Me, Public Speaker? No Way!!

Photo: John Bragg, Indianapolis

Have I mentioned before that not so long ago it was agonizing for me to stand up in front of a handful of people and speak, even just to introduce myself? I was the perfect candidate for Toastmasters but the last person actually willing to show up at a meeting. I’m guessing if we’ve met, you must be gasping out-loud right now since today there aren’t many clues that person ever existed.

Thinking way back, I have memories of a long, restless night the evening before giving a speech to my high school speech class. My last name was Ernspiger and I waited in torture as students with names beginning with A, B, C and D went before me. I remember hearing their voices as they spoke but not one single sentence uttered filtered into my consciousness. I sat there nearly frozen in fear wishing a bolt of lightning would strike me dead and put me out of my misery. I’d like to say things improved once I walked to the front of the room, and finally turned and faced my fellow 14 year-olds but it wasn’t Hollywood and my agony continued. Somehow I got through it and, thinking back, it probably wasn’t as hideous as I thought at the time, but the entire, dreadful event left me forever fearful of public speaking. Just a few years later I learned to skydive at age 18 and learned to fly an airplane at 20, and for me, both were a piece of cake compared to speaking in front of an audience.

Fast forward many years and along comes the website I shamelessly named “LadiesLoveTaildraggers”.  The average guy on the street thought it was about sex as few non-aviators have a clue what a taildragger is. Must be pretty sexy if ladies and tail are both in the name! Over the years real people and spam bots promoting every kind of sex toy have left comments and tried to infiltrate the site, always booted out by me. They were no doubt seriously disappointed when the reality was me, my little taildragger airplane and a bunch of other happy women focused on just one thing – their love of flying taildraggers!  Luckily, lady taildragger pilots got it and together we pushed on.  

Unbelievably, this month, May 2019, is LadiesLoveTaildraggers’ 10 year anniversary! May 5, 2009 I created the very first post on our brand new website and have continued to look to the future. In those 10 years I’ve grown immensely as a taildragger pilot and been fortunate enough to log many hours in a Champ, Rans S7, RV7 and Decathlon. Happily, I was able to leap back into aviation after a 23 year absence (Type 1 Diabetes) and somehow managed to entice a few of you to join me in the joy of flying a taildragger.

This past decade and with your support we’ve been able to

    • Host the LadiesLoveTaildraggers blog and Facebook Group
    • Register over 2,000 members based all over the world
    • Award dozens of aviation scholarships valued over $50K to women pilots
      • Host 8 annual LadiesLoveTaildraggers fly-ins
      • Host 1 fabulous week-long “Haunted Flying Tour”
      • Connected members at regional and national fly-ins across the U.S.
    • And best of all, identify the one single topic that pushed me to the speakers’ podium.  Today I happily give presentations about our organization, our fabulous members, and the joy of flying to pilot organizations, civic groups and schools when invited.

      If all that doesn’t make you happy, this will. The number of women pilots in the U.S. remains low (make that obnoxiously low) at just 7%. The exciting news is the number of student pilots in the U.S. grew from 93,000 in 2000 to 120,500 in 2019. And 12.5% of 2019 student pilots are female, a significant increase from 7% and something to be celebrated. I choose to not focus on the fact that our overall pilot population has decreased over the last several decades. Instead, I believe it is our responsibility to focus on the next generation of women pilots and each do our part as mentors, encouraging, aiding and supporting where we can. Sprout where you are planted! Women and men pilots alike, it’s up to us to lead and welcome the next generation of pilots into our community. 

      I hope, my friends, I’ve explained my personal metamorphosis and highlighted how LadiesLoveTaildraggers came from zero to the most awesome group of women aviators on the planet. Thank you for 10 fantastic years. The time has come to evaluate, morph and adapt to best keep the spirit of women taildragger pilots alive and moving forward. Changes are coming to LadiesLoveTaildraggers.

      My blogging life: Because I founded LadiesLoveTaildraggers and have been the sole keeper of all things “LadiesLoveTaildraggers”, truth is, I’m the organization. Unlike the Ninety-Nines and Women In Aviation, it’s just me doing the best I can – one person on a mission. I’ve blogged and Facebooked, even auto Tweeted in hopes of finding other ladies as passionate about the beauty of taildragging as me.

  • It’s now time for the organization and me to become two separate things.  In some small way, I was able to channel a flow of lady taildragger pilots that always existed, and give us a voice and a way to communicate. Together, we’ve used the platform to generate awareness about the joys of flying a taildragger and encourage more women to fly. Hopefully they fly a taildragger but down deep, we just want them to fly.

    If you’d like to comment on how LadiesLoveTaildraggers can best meet the needs of our members and encourage more women to fly, please respond:  

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