight Training Academy at Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, Texas, are hard at work, drilling through ground school, poring over sectional charts, and of course getting up in the air.

But there’s a lot more going on. There are friendships forming; the students are dealing with their concerns and fears about some aspects of flight training (stalls = yuck), and some of them are scaling mental hurdles that have prevented them from achieving their goals.

Latimer came up with the idea of an all-woman’s flight “camp” in 2011. For her first attempt (in which attendees aren’t charged for flight training, or housing, or food–only for the avgas they used), she had about 15 women. For this year’s event, which received some advance press in AOPA’s ePilot Flight Training newsletter and in Flight Training magazine, she had 40 or so sign up. That meant a scramble for enough housing, not to mention airplanes and flight instructors (who also donated their time), but if you have ever met Mary Latimer, you’d know that such minor details as not enough airplanes or instructors doesn’t phase her. She simply finds out a way to make everything work.

I spent some time with the GIFT attendees this past weekend, and I was struck by the fact that the women were so excited and so happy to be there. The perfect weather was another plus—I’m told Texas weather can be capricious this time of year, but blue skies and fairly light winds were forecast for the entire week. There was a lot of flying going on, and as soon as I get an update from Mary I’ll pass along the success stories. In the meantime, look for an article about women and flight training featuring the GIFT experience sometime in 2013.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Cessna 206T

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

 

If you fly into Possum Kingdom, Texas, be advised that this beautiful part of the state has an airport–but the airport has no FBO, fuel, or phone. (There are restrooms.) Al Marsh spent a day at Possum Kingdom in 2008 for AOPA Pilot’s A Day in the Life of America’s Airports series. He recommends bringing a folding bike or scooter if you wish to go off the airport.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Thorpedo

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Viewed from this angle, someone thought the bright-yellow aircraft was a straight-tail Ercoupe, and its canopy does resemble that of the iconic little rudderless two-seater. But this is a more contemporary Light Sport Aircraft. Its manufacturer, IndUS, had planned to build it in Texas, but in 2010 announced a partnership with China in which the LSA would be manufactured and assembled there.—Jill W. Tallman