Flight training scholarships for women pilots

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Flight training is expensive, we all know that. However, there are many organizations that award scholarships for flying, particularly for women and youth.  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about available scholarship opportunities. I send this information by email often, so thought I should post it for the benefit of others. This list isn’t exhaustive, but does cover some of the major sources of awards.

The Ninety-Nines, Inc. is a women’s pilot organization, founded by Amelia Earhart and 98 other women pilots in 1929. It is only for women who are pilots. The international organization gives out a series of awards to both student pilots and licensed pilots through the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships and Awards. The funding provides for new ratings, jet ratings, tuition for aerospace studies, technical training (such as maintenance), or emergency maneuver training.

The 99s new pilot scholarships are due in December of each year and are to help student pilots complete their certificate. You need to be a member of the 99s and have already soloed when you apply. See the 99s New Pilot Award here: http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/scholarships.htm

If you are already a licensed pilot, you can apply for scholarships to cover additional ratings. These are also due in December. The funding is for the entire cost of the rating, so some people will ask for and receive more money than others (a helicopter rating will cost more than fixed-wing training). It helps to be an active member of the 99s, not just someone who pays dues and is a member on-paper. Look for volunteer opportunities within the organization or in your local chapter.

The application process has very specific instructions, so it helps to talk to someone who has done it before. I am thankful for the guidance I’ve received from my local chapter, as well as from the section reviewers. In general, you must meet all the legal requirements of the rating you want prior to submitting the application in December, although there is a grace period until the following February. For example, if you are going for an instrument rating, you need to have your 50 hours of cross-country pilot in command time already completed when you apply (or at least by February). It also helps if you have passed any required written test. In addition, consider completing your training in the recommended order, particularly if you are looking toward a career, such as adding a multiengine rating to a commercial certificate instead of getting your multiengine on a private certificate.

Note that you apply in December, but if you win, you do not start training until the following summer. So, ask for the subsequent rating. For example, if you are almost done with your CFI and will finish it by February, apply for a CFI-instrument or CFI-multiengine.

In addition to the Earhart awards, look for scholarships from 99s chapters and other organizations. These are often open to only residents of certain areas or members of certain chapters. Apply for scholarships of any amount; even a couple of hundred dollars will get you several hours of flight training if you win. http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/other_scholarships.htm

Women in Aviation, International is another major sponsor of scholarships for women. WAI is open to anyone (including men) who is involved somehow in aviation — for example, a pilot, mechanic, engineer, or even an accountant at an aerospace company. The funds are awarded through the WAI, but are actually donated by individuals or corporations, such as airlines or companies that make training materials. You can apply for two scholarships per year, and the applications are due in November. These are awarded at the annual conference, typically held in March. I’ve met some pilots who’ve won 737 and A320 type ratings through WAI, and it certainly changed their career opportunities. The WAI awards range from several hundred dollars to $30,000 and up for jet training. http://wai.org/education/scholarships.cfm

ISA+21, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, provides scholarships toward commercial multiengine, ATP, or jet type ratings. In 2012, these were offered through WAI.

Depending on your age, you might check the Experimental Aircraft Association. The EAA is very strong in funding young people, particularly those under 20. There are scholarships available for flight training, as well as attending the EAA’s kids camps. Applications are due at various times throughout the year. http://www.youngeagles.org/programs/scholarships/scholarships.asp

AOPA also awards several scholarships for student pilots, sometimes up to $5000 to complete a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. These are usually due in summer. http://flighttraining.aopa.org/ftscholarship

These are just some of the wonderful organizations that donate money (and review time) to support women pilots. If you don’t win an award the first time, be persistent and try again the next year. Good luck to you in your training pursuits!

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Jobseekers at the Women in Aviation 2013 conference

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I just returned from the 24th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Women in Aviation, International, admits both women and men who have some connection to aviation.

Last year, my first time to the conference, I thought it was a bit odd that there were men among the 3,000+ attendees, particularly that there were several men who won scholarships. This year, I was shocked at their increased numbers, and the seas of young men in black suits carrying their resumes. Apparently, the word got out that airlines are hiring and this event was a “job fair.” One pilot I spoke with said he waited 3.5 hours in the line for a 3-minute group interview with United. With this kind of interest, he said the major airlines were looking for 5,000 hours total and 1,000 PIC turbine just to be competitive!

(All of this makes me glad I fly for recreation.)

Inbound to Women in Aviation 2013 conference

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I could tell my inbound flight to Nashville, Southwest 3411 from Phoenix, was going to be special. First of all, the aircraft was a beautiful, new Boeing 737-800, which the airline only began operating within the past year. More important, women pilots headed to WAI 2013 were among the passengers.

I am a private pilot, so I was dressed in plain, tourist clothes. However, we had three uniformed women pilots in the cabin, one of whom I knew from my Ninety-Nines chapter back in California.

As we began descending, a flight attendant announced over the public address system that the plane had some very special guests on board: a group of women pilots on their way to the Women in Aviation conference in Nashville. Among the whoops and applause across the cabin, I let out a cheer. I’m sure the passengers around me assumed I was just happy about women becoming pilots–not that I actually was one myself and was going to the same conference. Shortly thereafter, upon a safe and smooth landing in gusty crosswinds, the flight attendant suggested that the female first officer was probably the pilot to thank for it.

This my second time to the WAI conference. The flight on Wednesday was a wonderful way to start my trip, and became an unexpected opportunity to show our spirit and recognize the accomplishments of women in aviation.

Note: I originally wrote this for the WAI Daily, the printed newsletter of the 24th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference. WAI also posted it on the WAI Connect blog.

JPL #NASASocial for @MarsCuriosity

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I was on-site at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory August 3-5 to represent NASA as a volunteer social media reporter as part of its #NASASocial program (live-tweeting from @rmglennon). There were over 2,000 applicants, but 25 were chosen randomly (with a slight normalization for gender and geography) to participate. There were a handful of LA-area locals, but most were from outside California. Our hosts were JPL’s social media coordinators, who form the voice of @MarsCuriosity and other JPL Twitter accounts.

In the control roomI was at JPL all day Friday, August 3 for a press conference and intimate tour of the facilities and mission control, Saturday morning for press conferences, and all day Sunday for more press conferences and the actual landing. I was in the media room as the events were being broadcast and cheered along with the crowd. I arrived home at around 2 am Monday morning, still rushing from the excitement.

I made friends with Hal Eisner from Fox 11 LA and he interviewed me at the top of the 11 pm news immediately after Curiosity’s safe arrival. I met with administrators, scientists, engineers, and celebrities over the course of the weekend. Some of the more memorable encounters include will.i.am, the head of NASA, Seth Green, Uhura from Star Trek, Alex Trebek, the creator of the Big Bang Theory, and all of the Internet memes (rock star guy, wizard guy, Mohawk guy) before they were “famous.”

It was an incredible weekend. I’m still sorting through the 800 photographs I took and writing up my experiences. I’ll never get tired of seeing the video of the mission control room celebration, knowing how amazing the accomplishment was and how fortunate I was to share in it.

Being on-site at JPL when the Mars Curiosity rover lands

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No longer can I say that I have never won a contest anymore. I was lucky enough to be one of 25 people picked randomly (well, normalized slightly for geography and gender) from over 2,000 entries to be a citizen journalist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Mars Curiosity rover landing. As a NASA Social attendee, I have been given access to document, photograph, and interact with the engineers and facilities involved in the mission.

In the Mars YardI went to the JPL Open House a few years ago. I recall going to the viewing gallery “dark room” for deep space mission control, but was not allowed to take photographs. This time, I was on the floor of the room (and the adjacent Curiosity room), talking to the engineers, and posting images to Twitter. We have been given access to locations that most employees cannot enter–and have been encouraged to share our experiences online.

Day 1 of the NASA Social was a morning conference meeting shared with six other social meeting gatherings at other NASA sites. After that, we at JPL toured the operations and image processing centers, mission control locations, and watched rover testers drive a stripped-down Curiosity over small boulders in a sandbox yard designed to simulate Martian ground conditions.

JPL deep space mission controlOn Day 2, I participated in an actual press conference, surrounded by reporters from Reuters, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and foreign media. My parents watched the event at home on NASA TV (also streamed online). A couple of NASA Social attendees were able to ask questions.

Now, we are to day 3, which is the actual landing. The first signal of a safe landing is expected to arrive at around 10:31 pm Pacific Daylight Time. Photographs can be taken as soon as four minutes after touchdown, yet it may be about 12:30 am before they are received on earth via the Odyssey orbiter. The print journalists at the press conference have been concerned about their deadlines at the late hour, yet those of us on social media can live “tweet” as news arrives.

I will be covering the event on my Twitter account (@rmglennon). Follow #NASASocial to hear what other attendees are saying.

Story of the Rialto airport redevelopment

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Art Scholl Memorial/Rialto Municipal Airport (formerly Miro Field) is a non-towered field located just northeast of Ontario, California. I have been flying from Rialto/L67 for only about six months, but get the feeling that it is not as busy now as in the past. There have been many lovely, calm, clear Saturday mornings that I’ve had the place to myself. At the same time, I can hop over to Redlands and find at least two or three other planes and helicopters lined up in the traffic pattern.

As it turns out, several years ago, the “Renaissance Rialto” plan proposed to shut down the Rialto airport, move tenants to other Inland Empire airports (San Bernardino, in particular), and replace the field with mixed-use housing and business opportunities.

Once the plan was adopted, the city started taking the necessary steps to close the airport and tenants began deciding their fates. In fact, one of the flight schools sold its fleet and chose to exit the training business rather than relocate.

In the meantime, the economy collapsed, redevelopment agencies were defunded, and closure plans were postponed. Presently, there are flight instruction and rental aircraft services, but they are not as formal as before the plan was introduced. Self-serve avgas is still available at all times, though.

The city indicates that the plan will still be enacted once development demand increases, but I suspect this may still be years in the future. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the quiet.

Review: new tear-proof and water resistant FAA charts

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Starting with aeronautical charts printed after May 31, new FAA charts are supposed to be brighter, tougher, tear-proof, and water-resistant. With the arrival of new Los Angeles VFR terminal area and sectional charts (91st edition, effective 28 June 2012), I wanted to test these claims. Indeed, my sectional charts are often tattered after six months’ worth of drawing flight paths and creasing the charts en route.

It is true; when compared side-by-side with the previous editions, the paper on the new version is a brighter white and a heavier stock. The hues appear quite similar, although my eye detects that a slightly richer purple now being used on Class C borders, the Mode C veil around LAX, non-towered airports, and text. This color change makes these important symbols appear crisper and more obvious in the crowded map.

Although the new chart has a lot of life left in it, I had to verify the rip and water advertisements. To test its ability to resist tearing, I applied heavy force to a discrete edge. The old chart shred wide open, but the new one stayed intact with only slight pleats. Amazingly, I could not tear the new chart by either twisting it or pulling it apart between my fingers. This is a nice change and should eliminate the holes that commonly occur at the folds and those accidental rips caused by pulling out the chart from the bottom of a stuffed flight bag.

For the water test, I held a corner of each chart under a stream in the sink for 10 seconds so I could simulate a drink spill aloft…or maybe attempting to plan a route on the airplane tail in the rain. While the water did not bead up or run off, it certainly did not soak through (as much) and dried quicker without wrinkling. However, I am not a coffee drinker, so I can’t answer to its stain resistance qualities.

One unfortunate consequence of these new materials is the feeling that the charts need to be slapped with a California Proposition 65 warning for known carcinogens. I can smell the chart plastics across the room and think they might be giving me a headache. It is mildly disconcerting that I will be trapped in a cockpit with these things. They will need to live unfolded in the garage for now, which I hope will air out the chemicals.

Check back again when the charts expire in December to find out how they held up, although I’m sure they will be in pristine condition. The question is whether that is because of the new manufacturing processes or because I abandoned them for their scentless digital counterparts.