Thursday, January 23, 2014

Yesterday was a snow day here on the East Coast. The temperature began to plummet during the early morning hours and just after sunrise the snow began to fall. Only a few fluffy flakes at first sparsely coating the tree branches. Hardcore joggers were out barely clothed for the temperature, newspapers were being delivered from a van slipping and sliding up the street and I was bundling up to go out and shovel my sidewalk before the children began to arrive
at the school adjacent to our house. It was 7:00 in the morning. By 8:00 the day was in full blast as was the predicted blizzard dropping the most thickly packed snow flakes I had ever seen.  I had shoveled and salted our sidewalk four times within the hour.

I was in Snow Day Heaven!

Even though I've been retired for 15 years now I still completely appreciate days like these when I don't have to worry  that I might get that dreaded phone call from Crew Scheduling asking/telling me to rearrange my life to help fix the flight cancellations going on around the nation due to weather. When the weather is acting up a pilot, no matter how senior, no matter prior plans, is on standby status. A pilot's life is not their own and that actually should be OK because it is what we signed up for the day we were hired into our dream job. In reality however you hope that phone never rings - but go figure, it always does -
 "Captain how long will it take you to get to JFK? We need you to ferry a plane to wherever!"
A snowcovered airplane parked at the gate
Photo downloaded from the internet

Christmas, New Years, Easter, hurricanes, kids birthdays, champion lacrosse games - no exceptions! If Crew Schedule needs you, you go.
A Boeing 767 being shoveled out and de-iced
Photo downloaded from the internet

I must say once you drag yourself to the airport you shift into high gear, it's exhilarating - a team of people, your colleagues - the crew, the dispatchers, crew scheduling, the mechanics, the ticket agents, the cabin cleaners - are all working together to put the puzzle back together and begin the process of getting your airline back to normal and flying again.
After all the complaining the reality is you live for these moments. A life separate from your family life but a really good life all the same.
I love this photo - only the props are visible above the snow
Photo downloaded from the internet

For me it is all about my family now and that is certainly why yesterday was a such a  great day! 

After shoveling and salting for the eight time I met my son Tony for lunch :o)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Welcome to the New Year!

I hope the remaining 345 days in 2014 will be happy, healthy, safe and jolly. 
So far my New Year has be terrific. Not for any big, particular reason other than my           husband and I went to our place on the East Coast of South Florida for a week. 
For me Florida is a magical place. It is another planet - worlds away from the hustle bustle of New York City - but  definitely an energy all its own energy.

We woke each morning before sunrise and went down to the seawall with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and sat where the beach meets the ocean.   

The anticipation of the sun peeking up over the horizon starts minutes before it actually makes its debut but the sky begins to give pastel glues long before the suns arrival. 

The dark sky begins to lighten and the stars fade away opening up the horizon to an incredibly pale blue - almost white - sky. The stratus clouds turn light pink and then transition into orange. 
The mini-size cumluous clouds have deep gray bottoms and shimmering white tops - sometimes lined with a few golden sunbeams highlighting their shapes. 
You understand that the day is not quite ready to begin - not yet. The air is still regardless if the sea is silky smooth or angry. It's peaceful all the same - just waiting, anticipating something wonderful.
When daytime finally arrives the sky turns its predictable shades of blue, the clouds a variety of white and gray and the ocean turns from charcoal to a number of different hues of green and blue. 

Good Morning to the New Day!

Personal moments with nature like these describes my life as a pilot. I often said the part of flying I will miss the most are the skyscapes - and I do. They can be unpredictable at times but skyscapes are always fascinatingly beautiful. Looking out from 33,000 feet the sunrises, sunsets and moonrises are like skyscapes on steroids - a kaleidoscope of colors wrapped 270 degrees around the plane.

While I was still flying I often wished I could have asked each and every passenger to come up to the cockpit and see what what I was experiencing - 

 The view of a lifetime!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Friends Celebrating Friends

For twenty-six years with American Airlines I ate my meals from a flimsy tray balanced haphazardly on my lap while enjoying the view at 37,000 feet.
Only after retiring as an airline pilot did my schedule allow me to discover the pleasures of dining with my earthbound friends - girlfriends - and usually at a table. 
It was a wonderful way for me to transition from "one of the boys" to "one of the girls."

And I certainly appreciate sharing a meal with someone other than the autopilot.

Two nights ago, on a cold snowy night in New York, was one of those special moments.
I went to a fun filled surprise party for my friend Lynn's 60th birthday. 
Even though there were only about 20 guests all crowded into a tiny Upper East Side restaurant the celebration was spectacular.

Nichola, the birthday girl and Caroline
The mixture of old friends, brand new friends and young friends from my daughter's Brearley School class of 2004 filled the space with non-stop chatter and laughter.  I loved seeing bunches of women here and there enjoying the moment and each other.

Truly, the best part of the evening for me was knowing that it was Lynn's daughters, Nichola and Caroline, who organized the birthday bash.  To begin with they chose a cozy space that probably measures only 12'x20' yet somehow they managed to squeeze in a long L-shaped table. Then they decorated the table with white linen, votive candles and red kalanchoes in shiny silver mint julep cups.

Nichola in front of the wall mounted menu.
The food was of course French.

The hint of red was echoed with red bandanas given to each of the party goers along with French berets and moustaches applied with black eyeliner all leading up to the ultimate birthday gift - A TRIP TO PARIS FOR THREE!!

I am always inspired by the creativity and imagination of my friends, their children and family with the ways they celebrate a special event or even a day.
In The Day of Pooh, Pooh suggests he visits his friends to wish them "a very happy Thursday."
The childhood favorite may seem silly, but I agree with Pooh.  
Any excuse to be with friends is a good excuse and any time is the perfect time! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Halfway between the earth and sky one seems to be closer to God.
There is a peace of mind and heart, a satisfaction 
that walls cannot give.
Flying is a symbol of freedom from limitations"

Barnstormer Margery Brown - 1920

SKYWARD Why Flyers Fly
by Russel Munson

It's soundless in the cockpit of a jetliner. You sense the wind and the wisps of clouds rushing by.  You see the ground 24,000 feet below and watch weather patterns, sunsets and moon rises off in the distance.  But you can't hear a thing.  I love the silence.

Time also seems to freeze as you chase the sun westward and prolong dusk miles above the earth's surface.  Beryl Markham, in her lovely 1942 memoirs, West with the Night, describes the quiet, immensely private thrill of piloting a plane by flying westward, on the tails of night itself. A solo traveler and navigator of the skies, she belonged to the first crop of female aviators, whose daring exploration of the skies shaped modern day air travel during gallant flights in glorious solitude.

What I later discovered by flying myself and learning about my aviation predecessors that solo flights - capsules of solitude - are opportunities for self-fulfillment and capturing each moment with clarity. It was an unspoken common thread female pilots seemed to share. 
Flying was their sanctuary - their time alone - precious moments for themselves. It was intensely personal time: time to cast aside the daily routine of an earthbound existence in, what was then, a narrow society. It was precious slivers of time, whittled from their lives so that they could be who they wanted to be. It was their moment to live their dreams at a time when society was telling them that their dreams didn't belong to  them.

Amy Johnson
Photo credit - Women Aloft
by Time-Life Books
In 1930 British secretary turned aviator Amy Johnson said,  "There is nothing more wonderful and thrilling than going up into the spaciousness of the skies in a tiny plane where you feel alone, at peace with everyone, and exactly free to do what you want and go where you will and you need not come down to earth until your petrol runs out."
I think everyone can identify in someway to Amy's thoughts. 

My fascination with flying has also been personal.  There is no organized or even verbalized prayer in the cockpit, but there is a sense of reverie.  There is something awesome about taking flight, something mysterious,not begin earthbound - alone with one's thoughts - clear
uncluttered thoughts, with room to appreciate the spellbinding beauty of the atmosphere and uninterrupted freedom to be yourself. 

Earhart reflected that, "You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."  And Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the shy retiring wife of the famous Charles, was so retiring and so lyrical a writer about what she called "the fundamental magic of flying" and "peering through the ruffled surface of life to a calmness down below" that people forgot she was also a capable pilot, navigator and radio operator.

The airplanes I flew were a miraculous balance of metal and nature not unlike the everyday balance of one's life. Unlike today, flying was risky business when my favorite aviatrix flew. Our lives are privileged in comparison, more secure, but perhaps not as fulfilling. 
From left to right, Louise Thaden,Bobbi Trout, Patty Willis, Marvel Crosson,
                 Blanche Noyes, Vera Walker, Amelia Earhart, Marjorie Crawford, 
             Ruth Elder and Florence "Pancho" Barnes with their trophies from the 1929 Women's Air Derby.
Photo credit - Women Aloft by Time-Life Books

Old black and white photographs capture my pioneer buddies - they all seem tall, reserved and glamorous.  Usually with eyes slightly hidden in the shade of the sun, they seem starry-eyed yet pragmatic standing with their airplanes. They have seen countless horizons. They were adventuresome and at the same time had respect for the enormous beauty of the atmosphere and natural forces, as well as the mechanics and science that lifted them into the sky in the first place.

I can easily see why there becomes a cultural love and respect from and for other aviators - both male and female - that bonds us all to the skies.

And perhaps the most challenging part of life is simply taking time to enjoy the view.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I think there has always been a primal, human fascination with flying from Icarus and his wax wings to those fabulous Young Men in their Flying Machines. Flight symbolizes freedom, adventure and danger. Until the Wright brothers finally lifted off the ground, man's yearning to conquer the skies was intertwined with fantasy  myth, and adventures with manifested in many cultures and many forms including flying carpets, flying horses, 
Superman and even Snoopy in his aviator goggles. 

Don't you think there is romance, magic and heroism in the myth of the early aviators and a possibility for this in life itself. It is exciting stuff and actors chosen to play pilots are nearly always dashing heroes, the Errol Flynn types.
Let's face it - the pioneer aviators were sexy.

In the mid-Sixties my high school guidance counselor warned, "Look Bonnie if your sole ambition and talents are to become a pilot, then you'll grow up to be nothing." This was at a time when the nation was in the thick of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Betty Friedan published the Feminine Mystique and Gloria Steinem introduced Ms Magazine. Women were breaking out of stereotypes yet a female guidance counselor was telling a young girl that she could not do what she wanted because she was a mere girl. Weren't we encouraged to find something we liked to do and then to pursue it with a sense of genuine purpose and happiness? There was a real momentum going here.

Had we learned nothing from those early female flyers?
Baroness Raymonde de Laroche

Being an excruciatingly shy teenager at the time I didn't have the nerve to tell my guidance counselor that even when it was considered rather bold for women to drive automobiles the self-proclaimed French Baroness Raymonde de Laroche - who had herself driven racing cars - learned to fly one of Gabriel and Charles Voisin's first aircraft ever built. It was a contraption resembling two cardboard boxes held together by blind faith. Granted the idea of flying two cardboard boxes had little appeal for me but airplane design had come a long way since the turn of the 20th Century.

I sometimes imagined I was the Baroness - well connected in French society and a famous stage performer combined with drop dead gorgeous looks. Being her I would have no trouble convincing someone that flying was for me. 

Imagination - perhaps that is how dreams actually do come to life.

I was impressed by the Baroness's bold approach to life truly living it to the max. After her first flight with Charles Voisin she proclaimed, "This is the way we humans are meant to travel." I bet onlookers and aviators were dazzled by her natural skill as a flyer and her incredible allure.

 In-other-words she was hot!

I think for the Baroness flying was the role of a lifetime and she went after her new found passion with a combination of guts and gusto. 

Remarkably this took place in 1910 - just two years after practical airplanes were in the air. 

Not to fill you with too many facts all at once, but also in 1910, across the Atlantic, a little pit bull of a gal - measuring 5'1" tall in boots and bonnet - named Blanche Stuart Scott popped onto the aviation scene. 

Totally taken with the thought of being airborne the feisty redhead had to do some heavy coaxing to get the famous aircraft designer Glenn Curtiss to teacher to fly. 
It was less than a seismic request since flyers were beginning to buzz around the powder blue skies in record numbers. But Curtiss apparently thought no one was as capable a pilot as he was especially - God forbid - a woman. He apparently told anyone in earshot Scott was to be his first and last female student. I suspected that Curtiss wasn't concerned in the least about Scott's safety but for his glossy reputation as an aircraft designer and builder and his precious flying machine that looked like an anorexic insect that sprayed heaps of hot castrol oil on its pilot's face and clothes.

Hanna Reitsch
Yet for all his chest beating Curtiss knew, and Scott knew, she was a natural. By her own admission Scott had a "yen for machinery."

A few decades later a starry eyed little girl with her head in the clouds, 19 year old German glider pilot Hanna Reitsch, standing a fraction over 5 feet tall and never pushing the scale passed 90 pounds, desire to fly began with an image of flying like, "The storks in their quiet and steady flight and the buzzards circling ever higher in the summer air." And soon Hanna would discover that flying was indeed, "Potent, yet gentle, like some seductive wine, the fever of flying descended on me coursing through me to my very fingertips."

I think 1930's German air racer Thea Rasche summed it up best when she said, "Flying was more thrilling than love for a man and far less dangerous."

You've got to love these gals!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"The Joy of Accomplishment"
"The joy of achievement has no gender. 
It doesn't not mean beating anyone at anyone else's game. 
It simply means doing the best you can with what you have, whoever you are;
it's being true to oneself."
Amelia Earhart

Ruth Law getting some well deserved
recognition after her record breaking flight. 
When Earhart made these remarks perhaps she was thinking of Ruth Law, whose non-stop Chicago to New York flight in 1915 made her the first woman to fly at night. Numbed by freezing temperatures, piloting a rickety 100-horsepower Curtiss Pusher biplane perched on something resembling a lawn chair fastened to the root of the wing, she also broke two other records that day - American non-stop cross-country flight for men and for women and longest non-stop cross-country flight for women anywhere in the world. 

At a prestigious Hotel Astor dinner in her honor, attended by President Wilson and the 
First Lady, one speaker noted that a man could merit a dinner easily enough as a "Mason or a naughty Elk", but "for a woman to sit in glory at the Hotel Astor she must do something superhuman."

Superhuman indeed.

She dared to fly faster and higher than anyone before her, in dark, cold and nasty skies. Not only that, she pioneered in an era unaccustomed to women voting much less flaunting bold loops and spectacular stunts in the middle of the night - did I mention Law was an aerobatic pilot as well!
Doing all this made Ruth Law an instant celebrity but by her own account she did not do it for the fame or the fortune and with "no expectations of rewards", but for "the pure joy of accomplishment" 

In 1935 aviator Jean Batten, a New Zealand stunner said it so well after her flight in a closed-cockpit Percival Gull monoplane on a non-stop flight across the dark stretches of the Atlantic from Africa to South America - "I experienced once again the greatest and most lasting of joys: the joy of achievement."
Jean Batten -Always the lady!
Even while working on an airplane engine

Fame and fortune can be short lived but the feeling of having done something meaningful is everlasting. Accomplishments, no matter how big or small, count for something wonderful. 

Perhaps that's what motivates all of us.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Place In Space

I have to say the question I am always asked is how I got into flying in the first place. My
automatic response had been, "My father flew and so did my brother - being a tomboy it seemed to be the path to follow." But  I've come to realize it was more than that. 
My father, with the rugged good looks of a modern day George Clooney, embodied the glory of aviation and while he certainly inspired my love of flying, my own desire to become a pilot came from somewhere deep inside. It was pure and spontaneous.
Captain "Gus" Tiburzi

Try to be me for a moment and imagine the beauty of flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet with a stunning 270 degree view of three brewing thunderstorms while you are at the controls of a 400,000 pound beast of a machine, nimbly darting through layers of tumultuous atmosphere. While the instrument panels blink urgently with complex technical readings and meteorological data, you delicately steer the airplane around rumbling patches of flashing gray and purple clouds to the east, in full view of a crystal blue sky to the west all a flame with the orange glow of the setting sun. On all sides, in perfect harmony, the sky explodes with magnificent colors and electricity.  The mass of the plane and the force of the wind are both awesome. You and your airplane engage in a daunting dance with the heavens themselves, while back in the cabin, two hundred passengers, to borrow from T.S. Elliot, "talk of Michelangelo."

Years of training, exhausting concentration, huge responsibility - and what a view!

At the end of the day what you remember is the sheer thrill of soaring through the skies and the quieter joy of accomplishment. Your two co-pilots and you have just crossed an ocean together in a tightly orchestrated, silent camaraderie. 

Who wouldn't want to be part of that world?

It is hard to believe that more than forty years earlier, I admired the same sky from 30,000 feet below while lying on my back in our back yard as a child. My heart followed each plane across the expanse of the sky. Where were they going? How did it work? I was fascinated by the sight and sound of the majestic aircraft as they approached the little landing strip. Ponderously heavy on those tiny tricycle wheels, yet so light and elegant in the sky. 
PBY-5 Catalina 

When my Dad took me up for my first flying lesson he was tanned and unshaven just back from a long three months of flying a tadpole look-a-like twin-engine PBY-5 Catalina airplane for the Air Transport Command in the Amazon Jungle.  We were at Danbury Airport, a small two runway airfield nestled between rolling hills in northwestern Connecticut not far from our home.  I was only eleven years old when I felt the sky wrap around our small two-seater Cessna. It seemed as though the sky was holding us up, like the night holds the stars. 

From that day flying had become a part of who I was.