Repost: Yikes! I Almost Stalled over Lakeland!

Fly 'n Things

“Aircraft arriving over Lake Parker, expect holding until 7:15 pm over Lake Parker,” was what we heard on the radio a few minutes after our planned group departure from Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Leesburg, Florida.

snf0Four aircraft from the Mid-Atlantic had made it easily, albeit, at different times to our chosen airport of rendezvous. Considering the aircraft in play: a Columbia 400, a twin Baron, a Cessna 182 and a Cessna 172, we definitely needed a rally point to meet, prepare, and plan a departure to Sun ‘n Fun (SNF).

snf9According to our original plan, we had all congregated at KLEE, briefed the arrival procedures and departed on cue around 6:00pm. The plan was to arrive at Lakeland Airport around 6:30pm for a group arrival.

Being the slowest aircraft of all, a Cessna 172, we had departed last. Hearing the SNF radio communications, Linda and I, pondered our options…

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Jackie Cochran

I might have been born in a hovel
but I am determined to travel with the wind and the stars.
— Jackie Cochran

Born Bessie Lee Pittman in Pensacola, FL in 1906, Jackie Cochran, was the youngest of five children. She rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become one of history’s most accomplished female aviators. She worked in a cotton mill at the age of six, and labored at a series of jobs before answering her call to the air. She married Robert Cochran in 1920, and after the marriage ended with the death of Robert in 1925, she retained the name of Cochran and began using Jacqueline or Jackie as her name.

She learned to fly in 1932 at the Roosevelt Flying School in Long Island and pursued advanced flight instruction at Ryan School of Aeronautics going on to get her instrument, commercial and air transport pilot ratings. Some of her achievements included:

  • In 1934, she flew in the London, England to Melbourne, Australia race.
  • In 1935, she became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, which she won in 1938.
  • In 1937 she became the first woman to make a blind instrument landing.
  • In 1939-40 she set new women’s records in altitude and open class speed.
  • She was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, leading to the formation of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program.
  • In 1950, she received the Harmon Trophy as the Aviatrix of the Decade.
  • In 1953, she became the first woman to break the speed barrier.
  • In 1962, she subsequently set 73 records in three years.
  • In 1964, she exceeded Mach 2.
  • She was also the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier

She was a sponsor of the Mercury 13 program, an early effort to test the ability of women to be astronauts. She served as the President of the Ninety Nines for two terms. She received the Distinguished Service Medal for her leadership of the WASP and three Distinguished Flying Cross awards for other records. She was also a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Jackie Cochran also authored two autobiographies —The Stars at Noon and, with Mary Ann Bucknam Brinley, Jackie Cochran.

Jackie Cochran pioneered women’s aviation as one of the most prominent racing pilots of her generation.

See Also:

The National Hall of Fame

Women in Aviation and Space History

Jacqueline Cochran and the Woman’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)

Bessie Coleman

Barnstorming through the Barriers

Born in Atlanta, TX in 1892, Bessie Coleman was the first African American, and the first Native American woman pilot. She had twelve brothers and sisters. During World War I, when she learned that France was allowing women to learn flying, she became interested in becoming a pilot. Although she applied to many schools across the country, being a woman and African American she was at a disadvantage. She started learning French and applied to flight schools in France. She was accepted at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France and received her international pilot’s license on June 15, 1921 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Her dream was to own a plane and open her own flight school.

She performed her first public flight in 1922 and was famous for doing “loop-the-loops” and making the shape of an “8” in an airplane. She toured the country giving flight lessons, performing in flight shows, and encouraging African Americans and women to learn to fly. She suffered her first accident in 1923 when her engine stopped and was badly injured. She survived the accident and returned to flying performing dangerous tricks in 1925.

On April 30, 1926, while taking a test flight with a mechanic named William Wills who was at the helm, a loose wrench got stuck in the engine of the aircraft at about 3,000 feet. The aircraft was no longer controllable and flipped over. Unfortunately, Coleman was not wearing a seatbelt. Airplanes at that time did not have a roof or any protection and Coleman immediately fell out of the open plane and died.

March is Woman History Month and Women of Aviation Month.

See Also:

Bessie Coleman: Barnstorming through the Barriers
Bessie Coleman