Authors on the Air Global Radio Network host Pam Stack interviewed author and aviator Joni M. Fisher. March is Women’s History or HerStory Month, celebrating women.
The Authors on the Air Global Radio Network is an international digital media corporation. It broadcasts radio talk shows, podcasts, and book reviews to 40 countries and the most popular podcast apps and video sites. It has three million listeners and over one million social media listeners.
Joni’s brand of strong women, strong stories suspense novels fits right in HerStory Month.
A mere six percent of the licensed pilots in America are female. As one of them, I often hear men complain, “I can’t get my wife to fly with me.” Okay, guys, let me explain something. Some of the tactics you use to attract your loved one into aviation have driven her away from it.
SEE HOW SAFE IT IS?
My husband asked me that at 4,000 feet after throttling back the engine. He thought that demonstrating his skill at handling a simulated emergency would instill confidence. I was not a pilot then so the maneuver felt like a real emergency that instilled terror, followed by fury. This stunt has been repeated by males all over the country. If you want your wife to fly with you then never, ever take her for a thrill ride to show her how well you handle the plane. How impressed would you be if your pilot on a commercial flight demonstrated a roll? A method that works: invite her on a short flight in gorgeous weather and give her a smooth, uneventful ride. Instead of acting like a race car driver behave like a limo driver.
I’M GOING WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
This is another dangerous tactic. It dares the one left behind to find her own fun things to do without you. Why make the airplane an object of scorn and jealousy? Trust me when I say that bullying, nagging, and harassing women will not achieve positive long-term results. Sure, it takes time to discuss and address her concerns about flying. Perhaps her hesitation to take your offer of a four-hour flight means she has a three-hour bladder. For you flying may have been love at first flight while she needs a longer courtship. One enterprising pilot lured his wife into a deep love of aviation with this deal—for every dollar he spent on flying he gave her a dollar. When I met this couple during the Cayman Caravan she, adorned with stunning jewelry, gushed about how much she adored flying.
YOU SHOULD WANT TO
Yes, yes, you enjoy flying and you expect that because you do she should, too. And when, exactly, did you take up cross-stitch to share her appreciation of it? For some couples, the ideal arrangement is for the woman to ride along. If she doesn’t want to take lessons, she might enjoy reading the checklist, setting the radio and transponder codes or helping in other ways as an educated passenger. If you can convince her to take the 10-hour Pinch-Hitter’s course then it would give her the chance to try out aviation without a long-term commitment. This course demystifies the purpose of all those whiz-bang toys on the panel. I took the course because my husband wanted to buy a plane. During that brief course, I discovered the fun. It can happen.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WANT TO FLY?
What are you gonna do if your wife really does enjoy flying enough to get her license? Be honest. When you and your wife climb into the car do you ALWAYS drive? If so, then she knows in her heart that she shouldn’t bother to get her license. The famous flying couple of John and Martha King operate King Schools, a flight training company, in San Diego. John explains the problem he’s witnessed over and over after a woman earns her license, “the men absolutely, flat-out, totally fail to relinquish any authority or power to the woman and after all, she may as well be in the back seat because there’s nothing in it for her. That is as universal as the fact that the man always rides up front on a Harley. What happens is that even when the woman is flying she’s nothing more than a voice-activated autopilot and that is absolutely no fun.”
I’M ONLY TRYING TO HELP
These few words sound oh, so lame after you’ve switched radio frequencies on your wife without telling her and she calls Asheville approach Greensboro. Pilot-in-command (PIC) is authority women may have to enforce with rope and duct tape, if necessary. Husbands, be warned, mysterious changes in power, radio frequencies or altimeter setting pose a threat to your safety if your wife is PIC. If you wouldn’t touch the controls when another man is PIC then don’t do so when a woman is PIC. One time, with my mother-in-law in the back seat, I had to tell my co-pilot husband to get his hands off my knobs. It worked.
Flight Instructor John King advises couples to behave like commercial pilots when they share the cockpit. To men in the co-pilot’s seat, he advises “and you don’t make wild comments, as the co-pilot, in giving your opinion about this or that. All you can do is present facts. So you can say ‘sink is one thousand.’ That’s okay. ‘You’re too low and darn it you’re descending too fast’ is not correct, because it’s an opinion.”
FLY LIKE ME
It is unreasonable and unfair to expect a low-time pilot to fly like a high-time pilot. If you have a thousand hours and your wife has two hundred hours then it will take her longer to notice a two-degree course drift. Wait and watch. If the course drift becomes dangerous then state the facts. Hold the sarcasm. Remove any inflection or word choice that could be interpreted as disappointment or criticism. Imagine you are coaching your child to ride a two-wheeler. Allow for that awkward learning period. Be encouraging. Accept differences in style and timing.
JUST LIKE ONE OF THE GUYS
In 500 hours of flying I’ve landed safely after gear malfunctions, a blown cylinder and an electrical failure. Okay, I squealed like a girl when the gear motor failed, but I used the hand crank and landed safely. Even though women might reek of Avgas, hold umpteen ratings and fly like one of the guys, we will never be one of the guys. For example: I became one of 12,229 private pilots to earn an instrument rating in 2000. Upon return from my flight exam, the usual gathering of male pilots filled chairs in front of the terminal. After I said I had passed my instrument flight exam they congratulated me and offered to cut out my shirt. The front, of course. The dears.
So, gentlemen, since you hold 94% of the licenses, it’s up to you to make aviation inviting to women. You can do it and I hope this helps.
This article first appeared in the premiere edition of Carolinas Aviator magazine.
Congratulations to Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, Florida, for 40 years of flight training in Piper aircraft. It’s likely that Brown’s Seaplane Base has trained more people to fly seaplanes than any other flight school in the world, at 500 students a year.
Students train for their SES rating using three, 85-hp J-3 Cubs on Aqua 1500 floats and for their MES in a Nomad/Piper Aztec Pa-23-250 on Edo 4930 floats. The SES training costs $850 for five hours and includes the check ride in a J-3 Cub. The MES course in the Piper Aztec costs $400 per hour for dual instruction until proficiency is reached. Amphibs can land at Winter Haven’s Gilbert Field (GIF, 123.05) and back-taxi to runway 11 to Brown’s or land on Lake Jesse. For the landlubbers, Brown’s rents out a Cessna 150 and a fixed-gear Cessna 182.
The Orlando Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) gave Brown’s an award in 2002 for promoting the (safety education) Seawings program in the United States. Obie S. Young, Safety Program Manager with the Orlando FSDO, said, “I know that every year Jon is somewhere around 50 percent of the Seawings issued compared to the rest of the country.” Young earned his seaplane rating from Jack Brown. He described the base as a family business conducted with southern hospitality. “It’s like walking back into history.”
Jack Brown established the seaplane base in 1963 and flew an estimated 24,000 hours in his beloved seaplanes. In 1975 Jack was ferrying a Seabee to North Carolina when he experienced a fatal loss of elevator control.
Jack’s sons, Jon and Chuck, continue the family business. Jon has over 15,650 hours in seaplanes while Chuck has 5,900 hours. Chuck has another job as a commercial pilot. Unlike many seaplane flight schools, Brown’s has two examiners on staff. Representing the third generation of Browns on the base are Travis Gaines and Emily Brown. Travis has his private pilot’s license and does fabric work on the J-3 Cubs. Emily has recently begun her flight training.
Of course, it helps Brown’s popularity to be strategically situated in central Florida with over 100 freshwater lakes in a 5-mile radius. It serves as a hub of year-round seaplane training with the busiest season running from January to May. Pilots who plan to get their seaplane rating during the April EAA Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In sign up in November to reserve a training spot.
Brown’s attracts top-notch instructors like John M. Rennie, an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) with over 5,700 hours flying seaplanes, who wrote Step Up To Floats: Airplane Single Engine Seaplane Training Manual. Instructor Ron Trostle was furloughed from United Airlines after three years and chose to return to teach at Brown’s. Trostle has 1,550 hours SES and 271 hours MES. Instructor Alex Borrego, a retired Eastern Airlines pilot, has over 14,000 hours flying with 818 hours in J-3 Cubs. Rounding out the pool of instructors are: Eyal Breiter, Jim Hershberger, Kathleen Field, and Brian Elferdink.
Out on the water, students learn how to feel the crucial difference between the Center of Gravity and the Center of Buoyancy. They become familiar with a J-3 Cub floatplane from its sardonically named ‘armstrong’ hand-propped starter to the water rudders. They discover they can fly without an autopilot, GPS, storm scope, radio, and even flaps.
The training methods honed over 40 years at Brown’s have been condensed into an intensive short course. Weather permitting; a student can get the rating in a weekend. The instructors produce amazing results in an efficient, professional, relaxed atmosphere.
At the end of the day, pilots gather in the screened porch for coffee, camaraderie and storytelling. Usually, one can find a student and instructor reviewing the day’s splash-and-go practice, step-taxi procedures, and safety tips.
Despite their attention to safety, there have been a few accidents. Like driving a car, Jon said, “Just backing down your driveway, if you do it thirty-thousand times at some point you may hit the mailbox.” In fact, one of his daughter’s dates did knock down his mailbox. (In fact, one of his daughter’s dates did.) In 1979, Jon and a student on a check ride had an emergency landing in Lake Arietta in Auburndale in 1979 when a strut broke loose. Their accident contributed to the Piper Service Bulletins No. 910A and No. 528D and the Airworthiness Directive 93-10-06 on rolled instead of cut fork bolts on Piper Struts. Performing thousands of hours of training naturally involves some risk.
The vast majority of students get their seaplane rating for the fun of it or for bragging rights. Instructor Rennie estimated that about 15 percent go on to fly seaplanes regularly and buy one. The training, however, benefits all pilots because it teaches them how to read the wind direction and strength by looking at bodies of water.
The influence of Brown’s Seaplane Base reaches around the world, drawing students from Japan, Sweden, France, Britain, the Philippines, and South America. Foreign students have been 40 percent of Brown’s business.
The new background checks for foreign students that began in July 2002 have not hurt business at Brown’s, though it does slow down the process of booking students a bit.
Look for the yellow J-3 Cub yellow polo shirts with the “Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base” logo. They tend to bob up in crowds at aviation gatherings. Brown’s Seaplane Base also appears in the credits of movies such as Brenda Star, Nothing by Chance, and Dark Tower. Residents of Winter Haven have become accustomed to seeing the bright yellow planes with their white floats hopping from lake to lake to lake year-round.
Brown’s Seaplane Base treats pilots to a bygone era of basic stick-and-rudder flying laced with Southern hospitality. This is the closest most pilots will ever get to the wind-in-your-face, alligator-scaring thrill of being a bush pilot.
This article appeared in Pipers Magazine in the November 2003 issue, Volume 16, Issue 11. As of 2020, the seaplane base has been running for 57 years. See also, how I came to write this article in my essay Call Me.
If you fly long enough, you will experience a problem in flight. Maybe you’ll hit a bird. Maybe your wings will ice up. Maybe you’ll get distracted in your pre-landing check and forget to lower the gear. Fuel lines get vapor lock. Gunk clogs the fuel injector. A bug or moisture fills the static port. Stuff happens.
Each kind of problem makes itself known if you know how to watch for the clues—and take them seriously.
My husband, Maury L. Fisher, MD, and I were flying a Cessna 210 from Bartow, Florida to Asheville, North Carolina on Friday, August 31 when the engine revealed a clue. Though we both have our licenses, I had fallen out of currency and was relegated to the copilot’s seat. Handsome was PIC. At 10,000’ the engine analyzer started acting wonky. That’s my technical term for when the cylinder head temperature reading disappeared on cylinder one.
In the past, a cylinder reading disappeared because a sensor probe came loose and backed out. This time, Handsome mentioned it and stated that since we were cruising at 184 knots, we couldn’t have lost the cylinder’s power. All other gauges of power and temperature and fuel flow remained steady and within the normal range on our 200-hour IO-550-L Continental engine.
So, we agreed to watch the gauges, continue the flight, and have it checked when we returned home. The Jacksonville air traffic controller cleared us to climb to 12,000 to get above clouds.
At 11,000’ the engine shook hard, and the happy engine hum turned into a galloping sound. Instead of showing six green columns, our engine analyzer showed three. We were over the Okefenokee Swamp, 684 square miles of alligator and snake-infested wetland that spreads across the Florida-Georgia border. The name Okefenokee is a Native-American word meaning trembling earth. I wanted to land on solid ground, like a runway or a road.
The autopilot struggled to maintain altitude. We lost horsepower. Handsome notified the Jacksonville controller that the engine was running rough. (The engine sounded like a horse trying to kick its way out.) He asked for the nearest airport. The controller offered Lake City at twenty-eight miles behind us or another airport thirty miles ahead. Handsome asked for Lake City’s identifier.
I took a quick inventory of emergency supplies. We had no water, a few snacks, two 9mm handguns, and a handheld radio. My wicked memory flashed to May 1996 when ValueJet Flight 592 crashed in the swamp near Miami with 110 people on board. It sank, and parts of it were finally located a month later. Handsome’s seaplane rating gave me some comfort.
My hand shook as I entered KLCQ into the autopilot as our new destination. I was about to press ENTER to activate the new destination when Handsome reached over and started the process over. He was in his zone, focused on what to do, so he hadn’t noticed the new reading. His hand wasn’t shaking.
The controller recited the heading to Lake City and the number of degrees to turn left on course. My body temperature rose while I calculated the rate of descent needed to reach Lake City if the last three cylinders stopped firing. We were descending 200 feet per minute on half power. Without power, we’d be forced to land in a roadless section of trembling earth.
The engine seemed to be holding together. It wasn’t spewing oil or smoke. Handsome maintained a calm demeanor. Decades of working in the emergency room and in surgery had taught him to school his emotions. He also has 1500 more flying hours than his copilot.
I sent up a quick prayer and remembered that I’d once landed safely after a cylinder blew. I was grateful this was not a solo flight, or my turn to fly.
I imagine I would have done exactly as he did during the engine problem, but in truth, I’d have sweat-soaked the upholstery in the process like a nuclear hot flash.
The controller spoke in calming tones as he gave the tower frequency for Lake City Airport and the weather conditions there. He named the runways and reported that Lake City cleared us for any runway. Then he asked, “How many souls on board and how much fuel?”
There’s something about hearing an air traffic controller ask the question that ratchets up the stress factor. By the time the words are spoken you already know there’s a problem. But still.
Handsome answered him while I took a calming breath. At 3000’ we broke out from the clouds and saw the airport. Ten miles to go. Handsome said he wouldn’t drop the gear until he had the airport made. By ‘made’ he meant glide in with a dead engine.
On short final, he dropped the gear and pulled back the power. The engine’s syncopated rhythm sounded more pronounced. We landed and taxied to the end of runway 010, past the Lake City Fire Department’s tank-like yellow crash truck. We sputtered down the taxiway and passed a red firetruck to the parking area. The linemen directed us to a spot isolated from other aircraft.
There’s a moment in the movie Armageddon after men jump a rover over a canyon on an asteroid and crash land. Actor Michael Clarke Duncan, covered in sweat in the back seat, says, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” That. That’s how I felt.
We climbed out. The firemen, three police officers, two linemen, Handsome and I breathed a collective sigh. Bo, Byron, and Larry in the tower probably sighed, too. Thanks, guys!
Airport Lineman Crew Leader Ed Bunnell said, “Welcome to Lake City.” He secured chocks under the nose wheel. “What can we do for you?”
I wanted a hug. Handsome asked for a mechanic. While they arranged for a mechanic, I planned an emergency kit for future flights. We often fly over the Appalachian Mountains. It’s embarrassing how complacent we had become about these routine flights. Next time, we’ll bring bottled water, flashlights, granola bars, maybe a flare gun, a reflective blanket, a first-aid kit, a sweat towel, and a 45-caliber handgun. The Okefenokee has gators, and snakes, and black bears. Oh, my.
This article was first published in General Aviation News, January 10, 2019.
Amid the morass of junk mail offering to enhance body parts I don’t have, refinance my home, and help a Nigerian Prince move vast sums of cash out of Africa, a sweet message arrived from the good folks who run the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs).
Congratulations, your work has progressed from the Slushpile to the Long List onward to the Short List and is now an official SEMI-FINALIST for the CLUE Book Awards for Thriller and Suspense, a division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs). Well done, your hard work has been rewarded!
We encourage you to visit the official 2019 CLUE Semi-Finalist list that is posted on the Chanticleer Reviews website and to share the listing on your social media platforms and on your website.
Of the Semi-Finalists listed on the official web post listing, only FIVE will advance to the 2019 First Place Positions and only ONE of these will advance to the 2019 CLUE Grand Prize position. There are some great reads in this listing!
Good luck to all!
The Semi-Finalists are now in the final rounds of judging for the First Place Category Positions. All Semi-Finalists in attendance will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference, Book Room, and CIBA Ceremony & Banquet on April 17, 18, & 19, 2020.
The CIBA First Place Category Position award winners and the CLUE Grand Prize winner will be announced at the awards banquet and ceremony.
So, yes, the hope of winning will spark joy in my heart from time to time between now and whenever they announce the finalists. All prayers on my book’s behalf are greatly appreciated.
And congratulations to all the other semi-finalists! To see the list, click HERE.
Writing book four in the Compass Crimes series has kept me desk bound, so this message boosted my mood and energized me to keep working! Thank you, readers, for your uplifting reviews. They, too, energize me through this isolated marathon.
A limited number of signed copies of the first book published in the Compass Crimes Series are being given away through a Goodreads Giveaway. Readers in Canada and the U.S. are eligible to win. If you love to read, Goodreads is the place to find great books, amazing giveaways, news of upcoming books, and others who love to read.
So far the acclaimed suspense series has three books. The fourth is underway, so you have time to catch up.
As always, new authors like me treasure reviews. Be part of the 5% of readers who take the time to give a book some stars and a sentence or two about what you thought of the book.
Like these readers…
“South of Justice is a multilayered, intricate, and suspenseful page-turner you’ll want to read in one sitting.”
–Diane Capri, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Hunt for Jack Reacher thrillers
“Bottom line is: South of Justice is a multilayered romantic book that will grasp your attention and lure you to read it in one sitting.”
“If you are someone who enjoys a fantastic plot and a crime tale that will make you wonder and keep you guessing until the end, trust me, you want to put this one on your TBR. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next book in this series.”
– Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers’ Favorite, a 5-star review
“South of Justice has an intricate plot with several twists and turns. Long-held secrets keep the reader turning pages all the way to the end. I really enjoyed reading South of Justice and recommend it for anyone who enjoys crime stories with a touch of romance.”
“South of Justice is fantastic and fun—a crisp and suspenseful story. Fisher makes a wonderful entrance as a crime fiction writer. I can’t wait for North of the Killing Hand!”
–Timothy D. Browne, M.D., author of the Nicklaus Hart medical thrillers
“A fabulous start to an intense series with a large cast of characters I couldn’t help but love and cheer for. Fisher is a master weaver of intrigue and strong characters willing to go the distance to get things done while keeping their love strong.”
–K.D. Fleming, author and Golden Heart Winner
“Tightly written, complex characters, intriguing plot—all the ingredients for a great read! This debut book is a winner, and I am looking forward to more books in the future.”
–Diane Burke, award-winning author of inspirational romantic suspense
“I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and the twists and turns had me turning pages deep into the night.”
–Vicki W. Tharp, author of Don’t Look Back
“Past secrets test the bonds of family loyalty and a fledgling love affair. The unwavering strength of the protagonists, their commitment to the truth and to each other will have you cheering for South of Justice.”