June 21, 2012

Plane Crazy Saturday salutes women in aviation and aerospace

by Rebecca Amber
Staff Writer

This BD-5 was restored as a non-flyable simulator by NASA photographer Tony Landis and is complete with sound effects.

Father’s Day weekend for 2012 included a salute to women in aviation and aerospace for the Mojave Transportation Museum as part of Plane Crazy Saturday June 16.

This month’s event included booths for the Ninety-Nines, Women in Aviation today, Society of Women Engineers, the Air Force Association, the Antelope Valley Sea Cadet Squadron, NASA and XCOR.

Every month PCS features a unique collection of aircraft and a guest presentation.

This month, in honor of female aviators, the presenter was Lyn “Sweet Cheeks” McNeely, Instructor Flight Test Engineer, at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. After a 20-year career in the Air Force in which she worked a lot of different flight test assignments, McNeely had the fortune to get what she described as a “dream job”, teaching at TPS.

Guest speaker, Lyn “Sweet Cheeks” McNeely, is a flight test engineer instructor, at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB.

McNeely spoke on the TPS and its various programs as well as her personal experiences in some of the aircraft. She has had flight time in a B-52, F-15, C-17, F-16, HH-60, MC-130 and an MH-53. Her longest mission was 21.3 hours, testing systems in a B-52 on a flight from Edwards to the intersection of the equator and the international dateline.

McNeely added that her “proudest moment” was receiving her glider pilot’s license. “Some of my heroes are the first women in aviation,” said McNeely, “I liked Amelia Earhart, I love Poncho Barnes, I think she’s a really interesting character. My real heroes are the WASPs from World War II, they had it a lot harder than I did going through and they’re excellent role models. They just did a super job contributing to our mission, it’s a real treat for me.”

Along the flight line were several unique aircraft including Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, JoAnn Painter’s Meyer-built Little Toot which she calls “Sweet Toot” and a BD-5 restored by NASA photographer Tony Landis. What is unique about this BD-5 is that it has been restored as a non-flyable simulator. Landis hopes to “inspire” children by allowing them to sit in the cockpit at events like PCS and air shows. According to Landis, it took just under eight months to fully restore the airplane and was “in pretty rough shape” when he began the project.

The finished BD-5 is equipped with a sound card that recreates the sounds of actual flight for the particular type of airplane. For accuracy’s sake the sound changes with the movement of the throttle and the rear propeller rotates to complete the experience. The faces of the children at PCS lit up during their turn in the simulator.

Plane Crazy Saturday guests visit booths for the Ninety-Nine, Women in Aviation and the Air Force Association.

“Women are involved in aviation in a broad spectrum of career fields and hobbies from not just being a pilot but being a parachute jumper, not just being a flight instructor, but being a radio repair person or a meteorologist or a parachute rigger,” said Leigh Kelly incoming chapter chairman, of the Antelope valley chapter of Ninety-Nines.

Kelly explained that for many years’ people got into aviation through the military and until 1976 women were not allowed to be active-duty military pilots. While the WASP women were allowed to fly during World War II, they were classified as civil service pilots and towards the end of the war they were forced to go home and turn those jobs back over to men.

This Meyer-built Little Toot, nick-named “Sweet Toot” belongs to female pilot JoAnn Painter.

According to Kelly organizations like the Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation exist to “boost women in aviation.” She added that they still hear “shocking” statements such as “I didn’t know a woman was allowed to be a pilot, I didn’t know a woman was allowed to be a pilot for the airlines, I didn’t know a woman was allowed to be a pilot for the Air Force.”

Antelope Valley has a local chapter for the Ninety-Nines which requires its members to be licensed pilots and exists to support pilots. In contrast, Women in Aviation is for women in a broad-range of aviation-related careers. Kelly stated that she is collecting names in hopes of starting a local chapter of Women in Aviation International for the Antelope Valley.

Plane Crazy Saturday is a monthly event sponsored by the Mojave Transportation Museum. It is on the third Saturday of every month at the Mojave Air and Space Port and cost of admission is free.

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