Tag Archives: abuse

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Tribute to an old friend

IMG_0109His name doesn’t matter.  I found an old resume of mine, and I’m talking really old, and he was listed as a reference.  We lost touch at least 33 years ago, but this dear friend was important enough to have been listed on my resume on my initial job searches in Atlanta.  He didn’t want me to move.

As soon as my mother reads this, she is going to call me.  “Who are you talking abou?”  I’m not going to tell her.  I’m not even going to talk about it any further.  I’m going to savor the memory of this friendship, 30+ years ago, and remember fondly a larger than life person who passed away in 2016.  Some memories should just be savored and maybe woven anonymously into a book or something.

Our first meeting was not was by chance.  Someone recommended I contact him.  He was a valuable resource.  He restored my self confidence and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone.  I was in awe of him.  He couldn’t believe I was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, plus a nurse, and he respected my intelligence.  He was kind and generous and a gentleman.  I was vulnerable but he did not take advantage of that.  He was older but he treated me as an equal.  He respected my opinion.   He introduced me to jazz.

So many fond memories!  His faith in me empowered me and helped make me become the person I am today.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.  I will always remember that.

I found his obituary last night.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 27 years.  She came along 5 years after I left so I didn’t know her, but I wish I had. He was a good person  was well remembered by all.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Women in the Cockpit

I am a pilot.  I learned to fly to fly before I learned to drive.  I started to work when I was 13 years old and saved every penny I made to pay for my flying.  It was my dad’s airplane, but I had to pay for part of it.  That’s who he was – a “you don’t get something for nothing” kind of person.  By the time I was 16, I was holding down three jobs and was still an A student.  I wanted to fly in the military, but they didn’t allow women at that time.  So I stuck it out and worked hard.  I detoured my career, was successful enough to retire at 43, then pursue my passion.

I never asked for special treatment.  I never complained, when I was flying night freight, that some of the freight hangars didn’t have women’s restrooms.  I used the men’s room and never thought twice about it.  When we had to unload truck transmissions in Detroit, I used the pallet jack and moved the transmissions along with the guys.  I’ve climbed on the wing of a DC-4 to measure the fuel level in the main tanks, and I’ve pumped oil out to the engines during flight.  I’ve flown powerful people into Aspen, Colorado, where every approach requires precision and finesse.  I’ve flown into East Hampton, New York, and into Ocean Reef, Florida.  These are challenging runways, short and narrow, not runways that are two miles long.

Today, in the “Pilot Communications Network” was an email forwarded from Leonard Brunasso, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot who is now a check airman for Omni Air.  The email was titled “The Age of the 707/DC-8” and it begins, “Those were the good ole days.  Pilots back then were men…”  You can just guess how far it went downhill from there, as he went on to insult every category of people except for white male pilots. From what I can gather, taxpayers paid for Leonard’s flight training, as he was an Air Force pilot.  He refers to pilots “in the good ole days” as real men and refers to flight attendants as stewardesses who appreciated a little sexual harassment, and were “proud to be combatants in the sexual revolution.”  He went on to say these women didn’t have any “plastic or composites” in their pectoral regions.

Rarely am I offended, but having been subjected to blatant sexual harassment and abuse in the cockpit, I have a few things to say to Leonard.  I am beyond angry.  I am furious.  I am sad.  I am, unfortunately, flooded with memories of clowns just like this guy who didn’t think I belonged.  The ones who objectified women.

I’ve taught over 1000 people to fly and I have an impeccable record.  I’ve shared my love of aviation with literally thousands of people.  During nursing school, I would instruct in the wee hours of the morning and then go to the hospital in Charlotte for clinicals, then I’d go to the airport and fly afterwards.  And I kept my grades up while I was doing it.  I am as proud of my RN as I am my ATP and CFI.

I learned instrument flying with nothing more than needle, ball, and airspeed.  I’ve made the decision to go or not, when flying fuel to some of the most remote villages in Alaska in a DC-4.  I’ve manually calculated how much fuel to take on, and looked at prog charts to see whether it was even safe to go.  I didn’t have dispatch to calculate weight and balance for me, tell me how the weather was, and determine whether I’d be released to fly or not.  I made those decisions, on my own.

I worked my way into the cockpit with my skills and abilities to fly.  I’ve been pinched, grabbed in inappropriate places, and even been physically assaulted by other pilots.  I’ve been asked whether I ever felt guilty taking a job away from some poor man trying to feed his family and when I’ve adjusted the temperature in the cockpit, I’ve been asked if I was having hot flashes.  I knew when someone was having fun and when the line was being crossed.

When I first became a flight instructor, there were only about 4000 women in the US with commercial pilot certificates.  I was one of the youngest, since I was only 18.  Today, 40 years later with my Airline Transport Pilot certificate, I am one of only about 8000.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I’ve got more than 45 years in the cockpit plus I’ve earned a PhD, started 3 or 4 successful businesses, and have tried to be the best person I can be.  I’m happily married to a retired Delta pilot who recognizes and appreciates my brains and my talent.

I want to say all kinds of ugly things to Leonard, but it would do no good.  I just hope that someday, this brand of pilots is replaced by kinder, more respectful human beings, by people who don’t care whether you are male or female, provided you can competently perform your duties in the cockpit or in the cabin.

Honestly, I just wish people would accept other people for who they are.  Be kind.  And stop spreading messages that promote hate.  Can’t we all just get along and treat everyone as human beings?