Not Just Along for the Ride

cover of AOPA Pilot magazine“Why can’t you take up golf?” I pleaded when my husband Maury announced he was going to learn to fly. First the red sports car, now this? My second reaction was to check our life insurance policies and our will. Was this part of a man’s ‘go-fast’ stage of life? He seemed undeterred by news clippings of commercial airliners pictured as twisted smoking remains. I feared what I didn’t know. I worried about the dangers that he would face in an environment with such fatal consequences for error. Would he perform as well at flying as someone who does it for a living?

Throughout his training, he urged me to take lessons, but I wasn’t interested in riding in a small airplane, let alone controlling one. I preferred tamer, safer activities, such as waterskiing in the alligator-infested lakes of Central Florida, where we lived. Maury loved flying from day one and tried to instill his enthusiasm in me. At times his insistence, that I should do as he does, felt like badgering or nagging. I didn’t appreciate being ‘should’ upon and told him so. Suddenly the nagging stopped, and I traced the cause back to his flight instructor, who had warned him that nagging creates resistance.

FIRST FLIGHT

After Maury got his certificate, he offered me a ride. Knowing how diligently he had studied this new hobby, I felt obliged to go. What a mistake. He explained how safe the plane was and said something about how stable it flew in an engine failure, and then—at 4,000 feet—it sounded as if he had stopped the engine. While he told me how many miles the plane would glide, I sucked air and stared at the panel of blinking lights, knobs and dials, hating them all. This stunt provoked panic and severely uncharitable thoughts toward the man I had loved and trusted for sixteen years. Handling emergencies, he explained, was part of the training. Smiling, he told me that he had everything under control, but all I could think about was beating him senseless if we survived.

“Start it up again now!” I demanded, dreading the long fall to the orange groves below. This was not how I wanted to spend my final moments.

When the sounds of the engine returned, my fear converted to silent fury. He had meant well. He believed that by simulating the worst-case scenario—an engine failure—he would prove that there was nothing to fear. By the time we landed I had calmed down to mere yelling. He was shocked that I hadn’t enjoyed the ride. This stunt kept me away from small planes for six months.

Clearly, he would continue flying with or without me. My choices were: to never get into a small plane—and spend weekends alone—or learn to fly so that I could land if I had to. I decided to challenge my fears.

Male pilots such as Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, Chuck Yeager, and the ones so common on commercial flights, gave me the impression of aviation as a male-dominated realm. The only significant woman pilot I could name then was Amelia Earhart. In my mind, Lindbergh was famous because he had successfully flown across an ocean, and Earhart because she had died trying.

WOMEN PILOTS?

The few local women pilots I interrogated stressed that learning to fly wasn’t as mentally challenging as getting a college degree or as physically demanding as childbirth. After a ‘been there, done that’ pep talk to myself, I called Don Kohler, CFII, for an abbreviated training course on how to call for help on the radio and to provide practice in landing the plane. Patient, courageous, and witty, Kohler was the perfect instructor for me. He had been flying longer than I’d been alive, and the folks at the airport said that he didn’t scare easily.

I learned two important things on the first lesson: one, my feet couldn’t reach the rudder pedals; and two, bulky earrings don’t go with headsets. By lesson two, I had a booster seat and studs, and we went flying.

Kohler encouraged me through the hurricane season flight by flight. On our third flight, he casually brought up his beliefs about the afterlife, quickly adding that he wasn’t in a hurry to test them and would I please not touch the mixture control on final approach again. Gee, how did he know that I had momentarily confused it with the throttle?

Kohler’s coaching built my confidence and knowledge in increments, introducing me to each knob and dial, each chart and calculation and its importance. The only time I became unnerved came when we were on final approach at Winter Haven’s Gilbert Field, a non-tower controlled field. After I dutifully announced my position in the approach pattern on the downwind leg, the base leg, and the final leg, a man announced that he, too, was on short final and was going to ‘scoot’ under us. His low-wing plane zoomed 200 feet below us seconds later. I couldn’t reply to Scooter because what I wanted to say to him was prohibited according to FCC directives. I was forced to execute a go-around because landing behind him would have caused a crash. Scooter was long gone from the airport by the time we landed.

After hearing about the day’s lesson, my husband said, “Welcome to uncontrolled airspace.”

Helicopters, seaplanes, skydivers, hot air balloons, gliders, birds, and ‘stealth-flyer wannabes’ who don’t use the radio offer a variety of hazards for pilots. But, as my mother says, “Life is not fair—adjust.”

After many practice landings, the instructor dropped his hands in his lap and let me land the plane. My goal changed. YEEEEHA! No more learning just enough for an emergency; I wanted more. I wanted my certificate. When we walked into Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base, where I had rented the airplane, Kohler congratulated me again and then urged me to leave immediately; he recommended running. I obediently ran to the van and zipped home.

At our next lesson, he explained the peculiar traditions for celebrating a solo flight, such as cutting out and hanging the back of the pilot’s shirt or throwing the person in the lake. Had I known, I’d have kept a Dolly Parton-size bra handy for them to hang in my name.

Our neighbors, the Walkers, often took Saturdays to fly to the beach for what they called a hundred-dollar hamburger. They demonstrated the fun of flying as more than a means to get somewhere. The ground school course that I studied, featuring John and Martha King, also showed couples happily flying together. I wanted to be part of a team, to be more than someone just along for the ride, more than someone to hold the charts. It took me a year to get the certificate, completing the practical flight exam on my instructor’s birthday.

I’ve found no negative discrimination from male pilots beyond the usual “you have your license?” asked after I’ve already said so. Well, then there was the time that I walked into an airport lounge and the men stopped talking and looked uncomfortable. Doubting that their silence was from awe or hormone surges, I wondered if they were offended that a woman dared to enter their Y-Chromosome sanctum, so I didn’t linger. It turned out that the men weren’t offended by me; in fact, they were trying to avoid offending me because my sudden appearance had interrupted a rude joke. I can live with that. I can also live with having my hair restyled by David Clark headsets. And I can live with the smell of aviation fuel as my signature scent.

SIX PERCENT

Joni M Fisher with planeAccording to Diane Green, management assistant at the aviation piloting statistics branch of the FAA, women hold only six percent of the airman certificates in the United States. I’m proud to be one of them. And maybe, one day, we can fix that title. How long would men tolerate being called airwomen? How about calling us all fliers or aviators or pilots instead? Flying skills are not gender specific.

My husband is so proud that I challenged my fears to embrace his favorite activity that he works “My wife is a pilot” into conversations. I hope women settle for more than holding charts. Aim higher. Hold the controls. Flying is fun, and yes, I’d even recommend it over playing golf.


AOPA PILOT, The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association magazine, is the largest circulation magazine in general aviation with 400,000 subscribers. This article appeared in the New Pilot’s Journal column in November 1998. In 2000, I earned the instrument rating for single-engine land aircraft.

Love at First Flight

Six-year-old Braylon Faulkner fell in love with airplanes on his first flight. Traveling with his mother Michelle Faulkner and grandmother Carol Faulkner-Davis in September 2012 from Orlando to Providence, Rhode Island. His excitement came to the attention of the Southwest Airlines pilot who invited him to the cockpit before the flight.

boy in cockpit of commercial jet

Braylon is introduced to flying by a Southwest Airlines pilot.

His father Brian Faulkner works in business development for a large healthcare company and Michelle was a licensed private investigator in Florida. They encouraged Braylon’s interest in flying. Later that year while traveling in Hiawassee, Georgia, they booked a helicopter ride with Pilot Ron Carroll.

From there Braylon’s fascination continued. He was living in Winter Haven, Florida and he would get excited whenever he passed the airport. Winter Haven airport is also the base of operations for Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. Braylon enjoyed dining at the restaurant on the field to watch planes land and take off.

SEAPLANES

His grandmother Carol was a neighbor of Jon Brown, so she asked him if Braylon was old enough to take a ride in a seaplane. In August of 2013, Braylon flew in a Piper Cub on floats. In the fall, he enjoyed a tour of Fantasy of Flight Museum.

boy climbs into red baron model

Braylon visits Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.

In January 2014, Braylon took a helicopter ride in Sevierville, Tennessee. He took more flights in the seaplanes through Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base and developed a friendship with Instructor Ben Shipps. His parents gave Braylon a logbook to track his flights. Braylon asked for flights to celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Giana shows Braylon her grandfather’s RV-6 at Winter Haven Airport.

Braylon’s grandmother Carol, introduced Braylon to the granddaughter of a pilot friend. Giana Griner, a year older than Braylon, shares his passion for airplanes. They had playdates at the Winter Haven Airport restaurant and watch planes. They shared a flight in a Cessna 210.

boy and flight instructor stand in front of Piper Cub on floats for seaplane lesson.

Braylon with flight instructor Ben Shipps.

When the Faulkners moved to Texas for a better job opportunity, Braylon returned to the seaplane base for a flight with Ben. Though he has family in Winter Haven, Braylon understood he would not be back as often as he wanted to be. Last November, just before the family moved, Braylon flew again with his favorite instructor.

Michelle Faulkner said, “We found a local airport here in Texas. Our church was loading supplies for missionaries, and Braylon wanted to help. They said they’d call us whenever they are loading so Braylon can help.”

LOGBOOK

Braylon has logged 8.25 hours since getting his logbook. With such an intense interest from such a young age, Braylon demonstrates the passion of a future pilot.


This article first appeared in General Aviation News in 2017.

Reprints & Rewrites

reprints and rewritesOkay, so you’ve sold an article to a magazine or newspaper. Now what? When do the rights revert back to you? If you did all that research and writing for a one-time payment, then you are squandering your time. Whatever made your article newsworthy is newsworthy to more than the readership of one publication. Who would be interested in this article and what publications appeal to this demographic?

Two months before the rights revert back to you on a published piece, send out a query to another magazine for this article [to publish as a reprint or a new piece to suit the magazine’s readership].

Two sources of information about magazines to consider: Writer’s Market (an annual publication that lists public and private magazines with contact information), and the listing at FreelanceWriters.com (www.freelancewriting.com/guidelines). Look for each magazine’s Writer’s Guidelines or Submissions.

Editors will notify you of their policy regarding reprints. Generally, the larger the magazine, the less likely they are to buy reprints. You can tell the size of the magazine by the number of subscribers they have. However, once you have done the research on an article and topic, you can rewrite the article with a new angle or slant or perspective to suit the next publication.

EXAMINE YOUR TARGET PUBLICATIONS

What topics do they cover? Review a year’s worth of back issues if the publication is a monthly magazine. List the topics they publish and how they were handled. You don’t want to pitch an idea they have recently published unless you offer a remarkably different approach. Get familiar with the tone and length and style of the magazine’s features. You won’t find the same writers in Rolling Stone and the Christian Science Monitor though both publications debate the language used in song lyrics.

Who are their advertisers? Review the advertisements to see which businesses and products appeal to the readership. If your topic or story impacts these particular businesses, then interview an expert from one of the advertisers. If you go to the publication’s website, look for an Advertiser’s Index. Also pay attention to the ads in the publication.

Who are their readers? Magazines often give demographics on their readers in their writer’s guidelines and in their advertising section. They will also describe the magazine’s purpose and targeted readership in their “About Us” section of their website.

A CASE STUDY

Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base celebrated its 40th Anniversary in business in 2003. While this fact might not rock your wings, it was cool news to pilots all over the world. Brown’s has taught more people to fly seaplanes than any other seaplane base or school in the world. Astronauts, celebrities, missionaries, adventurers, and about 500 general aviation pilots per year have learned how to splash and go, earned their Seawings, and told tall tales at Brown’s.

As a writer/pilot, I was asked one December to write up an article on Brown’s anniversary for WaterFlying magazine, the magazine for the Seaplane Pilots Association. While it is a limited readership, it is devout, and worldwide. My article and my photographs appeared in the March issue. You can read it on my website through this link: https://jonimfisher.com/jack-browns-seaplane-base/.

So this news is newsworthy for the whole year. Who else might want to read about it? By the end of January I knew my article would appear in the March issue of WaterFlying and the rights would revert back to me by June.

Well, Brown’s uses Piper aircraft, so I queried Pipers magazine in January to see if they were interested. I also queried AOPA magazine, which is the membership publication of 500,000 Airplane Owners and Pilots Association.

Pipers wanted my photographs and my article for its cover story. And wow, they added their own stunning photos of yellow J-3 Cubs on floats landing on sparkling water, which gave my article more appeal. They published it in November. So there is some overlapping readership between WaterFlying and Pipers, but not all seaplanes are Piper aircraft. For the Pipers article, I beefed up the information about the aircraft’s 40 years of reliability and safety at Brown’s Seaplane Base. To read that article, click on this link: https://jonimfisher.com/jack-browns-seaplane-base-celebrates-40-years/.

I also published an article on Brown’s as a long-standing business for the local newspaper. Many locals were not aware that they had a seaplane training base in the county, so they were surprised to know it was famous in aviation. While the local newspaper article paid peanuts, it put me in good stead with Brown’s. The positive publicity helped offset the occasional complaint about the noise of the aircraft from lakeside homeowners. The locals tend to whine less about the noise when they consider Jimmy Buffett or Alan Jackson might be in those little yellow planes landing on their lake.

In June, AOPA said they were interested. Alas, Pipers was publishing it in November and contracted for 30 days of rights after publication, so the year would run out before I got my rights back. I had published with AOPA before, so I explained my situation to the editor and gave him the contact information for Brown’s Seaplane Base so one of his staff writers could cover it. The editor was happy he could write about it without fear of poaching my idea and gave me another assignment a month later. Win win.

The income earned from the first three publications paid for the week it took to research, write and take photographs for the article.

Once you become known for a topic, you can become an editor’s go-to person for future stories. As a freelance writer, I could write aviation articles for my local paper as a stringer, or on-call writer. But I would not give them exclusive rights to my work because I want to continue to write for magazines. When writing an article for both local and national publication, the topic can be the same, but the focus changes to suit the readership. For example—What is the impact to the local readers, local laws, local economy? I would interview local sources for local stories; national experts for national stories.

I am also known to various editors as an aviation writer in central Florida, so I get called to cover stories nearby. Every April the second largest general aviation gathering in the US happens in Lakeland, Florida. SUN ‘n FUN is big news in general aviation so for the last two years I have been a stringer for General Aviation News in April.

Having read about this case study, which of these magazines would you choose to publish in?

  • Plane and Pilot Magazine is designed for private pilots and owners of light aircraft. This monthly magazine features articles on new and used aircraft, pilot proficiency, avionics, weather and more. Circulation: 110,140. Buys all rights.
  • AOPA Magazine is a membership publication of The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to general aviation. AOPA has fought to protect the freedom to fly while keeping general aviation safe, fun, and affordable. Circulation: 500,000. Pays on contract, in advance. Buys First North American Serial Rights.

If you publish an article as a reprint, contact the first publisher for wording of the endnote—such as: This article [or portions of this article] previously appeared in the November, 2012 edition of Field & Stream magazine.

This is also known as attribution, when you give credit to the first publisher of your article. If the article is available online in the publication’s archives, then you could also provide a link to the original for the editor of the second publication.

Look back through your personal collection of writings. If you own the rights to them, why not update them and resell them? What was it in the original article that was newsworthy? You can’t make money from the stuff while it sits in your files. Can you put your archives to work? What about follow-up stories? Anniversaries of an event? Change of leadership news?

To read or to receive similar articles delivered to your email inbox go to: www.jonimfisher.com.