This awesome article is by LLT Tailwheel Endorsement scholarship winner Amy Hills from 2R2. (HaHa Amy, I’m only editing 1 word!)
My New Tailwheel Endorsement!
In March of 2019 the
infamous Judy Birchler calls me personally on the phone to let me know I’ve been awarded one of the LLT Scholarships to attain my tailwheel endorsement. I could not believe it! As an avid lover of aviation history, I have wanted to fly conventional gear planes since the moment I took to the skies.
I was given a full 8 months to master the cute little 85hp Aeronca Champ: no problem, right? Right on cue, the problems stacked up: flooded runway and endless rain, airplane annuals, mechanical snafus, more rain, scheduling conflicts, travel distance, childcare troubles (mine not the plane’s), and even more rain. Finally, the stars aligned and I was able to meet CFII Laura Stants, who despite more aviation post-nominal letters than the average mathematical equation, is definitely one of the most humble, kind, generous, and patient instructors out there. She introduced me to Leah Marie, a 1946 classic yellow Champ.
After much fussing about to find a properly sized booster seat to get my feet on the rudders and *heel* brakes, Leah Marie proved to be a sweetheart that I promptly fell in love with flying. I quickly learned that she required my full attention or she’d not-so- subtly remind me that she will gladly take back control of the yaw. I’m pretty sure Leah Marie thinks straight and level coordinated flight is boring, but I wouldn’t love her as much if she didn’t: something about staying ahead of this plane all the time while flying low and slow was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in the air.
Before I knew it, I had achieved all the goals of the tailwheel endorsement except for demonstrating cross-wind landings. Cue a long string of absolutely perfect weather and wind, just when I didn’t need it. So we waited for that crosswind opportunity to align with all the other variables as the days continued to slip away. When the opportunity arose, the plane was reserved, and I was tired of chair-flying for weeks while waiting, the perfect summer/fall turned into winter. Tons of rain, followed by below freezing temperatures meant without ice skates, Leah Marie was definitely staying in her hangar. Not to be beaten so easily, I hop in a friend’s rare Varga 2180, fly up to the Kokomo airport where another Champ waits for me hangared on a concrete runway. Unofficially named “Spunky” by your’s truly, this yellow fellow has a whole different personality than Leah Marie. After some time using the wind-prevailing runway to get my happy feet under me again, we switched to the runway with a direct crosswind to try my hand at achieving this last requirement. After the first dicey attempts and a go-around, the idea that I’m flying a kite with no strings attached finally sinks in, and it all comes together. Three unassisted and safe crosswind landings later, we are taxiing back to the hangar. The smile on my face was unavoidable: I had conquered this and was proud of it! Now I that I am safe and endorsed to learn, I can work on perfecting the art.
The unexpected gift of this opportunity was my introduction to Laura as a person and as an aviator. Some of the conversations she and I had encouraged me far beyond where the third wheel of the airplane was located. While many tell me that instructing as a goal and flying as many types for as many people as possible is a lousy end game, she is doing all of that and more and thriving at it. She faced many of the same struggles and through a lot of hard work and perseverance has accomplished much of what I am setting out to achieve.
Thank you, Laura, for being so generous with your time, encouragement, and expertise.
Thank you, Judy, for pouring your heart and soul into LLT and helping so many women to join the ranks of tailwheel pilots.
Want a reason to donate to the LLT Scholarship fund? There are so many more women like me who will massively benefit from this experience. And that goes far beyond the endorsement that Laura signed in my logbook. I have met more people, seen more planes, and experienced more simply because so many were willing to give a few dollars a year ago.
The smile on my face? It’s still there. It may be priceless, but donations to LLT are what put it there in the first place. Thank you.
By Amy Hills, Pilot, New Tailwheel Endorsement!
Donations to the LadiesLoveTaildraggers’ Scholarship Fund happily accepted at GoFundMe!!