Barbara Kirmsse (California)

Barbara Kirmsse us based at KRIR, Flabob Airport, Riverside, California.

My Friend The Champ

I am Barbara Kirmsse, 67 years young, live in Alta Loma, CA and learning to fly a tail dragger.  Having never flown before it is a huge challenge to say the least.  My first dreams of flying began with my father when I was just a little girl growing up on a farm in Iowa.  My dad never became a certified pilot but he is a pilot at heart.  He served as a flight mechanic in the United States Navy and has many stories to tell……always with a sparkle in his eyes.  As he was teaching me how to drive the tractor on our farm,  he was also instilling in me the love of flying.  One of my favorite stories is about a student pilot and his instructor.  On the student pilot’s first day behind the stick in the air, the instructor illustrated how to roll the plane over….the instructor had forgotten to fasten his seat belt, fell out of the plane when it was inverted…luckily had his parachute on and escaped unscathed….meanwhile the student found himself on his first flight upside down and no instructor in the plane!  He managed to right the plane and land it!  Keep in mind the trainers were not equipped with radios!!!

Ready to go!

Twenty three years ago when I was 43 and happily married for 25 years my husband died suddenly of heart problems.  Life must go on but I have never remarried…..waiting for someone really special!  My two beautiful children are both happily married and are living near me.  I also have two fantastic granddaughters, 12 and 20.  Six years ago I retired from 30 years with the Alta Loma School District and never looked back.  During my years with the school district I also did runway and print modeling just to mix it up!   I now take piano lessons, practice at playing golf, and I am learning to fly the Champ!  Three years ago I reconnected with a high school friend at a reunion. Life is good!

My Bill, My Inspiration

Bill flies a Bonanza A36 and has been a private pilot since his 20’s when he purchased his first of two planes.  Bill also has an endorsement for a tail wheel.

Bill’s Bonanza A36

 I love flying and just wanted to learn some basics to land the Bonanza in case of emergency….Bill said why don’t you get your private pilot’s license?  I expressed to him that I didn’t think I could do that…..his response was “Of course you can, you just to have to say you are going to do it …..and by the way why don’t you learn in a tail dragger”! He is my greatest supporter and mentor…..without him I never would have dreamed that I could accomplish such a feat!

Champ N9872Y

We have gone across country three times to the Bahamas, Sun n Fun, New Orleans, Key West, Albuquerque Balloon Festival and East Coast as well as many other flying adventures.  We belong to three flying clubs.  On our trip last August to Oshkosh and then, Maine to eat lobster….we had the great fortune of meeting President H.W. Bush (1941) in Kennebunkport.  I am sending a picture taken by the Secret Service!

Pres HW Bush & Me Kennebunkport, ME 2011

March 2011, I studied for my online, Private Pilot, Airplane ground school test using and within two weeks I went to the Universal Air Academy in El Monte, California and passed my Private Pilot Airplane Airman Knowledge Test. I then took and passed my Third Class Medical and received my Student Pilot Certificate. It took two months to find an instructor with a tail wheel airplane for instruction. Finally we found a little airport in Riverside, CA called Flabob. They have an aero club with a Cub and a Champ available!

Love That Cub! The First Airplane I Flew!

Flabob’s existence dates from 1925, two years before the Lindbergh boom.  It is the seventh oldest surviving airport in California.  With runway 06/24 (3200’ X 50’) adorned by trees on one end and a mountain on the other, it is a little daunting sometimes.  You may find out more about the colorful history of this little family airport online.  Just Google “Flabob Airport” “The little airport that time forgot”.  It is about forty minutes from my home but I was ready and willing.  You really have to want to do this to make it happen.

Love This Champ, Too!

I have 13 hours of training in the Cub and approximately 22 hours of training in the Champ.  I am so close to soloing….I can taste it!  At the very beginning of my flight training, I told Walt Wasowski, my tail wheel instructor, that he would be a miracle worker if he could teach me to fly the Champ. Little did I know that getting it down the runway on the ground was the hardest part!!!!  That tail just doesn’t want to stay behind!  We concentrated on fast taxis until my feet could dance the right tune and the light bulbs came on. Walt is so positive and is a great instructor, not to mention a very patient man!!!  Guess what!  He is a miracle worker, too, because I am learning to fly a tail dragger!  At Walt’s recommendation I had a check ride with another instructor, Jack, yesterday and he was impressed that when doing my 360 turns we experienced my propeller turbulence when I leveled out.  That’s a good thing!  At the end of the ride he said a couple more consistent landings and I was ready to solo. Walt agrees!!!

A Perfect Day to Fly a Tail Dragger in So Cal

I am so happy that flying is now a part of my life and that I have a very special man to share it with.  We are now looking for a Luscombe to buy so we can fly side by side.  Having a stick is a priority and we like the idea of both sitting together up front.
All of you tail dragging ladies are my heroines!  I am in awe of your accomplishments and I love reading about them….all of you are so inspiring!!!!  You will be the first to hear as soon as I solo!!!!
Merry Christmas!  You all know what I am wishing for.  Even Santa chose to fly!!!!
Barbara Kirmsse

  • Jeanie
    Posted at 11:28h, 05 December Reply

    Congratulations! You are doing it!! I am so proud of your accomplishments. Keep flying high! You are terrific. Way to go girlfriend.

    • Barbara Kirmsse
      Posted at 12:45h, 05 December Reply

      Hey Jeanie!!!!
      Thanks for the encouragement and good wishes! Let’s do dinner again at the first of the year. Bill and I are flying to Hawaii for Christmas again this year! I’ll let you know as soon as I solo!!!!

  • Jeanne MacPherson
    Posted at 22:36h, 03 December Reply

    Great story, Barbara, thank you for sharing it.
    I have heard a lot about Flabob Airport. I hope to fly there one fine day~


    • Barbara Kirmsse
      Posted at 12:42h, 05 December Reply

      Thanks Jeanne! If you ever make it to Flabob be sure to let me know! I’ll be heading over there tomorrow if the winds aren’t too bad!!!
      Happy Flying!

  • Victoria
    Posted at 11:12h, 03 December Reply


    Please let us know when you solo! One of my best memories. Please remember to wear an old t shirt so they tear off a piece and hang it on the wall.

    We hope to see you both in Idaho soon!


    • Barbara Kirmsse
      Posted at 12:39h, 05 December Reply

      Thanks Victoria! I’ll remember to wear an old shirt! If Bill and I make it to Idaho we will be sure to contact you!
      Your suport means so much to me!!!!

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