Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: Getting your 'Mommy" rating doesn't have to mean you can't be a Pilot too!

Natalie Hoover and the family Cessna 172 on her way to
Oshkosh in 2014. She thought nothing of making the trip
while being eight months pregnant.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In another of my "Strong Women of Aviation" interview series, I introduce you to a high-time professional pilot who is clear evidence that for a female, having children does not have to mean your flying dreams stop about the time the diapers start needing to be changed.
The fact that only six percent of active U.S. pilots are female is a mind-bender for the aviation industry, and the reasons this percentage is not higher remains one of aviation's unsolved riddles. One of the things we hear often that might be keeping women from punching their pilot's ticket is that if they want to have kids - and most young women eventually do - it means there will be no time left for flying, and that the terms "mommy" and "pilot" cannot co-exist in our aviation world.
In her interview below, Natalie Hoover will point out that it is in fact possible to be an active pilot and also a parent of young kids. The interview is presented verbatim...and please share this if you know females who have demonstrated a passing interest in learning to fly. These answers are GREAT, and Natalie's experience has to be considered required reading for any young woman who is trying to decide between flying or starting a family. Because as she reports below, you can by all means have them both.

AIRPLANISTA: Please introduce my readers to yourself.

I'm Natalie Hoover and I fly in the Memphis area, out of Memphis International, and Olive Branch Airport, a small airport 5NM to the southeast. I do all things aviation, including flight instructing, corporate flying in a Beechjet 400A, aviation writing, and working as an FAA designated pilot examiner. I have 6,000 hours (4,000 as an instructor) and hold ATP, Gold Seal CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates. I'm assistant chief instructor at Air Venture Flight Center at Olive Branch Airport and the Lead FAA Safety Team Representative for Mississippi. I've also flown for the airlines and done some charter work. I’m the recipient of the Greg Laslo award for aviation writing contributions and also FAAST Rep of the Year 2012 for Mississippi. I currently own a Cessna 172 named Lola, that we lease back to the local flight school.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe how you became interested in flying, at what age, and who was the person (or persons) that you can say made the biggest impact on you becoming a pilot.

NATALIE HOOVER: I am not one of those people who grew up wanting to be a pilot. My dad was a pilot, in the USAF and later for FedEx. He loved his job and the lifestyle it afforded our family but never tried to push me into aviation. After I completed my undergraduate degree in literature in the spring of 2004, I was all set to go to grad school in the fall for journalism. Out of sheer boredom (and maybe a little curiosity) that summer, I took a flight lesson and then another and another. I never went to grad school….

AIRPLANISTA: As a female, did any of the big aviation groups do anything that brought you into aviation? (Young Eagles ride, WAI conference, Ninety-Nines reaching out to you?).

There was one woman who reached out to me, June Viviano. She was a member of Women in Aviation and also an MD-11 Captain at Fedex. She continued to invite me to meetings and help me get involved in the local activities of WAI. She is one of those people who would do anything for anybody, and I continue to be grateful she took me under her wing. It’s so important to have good mentors in this business. So find someone you look up to and develop a relationship with him or her. Aviation is such a strange little world that has a set of rules all of its own. A trusted mentor can help you navigate and also help you avoid some of the mistakes that the books won’t warn you about.   

AIRPLANISTA: How has becoming a mother of two young children changed the way you schedule flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: I used to say yes to every flying opportunity that came my way. I flew seven days a week for anybody who would let me fly their airplane. I went from zero flying time to my first airline job in just under two years. Once I had that job, I bid the lines with the most flying hours per month. I just wanted to move up to the captain’s seat as fast as possible. Somewhere in there, a very patient man decided he wanted to marry me. That changed everything. For the first time, I started turning down trips just to get a little more time at home. Then I started to wonder why I was even chasing that airline dream so hard in the first place. My heart truly wasn’t in it anymore. I’m not sure if it ever was. Now that I have two kids, I am very selective about which flying jobs I take. I have learned to say no. I only choose the jobs that get me home in time for dinner. Dinner at my house might mean the three-year-old is crying because she doesn’t want to eat her peas and the eight-month-old might be laughing as he throws his peas across the room. But I don’t want to miss one single crazy, magical minute of it.  

AIRPLANISTA: Describe your support system as a mother (husband, parents, neighbors etc.) and explain how these people are essential to giving you the time to pursue aviation.

NATALIE HOOVER: I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband. He works hard at his own job as a residential contractor, but also takes a lot of pride in my accomplishments. Whenever the mail comes with a magazine that has one of my articles in it, he stops everything just to sit down at the kitchen table and read what I wrote. We both have flexible jobs that allow us to pick up the slack at home when the other has a busy week. If he is starting a big project, I will schedule a lighter flying week, and vice versa when I have a lot of flying to do. He will cook and clean and run the kids back and forth. I cannot imagine being able to focus on my career without his support.

AIRPLANISTA: What would you say to young women who want to learn to fly but also want to start a family?

NATALIE HOOVER: You really can have it all, a flying career and a family too. I always thought when I had kids, I would have to hang up my flying hat. But that hasn’t been the case. I’ll admit that being eight months pregnant and still climbing in and out of an airplane will earn you some interested stares, but why should you have to stop doing what you love just because you are also someone’s mom? Aviation has so many varied opportunities. The airlines are probably the most common path, but there are lots of other flying gigs that will allow you the flexibility to be a mom and a pilot. You may have to make some sacrifices and turn down some jobs that don’t line up with your ultimate goals. But in my experience, life has a way of working itself out if you just remember what’s important. I never would have dreamed that the designated examiner deal would happen as soon as it did or that I would be offered a corporate flying job that allows me to be home every night. It may not be as exciting as some flying jobs. I’m not traveling to Europe and staying in posh hotels. But at the end of the day, I get to fly an airplane and have time with my family. Life doesn’t get much better than that. So stick to your priorities and be patient for the right opportunities to come along. 

AIRPLANISTA: How do you find time to write aviation features and any other writing you do?

I have to be intentional with my time. When the kids are napping, I lock myself in a room with my computer and I write. I know that would be a great time to get the laundry done and the house clean, but those things can wait. I think when I’m old and look back on my life, I’ll be proud of that decision. Who cares if the house was spotless? Writing makes me happy. It makes me feel whole. God gave me this one, short life, and I plan on filling it up with things that truly matter. 

AIRPLANISTA: Your oldest child is now three-years-old, has he or she shown an interest in aviation, and do you look forward to introducing your two kids to flying?

NATALIE HOOVER: As much as I would love for my kids to share my passion for aviation, I understand that we were all made differently. They will have their own interests and dreams and I plan on encouraging them to follow their hearts.

AIRPLANISTA: As a DPE, what is the one thing you see constantly that private pilot students do wrong in checkrides?

NATALIE HOOVER: Most applicants are not familiar with the Practical Test Standards. I tell them all when we make the checkride appointment that the exam will come straight from the PTS. There are no surprises! There is this wonderful “cheat sheet” that is freely available to all on the FAA website, so why not take advantage of it? For example, the PTS says that I must ask about all classes of airspace, including weather minimums and equipment requirements. It is a guaranteed checkride question. So why would you walk into the checkride without being able to rattle off those answers? Read the PTS cover to cover and your checkride should go much more smoothly.  

AIRPLANISTA: What is the best advice you can give to young females who have shown an interest in learning to fly?

NATALIE HOOVER: I tell all of my female students that confidence is the most important flying trait they can develop. Confidence passes checkrides. Confidence makes for successful job interviews. Confidence allows you to believe in yourself enough to fly out of a stressful situation in the airplane. Nobody wants to hear that their pilot is less than confident in her ability to handle the airplane. It makes people nervous. For some reason, we ladies tend to possess a high level of self-doubt, more so than our male counterparts. So, if there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable in an airplane, get some extra training or do some more studying until you feel sure of yourself again. Do whatever it takes for you to feel a very healthy level of self-confidence about your flying abilities. Once you have done that, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Remember, if you believe in yourself, others will too.  

AIRPLANISTA: As a part-time corporate pilot, what are some of the scheduling challenges you encounter in regards to balancing work and family?

NATALIE HOOVER: The corporate flying job actually found me; I didn’t go looking for it. Someone I once flew a trip with at the airline recommended me to his friend, the aircraft manager for the corporate job. When the manager approached me, I told him that the job sounded great, but that I may not be the right person to be flying around the CEO or the President of the company because my family comes first. He assured me that he understood my priorities and he has been true to his word. When I turn down a trip because it’s my kid’s birthday or because we don’t have childcare, he never gives me a hard time. I think as long as you are honest about who you are and where you stand up front, people are actually very understanding. 

AIRPLANISTA: This is a freestyle question, go ahead and tell a funny story, soapbox some topic important to you...anything you want to add that I did not ask.

NATALIE HOOVER: On my first day on the job as a charter pilot years ago, the passengers walked up and took one look at me and said, “I didn’t know we had a flight attendant on this flight.” When I told them that I was, in fact, their pilot, they came back with, “Sweetie, are you even old enough to drive a car?” Over the years, I have heard countless comments like those. I truly don’t think they are said with an ill intent or meant to be degrading. Most people just expect to see a man in that pilot seat, and if he has a little grey hair, then that’s even better. To passengers, that means wisdom and experience. I don’t think getting angry or offended is the proper response, nor is it effective. As a young female, I understand that the best thing I can do is earn their trust, one safe flight at a time. Changing public perception is a task I’m certainly up to for several reasons. First, I love flying. It’s a privilege that most people never get the chance to do. So if I have to put up with a little bit of ignorance and outdated notions along the way, it was still worth it. And secondly, I have a three-year-old daughter who may want to fly one day. Hopefully the world of aviation will be a much more accepting place for her because of the women and men who have helped to pave the way.

Friday, June 19, 2015

My Five Magazine Editors Crave Fresh Content - Send me Your Feature Article Ideas Now!

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Those of you who have followed my aviation writing career know it has experienced tremendous growth recently. Even though I began my freelance writing career in 1979, it took until 2014 to break into the big aviation magazines on a regular basis as a feature writer and columnist.
I had a few very nice features years ago in AOPA Pilot Magazine thanks to the support of their Editor, Tom Haines, but it was Jen Dellenbusch - Editor of Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer Magazines - that cut me the break I needed when she picked up my Affirmative Attitude monthly column to run in both of her association's magazines. I have also enjoyed an explosion of interest from AOPA Pilot Magazine, EAA Sport Aviation Magazine, and HAI's Rotor Magazine. All are running my features now...and as a result, I am slammed with deadlines.
This is where YOU come in.
I am actively soliciting story ideas from anyone with an aviation story to tell. Maybe it's a great vintage airplane that you have restored, one a spectacular history, or the guy at the airport that just happens to be Boeing's 747 test pilot. Could be that rich guy on your field who just cashed in his billion-dollar corporate 401K and is now financing flight training for 100 local teens. There are endless aviation feature stories swirling all around every aviator, and I need you to send me anything you think would be great content for any of the magazines I write for these days.
No idea is too far out. Just hit the giant EMAIL ME YOUR STORY IDEAS link at the top of this post and tell me your idea. I may be able to find a home for it, or know of a way to angle it so one of the magazines can use it in print and on their website. With five magazines listening to my pitches - plus my popular Airplanista blog - I have a constant need to "feed the machine" as I call it. It only takes a minute to email me with an idea, and I will reply promptly with my opinion of what I may be able to do with it to gain that story some national magazine ink. If it has no chance of making it out of the "pitch phase" I will tell you honestly.
If you want to share this post with anyone, simply copy the URL below or use the share buttons below. I hope to hear your ideas soon. I cannot guarantee that one of the magazines will accept it for print or if I will choose to pitch it to them, but I promise to listen to your story idea and give it careful consideration.
Short URL to this post: http://bit.ly/1L74gpF

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is this the summer you finally make it to Oshkosh? If yes, do it right!

Use the "My Itinerary" feature of Airventure.org
to plan each day of your Oshkosh visit.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

About this time each year, many thousands of people in the aviation family start thinking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and say "this is the year" they will finally make their first visit to this incredible celebration of aviation. For some reason, life, work or a plethora of other reasons has always made the trek to the shores of Lake Winnebago impossible.
But not 2015, because finally, this year will be different, you say. If one of the things that has prevented you from going is the complexity of such a large multi-day event, rest assured you can go to Oshkosh on any day of the show and see and do things that will blow you away. In fact, there is so much to do at the "world's largest aviation celebration" that it is actually possible to go for the entire week and not see everything.
So, in my attempt to help you jump down off the fence, buy your tickets and plan travel to KOSH, here are some random thoughts about what you will experience while there. These are just a taste of what's waiting for you, and by all means, if this post gets you psyched to attend, visit airventure.org and start clicking away. Their great scheduling tools allow you to pick the days you will be on the show grounds to display all that is happening before filtering down to the stuff you absolutely must see. Add those things to the "My Itinerary" tool after you log in or create an EAA.org account. It's a great way to methodically plan your visit to the show.
There are a few things though you will not find on this official schedule, and it's these events and activities that I'll focus on in this post. And, this is aimed squarely at Airplanistas who have never been to Oshkosh, because if you have, some of this will seem Old Hat.
Come for more than one day: If one day is all you can get to come to Oshkosh, then just do that and you will have a ball. But I recommend three days minimum. It'll take you most of the first day just to get your bearings. Make sure to pick up the EAA maps that are everywhere on the grounds, you will be lost in a sea of airplanes without it. If you do two days, take some time at night to reflect on your first day, look at the map, read the excellent AirVenture Today newspaper, and try to plan your next day. On that second day, you'll have a much better chance of finding the things that really matter to you. And that third day is when you begin to feel like an Oshkosh long-timer as you will have the lay of the show down and can get around quickly to see more great things.

Use the Trams: Your first task upon entering the show grounds on Day One is to find that EAA map and learn the Tram routes. They basically run North-South from the North 40 gate to the far south end of the Ultralights area...and there are stops everywhere along these routes. Find out what the Tram stops look like and where those Trams go, so when you are way WAY out in Vintage drooling on the row after row of Beech Staggarwings and realize the Warbirds in Review presentation for the P-38s is about to start down in the Warbirds area, you can quickly and efficiently hop the Tram system. As a donated John Deere tractor driven by a very friendly Oshkosh-area local navigates the crowded lanes, you can beat the heat and save your feet. Usually give yourself 30 minutes from one end of the show to the other via a Tram.

Make it to Ardy and Ed's for a burger: O.K., this tip is not technically at AirVenture, but after you take it, you will agree this is a required stop for your visit. Find some way to this classic 1950s Drive-in for burgers, fries and Root Beer that is literally stuck in time. Cute young female carhops on Roller Skates will take your order carside, or consume a Drive-in Double (burger AND Bratwurst patties...yum) on the patio. What is incredible about this place is its location...directly under the final approach to runway 27 at KOSH. So as you eat this legendary food surrounded by aviation family members all having a blast, a nose-to-tail Conga line of inbounds to two-seven slides by overhead. You'll see anything from a mess of Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees, to Cubs, bizjets, endless experimentals, warbirds, it is truly limitless. You will learn to eat with your head pointed straight up gawking at airplanes, but it just makes the food slide down that much easier.

Visit Camp Scholler at night: To the south and west of the show grounds, acres of camping areas come alive at night. To the people camped here, this is why they came...to socialize with friends they may only see one time a year at Oshkosh. Even if you do not know anyone, just walk up to most any group standing around a campfire, introduce yourself, and start talking airplanes. If you are carrying beer, it always makes you welcome just about anywhere in Scholler. On every row will be organized groups like the always-singing South Africans, the technologically-advance Avgeeks, and plenty of local EAA chapters partying and enjoying the kind of camaraderie you will not find anywhere else.

Bring lots of digital film: Unless you are a pro shooter, you do not own enough memory cards for your digital camera. Buy extra, you will need it, because it is completely possible to fill up several SD cards a day photographing so many gorgeous airplanes. I recommend 64GB SD cards, it takes work to fill them up, and they have lots of room for video...and you WILL take video.

Pack water and update your phone's weather apps: For guys like me from Oregon, the heat and humidity of Wisconsin in summer is unbearable. So carry a decent-sized water bottle for each member of your party, and refill often at the many H20 filling stations around the grounds. And keep that weather app handy, because the weather at Oshkosh can be brutal and unpredictable. It can go from choking hot to massive thunderstorms in an hour. So carry a good app with NEXRAD radar, and look at the regional map each hour. You will see anything developing, and if it's headed towards the show, start thinking about ways to take cover.
There are just a few ideas for things to make your first Oshkosh more enjoyable. As the show gets closer, I will post a few more, so add your email to the SUBSCRIBE field near top right of this page to receive updates from Airplanista in your email inbox. We never solicit you or give away your address, it is only used when new content is posted.

Monday, June 08, 2015

#Oshbash 2015: One Way for #Avgeeks to Meet Up at AirVenture

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Each day brings the #avgeek world one day closer to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and for those of us who plan our next trip to the aviation family reunion on the shores of Lake Winnebago, we start planning that trip as we leave the grounds each year.

Many of my readers know this blog hosts a social media "meetup" event at Oshkosh each year called #Oshbash, and this year on Tuesday, July 21st, we #avgeeks will again take over the EAA Press Tent for another two hours of fun, friends and frivolity, indulging in a bit of "face time" in real time. It's a chance for those on aviation social media to meet each other and enjoy the kind of camaraderie that erupts when the room is full of aviators that love technology and social media as much as they do flying.

In my never-ending quest to provide a bit of entertainment at #Oshbash, this year I am presenting Affirmative Attitude Live!...a "live" version of my column that appears monthly in Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer magazines. What is Affirmative Attitude Live? Glad you asked... 
An "Affirmative Attitude" is what drives GA's incredible volunteers and advocates. You've read about them in my magazine column, now see them LIVE at EAA Airventure Oshkosh. The column honors the extraordinary people in the aviation family that are making a difference in our GA world. These are regular people pushing their personal envelope to reach higher and accomplish more. Each has a backstory to tell, and all are eager to honor the GA volunteers in their organizations that make their work possible. Now come to #Oshbash and meet these movers/shakers to see what motivates them and learn ways you can channel your passion for aviation into giving back to our flying community.
This year's #Oshbash is sponsored by Cessna Flyer Association and Piper Flyer Association, who are getting behind the event to show support for aviation social media and the people who use it. Their magazine's editor, Jen Dellenbusch, has promised a very special surprise for those audience members who are present in the Press Tent at the conclusion of the event.

The format will be more social and laid back than in previous years, with myself doing short but informative interviews on stage with some of the people and organizations I have written about in Affirmative Attitude. So far, the guest list includes: 
• Major General Joe Vazquez, National Commander and CEO, Civil Air Patrol, who will talk about what it takes to coordinate 60,000 volunteers and a fleet of 550 airplanes,
• Katie Meyer, EAA Airventure Volunteer Manager - who will give us insight into the massive annual effort that is EAA's volunteer community.

• Ryan Pemberton, Pemberton and Sons Aviation, Spokane, WA, who will discuss the fine art of keeping vintage airplanes flying and the Pemberton volunteer team,

• Martha Phillips, International President, The Ninety Nines on how the organization she leads is reaching out to the next generation of female pilots around the world, 
• Pilots N Paws Pet Rescue Service (Speaker TBA) on how this important organization manages a nationwide network of volunteer pilots. 
• Mark Spencer, Founder and CEO of FlyQuest, an organization that uses a custom-built 6-DOF simulator to introduce the public to flying.
If you are planning to be on the show grounds on Tuesday, July 21, come to the Press Tent at 5:30 PM and see what this #Oshbash fun is all about. Be advised that #Oshbash is always SRO, so if you desire a chair, get there early as the venue only seats about 85-90 people.

Airplanista gives special thanks to EAA's Communications Director Dick Knapinski for arranging the venue and providing logistics support, and to Dave Allen and the crew of Other People's Airplanes for the live streaming video support, and Julie Celeste, Managing Partner of Celeste/Daniels Advertising & Design for public relations and web development support.

If you have a question about #Oshbash, email host Dan Pimentel here, or hit him up on Twitter as @Av8rdan.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

AirVenture or Oshkosh? Different Names for the Same Awesome Aviation Event

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

By any name, the world's largest aviation celebration held in late summer on the shores of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin is the absolute definition of perfection for any Airplanista. It's everything we could possibly dream of, and then a LOT more.
Yes, of course I am talking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the "official" name of EAA's annual convention. But in conversation, very few people use that entire title, with many calling it "AirVenture" while the old schoolers demand it be called "Oshkosh."
Truth is, both are correct...that is, when you know the difference between the two names. While the following is my own interpretation of this topic and is in no way endorsed by EAA, I think these definitions will go a long way towards clearing up the way people exchange "AirVenture" for "Oshkosh" and vice-versa.
When you are referring to the EAA annual convention, the trade show, the forums, presentations or workshops, Kidventure or the Innovations Center, it is correct to call it "AirVenture" because AirVenture is the event that is located in Oshkosh.

So, a correct use would be "We make the XYZ 3000 Light Sport airplane, and I am going to debut the new ship in Oshkosh at Airventure." Of course, in the aviation world, anyone will know you are referring to Oshkosh when you say AirVenture.

While the non-flying will reply "oh, the place where they make those cute little overalls," when you tell them you are going to spend a week in Oshkosh, pilots and the aviation family have an entirely different meaning for the word. "Oshkosh" is a city in Wisconsin, yes, but it is a state-of-mind for aviators, a happening, the Woodstock of the aviation world. Some even go so far as saying "Oshkosh" during show week is hallowed ground, and having been there numerous times - each better than the one before it - I find it hard to dispute that claim.

"Oshkosh" is the word to use when talking about the aviation family reunion that surrounds AirVenture. It is the celebration, the parties, the family quality time, the Beer Bashes and Oshbashes, all the things that makes this show so great.
People attend AirVenture, the trade show and convention to enjoy Oshkosh, the airshow. The explosion of camaraderie that happens with 500,000 #avgeeks end up in one place at one time happens at Oshkosh. I personally look forward to my next Oshkosh usually when I leave the grounds each year. That's because there simply is nothing that even comes close for pilots and wannabes to gather, tell stories, eat Brats, drink a few Leinie's and do the kind of spectacular hangar flying that can only happen as a B-29 and two B-17s slide by overhead at 4,000AGL, escorted by 16 P-51s.
So there you have it, my interpretation of the way different people use different names for the same event. You are hereby clear to call AirVenture "Oshkosh", or call Oshkosh "AirVenture," it really does not matter. What matters is that you make plans today to attend this incredible event.

Airventure.org is a great place to start your planning.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: You've got to go for it when 'spunkiness' is in your name

MayCay Beeler's motto these days - based on her
challenging schedule, is "Get cape. Wear cape. Fly!!!!"
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In this installment of my continuing series, I'm introducing you to another female pilot who defines what it means to be an active aviator. Author, pilot, CFI and TV host/personality MayCay Beeler has spent her entire aviation career knowing what she wants and then going after it.
Beeler is not unlike some of the other female aviators I write about, in this space and also in the five magazines currently publishing my features. When asked why I seem to focus more on female aviators, I like to say it's simply because so much aviation media coverage is about men, and I am just trying to claim my part of the "softer, gentler" niche. And besides, it might be a Mars/Venus thing, but nearly all the women I know in aviation and business possess amazing skills to balance too many plates on too many sticks and keep them all spinning simultaneously.
Based at KGSO (Piedmont Triad Int’l Airport- Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) NC, Beeler juggles five freelance jobs, appears on TV weekly, and flies most days. She's flown 30 different aircraft including a Liberty XL-2, Cessna 172s, Cessna 150, a Piper Arrow, Tecnam Eaglet LSA and experimental Questair Venture kitplane (where she holds world records, see below).
As a CFI/CFII/ATP, she instructs at Triad Aviation Academy (KGSO) and for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Air Support Unit. She's a TV Host/Personality for WFMY News 2 (CBS-TV) in Greensboro, NC, hosting Aviation Update segments, and is a regular TV Host for recurring weekly TV Cooking segments for Food Lion Grocery. Other "on-demand" TV work includes a gig for AOPA, serving as “One Week Ready to Solo” anchor at Sun n Fun ‘15. As an award-winning author, she wrote a true crime book about an infamous cartel pilot/cocaine smuggler; and she's a sales team member of the AEAC (Aero Electric Aircraft Corp) Sun Flyer - the first practical solar electric trainer airplane. Yes, this is one very busy lady.
What follows is my interview with Beeler...enjoy:

Airplanista: Let's start with your unusual but also beautiful first name.
MayCay Beeler: MayCay is a nickname for my formal name Mary Catherine (named after my grandmothers). My Dad gave me this nickname as a youngster, citing my spunkiness. Mary Catherine was too conservative. MayCay fit me much better and it stuck!

Airplanista: As a television weather anchor, did you ever use your aviation weather knowledge on air?
MayCay Beeler: Yes, I did. I am no longer in that role. I anchored the weather for TV News in the early 2000’s for my local network affiliates ABC-TV station and briefly for NBC-TV. Viewers got a kick out of my saying “niner” when I mentioned pressure.

Airplanista: Do you feel that analyzing weather from an aviation perspective gives you a competitive advantage over other weather anchors in your market?
MayCay Beeler: Yes, simply because I understand it from an up close and personal perspective - having lived it in the air on a regular basis. Frankly, every TV weather person/meteorologist has access to the same weather sources and forecasts. Anyone can pull that data, create the graphics and recite the numbers on TV. But to personally experience the weather as a pilot, and have an intimate understanding of fronts and pressure systems by flying IN them, that gave me an edge the viewers enjoyed, especially when I would use graphics and take them on a “weather flight”.

Beeler set several FAI records with ex-husband Rich Gritter
in the Questair Venture experimental airplane.
Airplanista: Tell us about the world aviation records you've set in your Questair Venture aircraft.
MayCay Beeler: I met the test pilot for Questair when I produced a national story about the “fastest egg in the East” for the TV show “PM MAGAZINE” I was hosting. I was already an instrument-rated pilot at the time, and eventually set world records in the Venture and did a TV show about it. My record breaking flights included FAI Class C-1B time to climb to 3,000 meters, speed over a 3 KM and 15/25 KM course, closed circuit 100km, 500km and 1,000km speed without payload, and speed over a recognized course Winston-Salem to Kitty Hawk, 358.82 mph. In 1991, I flew my time-to-climb to 3,000 meters record flight just one month after giving birth.

Airplanista: Is flying a family affair? Do you have parents, siblings, husband, partner or kids that participate in aviation? How did you get interested in flying?
MayCay Beeler: Past boyfriends and husbands were pilots. My son flew with me while I was pregnant with him - he earned an honorary CFI certificate in utero! No kidding! I was eight months pregnant during that grueling CFI check ride. The FAA examiner felt my son deserved an honorary temporary certificate after "we" passed with flying colors. Still have it framed! After I divorced, I met my soul mate while researching a true crime documentary - he is now deceased. He was an infamous pilot with a colorful history! Read his biography for more (Buccaneer- info included later)! It will blow you away. Can’t make this stuff up!
My son has flown with me all his life. Having a flight instructor for a Mom ensured he soloed on his 16th Birthday, and earned his Private Pilot Certificate on his 17th. He is a better pilot than I will ever be. Exceptional. In his genes! He is being awarded his BS Degree in Aerospace Engineering with honors from NC State U this May. He is a world-champion RC aircraft pilot! We have our most enjoyable mother-son moments when we fly together. Have been on many flying adventures together including our trip to Norman’s Cay, Bahamas where we produced the documentary “Return to Norman’s Cay”.  

Airplanista: As creator of The Diva Flight Experience, explain what this program is and what the goals of the program are, both current and future. Also give me contact info so I can publish the URL or anything else you want to have published.
MayCay Beeler: See http://www.divaflight.com/

Airplanista: In your opinion, what is the root cause keeping most women from flying now, and how did you personally overcome any of these same obstacles to pursue your successful aviation career?
MayCay Beeler: This is tough. As natural caregivers, we tend to put others first. It's hard to juggle it all. I have struggled with it. As moms, we put our kids first. The moms that successfully juggle kids and career are super gifted; I have the utmost respect for them. It was hard for me. When you see how fast your kids grow up, you know how priceless it is to be with them and nurture them while they need you. It’s a tug - career and/or family. It's an individual angst many of us struggle with. No right or wrong. I believe the role of caregiver - be it looking out for our kids, spouses, partners, aging parents, whatever, inhibits a lot of women from flying because they are too busy and/or feel guilty or obligated to put others first. Plus, they don’t know they CAN fly! As a traditional boy's club, flying professionally is something most women never even consider! They don’t know it's an option. It is! We must encourage them and let them know it can be done!  

Airplanista: What is the one thing both male and female pilots can do right now to increase the female pilot population?
MayCay Beeler: Take a gal flying!  Cheer her on! Share the magic aloft. Spread your contagious enthusiasm! Let her know anything is possible, and any dream is attainable if she is willing to work for it!

Airplanista: Has being a pilot opened any doors in your career or allowed you to pursue stories that many other journalists overlooked?
MayCay Beeler: Oh yes! It was my role as a pilot that bonded me to an infamous prison inmate/cartel pilot who had never told his story. When I first contacted pilot Jack Carlton Reed in prison for research on a true crime documentary I was producing, I never imagined I would become this infamous inmate's biographer and last confidante. The acquaintance led to my book "Buccaneer - The Provocative Odyssey of Jack Reed - Adventurer, Drug Smuggler, and Pilot Extraordinaire." His story had never been given to any other journalist. In doing research for our book, which was a collaborative effort at the end of his life, I would stumble upon a piece of information that would change everything. This book is the stunning account of Reed’s provocative life with a twist of fate that will make you believe in miracles. The book is available on Amazon and booksellers worldwide.

Airplanista: Describe a perfect day flying.
MayCay Beeler: Just me and my flying machine, the sassy Liberty XL2, living Richard Bach’s beautiful quote: “The highest art form of all is a human being in control of himself and his airplane in  flight…urging the Spirit of the machine to match his own.” I am ONE with the plane. Never have I felt so graceful!

Airplanista: Freestyle question, your chance to soap box anything or tell my readers something about MayCay Beeler that they do not know now.
MayCay Beeler: I had barely turned 16 when I first went to work on a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for two summers. It was my love of horses that lured me there! I love to ride, and later transferred that passion to planes. I was one with the horse; I am now one with the plane. It’s all about freedom. My soul is in the sky. It is here I feel most alive.
I tell others to “Go for it”! Fly while you can while the fire is in your belly! Share this magic with others. Life is so short! Fear not, everything you need is already inside you. I encourage my flight students to live my favorite quote:

“Come to the edge,” Life said.
 They said: “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge.” Life said.
 They came.
 It pushed them…and they flew.   –  Guillaume Apollinaire

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Aviation 'Brand Stylist' Ian Hoyt Presents #SnF15 Exhibitors Digital Marketing Survival Guide

Editor's note: This is a great piece that all exhibitors at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-in should read. It is full of very good information to help you understand just how important it is to use today's crazy good social media tools to capture some of buzz for your business at this big show. Guest Blogger Ian Hoyt is a private pilot and admits to being "addicted to all things aviation." When he's not busy sharing his passion for aviation, he can be found building his full-service creative branding and advertising agency. The following is verbatim from his blog, used with permission - dan

By Ian Hoyt,
Airplanista Guest Blogger

It’s SUN ‘n FUN time!

Yeah you heard me right. It’s that time in April every year when all of the aviation lovers around the world congregate to watch airplanes fly, rehash aviation memories with old friends over some beer, and meander around looking at all of the new and exciting things to come out of aviation during this year.

But, SUN ‘n FUN in Lakeland, Florida from April 21 – 26 is much more than just an airshow to all of the aviation brands that plan on exhibiting their awesome products this upcoming week.

Yes, this is the best time for brands to capture, grow, and engage with the aviation community, those who love gadgets and new things. These aviation lovers seem to naturally come out of the woodwork on social media and even in person as the week nears. This survival guide that I have laid out below is focused to help those brands that are exhibiting their products at SUN ‘n FUN this year. Is your brand cutting costs this year and staying at home? Have no fear, your brand can certainly use these strategies to piggyback off of this event from your headquarters too.

So let’s get right into it.

Social media has been around for a long time, and likely your brand has used it to some degree during previous SUN ‘n FUN events. I am going to guess you felt like you weren’t sure if it was being as effective for your company as you figured it could be.

No fears, it’s not that hard and here are the tips to put someone on your team (or contractor) to work this week:

First establish your goals

I personally don’t give a crap about how many followers, likes, and all of those garbage arbitrary numbers you have, and you shouldn’t either. I care about three things, customer loyalty, interaction, and sales conversions.

Organic traffic and sales conversions are hard to monitor. However, we can monitor this by simply offering discounts, tracking with analytics and special links like Google Shortlinks, freebies, or other incentives that can be the criteria for marking a sale at SUN ‘n FUN as a social media generated acquisition. If you are selling online, have them submit a coupon code. Not looking to give ANYTHING away this week? That’s fine, have your sales team ask your customers how they heard about you. Keep these numbers every day of the event and see how your social media efforts are turning out.

Focus on a platform, and make that platform Twitter.

Twitter is the only true social media platform. It allows you to interact and be discovered the same way as everyone else. Unlike Facebook, you can call the shots on this platform. When I managed a social media account for an aviation retailer last year at SUN ‘n FUN, I found the most use came from spending time on Twitter. Sure, if you have a large audience on Facebook and other networks it will behoove you to keep content rolling on there. However, I would recommend focusing 70% of your social media efforts on Twitter this week.

If you don’t LIVE Periscope stream this week, you are MISSING OUT!

Within the last month we have seen a huge opportunity sprout up. The social media platform is called Periscope which is owned by Twitter and is focused on instant live video streaming.

What does that mean? Well, it means that this week as you are giving a tour of your new aircraft model, headset, or other awesome product, you should be live streaming it for the whole aviation community on Twitter to watch and be a part of. In fact, you should be live streaming as much as you can! Why would you turn down an opportunity to show your fans exactly what your brand is doing during the week. (behind the scenes and all).

Scared? Too bad, I command you to do it! Here is a video to get you up-to-speed on how to use Periscope this week!

Over-Tweet, this week it is socially acceptable.

How many industries have times during the year when they can just send out tweet and post after another without their consumers getting annoyed? Very few.

Luckily aviation is such a passionate industry that everyone knows it is SUN ‘n FUN time. This means not only do they not mind seeing your brand tweet all day long, they actually want you to. This is great because it means you have an open forum to serve content to users multiple times a day and thus increasing your exposure at a critical week in the aviation year. If you are at SUN ‘n FUN, and you are tweeting about it, these two aspects instantly combine and add another layer of social proof to your brand by your consumers.

Set up a digital command center

Services like Hootsuite and TweetDeck will get you through this week. You can set up a command center dashboard to have a constant live feed of everyone who is talking about SUN ‘n FUN (#snf15). If your social media manager is smart, they will cross reference this and follow other tags pertaining to aviation and meld the two together to have the most potential for finding conversations to jump into. This is important because during live events like this you can’t miss a beat when the beat drops. Have someone who is dedicated at looking after your brand on social media for the week, don’t miss out on this opportunity to be a part of as many conversations as possible with potential customers.

The “Preflight” and “Cool down” philosophy

Hopefully you are reading this early enough to implement this strategy.

Always remember, this event is a key part of each participant’s year. I even have trouble sleeping a week in advance because I am so excited. This time before the arrival of the event should be spent showing your followers the setup process, your flights to Lakeland, etc…This is what people want to see like I mentioned earlier the more conversation the better. Be genuine and personable, that's all people want.

Perfect execution goes to Redbird FlightSims.

As you can see, this is what we call the “Preflight” portion of your strategy. Capitalize on everyone’s excitement for the event.

In contrast, on the 26th when everyone is leaving the event and sad to see it move under the horizon until next year, this is when we enter the “Cooldown” portion of your strategy.

This is when everyone will gladly be happy to see your brand continue the conversation past the event. Share inside jokes that only event goers would get, spend time showing the tear down and goodbye hugs, share some quick videos of the homeward flights back to your headquarters.

Don’t forget to tag all of this with #SnF15, everyone will still be watching this hashtag like a hawk.

**Bonus Tip**
Be one of the first to mention your intentions for next year’s event and be a leader for next years conversation by using: #SnF16
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you implement these strategies you will be on your way to a better social media life at #SnF15.

Is all of this social media talk still going way over your head? It’s okay, I understand it can be difficult. If you are nervous that you may “mess” up, my team and I will be on the ready and having fun down in Lakeland, Florida for SUN ‘n FUN this upcoming week. If your aviation brand finds that creative design and social media marketing is in short supply for the week, reach out and we will be happy to help!
Some brands &aviators to keep an eye on this week on Twitter:

Sun‘n Fun - @SunnFunFlyIn
Larry Overstreet

Jason Schappert - @mzeroa
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport - @FlyLakeland

Fly With Jepp - @FlyWithJepp
Me - @IanHoyt
Redbird Flight Sim - @Redbird_Flight
Avidyne Corporation - @avidyne1
Dave Shallbetter - @SnFRadioDave
MyGoFlight - @mygoflight

More to be added during the week…


I am an aviation branding and advertising consultant, you can find where this article first appeared on my website www.IanHoyt.com. Reach out to me on Twitter @IanHoyt, let's meet up at SUN ‘n FUN! Happy Landings everyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Using Periscope Live Broadcasts for GA Advocacy - Report 2

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I am now a couple of weeks into my experiment to see if the Periscope Live Broadcasting app can be a game changer for the GA community to reach out to the public about the joys of flying.
What I've been asking is this: With the ease of use and functionality of this app (and also Meerkat, a similar app), it seems like a great way for pilots to do "live broadcasts" of their aviation world, answering questions from the public about anything in the realm of flying, flight training, airplane ownership...anything. You just start a broadcast, headline it "I'm a Pilot - Ask me anything about flying or airplanes" and the people will come. In theory, this is brilliant...but in reality, there is a long ways to go before this platform really serves this purpose, in my opinion.
In my first test of what I am calling an #avscope on Periscope, I reached 149 broadcast visitors for a session conducted in early evening on a weeknight. This past Saturday afternoon, I did a second #avscope session, but attracted only 38 viewers, so it appears people were just out doing things and were not on Periscope. The session was decent though, with several questions being asked about costs and safety of flying, so I am still interested in seeing where this will go.
But there remains a maturity issue with Periscope, and it needs to further evolve before people consider it a viable platform for use as an advocacy tool. Here are a few of the things I feel are holding this fantastic app back:
1. As far as I can tell, there is no search option to find only broadcasts about a particular topic. You open the app, and it feeds you the latest broadcasts, which run the wide gamut from teenage girls in their bedrooms looking for attention to dudes vaping after work, and yes, what's in the freakin' fridge. Hopefully the "fridge" broadcasts will go away soon. There are plenty of very cool broadcasts that pop into the app's top 4 positions from throughout the world, like the guy broadcasting while driving some sort of exotic sports car through Rome, Italy, or someone broadcasting the setting sun in Hawaii. But if you want to try and find anything aviation-related, so far, I cannot find a way to just search for those broadcasts. So our #avscope broadcasts are thrown in with sleeping cats, drunk girls in Uzbekistan, or people walking home from work.

2. The app does not seem to have any international filtering or way to chose a default language or geo region, so you get all broadcasts from all users throughout the world. Great if you want to watch girls in Uzbekistan down shots before dancing on a table, but on my feed, sometimes it seems like over 50% of the broadcasts are in a foreign language. So even if they ARE about aviation, since I do not read Arabic, I will have no idea what they are trying to show me.

3. So far, Periscope is a fad, and people are trying to figure out what to do with it. As it matures, people will find ways to make this great app useful for many things (like reaching out to the public about aviation) and I look forward to future releases and updates. But the app is so far out of the mainstream right now, even savvy marketers have no clue what Periscope is, what it does, or what it CAN do. This will change with time because it really is an awesome way for marketers to do quick "behind-the scenes" broadcasts of events to push their brand and get their stuff out there. Yesterday, I watched a broadcast of a Formula One race team prepping for the Chinese Grand Prix from inside their shop, it had me mesmerized...very cool look at what goes on "behind the curtain" and a great use of Periscope.

4. The aviation community is not ready for Periscope yet. I have seen a few people using the app for aviation purposes, but very few of us are thinking about using it as a serious GA advocacy tool...yet. This is because most of the aviation community is averse to social media, and edgy social platforms like Periscope are simply too far out for someone who doesn't even understand Twitter.
I will continue to work on this experiment as Oshkosh draws closer, and hope that during the aviation summer family reunion in Wisconsin, I'll help convince a few of the #avgeeks I hang with to do some #avscope broadcasts while at Airventure.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Periscope Experiment 1: Reaching Out to the Public About GA Was Incredibly Easy

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In my introduction post to this experiment of using Periscope - the hot new live streaming video app - to broadcast live and see if we aviators can reel in the public to talk about aviation, I theorized that this new technology might just be the perfect conduit to finally bridge the expanding gap between our aviation community and the general public.

Tonight, I have some very early data to report.

First, let me set the stage:
I have been watching numerous live broadcasts on Periscope over the last few days, and was not amused at what I saw. In almost every case of "Q&A, ask me anything," there was a large majority of basement dwellers, cretins and Youtube commentators that were spoiling nearly every broadcast with their usual vile, sophomoric, mindless idiocy. There were constant chat posts about "FRIDGE FRIDGE FRIDGE", and other ways to keep the useless chatter focused in someone's refrigerator. Yes, that's apparently a thing on Periscope...doing live broadcasts of the inside of the fridge. That was when a male was the broadcaster. When a cute young girl was the broadcaster, at times 50% of the chat posts were about her anatomy, her sexual preferences, or anything else despicable these losers could dig out of their twisted minds. My hopes were fading fast that Periscope could in fact be the conduit for GA to reach the public that I had first thought.
But in the interest of really unorganized science, I decided to push forward and host a live Q&A session myself about flying and airplanes. I assumed I'd just have to ignore the cretins, but I am happy to report they were off harassing other broadcasters, as not one showed up in the chat stream. I see that as a huge win and hope it is not an outlier.

My first #avscope chat came off without any problems, and as far as I can tell, it was a success. At the conclusion, I had 149 viewers, with about 30 participating in the chat. I knew about 10 of the viewers as #avgeeks I see frequently on Twitter and at Oshkosh, but the other 139...I have to assume were just "the public" being curious about flying and airplanes.

The questions asked ran the gamut from "How much does a parachute cost?" to "will you get shot down by another country if you fly across their borders without a Visa?" There were a few "is it safe?" questions, and one asking why I hate helicopters. Really? Not sure what part of left field that one came from, but I assured the viewer I do NOT hate helicopters, in fact I find them fascinating.

There is only good news here. It was a just a start, but a good one. Because tonight, I "owned the room" as good public speakers say, and was able to drag as many as 139 new people into our world, if only for a few minutes. Aside from looking much older and heavier than I am in RL, I loved every second of this, and cannot wait to do the second of what I presume will be many #avscopes about aviation.

Why not grab your copy of Periscope (sorry 'Droid users, iPhone only at this time) and do your own aviation-themed live broadcasts. If you do one, please use #avscope when talking about it on Twitter.

You have nothing to lose, and GA has everything to gain.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Can Periscope and Meerkat be the Conduit Between General Aviation and the Public?

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Anyone that watches the tech space for the hottest new mobile apps knows that two new "live streaming" apps - Periscope and Meerkat - are red hot right now. Both operate the same way, giving users a quick, easy and free way to create "live broadcasts" that allow real-time chat functionality.

So far, in testing both apps for a few days, I'm quite impressed with the technology. A simple user interface gives anyone the tools to go live and show their viewers what they are seeing, as long as both broadcaster and viewer have a decent connection. I have seen more than a few "poor" or "lost" connections, always over 4G LTE. This is not a review of the apps, except to say both have taken social media to another exciting level, and yet again, the bar has been raised on what we can do with our mobile devices. The only question is...what will people do with this new tool?

My initial reaction to Periscope and Meerkat after seeing how the apps are being used is that the majority of the content so far is drivel. "What's in my fridge" or "Me, eating at Taco Bell" does not generate "must see" streams. And my personal favorite of "My cat, sleeping" made me start thinking  that these new apps could have somehow found a way to jump the shark even before they grow big enough to became an everyday part of our social media lives.

But something on Periscope piqued my interest about the possibly of these apps being used by the aviation community as a great way to reach out to the public and welcome them into our world, if only for a few streaming moments.

I noticed that quite a few people were doing "23YO girl in Ireland, ask me anything" live sessions, and were getting anywhere from 10 to even 50 viewers "tuning in" live to ask mostly mindless questions. So I let myself wonder what would happen if it became a "thing" to see a serious number of pilots jump on these apps with "I'm a pilot, ask me anything about flying and airplanes" live broadcasts. Here is me, dreaming...
Throughout the week, what if 10 #avgeeks were on these apps offering to answer any legit questions about flying, aviation, airplanes...anything in this realm? Let's just say each pilot on Periscope or Meerkat answering questions were to get 20 viewers, that's 200 people we could reach! Sure, 200 people reached may not seem like a huge number, but it would be a start. And if general aviation is to grow, every licensed pilot has to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities for public outreach, and there is no question these apps represent a new opportunity.
The demographics of the average social media user trends younger, and this is precisely the demo we need to target. With tech savvy #avgeek pilots using these apps to connect with this target audience, we may be able to amp up the "cool factor" of flying and convince a few of these "viewers" to seek out flight schools, head over to the local airport, or just visit the EAA or AOPA websites to learn more.

So for the next few weeks, I'm going to test this theory and see if there is any interest on Periscope. I will host some of my own "I'm a pilot - Q&A about flying and airplanes" live broadcasts, and track the results. If it turns out that these apps are really only about drivel and sleeping cats, the whole exercise can easily be shelved, no harm, no foul and no cost. Again...me, dreaming:
How cool would it be to get 20, 30, even 50 people at once watching an #avgeek host a live Periscope or Meerkat session about flying? We'd have a captive audience who by their very act of joining the broadcast would demonstrate that they have some level of interest in learning about our world. We could answer their obvious questions like "how much does it cost to get a pilot's license" and "is it safe" while smiling - no, grinning - because we are overflowing with enthusiasm for something we love. Why not host the live broadcasts from our hangars, show viewers our airplanes? We could stream our EAA chapter meetings, rock their world from Sun N' Fun, or broadcast what we see at an AOPA regional fly-in...all of this to get them excited about aviation. Yes, maybe it will be just a few minutes of live streamed video, but if we connect with that tiny piece of their soul that is curious about aviation, it moves those viewers one step closer to converting them into a flight student, and that really is the end game here.
Looking ahead a few months to late summer, we all know what happens along the shores of Lake Winnebago, at the aviation family reunion we call EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Imagine what could happen if hundreds of #avgeeks all embraced Periscope and Meerkat and launched a flood of live broadcasts from the show every day. We could really reach out to the public, drawing them in to see that flying is fascinating, exciting and available to them. For one week, we could push live broadcasts from Oshkosh onto these platforms, and the results would be nothing short of incredible.

I will stay on this bandwagon heading into Oshkosh, because it is my belief that these two apps might just be the perfect conduit to finally bridge the expanding gap between our aviation community and the general public.

Keep an eye on Airplanista as I report back in on what develops in this "Pilot Q & A" experiment. If you like this idea, and wish to participate, just download Periscope or Meerkat and get after it. You can always email me here, or reach me on Twitter as @Av8rdan.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Strong Women of Aviation: Carol Pilon Celebrates 15 Seasons as a Wingwalker

Wingwalker Carol Pilon
Photo by Jim Rogers
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

In another installment of my continuing series on Strong Women of Aviation, Airplanista recently interviewed one of North America's most well-known wingwalkers, Carol Pilon, from Masham, Quebec, Canada. As the snow begins to melt up north and across most of the USA, Pilon is preparing to start her 15th season doing something that many might think is crazy.

But when you read the following, you will see that this is a trained professional doing something she loves, and everything she does up there while hanging in what looks like a completely precarious situation full of danger is calculated, practiced and predictable.

AIRPLANISTA: How did you get into wingwalking, and what was it about the profession that drew you in?

CAROL PILON: I am not entirely sure what drew me in but from the very first time that I saw Wingwalking, I knew that it would be the rest of my life. It all happened when an advert for my local airshow came across my television screen. I saw the first three seconds of Wingwalking that I had ever witnessed in my life and as simple as that...I knew that this was my new home.

2015 marks 15 years as a professional wingwalker. What is it about you and your act that has allowed such longevity in this career?

CAROL PILON: Being more paranoid than a long tailed cat in a rocking chair factory has likely contributed more to my longevity than I would like to admit. Surrounding myself with the right people at the right time. Allowing contributions by others to the team whether this implies talent on a piloting, artistic or engineering level. Being open to newness has helped keep the team fresh and myself motivated. Asking for help...often...and then being smart enough to accept it. All this and understanding that returning to student status means nothing more than ensuring a good future no matter where you find yourself on the path.

Carol Pilon at work. Photo by Eric Dumigan
AIRPLANISTA: What is the learning curve for a wingwalker? Is there a "training" period, and did you have a mentor to teach you how to survive?

CAROL PILON: I had it pretty easy when it came to training. Most new wingwalkers at the time were self taught. I, however, acquired excellent tutelage from one of the best teams that my generation will have likely ever seen. This does not mean that I did not earn it. Seven years of rejection separated the times between deciding that I would become a wingwalker and getting my first ride. I put in seven years of ground work that led to two weeks of intensive training. This was all that was required before my first show. It would take another year of experience before jet wing walking and truth be told, I have never stopped learning. So I guess that you could say that the learning curve lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a lifetime depending on your ultimate goals.

AIRPLANISTA: "Wingwalker" is not your every day profession. What kind of reaction do you get when you tell non-pilots what you do for a living?

CAROL PILON: I have found that people either think it is awesome or insane. They either totally get it or can not comprehend it at all. I have rarely met indifference and FYI....this includes pilots. They are certainly not immune.

AIRPLANISTA: Tell us about the wingwalking you did on a jet-propelled aircraft? What kind of airplane, who was the pilot, and how many times did you do that?

CAROL PILON: I wing walked on a 3,000 HP, jet-propelled, modified, Waco bi-plane for about a year and half with Jimmy Franklin at the helm. He was nothing short of a revolutionary performer. The jet Waco was simply astounding to work on. Those flights will be remembered as the most challenging and rewarding ones of my life.

AIRPLANISTA: What kind of physical shape do you have to be in to be a wingwalker? Do you have a workout regimen you'd like to share?

CAROL PILON: I would say that you do need to be in pretty good shape but there is a bit of a secret to wingwalking: the more you do it, the easier it gets. My regimen consists of getting in the air as much as possible.

AIRPLANISTA: How much of your day is spent marketing your act?

CAROL PILON: Urgh. Cold calling sucks! The short answer is too much. The more complex answer is not anywhere close to enough.

AIRPLANISTA: This is a question you probably get all the time, but is it dangerous?

CAROL PILON: Yes, but not for the reasons that you would think. The more serious risks involved are flying a 70-year-old aircraft so close to the ground. The actually wingwalking portion of the flight is not anywhere close to the top of the inherent risks involved with airshow/aerobatic flight.

AIRPLANISTA: What would you tell girls and women to interest them in aviation, either to pursue a pilot's license for recreational flying or as a career?

CAROL PILON: I have failed entirely to understand what it takes to get a woman or girl interested in aviation. The women and girls that want to be involved are involved. After over a hundred years of flight, we still only represent a measly six percent of the aviation world. I do not know what the magic bullet is. Does the answer lay with making sciences more accessible or desirable to girls at a young age or does fault lay with society's perception of aviation. I truly do not know how to motivate women or girls more than by doing what I do and talking to as many of them as I can and telling them how freaking awesome it is!

AIRPLANISTA: What is the biggest misconception about wingwalkers?

That we are crazy. Everything that I do on a wing and during a flight is beyond scrutinized and calculated. I am not a risk taker. I am a risk assessor. Well....I might be a little crazy. Okay...I am crazy but not the way other crazy people are crazy...now I sound crazy too. Great!

AIRPLANISTA: Freestyle question, go crazy and tell me anything about being a wingwalker that you think the public does not know...a piece of your backstory that you have always wanted to tell.

CAROL PILON: The best thing about being a wingwalker is a well-kept secret. Allow me to explain. When I first starting being a wingwalker, I decided that I would bring change, create new stunts, alter the business paradigm and revolutionize the way wingwalking was perceived. I was going to be the best thing that ever happened to Wingwalking and my mark upon it would reverberate through the ages. Fortunately, I stayed the course and realized that, yes, there were some new stunts, there were new business platforms, there were broken records and there were even a few firsts but there was no mark to be left. I came to Wingwalking expecting to make it better only to find out that the roles were reversed. Wingwalking has made me better, not the other way around. It has given me goals and allowed me to achieve them. It has brought incredibly talented people into my life whose knowledge and skills have increased mine. It has offered me salvation, education and freedom. Wingwalking has made me more than I could have made of myself. That is a pretty neat trick if you think about it!

Visit Pilon's website here and find her schedule here so you can keep an eye out for her act at an air show this year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Women of Aviation Week's KABQ Event is One Part of a Worldwide Effort to Tap Into GA's Secret Weapon for Growth

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Six percent.

The pathetic statistic above is the percentage bantered around by anyone who has ever researched the most obvious part of general aviation's growth problem. That's the number of female pilots, which means GA has completely missed this demographic, and whatever the industry has been doing to attract women to come fly in our male-dominated skies has just not worked.

According to the United States Census, in 2013, 50.8 percent of our citizens were female. But that same year, FAA released data showing females made up only 6.6 percent of the overall pilot population. When you look at the dismal amount of females who have earned a pilot's license, it is crystal clear that the message being sent to these girls and women is all wrong. There remains a major disconnect between females in this country and aviation, and this is the Holy Grail of all aviation marketers, Titans of Industry and influencers right now.

There's been many motivated people and organizations that have tried to pull women into flying. It would take more space than I have allowed myself in this post to list the efforts made to attract women to come fly with us in the left seat. But try as they may, regardless of the attempts made, nothing has stuck and the six percent(ish) number sadly still applies.

As anyone who has ever contemplated gender differences knows, what works to attract men to flying obviously does not work with women. Here's a clue:
In his best-selling book, "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships" by John Gray, Ph.D., Gray states that "not only do men and women communicate differently, but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently." The book does not waste ink discussing "why" men and women are different, but instead focuses on what the specific differences between men and women are...how they react to stress, what motivates them, and their emotional cycles and needs.
These differences between the way men and women view flying seems to be the unanswerable question. If we as an industry can ever successfully solve this riddle, we can all stand back and watch GA grow exponentially.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that this issue is one of extreme importance to me. So with that in mind, I am stoked beyond belief to be working with Texas pilot Dianna Stanger on the Women of Aviation Week Fly It Forward Challenge event she and Del Sol Aviation are organizing at Albuquerque International Sunport (KABQ) on March 2-8.
I have only met Stanger one time - last summer at #OSH14 - as she walked from yet another appearance on Boeing Plaza beside her big, bold new jet, the custom L-139 Albatros 2000 fighter that she has added to her stable of airplanes. Forget the business jet she owns, or the completely groovy late-model Waco biplane, or the Cirrus, or the EC135 helicopter she just bought. When you buy a one-off jet like the L-139...it just SCREAMS that you are so passionate about aviation that you'll stop at nothing to share your world with others.
As AOPA.org reported, Stanger has a big mission in mind for the L-139. She plans to fly the jet around the country to aviation events with the sole purpose of showing girls and women that they too can come fly with us. She already has the sunglasses, and is working on her fighter pilot swagger.

But long before she lands and spools down the massive Garrett engine in the L-139, she will be found at KABQ in early March flying as many laps around the airport in anything she can find that will hold as many females as possible to enjoy free "first" flights. She'll be joined by an army of volunteer pilots and ground crew, helped at all times by Jasmine Gordon, and the people at Del Sol Aviation and Cutter Aviation.

Along with my agency's Managing Partner, Julie Celeste, my firm has been brought into the project as the PR/marketing team, and I could not be happier. If just a tiny bit of Stanger's enthusiasm for aviation rubs off on me during this project, it will be a good thing not only for my aviation marketing team, but also for GA overall.
This event is developing by the day, with new static displays being lined up, including  possibly some heavy iron from the military. Aviation's finest - people like Eric Auxier and Ramona Cox - have signed up to come to ABQ as speakers and volunteer pilots. And that was just the first week of working on this project. We have two more weeks to blow this event into something even more massive and special!
So here's the drill: If you agree that bringing more females into flying will grow GA, follow @woawABQ on Twitter and "like" the event's Facebook page. Bookmark Flywoaw.com - the event's official website, and if you can get there, stop by ABQ March 2-8 and fly some "first" flights or just hang around and feel the love. If you tweet about this event, use the hashtag #woawABQ and be sure to post this news on all of your social channels.

Together, we might be able to make a dent in that six percent. If you can't get to ABQ, look here on the WOAW site for an event near you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Social Media Ignorance: Aviation's 'Canary in the Coal Mine'

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Everyone reading this article knows general aviation HAS to grow in the coming years...it is the single biggest issue facing the industry. And that growth needs to come from two places, women and the younger demographic...people ages 18 to 40(ish). When you look around the airport coffee shop, there is more gray hair these days, a clear and present sign that the general pilot population is aging.

If we as an industry fail to bring the younger pilot into flying, we fail to replace the seniors among us who lose their medical. Sure, a few move on to Light Sport Aircraft, flying on a Sport Pilot ticket and using their driver's license as their medical card. But this is tiny fraction of the older pilots that are losing their flying privileges, and with a few major exceptions like EAA's Young Eagles program, aviation as a whole is dropping the ball on seriously reaching anyone under 40 years old. This demographic LOVES adventure sports, and nothing shouts adventure like flying. Nothing.
To reach this valuable demographic so vital to the future growth of GA, you have to connect with them online, using social media, because that's where they live. They do not read newspapers, they do not use email. They do not listen to radio, and most never watch any scheduled television. All of those methods to reach them are considered by those under 40 to be what their parents use, or to put it bluntly, what old, out of touch dinosaurs use.
People under 40 are all over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and probably a dozen lesser social platforms that are not relevant in this discussion. As a social media marketing professional, I spend most days on Twitter, and know the value of the platform and the demographics intuitively. My team and I also post for clients to Facebook, and it is very easy to reach a chosen demo just by the choices you make in content, and how you "boost" a particular post.

There are just too many people in the aviation industry who ignore social media, mostly because they do not understand it.
A glaring example was that Twitter was mostly silent before and during the recent U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. Yes, there was a trickle of tweets from the organizers, but so few exhibitors bothered to use Twitter during the show, you could count them on one hand and still give someone the finger. During one day of the show - Thursday, January 15th - not one manufacturer tweeted anything using #Sebring15, the show's official hashtag. None, nada, zilch. This, my friends, is the Canary in the Coal Mine, telling the aviation industry that it's time to wake up about social media marketing.
I am sure the people in the LSA sector who refuse to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc...say it doesn't work. And they would be right...those platforms are 100% ineffective if you DON'T USE THEM. And I am pretty sure at some point, a few of the exhibitors looked around the show grounds at all the gray hair, and wondered where their younger buyers were hidden. Well, it's quite simple...they weren’t at the show, because they didn't KNOW about the show.

This remains one of the biggest frustrations we in aviation marketing have as we watch the sector stumble along trying to reach the valuable younger buyer. And at Sebring, the LSA makers set the bar much lower as they succeeded in keeping the show a secret to anyone under 40.

On Twitter, we have a hashtag for that...#FAIL.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Airplanista has not gone quiet - I'm still writing, just catching more ink than pixels

Writing the cover story for Cessna Flyer's
October, 2014 issue about Ramona "Skychick"
Cox and her backcountry flying was a high
point of my 2014 editorial calendar.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The readers of this blog - which has been in continuous publication since 2005 - know that there are times when yours truly gets a bit sidetracked, creating gaps in the creation of my usual Airplanista content.

This is just such a time.

It's not that I'm not writing...quite the contrary. I am doing more aviation writing than ever right now, but they are paying gigs for five national aviation magazines. These assignments are taking up the time I've always spent writing for Airplanista, and anyone that knows about professional freelance writing knows that paying gigs are quite rare, so I must always place a higher priority on them than on cranking out content here.

So to try and explain that I have not disappeared...here is a quick run down of my current national writing assignments:
Aviation Group (Cessna Flyer and Piper Flyer Magazines): I currently write the Affirmative Attitude column for these two magazines, and the monthly assignment is one of the coolest things I do right now. The column highlights people in our aviation family that do great things to advocate for GA, or to help the greater good of humanity. These 1,000-to-1,200 word columns are a blast to pen, and I feel that I sort of own this niche now. Each month, I shine a pretty big spotlight on very cool people that use their flying skills, their airplanes or just their free time to give back in ways that really contribute to pushing GA forward. I also write numerous features for these magazines - almost one a month on average - including As Big as The Sky Itself about Ramona Cox.

AOPA Pilot Magazine: I have written for Tom Haines and AOPA Pilot for almost a decade, with a nice portfolio of features catching their very important ink. Today, I have been producing some 800-ish word news pieces for their Pilot Briefing section. Great gig, awesome people, and I hope this assignment never ends. I would not be surprised to see a feature in there in 2015...just need to pitch Tom and his sidekick, Ian Twombly the perfect story.

EAA Sport Aviation Magazine: I recently wrote a really detailed feature for this excellent magazine on John Stahr, one of the aviation world's most prolific airbrush painters. John - who happens to be a hangar mate of mine at KEUG - paints completely insane airbrush scenes on everything from RV's (flying and rolling) to Falcon 900's. I really enjoyed working with the EAA staff on this one, and as they are in the middle of a change of command at the helm of their magazines, I have no idea what the future holds. But I feel confident that if the right experimental story comes my way, I will see more of their ink in 2015.

HAI's Rotor Magazine: I wrote a pair of "Sector Profiles" for Helicopter Aviation International's flagship magazine including a cover story on fighting wildfires with rotorcraft, and I hear from them they are not through with me yet. Their staff is very good to work with...a fine association. Expect a few more of these sector profiles from me in this magazine in the future.
That is the list of current publications accepting my work. It keeps my editorial calendar full, but there is always room for more. I'm constantly on the hunt for new features, and have set a goal to add one more publication to this list in 2015. I am now reading Plane and Pilot every month, learning their content needs, and will continue to pitch their Editor stories that I feel would be awesome on their pages. Hasn't happened yet, but it will.

I am also looking at expanding my role as a tourism/travel writer, but that sector is jammed with writers, so breaking in is tough...but not impossible. 2015 is a blank sheet of paper for me at this point...what I will be doing and who I will be writing for is anyone's guess.

So, never give up on Airplanista, it is just sitting at the hold short line for a while. I do accept guest blogger posts, so shoot me an email if you have some writing experience and something to say.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Certification Issues Could Keep Santa's New Flying Sleigh Grounded

The new Sleighmaster 3000ti is being called a breakthrough
in sleigh design due to the disruptive nature of its engineering.
By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Since kids began hearing the tale of how their gifts end up under the tree on Christmas morning, they've been told about a jolly fat man with a big white beard flying through the night in a flying sleigh powered by a team of eight magical reindeer. Yes, it's been a great ride for this story, but it has come time for Santa to upgrade from that worn out old truck of a sleigh he has used for generations.
As Airplanista does each Christmas season, we've again sent our writer to go undercover up at the North Pole to get the real scoop on what Santa and those Elves are doing. In the past, we've reported on morale issues in the workshops, with disgruntled Elves threatening work stoppages if they had to work more unpaid overtime. We've also reported that while Santa's current flying sleigh is rather dated, it is also screaming fast, and despite a full steam gauge panel, is still capable of making instrument approaches to every rooftop in the world in one night...in full IMC.
But on this trip up to the North Pole, Airplanista's reporter was the only journalist allowed full access into Santa's SkunkWerx, and we are now able to break this huge news story. Inside the SkunkWerx, Santa and a team of retired Boeing engineers have been building something that no other aviation news outlet knows about...a "next gen" gift delivery system called the Sleighmaster 3000ti:
Behind a series of locked doors accessed only through retina scans and a DNA sample is the North Pole's secret development lab. With white floors and a sterile environment, you might think this is where silicon chips are being invented. But at the center of this "clean room" sits the Sleighmaster 3000ti, the uber-secret new sleigh Santa hopes to unveil in a couple of weeks. It is longer, taller and much more sleek that the old sleigh we've seen on Christmas cards of yesteryear, and through "clean sheet" design, the 3000ti introduces the latest in aerodynamics, reducing drag coefficients to unheard of levels. But the real jaw-dropper is the choice of power. Gone are the reindeer, replaced by Santa's own brand of turbofan engines, mounted in a "UTGCHEM" configuration, for "under the gift cargo hold engine mount" system.
Our reporter has discovered that the new engines powering Santa's 3000ti sleigh are similar in design to the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines that power Boeing's Triple 7 family of airliners:
Santa's new XMB7000R-2 engines are three-shaft high bypass ratio turbofan engines, each with a dry weight of 19,345 pounds. Each has eight-stage compressors, a 12-stage HP compressor, and double annular combustors with 48 fuel injectors per engine. Maximum thrust on each engine is 93,400 pounds at max takeoff weights.
From this post last holiday season on Airplanista, we know Santa has to get it on in order to hit every house in the world in one night. And while many #Avgeeks did team up to "pimp" Santa's old sleigh last year, it was not enough, as a couple of neighborhoods in Ottumwa, Iowa had to be missed to stay on schedule. Santa - being a stickler for perfection - came back to the North Pole fuming, and after taking one day off to log his flight, he began putting together the team to design and build the Sleighmaster 3000ti.   

Everything was going along perfectly through design and flight testing, but Airplanista has learned that certification has been problematic and the 3000ti project has suffered delays and setbacks, much like so many other manufacturers has discovered when trying to bring a new design to market:
Daunting and expensive, the FAA certification process is thought by many in the aviation world to be the primary hindrance towards substantial GA growth. New airplanes get stuck in certification hell, and manufacturers blow through millions in venture capital before getting anywhere close to a type certificate. With the Sleighmaster 3000ti, the story is the same...cumbersome regulations causing unnecessary delays. As the hard deadline of a Christmas Eve flight approaches, tension is palpable at the North Pole because the old sleigh is out of annual and parts are no longer available.
Right now, the 3000ti has flight tested perfectly, and is waiting for that TC to arrive from Oklahoma City. But Airplanista has learned that there are two issues that could very well harpoon the entire process, grounding the Sleighmaster indefinitely, and putting the entire Christmas gift delivery flight in doubt.
First are issues with the cargo hold, which must be built to carry the estimated 8.25 MILLION tons of gifts needed to deliver to boys and girls around the world. FAA inspectors recently discovered that the structure under the gift hold - which is part of the "UTGCHEM" design - could only hold 70,957 gifts per square inch, about 5,560 short of the minimum capability for transportation of gifts as outlined in FAR Part 1669-A, subpart 5, section 3, paragraphs 1 and 2. Engineers have been trying to find a workaround to satisfy FAA, but so far, the North Pole FSDO refuses to issue the field approval to allow the planned December 24th departure.
But while the structural deficiencies may well end up being remedied, the bigger issue is those mega-jet engines, in particular, the noise levels that they emit. FAR Part 1669-A, subpart 2, section 4, chapter 1, rule 56b was written back when sleighs were powered by magic reindeer - and the FAA has been quiet about possible rulemaking to update the regulation - so anything over the sound of a reindeer fart has always been unacceptable. FAA noise regs for sleighs say maximum decibel levels must not exceed 0.23 dB on takeoff, but the new XMB7000R-2s on the Sleighmaster 3000ti produce 156 dBs, so they are now out-of-service until a fix can be designed.
"We've tried everything," said Lead design Elf Wrench B. Turnin, "including a deflector on the back of each engine to fool the Feds into thinking the new engines are quiet enough to allow Christmas to take place. I mean, really...zero point two three dB? Are they f-ing KIDDING? I can burp louder than that! But they are on to us...so keep this on the QT...we're going to try sticking 5,789,142 bags of marshmallows into each engine in hopes it will muffle the sound just enough to get these FSDO goons off our six. By the time we blast off outta here and reach Anchorage, we'll be spittin' roasted marshmallows out the back of these big honking puppies we have for engines. And, with a little chocolate and a few tons of Graham Crackers, we'll be layin' down a layer of S'Mores all across the frozen tundra that the FAA can chew on!"
As the important Christmas flight approaches, Santa assures Airplanista that he has the FAA inspectors just where he wants them, and he's confident he'll get the sleigh's TC in time to launch on his gift run. "Those inspectors have kids, know what I'm sayin?" said Santa, winking. "Would be a damn shame if those children woke up to see no gifts under the tree this year because their parents couldn't, you know, work wit' me on this."
This is a developing story, and Airplanista has boots on the ground at the North Pole ready to report any news as it happens. Stay tuned to this blog for updates, in real-time, thanks to the dedication of our embedded aviation journos on the scene and an awesome wi-fi connection at the hotel where we have set up base camp.