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Laurel

Laurel Lippert

Pilot, flight instructor (CFI), writer, editor and columnist, Laurel Lippert is the consummate aviation cheerleader, which is evident in her recent book, You Can Fly!, coauthored with Greg Brown. You Can Fly! is a colorful and inspiring guidebook to understanding and appreciating the process of learning to fly. Since the book’s debut, Laurel has been a guest speaker at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, inspiring others to fly after 40, 50 and 60 years of age.

Laurel had her first flying lesson at age 40 and found the process of learning to fly extremely challenging, with bumps and blips along the way, but well worth the ride. In the decade after becoming a pilot, Laurel earned her instrument and multi-engine ratings, and her commercial and flight instructor certificates “with the speed of a Piper Cub.” Now past 60, Laurel’s life revolves around aviation and encouraging others to learn to fly.

Before falling in love with flying, Laurel wrote feature articles for SKI and Snow Country magazines, and video scripts for medical and technical companies. In 1996, she wrote her first aviation article for Mountain Pilot magazine. Since then, she has contributed to Pilot Getaways and Plane & Pilot magazines, as well as written an online aviation column for ipilot.com.

She earned the prestigious Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship for her multi-engine rating and the 1998 Woman Pilot of the Year award from the Lake Tahoe Chapter of The Ninety-Nines.

Laurel’s husband Tom, a freelance photographer who learned to fly at age 60, is responsible for illustrations found in You Can Fly! Together they fly their 1948 Cessna 170 from their home base in Truckee, Calif., near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Failures on the Flight Path to Success

“Did you know that women ruined aviation?” asked the examiner.

I stared at the man across the desk with a blank look, not sure if I should laugh or cry. It was my instrument rating oral exam, and I was as nervous as I always am before a test, trying to keep my sense of humor while panic closes in.

“Back in the ‘60s, when they allowed women to fly in the military,” he continued, “airplane designers had to reconfigure the cockpit just to accommodate them. They even lowered the standards so they could fly.”

“I should have been flying back then,” I joked, trying to lighten the moment. While the examiner did not laugh once during our three hours together, I did survive the exam and earned my rating that day.

The moral of the story? Hang in there, keep punching, and don’t let ‘em see you sweat. In ten years of flight training, from age 40 to 50, I took five oral exams, two which I failed the first time and had to retake.

twin-engine-seminole-panelThe oral exam for my multi-engine rating began with a weight and balance problem, based on our upcoming flight. My examiner was a big man with tortoise-shell glasses who wasn’t interested in small talk. Since he left the room before I could ask his weight, I had to guess. I was certain he wouldn’t want me to underestimate it, since that could be dangerous.

His upper arms looked large, and a “bay window” hung over his belt. Read More »

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Upside Down and Out

I thought I was doing fine flying loops and rolls, even a hammerhead, in the brand-new Pitts S2C with only 36 hours on the tachometer. A half-hour earlier, Sean D. Tucker (yes, world-famous airshow performer Sean D. Tucker) had said jokingly, “Now don’t lose your lunch in my new airplane, Laurel.” But, the flat spin did me in.

I was in this position because a few months earlier I had attended my first Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference in Denver, Colo. It was full of young women, like bees on a flower bush, buzzing around from booth to booth looking for commercial flying jobs. I was merely working toward becoming a flight instructor, a goal already attained by most of the women (who were far younger than my 50 years).

Not looking for a job, I had plenty of time to hang around the fund-raising silent auction table where I found one item I was willing to bid on: two hours of aerobatic flight lessons with Sean D. Tucker. His home base is Salinas, Calif., a four-hour drive from my home in Truckee, Calif., so it wasn’t an impossible wish. I had no idea what it was worth, but I thought I could afford $400 for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

About an hour before the bidding closed, I noticed that I was competing with one other woman who was raising the bid $20 every time. The price was up to $500, but I caught a glimpse of her across the room—twenty-ish, tall, blond, attractive, with a whole flying life ahead of her—and was inspired.

In the final moments, my competitor and I were standing shoulder to shoulder at the auction table with pens in hand. As she wrote in $600, she said, “I can’t really afford this.” Quickly scribbling $620 on the next line, I responded, “I can’t either, but I’m older than you, and this may be my last chance.” Perhaps she was relieved. I’ll never know, but she put down the pen and walked away.

Read More »

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The Love Flight That Wasn’t

Are you thinking about learning to fly because your spouse is a pilot? Or, maybe you dream about flying around the country with your husband or wife who also wants to learn to fly.

Sharing the cockpit of a small airplane would be fun, right? Well, the truth is, like all joint efforts that require compromise and cooperation, flying together calls for “cockpit management” techniques (or “spousal management” might be better)…that is, plenty of ongoing discussion about what should or should not be said, or done, while the number-one pilot, or PIC (pilot in command), is at the controls. Read More »

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Stuck somewhere? Might be your lucky day.

When you become a pilot, you join a helpful community. Being stranded at an airport somewhere gives you a chance to see just how supportive it can be.

Finding yourself stranded somewhere might seem like the worst fate if you’re a pilot, but, more often than not, it turns out to be a pleasant surprise.

With our first airplane, a 1946 Aeronca Champ, and other old slow planes that followed, we learned that since we couldn’t outrun any approaching bad weather, we could be stuck at unfamiliar airports on any cross-country flight.  Read More »

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