Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Zonta Guest Speaker

I was asked at the last minute to be the guest pilot speaker at a Zonta meeting last night for their Amelia Earhart day.  I enjoyed dinner at a country club with about 15 professional women, sharing my story and love of aviation.  I also took this opportunity to promote the Fly it Forward event. 

My favorite moment of the night was when I welcomed the room to ask me questions and to share their own stories.  It's funny how when you walk into a room of people you are not sure who may have a good aviation story tucked away.  One woman shared how she was a private pilot but hadn't flown in over twenty years because raising a family had become her first priority.  From there we discussed that as a reason why there are less women pilots and how we could counteract that. We also discussed how uncommon it was for women to fly in the early days and how it could be frowned upon.  One Zonta member shared how when her mother was a young woman she sneaked out of the house every evening to learn to fly.  First solo stories were discussed when learning that when one women was in the ROTC "back in the day" she had to go through flight training and soloed at only nine hours! 

As I answered questions I showed a Power Point presentation of my favorite pictures showing why I love aviation.  I started with photos of my training featuring first solos and earning ratings.  Next, I shared beautiful views of flying in the sunset and of beautiful island scenery.  Finally I shared what I love to do, sharing aviation with others.  First was a picture of my boyfriend and I and two ladies remarked, "oo he's cute!".  Following the "cute" picture I shared photos of who I have taken up for their first small aircraft ride.  One was my youngest brother, "he's cute too!" came an unnamed voice.   My brother is 16! LOL

It was a long drive but a good night sharing a meal with professional and successful women.  Most importantly, I got to share something I love: aviation.

One of the ladies embroidered this bag as a gift for presenting-isn't it great?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

3 Steps

1. Click on the flier below
2. Save it to your desktop
3. Email it to all your family and friends

Good job!
We have 14 planes with pilots and 40+ ladies ready to fly and counting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

THIS JUST IN!

$.50 off per gallon of gas for all pilots flying for Woman Fly it Forward!!!  Now if that's not a reason to volunteer, what is? :)

Has Flying Changed Your Life?

?Someone asked this question on the Purple Board for Pilots the other day.  My answer is YES.  So much that sometimes I wish I have never started on this path, because when I am not flying, I long for it.  It has brought be to places I never thought I would have experienced and has introduced me to the most amazing individuals.  It brings me a sense of peace, confidence and meaning.  At a meeting at KFDK for Woman Fly it Forward with the airport manager today he stated that flying, "was like crack."  Now, I do not condone the use of drugs, but I am hoping that Woman Fly it Forward is the first "hit" for many girls and women and that someday they can say that flying has changed their life for the better.

What life changing events are in store at Women Fly it Forward at FDK?
  • FREE introductory flight
  • A variety of planes from aerobatic to experimental with pilots from all walks of life.  Some fly for a living, some work for local aviation organizations, some do it just for fun and one is a retired fighter pilot!
  • Static displays of unique aircraft from a Huey to a Stearman
  • Meet successful women in the industry to include: an aerobatic performer/wingwalker, USAF pilots and an air traffic controller
Here above the farms and ranches of the Great Plains aviation lives up to the promise that inspired dreamers through the ages. Here you are truly separate from the earth, at least for a little while, removed from the cares and concerns that occupy you on the ground. This separation from the earth is more than symbolic, more than a physical removal - it has an emotional dimension as tangible as the wood, fabric, and steel that has transported you aloft.  ~Stephen Coonts, 'The Cannibal Queen'


Who's Stalking Me?

I keep a little tracker on my blog because it's fun to see the many places people live that are checking out my blog.  It's also quite handy to see what they searched for to stumble upon my little corner of the internet.  Below is an image of my favorite result so far (click to enlarge):


Once I showed this to my friends on Facebook they decided to have a bit of fun:

And more fun....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Message from The Centennial of Women Pilots Organizer

 I had to share this email from Mireille on the great success of the Centennial of Women Pilots movement last year.  If you are not in the FDK area to help out with my Fly it Forward event, please sign up at Woman of Aviation Week to get support to host one at your home airport. 

Congratulations, you won!

Whether you introduced one girl or one woman to flying to commemorate the Centennial or more than one hundred like our most dedicated female pilot, Amanda Sargent, and our most supportive male pilot, Andrei Floroiu, did, you are a winner because you cared enough to go into action and make a difference. Visit www.centennialofwomenpilots.com to view the list of award winners.

Together, we introduced 1,647 girls and women to flying this year. That’s 2% of the current women pilots’ population worldwide estimated at 80,000. What’s more, we had fun!

Although no official activities were planned to celebrate the Centennial of Women Pilots, together we had a wonderful party to mark this major milestone in women pilots’ history. We put smiles on the faces of the many girls and women who decided to give us a chance to share our love for flying with them.  The five women who were first to earn their pilot license in 1910 and the many more who soloed that year would have been impressed.

While the percentage of women doctors, women lawyers, and police women went from nearly 0% to around 25% in the last 100 years, the percentage of women pilots has stagnated at around 6% for decades. There is still much to be done to raise awareness and leave the aviation industry better than we found it for the women of aviation of tomorrow.

That’s why I encourage you to mark your calendar. March 7-13 is 2011’s Women of Aviation Worldwide Week!

As the world celebrates international women week, we celebrate the Women of Aviation. We have a big party planned for you. The Fly It Forward challenge is back with even more award categories and more prizes. There is a photo contest. Snap those smiles. Make your creativity shine and compete in the new Promote It challenge.

Large Fly-It-Forward events are already planned in 4 cities and 3 countries. If you are planning a Young Eagles event during that week, make it a ‘girl’ Young Eagles event. But think beyond that.

Suggest to your local museum to offer entrance fee rebates for girls and women during the week and/or hold special exhibits. Convince local aviation businesses to showcase their female flight instructors, mechanics, or engineers may be in ‘a-day-at-work’ format. If you are a Woman of Aviation, offer to speak to girls or women groups. If you are a writer, write about the Women of Aviation. And of course, if you are a pilot, put a smile on someone else’s face; introduce a girl or a woman to flying.

Join the biggest girl party in 2011. Register at the Women of Aviation Community website (www.WomenOfAviationWeek.org) and start discussing ideas and sharing projects with like minded men and women. All upcoming events will be listed on that website. Please invite your passengers to join as well to allow them to stay in touch with their pilots after their first flight if they choose too.

Let’s make the 2011 Women of Aviation Worldwide Week the most fun ever!
With gratitude,
Mireille Goyer
Event Organizer

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quick Update

It's crunch time for me!  I have to get a lot done by next week, Bob and I are going to Nicaragua!  So I will be making lots of phone calls and trying to get as much done for Women Fly it Forward before then.  So far, I have had some great help from AOPA and the local Ninety Nines chapter (in which I will become a member, they seem very active).  Every one is very excited including yours truly.  This is going to be a very meaningful event.  If you can be of any help at all, please contact me!  In the meantime, I may not have much time to blog, but be prepared for a GREAT one once Woman Fly it Forward hits!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Small-Plane Non-Menace

Jan 13, 2011
by: James Fallows - James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. A 25-year veteran of the magazine and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, he is also an instrument-rated pilot and a onetime program designer at Microsoft. 

Our current issue is out -- say it with me, Subscribe! -- and has a lot of important articles about which I will intend to say more in due course. For instance: Joshua Green on the man who has done so much to bring the Senate's business to a near-halt. (I mentioned that just before Christmas I sat in the Senate gallery while a judicial nomination was approved by a 98-0 vote. No one opposed this potential judge -- but for reasons of sheer obstructionism, the vote was delayed for months.) Gary Hart and Andrew Bacevich on what's wrong with the military, and how it could be made more right. From the archives, we've retrieved my complementary article from 25 years ago, "The Spend Up," about how an earlier wave of money-rather-than-strategy left America more indebted but not more secure. A great graphic feature on the effects of the recession, by Timothy Lavin. And lots more, including sex and porn.

The issue also has a feature by Jeffrey Goldberg that is interesting, like everything Jeff writes, but is to my mind completely wrong-headed. And wrong-headed in a way that I think Jeff would be the first to recognize if it concerned a field he was more familiar with.

He talks about taking a private-plane flight -- in a rich friend's twin-engine jet -- from Teterboro airport, outside New York, to Dulles airport, outside Washington. Jeff's surprise is that he didn't go through the formal impedimenta of "security" as we have come to know it in the TSA era. Therefore this must constitute a gaping hole in the nation's security structure. Ie, Security you don't see is security that's not there.

I could write about this at length -- and, hey, I think I will! Of course, the necessary disclosures: One, obviously I'm biased. I am an active small-plane pilot and value precisely the fact that the U.S. general aviation network allows people to travel without extensive advance planning and without matching a commercial carrier's schedule or routes. This flexibility is analogous to the reason cars (as opposed to public buses) become popular anywhere on Earth where people have enough money for them.

And two: Jeff's right that there is a huge class privilege that goes with the private jet world. It lies in the ability to cut through all the hassle that is today's commercial airline system. People rich enough to own or charter jets travel when and where they want; don't have to stand in lines; don't have to give up their water or take off their shoes; don't have to build two extra hours into travel time to allow for everything that can go wrong at the airport. That is "unfair," and it is chapter 12,748 in the ongoing "polarization of America" saga. But a major new security threat it ain't.

After the jump, a sample note -- one of many dozens -- that both Jeff and I received from the pilot diaspora. As the writer says, small-plane pilots as a group feel embattled. They're We're an older, dwindling population -- the surge was the huge group of pilots trained in WW II and two decades afterwards -- and 90% of them fly relatively cheap small propeller planes that give them nothing in common with the private-jet set. Indeed there are obvious class resentments within the small-plane world, for instance when bare-bones hangars at an airport are scrapped to make room for new corporate jet facilities. Their one point of common purpose is valuing the flexibility of the nation's network of 4,000+ small airports, including the absence of security theater TSA-style.

Which brings me to my disagreements. What's wrong with Jeff's article, in my view (as he knows), is that it manifests two forms of thinking that he and I both criticize when we see them in the TSA. They are the "security theater" mentality (if it looks official and intrusive, you're safer), and the "risk elimination" fallacy (since there is some chance that what looks like an elderly nun could be a disguised terrorist, every single person must be inspected in exactly the same way) . Instead, both Jeff and I have frequently advocated a more flexible, less cookie-cutter, more selective and intelligence-based approach to security. That's pretty much how the small plane world already works.

For instance: flight operations anywhere in the vicinity of Washington are very different in the years since 9/11. Passengers wouldn't know it, but anyone operating an airplane is aware of the whole suite of special training, permissions, advance-filing procedures, radio protocols, etc required for operations within the "Special Flights Rules Area" reaching 35+ miles in all directions from Washington (including Dulles), with other restrictions extending about 70 miles out. Since 2000, except when living in China, I've had a small plane based at Gaithersburg, 30+ miles from downtown DC. Every takeoff from that airport, or approach to it from outside the DC area, requires advance security notice. For airports closer in, there are tighter rules -- for instance, fingerprinting and Secret Service pre-clearance for pilots who intend to fly there.

Moreover, the whole small-plane ecology the small-scale, tight, HUMINT-based, "neighborhood watch"-style security approach that the TSA would prefer but could never be scaled up to the whole commercial air system. A passenger getting on a private jet might not notice people at the airport, but many people would be noticing him and judging whether he "fits." I know because over the years I've noticed people -- and been noticed. This is why I say that if Jeff Goldberg or others were more of this world they'd have more a sense of its non-theatric security

Is there some remaining risk? Absolutely. There is similarly a risk that the Ryder truck next to you will be full of explosives, that the person behind you on the subway stairs could have a bomb in a backpack, that someone at the Safeway could pull out a Glock. As the TSA's John Pistole told Jeff Goldberg and me in our interview, no one can be in the "risk-elimination business." The job is judging relative risks and trying to abate them. Relatively speaking, small planes are not a high area of risk. As I will try to explain to Jeff when I frisk him and take him for a flight.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Support and Inspire at Women Fly it Forward

It's funny how Facebook can put you back in touch with people from the past and what can come of it.  I recently reconnected with a friend who I haven't seen or spoken to in at least ten years; she responded to my friend request by messaging me about how proud of me she was that I was a pilot. It felt good to receive such an accolade.  Becoming a pilot takes hard work and commitment, regardless of who you are.  Being praised for that accomplishment makes all the blood (well, I only cut myself once on a plane), sweat (90+ degree day when the heat kept turning on) and tears (lots) worth it. This praise, how small it may have been, from a non-aviator shows how precious the gift of flight is and how inspiring the journey can be! My long-lost friend admitted that she was afraid to fly and that maybe someday I could help her to conquer her fear.  I would love to be able to do this, to encourage her and show her all that aviation has to offer.  All it takes is one flight and the support of an excited aviator.

That is the goal of the Women Fly it Forward event, to support and inspire women young and old, those who are trying to conquer their fears, fulfill a dream or curiosity, or to simply try it out.  It's after their flight that we have the greatest challenge; to keep them interested, encouraged and excited about becoming involved in aviation.   At the Women Fly it Forward event on March 12th we don't plan to have ladies take their free flight and go home.  The excitement of aviation will continue by watching videos and raffling giveaways from aerobatic performer Patty Wagstaff, taking pictures and speaking with aerobatic performer and wing walker Jane Wicker and communicating with other women working within the aviation industry; from the US Air Force to Air Traffic Control.  It is my hope that with the free introductory flight andencouragement from successful women in the industry that the Women Fly it Forward event will touch the lives of at least a few women and  that they in turn decide to take the next step.

John Quincy Adams said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."  Will you be a leader at Women Fly it Forward?  Will you inspire the future pilots of aviation?

Want to do more, now?  Contact me on ways you can help to promote this event.

Visit and promote the event! Check it out on: WomenFlyitForward.com, Yelp, Facebook, Key103 Radio and  the awesome new Women of Aviation Week website!

GA Responds

By Mary Grady, Contributing editor

NBAA and NATA have both responded to claims in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine that private aviation is a "public menace" due to inadequate security safeguards. In his commentary, Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg says anyone who is rich enough, including a terrorist, can "buy [their] way out of airport security." Eric Byer, vice president of the National Air Transportation Association, called the pieceletter to The Atlantic, calling the story "sensationalist." A "host of initiatives" are in place to protect GA against terrorist threats, Bolen said. "outlandish," with conclusions based on the writer's "ignorance of general aviation security." NBAA President Ed Bolen sent a

"In fact, contrary to your writer's assertion, we in general aviation have long prioritized security, and have worked effectively with government officials to implement measures that enhance security without needlessly sacrificing mobility," Bolen said. Goldberg had previously written about his efforts to test TSA security while traveling on the airlines, where he found that it was relatively easy to thwart many of the rules. Fellow Atlantic correspondent James Fallows, who flies a Cirrus, said in his blog that he plans to write about "the small-plane 'menace'" soon, and added that he'd like to take Goldberg flying and explain to him "why his worries about the terrorist threat from small airplanes are unfounded."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grrrr....

Stumbled upon this article posted by a fellow blogger and Jetwhine today.  I could write on for pages on how someone's idiotic words such as these could have a very negative impact on general aviation.  This is why the public has such a misinformed opinion on GA and why our freedoms could be taken away.  That's all I'm going to write.  You decide for yourself:

Private Plane, Public Menace  

Wealthy travelers routinely bypass the TSA by flying on private jets. How long until al-Qaeda does the same? by: Jeffrey Goldberg

Teterboro Airport, situated in the New Jersey Meadowlands, a short distance from the Lincoln Tunnel, is the LAX of the American plutocracy. It is an airport given over entirely to “general” aviation—general being a euphemism for “private.” There are many different types of “general aviation” aircraft. A majority are very small, four- or six-seat propeller planes. A minority are much larger corporate jets of the sort found in great numbers on the Teterboro tarmac. 

I do not ordinarily have access to corporate-aviation flights, but a few of my friends do, and I feel very warmly toward these friends when they ask me to join them aboard their planes, which is not often enough. Such an invitation came recently while I was in New York City for an appearance on The Colbert Report, during which I discussed our country’s ludicrous aviation-security system. A friend let me know he was flying back to Washington that night on a private plane. Count me in, I said. 

The Colbert appearance went passably well and, as a bonus, I had the chance to say the terms testicle and ball sack on national television. This was during a discussion about the vigorous pat-downs now conducted by agents of the Transportation Security Administration on passengers who decline to pass through the imagers. These machines create naked images of passengers, which the federal government promises are not captured and therefore could not leak onto the Internet, even when the passenger in question is, say, Lady Gaga. 

Fifteen minutes after leaving Manhattan, we arrived at the airport gate. A private security guard asked my friend for the tail number of our plane. He provided the number—or he provided a few digits of the number—and we were waved through, without an identification check. The plane, I should point out, didn’t belong to my friend; it belonged to a company with which my friend’s business does business. We drove to the terminal—operated by Signature Flight Support, a leading provider of general-aviation services—where we met our co-pilot, who escorted us to the plane. 

“You’re Mr. Goldba?” the co-pilot said to me. 

“It’s Goldberg,” I said. 

“Okay, the e-mail must have gotten cut off or something.” 

We continued to the plane. I asked my friend—let’s refer to him as “Osama bin La”—if there would be any security check whatsoever before we went wheels-up. He laughed. “I think the law says we have to pat each other down.” 

“Do these pilots know you well?” I asked. “Is that why they trust you to bring me along?

He first met them that morning, he said, when they flew him to Teterboro. 

We climbed aboard the eight-seat twin-engine plane. The pilot greeted us, took my bag from me, and placed it on a seat. I noticed that no door separated the cabin from the cockpit. 

We took off a few minutes later and headed south, in the direction of the Pentagon, the White House, and the United States Capitol complex. 

“So let’s just say that I’m a terrorist pilot,” I said, “and I have a bag filled with handguns and I shoot these two pilots and then I take control of the plane and steer it into the headquarters of the CIA,” near which we would soon be flying. “What’s stopping me?” 

“There’s nothing stopping you,” my friend said. “All you need is money to buy a plane, or a charter.”
Luckily for America, I am not a terrorist, I did not kill the pilots, and I did not steer the plane into the headquarters of the CIA. Nor did I pack my bag with Semtex or a dirty bomb. Instead, I occupied myself by taking free candy and bottles of Evian from the plane’s endless stock of free candy and Evian, which reminded me, as if I needed reminding, that it is better to be rich than poor. 

We landed at Dulles International Airport about 40 minutes after we took off. We said good night to the pilots and walked across the tarmac. On the way, we passed far bigger planes than the one on which we had flown: 20- and 30-seat private jets, of obviously significant weight and fuel-storage capacity. Of course, one can charter 757s and 777s for private use as well. 

I’ve been writing for years about the TSA, and about the uneven and unthinking methods it employs to secure our nation’s commercial airports. I had been under the impression that the TSA stationed personnel at many general-­aviation terminals, but it typically does not. The general-aviation industry is almost entirely “self-regulated.” The TSA has proposed that it be allowed to impose certain security measures on private jets, such as requiring operators to ensure that their passengers are not on the no-fly list, but for now the agency screens only those Americans who cannot afford to fly on private planes. The TSA administrator, John Pistole, suggested he sees a less substantial threat from general aviation than he does in the commercial realm, and the general- aviation “community” is not enthusiastic about government regulation. “Clearly the general-aviation community has a lot of equities and interest in our rules,” he told me, delicately. The TSA does, however, distribute helpful tips to those who work at private- aviation airports, including, “Always lock your aircraft.” And there is this warning: call 911 if you happen to notice “pilots appearing to be under the control of others.”

I am not a terrorist, but I do share one goal with al-Qaeda: I too would like to have a pilot under my control. But, like most Americans, and presumably unlike al-Qaeda, I am not quite rich enough to buy my way out of airport security. 

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic



Sunday, January 9, 2011

WFIF Update

"I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process." ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Well, as I am putting my heart and soul into the Women Fly it Forward event, I am hoping I do not lose my mine; or at least find in time for the next time I fly in order to keep my medical ;)  I admit it all seems a bit overwhelming now.  Had some great news before Christmas and New Years and things seemed to be rolling and coming together.  However, the holidays and the loss of a dear pet derailed my planning train for a short while.  
This week I plan to cross a lot off of my 12 point to do list, mostly to include determining the exact location and layout of the event as well as get started on the taxi and flight plans.  Today, I met with Michael of the FAA and the head of the DC Metro Aviation Club who has been a big help in getting FAA and USAF involvement.  It was great to have someone to share and work out all my ideas with.  If all goes well and planned this is going to be a great event with some memorable photos.  I guarantee you participants and volunteers will be running home to update their Facebook profile pictures :o)  On a side note, Michael and I met at a Fractured Prune Doughnut Shoppe....A.MAZE.ING!
How can you help?  It's simple and easy, just pass on the word! If you know a pilot with an aircraft see if they'd like to volunteer their time to fly participants.  Do you know some girls or woman who would enjoy a flight and checking out some neat planes?  Let them know about this great and FREE opportunity!  Just check email them the webpage, www.womenflyitforward.com, or print it out the flier!  Help me to make a difference in a future pilots' lives on March 12th!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Mohawk and a Bulldog

Just a few pictures to share with you this morning before I stop this procrastination and start a (hopefully) productive Saturday.  I often wake up in the morning to find that sometime in the middle of the night my hair tried to form a mohawk.  This morning I thought I'd give it a boost and grant its wish.  This is the result.  I like it, slightly edgy but not to out there.  I'm also sporting my new MyTransponder shirt.  I gotta say I am really impressed how great they look!  I will definitely be sporting this around town today.  Thanks for sending that out to me, Rod!  Also, check out the great photo of my friend, Paul's, Scottish Aviation Bulldog, that he sent me last night.  The Bulldog was a trainer commonly used by the Royal Air Force in WWII.  Paul has graciously volunteered his time and the Bulldog for Women Fly it Forward on March 12th!



Friday, January 7, 2011

Thanks!

Thank you, Patty! Got some great giveaways in the mail from her today for Woman Fly it Forward! What are they, you ask? You'll have to come to find out!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is FlightPrep Evil, or Just Wrong?

Fellow pilot and founder of MyTransponder, Rod Rakic, just forwarded me his guest post on JetWhine discussing this subject.  It's a very good read, see for yourself!

AcroCamp

This is a documentary put together by some pilots I know back at KPTK, one was my aerobatic flight instructor.  They are really fun guys and I can't wait to see the whole movie!  I was actually on the back up list to be in it if one of the gals got sick or backed out (bummed they didn't!)  I've flown both the Pitts and the Decathlon in the trailer-I miss those planes!  Check out their blog for more!

My dream last night

I had a dream last night that the Women Fly it Forward event was being hosted at my parents house (did my Dad finally get his dream of having a private runway?!).  The clock hit 10:30 and only two participants showed up...and no pilots or volunteers.  I was stressed and devastated, then it began to rain.  Ok, it wasn't a dream, it was a nightmare!  Let's make sure that doesn't come true, ok people?  Well, maybe the private runway part ;)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WFIF: Print it out and pass it on!

Want to spread the word of Women Fly it Forward and don't know where to start?  I have created the webpage (basically a flier) www.WomenFlyitForward.com.  Email your friends and family, those who love to fly and those who wish to!  Print the flier out and pass it on!  Make a difference in a future women pilot's life today!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Now THAT'S an Adventure!

After a decade aloft, pilot is ready for a landing

Gannon began his epic journey from El Cajon’s Gillespie Field and circled the globe — twice

Monday, January 3, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
Robert Gannon with his Cessna 182, Lucky Lady Too, which he has used to travel around the world for the past 10 years. Gannon has landed Lucky Lady Too in 1,200 places.
Courtesy of Robert Gannon

Robert Gannon with his Cessna 182, Lucky Lady Too, which he has used to travel around the world for the past 10 years. Gannon has landed Lucky Lady Too in 1,200 places.

Robert Gannon turned 60 in September, and he thinks it is time to come home and settle down.
So on Jan. 8 at noon, Gannon will land his 42-year-old Cessna 182, Lucky Lady Too, at Gillespie Field in El Cajon to complete an incredible 10-year odyssey that has taken them to 155 countries and all 50 states.

Gannon has landed Lucky Lady Too in 1,200 places, from open fields to hard-packed red dirt strips to sophisticated runways. He’s circled the globe twice — once in each direction — and flown over the North Pole, rarely staying more than two nights at any one place.

This will be the first time Lucky Lady Too and Gannon have flown back to San Diego together.
It hasn’t been one continuous journey. In the years since he and Lucky Lady Too took off from Gillespie in October 2000, Gannon has parked her in 40 different countries around the world and returned home to take care of business and chart the next leg of his journey.

“I probably have the biggest collection of ‘Lonely Planet’ books in the world,” Gannon said in a telephone interview from San Miguel de Allende, an artsy, colonial-era city in central Mexico where he has been staying for more than a week.

Where is home? That’s a question Gannon is grappling with right now.

Home started out on a farm in central Iowa with his 13 brothers and sisters. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in agriculture, went to Vietnam as a helicopter-borne medic, started a successful Midwest construction business, sold it, moved to La Jolla and gradually moved up the coast, to Del Mar, then Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

During his travels, Gannon said he found it practical for tax reasons to move his residence to Las Vegas in 2005, although that never was nor ever will be home in his mind. “I take my risks in flying,” he says with a chuckle.

It was in San Diego that Gannon first learned to fly and it is here, if anywhere, that he might settle down again.
“When people ask me where home is, I tend to say San Diego,” he said. “Of all the places that I’ve been, that’s the nicest place in America.”

Gannon’s global journey — and his love for flying — really began in 1992 with flying lessons at Montgomery Field. In two months’ time, he had a pilot’s license, and a month later he was certified for instrument landings.
Days later, he took off for Paris in a secondhand Cherokee airplane dubbed Lucky Lady, for a reunion of his Harvard business seminars class. 

He had a vague idea of traveling the globe with a motorcycle aboard the plane, and he managed pretty well for four months — hitting 75 places in 20 countries — until he crashed at the Nairobi Wilson Airport in Kenya.

Gannon returned to San Diego and joined a flying club out of Montgomery Field. His business acumen and wise investments helped give him the freedom for his next move. Just over a decade ago, he met Lucky Lady Too, and fell in love with his rekindled dream to span the globe. 

”I was approaching my 50th birthday and wanted one big adventure before settling down,” he recalls.
His travels might be more easily summarized by the places he hasn’t gone — like most of the Central Asian nations, China, and about a third of the African nations. If he didn’t land in a country, it usually had to do with bureaucracy or bribery, neither of which he cared to abide. Flying into Iraq in 2009 was a bureaucratic challenge he felt worth tackling. “I did it by turning my trip into a medical mission,” Gannon said. In Venezuela, a general tried to confiscate his plane.

There were challenging moments. Charting courses between mountains, like the Andes and Rockies, rather than over them, is an example. Filling the cabin with a spare fuel tank, so that he could make the 18-hour flight to Hawaii from Oakland, is another. He has sometimes been forced to fly around storms, leaving him with a spoonful of gas upon landing, as on the flight from West Africa to Brazil, which ended up taking 17½ hours.

He lost his alternator north of Bangkok and landed with a dead battery in Laos. That’s where growing up on a farm with its “make do” ethos came in handy. Gannon says he went out and bought the biggest truck battery he could find and strung it to the Cessna’s with jumper cables. Once charged, they gave him 90 minutes of flying time before he’d have to land and recharge.

Gannon calls himself a “flying backpacker” and his plane “my three-quarter-ton pickup truck with wings.” It can burn ordinary gasoline, something that helped him in the Solomon Islands and Timbuktu.
As for the pilot, Gannon said he’s more lucky than good. “The great ones would never attempt some of the stuff I’ve tried,” he said. “They know better. I didn’t know I couldn’t do things.”

Combined with this fortuitous brand of naiveté, Gannon said his intense curiosity, a deep sense of wonder, keeps him on the move. 

“I allowed my curiosity to rule,” he said. “Curiosity never hurt me. When you come to a closed door, knock on the door. More often than not, people say, ‘Welcome. Nobody ever comes here.’ ”

Then again, it’s not as if Gannon is fearless. “Marriage is risky to me,” he said with a laugh. “People ask me how I can afford to do this and I say I never married. I never had children.”

But now, with his adventure nearly at an end, Bob Gannon confesses to a sense of melancholy.
“It’s time to start giving back,” he said. He loves San Diego. And he’s quite taken with the expatriate community in San Miguel, which he finds filled with “interested and interesting people who give back to their city.”

He may write a book about his adventures. He’s kept logs and journals and a sporadic blog. 

“I notice that I’ve really slowed down, not moving as fast as I used to,” he says. But he admits that he’s “attached to the stimulation of flying. I’ve got to wean myself off that.”

That’s the next door on which Bob Gannon will be knocking. And he’s as curious as anyone to see what is behind it.

Gannon update

Global pilot Bob Gannon sent an e-mail this morning, Jan. 3, 2011, indicating that his arrival at Gillespie Field has been pushed back to noon on Jan. 8.

He is currently flying around Mexico, stopping at a number of small airports and remote locations that have been on his "to-do" list for some time.

This story has been updated accordingly.
-- Robert J. Hawkins