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"Female Pilots Recall Aviation Adventures"

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Female Pilots Recall Aviation Adventures 
By Hanna Tamrat
The Oakland (CA) Tribune

ALAMEDA -- Judy Barker was so determined to become a pilot she used the tips
she earned from waiting tables to pay for flying lessons. 

The Hayward resident got her private pilot's license in 1976, a year after
her husband got his. "With him flying, I wanted to know how to land in case
anything happened," she said. 

The couple often would rent a plane and go flying with their children, later
with their grandchildren, sometimes to vacation spots or to visit family
around the country. 

This morning, Barker will be one of three speakers for Living Ship Day:
Women's History Month event, at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda. 

As a member of the Alameda County Chapter of The Ninety Nines Inc., the
oldest international women pilots' organization, she will talk about her
flying experiences and the opportunities available for women interested in

"I was very unsure of myself, with 18 hours (of training)with an
instructor," Barker said, talking about the first time she flew solo. 

Despite her instructor's confidence in her abilities, she felt unprepared
before she took off alone from the Hayward airport in a Cessna 150, a
two-seat single-engine airplane, she said. 

Once she conquered the fear of flying solo, she tackled the next step,
getting a license. 

"It takes a lot of hours and ratings (to get a license), which slows women
down," said Liz Lundin with The Ninety-Nines headquarters in Oklahoma City. 

Some people may take up to 200 hours of training, she said. The Federal
Aviation Administration requires a minimum of 35 hours of certified training
for a private plane license, but estimates it takes most people 60 to 70
hours of training to pass a test. 

Only about half of the student pilots complete their training and get a
license, Lundin said. 

Women make up only about 6 percent of about 37,000 active licensed pilots in
the United States, according to a 2004 FAA report. 

In addition to long training hours, another reason student pilots fail to
complete training is the cost of flight lessons. 

In the days when Barker was a waitress and received quarters for tips,
flight training cost about $18 an hour, which included plane fuel and the
instructor's fee, she said. Today it costs about $80 an hour. Students
usually are expected to fly about three hours a week. 

There are other challenges for new pilots once they actually get off the

"There were times I wanted to quit," said Livermore resident Billie Sposeto
, chairman of the Alameda County chapter of The Ninety-Nines. 

Among other things, a pilot has to manage the fuel, the engine power, keep
the plane balanced, check charts, talk to air traffic controllers in the
tower and "keep an eye on the (Boeing) 747" flying alongside the trainee's
plane, she said laughing. 

Sposeto said she took up flying because every time she drove past the
Livermore airport on her way to work in Oakland, she and her children would
wonder what it would be like to fly. Sposeto got her private plane license
in 1981. 

The event at the museum, 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3, Alameda Point, takes
place today with flight simulations from 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The day's
schedule will include science activities for kids. 


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